cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Let Them (Re)Visited: Let Them Get Dirty

Let Them (Re)visited is an opportunity for me to eat crow or crow all the louder regarding topics I covered during my Let Them series. Let's see what happens, shall we?

Many moons ago, we lived in the middle of the city. We had modern conveniences like sidewalks and asphalt. We were greeted in the morning, noon, and night with sirens. We had a decent-sized yard, all things considered. Getting dirty was downright luxurious. It was like winning the lottery when mom said to play in the mud.

That was then.

This is now.

We have two and a half acres...of dirt. Dirt roads, dirt driveway, dirt-covered bushes. Basically, it's dirt as far as the eye can see, broken up by desert growth and our lovely 3 foot berm of poop. You see, we bought this dirt with poop factories animals in mind. So we're fortifying our city gates with the materials they provide. You want on our property? You're gonna hafta scale the poo. May the best man win.

We're classy people. Most of my children take Olympian leaps up Poo Mountain and arise victorious at its peak, complete with celebratory fist pumps. I'm trying to curb this bad habit. I really am. But I've had better luck nailing Jell-o to the wall. I've also caught them sliding down its treacherous sides like it's the black diamond run of poo skiing. This is accomplished on feet if I'm lucky...backsides if we have house guests. 

Yes, I have to remind my children to not show off our poo pile to their friends. Yes, I've lectured my children about inviting their friends to scale up, roll down, and generally fling the contents of Poo Mountain. Yes, we are blacklisted from delicate play dates. 

Then there's shoveling manure against the wind, which always results in a special full-body "dusting." I wish I could tell you how many times I've told a particular child to go shower off, because there's poop in her hair. She acts like this is ludicrous.

I showered yesterday!

Yes, but you've conquered Poo Mountain (congratulations, by the way-your gold medal is in the mail) and flung manure dust all over creation, sweet child. Contracting dysentery is not on our bucket list.

Dirty nails and smudgy faces are a daily occurrence around here. “Shoe checks” are mandatory. But mixed in with all that dirt are great life lessons woven throughout childhood memories. Hard work, the responsibilities of farm life, the joys of training a new animal, and the sorrows of burying one. The struggles are greater. The earth oftentimes resists yielding to the shovel, as we are wont to protest the shock of the Gardener's spade slicing away that which would stunt our purpose. Yet, the rewards are richly gratifying. Moldy kitchen scraps and manure mingle with cultivated soil and thoughtfully sown seeds to reap an inspiring bounty. When what we see is degradation and filth staring back at us in the mirror, perhaps He sees timely growth wrung from adversity.

In the end, we traded our sidewalks and asphalt for neighborhood games of tag on a bumpy back road; our sirens for the silence; and our yard for dirt. Glorious, filthy dirt.

And more showers.

Applying Soap Liberally,


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Annie was one such woman...

Every once and again a life touches another's, leaving a profound and indelible signature. Annie was one such woman. My story is much like countless others; her kindness speaking volumes, and her smile sparking palpable joy in any room she entered. She never took herself too seriously, all the while gladly bearing another's burden with heartfelt warmth. What was probably an act of kindness quickly forgotten by her has stuck with me for nearly twenty years. 

As I blew into work on a frosty morning, I lamented to Annie (who went by “Annie” then, and so remains in my mind as “Annie” instead of “Anne”) that I had regretfully lost my favorite winter hat. Bustling between college classes and work, I had somehow lost it out of my truck. Alas! Despite retracing my steps, Operation Hat Recon had failed miserably. It was just a silly ol' hat, but Annie listened to my dramatic hat tribute with her trademark compassion and empathy (those who knew her, know exactly what I mean). With work to do, I set to my tasks, while Annie went to the back room. Now is a good time to mention that the hat I lost was white-just ordinary and white. She reappeared with what can only be described as a Suessical hat. Measuring in at an impressive thirty-six inches-yes, it was three feet long, this hat boasted bright stripes from stem to fringey stern.  With her 1,000 watt smile, she held out her hat and declared that she absolutely insisted I have it. She modeled how stylish this hat was as she strutted her stuff across the faded carpet of the workroom.. With a gallant toss of her head, she demonstrated how one could use the tail of it as a scarf. How could I possibly say no?

