God Knew

I imagine the night as cold and bustling, noisy and confused.  It might feel like the stereotypical family vacation: tired children, stressed mamas, frustrated fathers.  It probably didn’t sound like silence, look like glittering candlelight, feel like a fireside.  Welcome to our world, Jesus.

For the many, many years that prophets had told of Him, you would think the world would have been better prepared.  Glistening garlands, choruses of carols, abundant presents, and above all, lives scrubbed clean for the arrival of a Messiah.  But just like the last-minute shoppers, the impatient workers, the frustrated families, the people weren’t ready.  God knew; there was no facade of preparation and perfection that could trick His omniscient eye.  He knew, and He sent Jesus anyway.

God knew that Jesus was coming to a stable, not a palace.  He knew that His first bed would be a manger, not a crib.  He knew that Jesus would be denied, hated, discounted, and betrayed.  He knew, and He sent Jesus anyway. As Chris Rice sings, He “wraps our injured flesh around Him”, “Breathes our air and walks our sod”.  He is with us, among us, one of us, but Holy. Oh, so Holy.

Today, not much has changed.  He knows our world is broken, violent, ambivalent.  He knows my heart is selfish and self-righteous.  He sees my unpreparedness, and He gives me Jesus anyway.  Like the neighbor with no pretense, He invites himself into our mess, if we are willing.  And, whether ignored or rejected, He keeps offering to walk among us, with us, beside us.

It feels fitting that the first Christmas was housed in a stable.  Because really, our lives are so much more like stables than palaces.  At best, mundane and simple; at worst, dirty and unkempt.  And at the center of it all, God births Holiness right onto the earth.  He knew how badly we needed Him.  And He knew that no matter how long He waited, the world would not be ready.  How could we be?  Yet here He is.  Emmanuel. God with us. The most timely gifts come at the most unexpected moments, and the most needed presents are often the most surprising.  God doesn’t wait for us to ask for what we need; He knows, just like He knew then.

jesus christ figurine

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Try to Be Good

I read the note on the nightstand in the dark silence of midnight.  The list, punctuated by her open-mouthed snoring, went like this:

Get sweatshirt

Brush teethpaper

Brush hair

Eat breakfast

Try to be good

Listed like a simple to-do: “try to be good”, revealing that she had to work at it, her body’s ego reminding her childish id to sit still, be quiet, don’t hit.  I smirked- “that’s my girl”, the fiery one who won’t ever be taken advantage of, who is too smart not to realize society’s constraints on her, our expectations, her responsibility.  This girl, a test of wills, a match of won’ts, a struggle of if’s, is at the moment my most pressing concern and my most beloved task.

And as so often in parenting, I see the struggle with her as the struggle in me, and in more broad strokes, the struggle in humanity.  We all truly suffer from much the same errors and intentions. We all start our days and years with lists that somehow end with “try to be good”, whether it is not eating that donut or not lying on the job application, not coveting his new car or whispering about her bad behavior.  And we see the remnants left of so many whose checklist goes unmarked; those who simply could not “be good” in that instant or that era, that chose once or daily to skip that step. We are left amidst discarded daily lists, cut into a million tiny pieces by the sharp edges of the errors of others and ourselves.

How do I teach her this step?  By example, certainly, but beyond that.  My high schoolers just heard my talk about living “above reproach”, defined and described in our reading of Oedipus and our discussion of current celebrities and politicians, a Tragic Hall of Shame assignment that hits too close to home with its idea that we all struggle with a tragic flaw, one that threatens to bring us down, looms behind our good intentions with quiet ferocity, ready to devour our good name.  So we talked, a “mom moment” between myself and 28 grown children on the precipice of adulthood, then I went home to that still small 8-year-old and tried to hack it down to one-syllable lists of advice on good behavior. And it felt trite, and uncertain, because really, what does it mean to be good anyway?  Is it to be seen and not heard?  Or to stand up for the bullied kid?  Is it to accept what you are told? Or to question who is telling you?  Is it to follow the crowd? Or to mark your own path? Is it dependent on situation, on person, on context, or is good always the same?