Her head would have been just as cold as mine on the trek home after work, and yet I know that if it had been my jacket I'd lost, she would have given that to me as well. That's just who she was. I could recount dozens of stories of her kindness-driving me across town when my glasses broke, shoving money into my pocket to sneak us ice-cream at work, impromptu drawings for tough days, movie dates, a great many conversations on every topic under the sun, and a hilariously perplexing nickname which stuck for quite some time (but which also holds precious space in my memories). Each moment is stored in my heart, and I'll treasure them there for a lifetime. 

As the air grows chilly, I'll pull out my Annie Hat. I've readily worn it every winter, and every winter I garner at least a couple raised eyebrows and amused side-eye glances. The fluff has long since been suppressed, and the hues have lost a certain vibrancy-much like the world has with Annie's passing. However, I will gladly keep right on wearing this comical hat, and anyone who comments will hear a tale of an incredible woman who, with a simple gesture, taught me that it's always the right time to be generous...and a tad goofy.   

At a time in our nation when it's en vogue to disagree, I can't help but think that the world needs more Annies. Perhaps today you could choose kindness over yet another politically charged argument. Hug tightly. Listen intently. Snuggle a little longer. 

With a Blessed-but-Heavy Heart,


Monday, January 25, 2016

Let Them (Re)visited: Let Them Give it Away (and a book shout out)

Let Them (Re)visited is an opportunity for me to eat crow or crow all the louder regarding topics I covered during my Let Them series. Let's see what happens, shall we?

As soon as I peeked at the first Let Them title, I knew my stance wouldn't have changed one iota. Kids with much should be encouraged to practice generosity. Liberally. But here's what has changed for our home: Things are more complicated now. Kids ranging from toddler to tween means interests are more diverse. Toys are more distinctly owned by individuals. Group consensus to toss something is not met so easily. Olders are more attached to The Things From Their Childhood (things they rarely actually play with, because they are babyish). More trinkets get tossed in the trash, because they don't survive to meet the inside of the giveaway bag.

The living situation is more complicated too. We're practicing commune living, so there's seven people living in a manufactured home. Because we're kooky like that. Four kids in one room means somethin' has to go, precious snowflakes. As this is a temporary arrangement, some special treasures have stayed boxed up. The life-as-I-know-it-will-cease-without-this-toy items have been relegated to small bins on the bed or under it.

In short, our children have learned to do without. And embrace it. They've played card games, and worked many a puzzle. They've learned new skills in the kitchen, pursued classic literature (because books are one area I basically refuse to limit, and is evidenced by the mountains of reading material surrounding us), and climbed our trees for hours. Perhaps we've all learned to be content with less. Don't get me wrong, we all have displayed selfishness over keeping something, but what I've learned since February 23rd, 2013 is that less truly, really, honestly is more.

I think most parents want their children to become giving, thoughtful, gracious people. I think most of us falter in our steps as we strive to raise grateful kids. It feels uncomfortably against the flow to teach kids gratitude, and sometimes it's easier to float with the current down You Deserve It River. Sometimes we need a solid kick in the pants before we're willing to adjust our thinking. Before I'm willing to say, “OK, God, what I'm doing is a total crapshoot.”

(Here comes my amazingly smooth and undetectable segue.)

Hey! Remember that one time I applied to be part of a launch team for Kristen Welch's new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, and didn't know I'd been accepted because my e-mail is rising up in mutiny and eating important e-mails? I've basically been playing catch-up with the rest of the team, which means they've been babysitting me and holding my hand, bless it.


We need a kick in the pants, and Kristen delivers a swift, but gracious boot to get us moving. We're not all precious, gentle families who practice All The Special Things with our families. Kristen knows that. Kristen is our people. She's transparent. Reading her book is just like sitting across from her on a squishy couch, yukking it up. I know this because we have the same verse inked on us and I sent her an e-mail years ago to tell we're basically BFF's and I'm not a weirdo stalker. Not once do you catch of a whiff of condescension. Grace, firm suggestions, a call-to-action.