I suppose this is how we all got stuck in this thorny situation, from Oedipus in old greek text to Old Testament sins of the fathers to today’s news stories of the faltering and the fallen. I am not naive enough to see good as relative, but I am honest enough to see it as full of dichotomies that an 8-year-old can realize but not understand, just like the rest of us.  I am also honest enough to know it should be on every day’s list, brought to the forefront of our discipline in every decision, mundane or monumental.  And in an admission to her, and to me, that being good is so often beyond our human grasp, I tell the story of Israel, ending confidently with God’s promise in Isaiah, that your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” It is when I remember that none of us are doing this alone that I feel more confident that I can guide her, if not through my voice, then through the voice of Almighty, and through her own tender heart that simply wants to be good.

Year 32

Tomorrow is my 32nd first day of school.  Thirty-two nights before of nerves and excitement.  Thirty-two times figuring out my lunch and who will sit by me (yes- this still happens).  Thirty-two times setting out my most impressive outfit (by the way- nothing is impressive by the end of a 90-degree day in a sweaty classroom- just sayin’).  Unlike people in other professions, my life is punctuated yearly by first days- and no two first days are the same. There is sometimes sheer joy at the idea of getting back into novel talks, and other times, there is utter despair at a troublesome educational turn.  But there is one reason I keep coming back for more first days: my kids.

My kids are big.  They aren’t cuddly preschoolers or silly second graders.  I don’t usually get Christmas gifts, or poorly drawn portraits with scribbled “You’re my favorite!”  I do get eye rolls, sarcastic jokes, unwanted hugs (I warn them- I’m not a toucher!), and emails from college freshman telling me about classes- I’ve had 2 in the last week, and both had me laughing out loud and reminiscing happily.   But most importantly,  my students give me HOPE.  I grow weary of Facebook bickering, political posturing, impatient driving, mom-shaming: these are the signs of adults who are cranky, tired, hopeless.  I don’t get tired of dreaming about college, talking about possibilities, listening to fresh ideas.

Kids get a bad rap in society fairly often.  They are tied to the phones; they are disrespectful; they don’t work hard.  I hate to say it, but they often imitate what they see.  I can see this in my 5-year-old; how can I expect it to be different in my 17-year-old?  So I go back every year praying I am worthy to be imitated.  These pictures on my first-day roster are already making me better.  I am thinking about my first impression.  I am setting goals.  I am considering new challenges.  I want to give them something they will find valuable enough to grasp at, even if their best is not exactly what I envisioned.

But it is more than kids just being imitators.  Kids are often inspiring to me.  They have stories that are sometimes overlooked but always important.  How did that girl get to first period every day on time after taking care of younger siblings and getting them all to school?  I can hardly wrestle my kids out the door on time.  How did that kid with the knee injury stick with daily therapy and pain to get back out on the field in unprecedented time?  I will use any excuse to get out of a workout!  Why did that student go out of the way every day to walk that outcast to class?  Most adults would want some sort of recognition, but he did it out of inherent goodness.  For every story you hear of bullying in schools, there are numerous other stories about kids doing the right thing, being stand up citizens, going beyond expectation.