“When entitlement's poison begins to infect our hearts, gratitude is the antidote.” 
“Kids will be kids and if we give them too much, too soon, they will likely take it.” 
“We give our kids more because we think it will make us all feel better, but it actually places a higher value on things than on relationships. And often our kids don't need more stuff or more freedom; they just need more of us.”

Good words, Kristen. Go read more of her good words (and possibly win something...Oops! I've said too much.).

So here's the deal: Today is the release date! Go get thee thine own copy and one to giveth away. This isn't so much a parenting book as it is a manual for not raising, nor being yourself a self-absorbed lazy butt. You won't regret it.


*Cover courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lay Down the Guilt, Mamas.

It was one of those days. You know the type. The days where you wake up ready for bedtime, the full moon is wearing on the senses of certain kiddos, you've snapped before pouring a single crackle or pop into a bowl for those cherubs faces. I call those "coffee-to-wine" days. Or maybe you've been too forceful in tone or heavy-handed in a swat on the tail. Maybe you reacted out of anger, and your apology hung in the air. When that long-awaited sandman arrives, it is a blessed thing. You love those small people dearly, but...seriously. 
For. The. Love.

They will find you.

When you fall into bed exhausted from a day filled with refereeing and tongue-biting, you thank Jesus for each one of those precious snowflakes asleep in their bunk beds. They drove you batty all the livelong day, but you could still be moved to tears just thinking about how fast they're growing up. You slap your hand across the light switch to turn it off and then roll over to pray with the hubs. Approximately two seconds after the “Amen” he's asleep (Don't ask me why God gave men this instantaneous shut-off valve. I am seven shades of green with envy over this talent.).

And then the mommy guilt hits.

It's not like a tsunami that engulfs us. It's usually more like a gentle shower of paver bricks. And not like the spray-painted foam kind in the original Star Trek episodes. Ladies, I posit that there is just about no worse feeling than middle-of-the-night mommy guilt. You know what I'm talking about. Our head hits the pillow, and doubts slam our soul. The space between our ears becomes the Devil's own playground.'ve got some grandiose plans...for someone who loses their cool, wastes time, throws down judgment and attitude. World changer, huh? You'll be lucky to make a dent within your own family, let alone the world. But, no. You go ahead. I'm sure tomorrow will be peachy keen. World changer.

Thanks, Satan. Sleep can wait.

May I suggest something? May I suggest that we are heaping on a whole mess of stuff that Jesus already knows about? He chooses to love us through and despite our shortcomings. May I suggest that we think too highly of ourselves if we truly believe that our every action will be either our child's doing or undoing? How 'bout we just unclench a teensy bit?

Is parenting important? Um, yeah. Should I be on my knees, in the audience, on the sidelines, shivering under an umbrella supporting my kids? Of course. Is the whole world going to stop on its axis if I miss a game (or even *gasp* a season)? Actually, no. Will salvation expire for my daughter if there's a day that my prayers for her consist of pursed-lip* sputters like, “Jesus, feel free to come back today.” or “Thank you, God, for the poetic justice when she ran into the doorjamb while stomping away with her saucy self. I needed a boost today. And now please also send me the bladder of a twenty-two year old.”? Not likely. Of course, if all of humanity hung on our flimsiest moments and weakest instances of faith, the lot of us would be doomed. The book of Acts would have been over in a hot second, because none of us would have been able to launch something as big as Church Beginnings.

So, here's the deal: You are exactly the gem you are supposed to be, flaws and imperfections included. God's going to keep refining and polishing until you gleam in His presence, but that doesn't mean you're worthless and useless in the meantime. It doesn't mean you fail as a mother. The actual refinement process is exactly what produces such incredible final workmanship. Every single hard moment of mothering is just more of that polishing.

There's this beautiful treasure tucked in 1 John 4. John is reminding his readers not to fall prey to lies and deception, and then in verse 4, he lays down this stunning reminder: "You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them (the lies), because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Bam. Drop mic.

God is SO FOR YOU. He is for your parenting, and for your marriage, and for your New Year's resolution to read the bible with your kids every day. He is in your corner, because He is actually IN YOU.

Even when you fail.

Get Some Sleep,


*This is fondly referred to as “The Grandma Face” in our house. She had a way with The Look that could pucker your butt cheeks, bless her.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

These Are My People

They stood before us in complete brokenness. Their souls were anguished and what they shared was crushing. We were a room filled with salty tears and heavy hearts. They had pulled back their shroud of mourning and palpable grief spilled onto people eager to bear the burden with them. Eager to carry even an ounce of their pain. With news such as theirs, judgement could have proven swift and tongues could have been ablaze with harsh speculation.

I reached a hand for her during prayer. We fervently sought the Lord. When words were spent, we both eyed her nail indents in my palm.  I tried to recall a time when I felt so wholly needed during a prayer that the physical proof lasted longer than the prayer itself. 

I've seen people tenaciously cling to Jesus. I've heard the confessions of the saints. I've looked on as the young wash the feet of the wise. I've listened to prayers soothe anxious minds. I've watched them crisscross the room to pray with him. To edify her. At first I was shocked by the gentle admonitions peppered throughout conversation. Now the shock would be to not hear it. 

We've found our tribe. It's messy and transparent. It requires each one doing their work, and isn't that how it should be? For us, it happens to be a more organic tribe. However, I'm a firm believer that any Jesus-lovin' people can fit the bill whether they meet at a park or in the pews, submerge or sprinkle, are liturgical or non-denominational. While those details (and scores of other churchy topics) are of incredible import, all the theology in the world can offer nothing more than a framework for beliefs. Heart work is developed in the grittiness of relationship. Discipleship, true discipleship, challenges your weaknesses, calls upon your strengths, and rubs you raw. And just as raw flesh will blister, sometimes a raw faith will do the same. That broken family? They were blistered. They knew they needed the healing salve of their tribe. They came with wounds exposed. We listened with bandages in hand.

I don't share to self-congratulate. Our tribe is a hot mess. I share because I know these people deeply enough to know we're all a hot mess. We see each others' faults, because we push beyond Sunday greetings and polite prayer requests. All the programs and curriculum in the catalog can't buy that kind of authenticity. 

Can I suggest something? Trade in the brittle facade. Replace it with a robust desire to truly love Jesus and His people. Carve out time. Ask hard questions. Tell hard stories. Break bread. Reach far. Call. Write. Pray. Repent. Fast. Confess. Worship. Repeat.

Learning to Repeat,


Saturday, August 22, 2015

The One With All The Camps

Since The Professor turned my piglets into an oxen (happy anniversary to me), I felt it only right to slap you all with some marital wisdom. 

But, before I wow you with ALL THE SMARTS, let me tell you a story.

Within the first year of our marriage it became apparent to us that most people sideline any hint of relationship insight offered by newlyweds. To be fair, the scope of our experience was limited to courtship, short engagements, newlywed matters, and wedding night jitters. Impressive. We were were given non-refundable tickets to "Starry-Eyed-Newlywed Camp" which just so happens to be right across the road from "Pre-Kid-Parenting-Ideals Camp." I also attended "Twenty-Somethings-Who-Are-Excited-To-Turn-30-So-They-Will-Finally-Be-Taken-Seriously Camp." 

We just wanted some street cred, dangit. 

He was happy, I swear.
And also, forgive me, Tweezers, for I did not
yet know your worth. Bless those eyebrows.

See? A smirky-smile.

This is a shout out to all ladies everywhere
who find themselves with dry lips by the
time you've cut the cake. 

Then we were bused straight to "We're-PREGNANT?!? Camp" which hosted social nights with "Holy-Crap-We're-Actually-Adults Camp."

After that, it's all a blur. All I know is that I woke up to a camp bugle that sounded suspiciously like the flush of a low-flow toilet and self-sufficient children making their own breakfast after starting a load of laundry. Turns out, we're camp counselors. I didn't realize this until I caught myself thinking, "Why do these people keep asking for my advice? Isn't it obvious I'm winging it on about 97.9999% of what I do?" I guess that means we've got street cred. The funny thing about finally having a satchel filled to the gills with advice is that you realize how incredibly lacking your own bag truly is and always will be. You dump out the contents and begin shoveling in gems from weathered backpacks. You sit back and listen to stories from people who have seen decades upon decades of ALL THE CAMPS and you marvel at their wisdom.

So, my gems are mostly inherited from wise counselors, with a few originals in the mix. Here are the top marriage tips I've learned in fourteen years of marriage:

1. Everyone goes into marriage with some degree of rose-colored tinting on the lenses. That's OK. That's kinda how God made us. I'm more concerned about the engaged couple whose excitement level suggests jury duty is on the horizon rather than marriage.

2. Your way isn't always the best route. It just isn't. That person who proposed to you (or said "yes" to your proposal) is obviously smart. I mean, they chose you, right?!? Embrace their ideas. I guarantee you'll learn scads of nifty-ness along the journey. Think of your spouse as your personal life hack buddy.*

3. Know each others' love languages. It's the closest thing we get to a manual. 

4. Short engagements aren't inherently bad. Sure, people will gossip about it.** If you know that you know that you know that this is right, why wait three years? Git-r-done, I say.

5. Skip the drama. This is not a reality TV show. You do not have a contract beyond the one attached to those vows. Ratings do not improve with each tantrum or shallow retort thrown down. Gentlemen, cherishLadies, respect

6. Something must be at the center of your marriage. I strongly suggest Jesus. 

7. Laugh often. Play.*** Learn. 

Love Well,

*"Life hack buddy" needs to be added to wedding vows. Secretary, make a note of that. Thanks.
**It's so precious when people close to you ask if this is a shotgun situation. 
***A year later, we were still finding stale marshmallows from The Marshmallow War of 2001. True story.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Powering On

Well, it's like this: I was clipping along on this blogging gig, right? We were having loads of fun together, and I delivered deep truths which convicted you to the core. (I know. You can thank me later.) We were going places! There was only one problem. The computer I had wasn't reeeeeally suited for someone who loves to write. It was made for people who want a portal to Facebook, which also just happens to have some sort of word program thingy. (...if you like your word program thingy to be a major wisenheimer about playing the crash and burn game. Precious.) Using that squirrely computer for writing was akin to hitching a couple of teacup piglets to a yoke and expecting to plow an acre of land. Cute, but futile. I can crack the whip and “Hyah” until I pass out, but we're not furrowing one inch of soil. I tried. I really did. I girded my loins, prayed in tongues, waited expectantly for God to supernaturally change my piglets into beefy oxen. Turns out, sometimes God goes the husband-has-an-impressive-anniversary-present route instead of the Vegas-style-miracle route. God works in mysterious ways, dear people.* 
Anyway, I'm writing to you on this joyous day that is Big Blue's maiden voyage in word processing. I'll pass you a hankie. Why name my computer Big Blue, you ask? The symbolism is deep with this one, but I'll try to keep it simple. She's** Besides, it (coincidentally) works well with my whole piglet/oxen analogy. At any rate, she's a beast, and I've got a lot of ground to cover. I've set hand to plow, and we're digging deep. Aren't you lucky?!

Just look at those keys! Bye-bye piglets.

Oh, I see what you did there.

Hang on, because reentry can get a bit dicey.

Hi-ho, Big Blue, away!!

*This has absolutely nothing to do with me gritting my teeth every time I opened that laptop.
**I never bothered to name my last computer, because we didn't imprint on each other, but before the nameless one, there was Little Blue Lollipop (You may respectfully refer to her as Ms. Lolli). Ms. Lolli was also blue and was loyal to a fault. We were travelling companions through All The Words, working side by side until I dropped a drum on her face. Sometimes I still hear her little "Squeeeetch, beep-boop". Actually, it's rather painful to talk about, and I'd appreciate if you didn't bring it up again.