Those are the reasons I go back every September.  The kids keep me on my toes.  The ones who challenge me make me dig deep to be better, to resolve conflict, to grow patience.  The ones who inspire me make me rise up to meet them, to challenge my own faults, to sharpen my own empathy.  And somehow, in the midst of all the negativity surrounding school these days, my classroom feels safe and inspiring.  Fifteen firsts standing in front of a few thousand kids has not lost its shine.  So I will keep going back, and I guarantee that each year I do, I am gleaning as much or more from my kids as I hope they are from me.  chairs.jpg

Without Fear of the Future

The blog has been at the edge of my mind for a long time; I have numerous partial posts saved in my files, but I haven’t focused on finalizing any one of them.  But the tides of change often stir me again, and tonight, in the dark, I am teasing out a thought that keeps coming back to me this summer. I’ll share it with you, as I’m sure many of you can relate:

I’ve written often about my worry (HERE and HERE and a little HERE). I’ve written about experiencing worry and overcoming worry.  But every time a new life change looms, I have to find ways to remind myself that I have given it up.  I don’t need to wear worry like a cloak anymore.  I can walk unhindered without it.  Part of the journey has been growing my faith, and part has been accepting uncertainty, and part has been finding contentment.  And as I do all of those, God prompts me in ways both quiet and deafening.  I often run with a summer group of ladies named LAUGH.  This year, some of their group t-shirts are scripted with Proverbs 31:25- “She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.”  That has become my loud and clear battle cry this summer.

I’ve read Proverbs 31 plenty of times- after all, it is the to-do list for the Christian woman, right?  And sometimes I chafed under that idea of it.  Could I meet all those expectations?  Did I even want to?  And I think in that self-righteous indignation (I don’t much care for being told what to do or who to be) I missed many gems of wisdom that God keeps laying before me as I grow.  This summer God gave me verse 25 because he knew that I would need it.  I went into summer with a goal that was big for me.  I signed up to compete in a triathlon.  If you remember, I quit run camp last year due to health stuff, went back into this winter with a little different plan and goal, and reached the end of it with this big goal of a triathlon.  I joined a training group of ladies, laid out my plan, and determined to do it.  But as so often happens, plans are hindered by life’s twists.  In June, Nick parted ways with his business partners.  It felt a little like jumping without a parachute- the next steps were not fully clear.  There was some waiting and waiting and waiting.  (Because I’m so terrible at waiting, I believe God keeps giving me opportunity to practice.)

As the job plan solidified, I realized two things:  1) my training plan was definitely going to suffer; 2) my financial plan was also on wavering ground.  Some of these realizations came during summer vacation in Traverse City, a time when I wanted to be lounging carefree at the beach and eating ice cream with laissez-faire.  I did not want to fall into a

barefoot beach blur break

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muddy desperation or an exhausting reconfiguring of plans, so in the midst of it all, I kept coming back to the words, “she laughs without fear of the future.”   I love the use of the word “laughs”.  God doesn’t say, she PLANS or she DESIGNS or she RECONFIGURES.  Those all sound tiring, not at all like my beach-lounging hopes.  He says she LAUGHS.  Laughter is not forced; it is not a conscious choice; instead, it bubbles up from moments of joy.  Laughter lessens stress, calms nerves, and positively affects those around us.  And I found many moments in that week and the week that followed to laugh.  It buoyed me out of that desperate place of worry where I used to find myself.

I used to fear so much of the future; I busily tried to control variables in my relationships, my finances, my health, and even my faith in order to avoid the thought of the unknown.  And in recent years, God has led me from fear into faith.  But I was often still missing the joy that can be present in the unknown.  I was teeth-gritted, focused, determined to not be afraid, but I can’t say that the laughter was rolling forth.  This summer, I can see that laughter is a sign of the next step.  It is not the careless laughter of sweeping problems under the rug (I was a pro at that in my early marriage), but the confident laughter of knowing without a doubt that life will untangle itself without me getting all tied up in the midst of it.

I came home from vacation with a revamped plan.  Nick is traveling for work for a while, and I am doing my best to squeeze in training with a little help from my family and friends, a little creativity, and a little patience from my girls.  I learned long ago, and am continuously reminded, that finances also work themselves out in their own way.  This week it was a well-timed dollar sale at Meijer.  Next week- we’ll see.  But I feel happy.  No gritted teeth here this time.  I am too STRONG to quit, to DIGNIFIED to cry, and I am laughing my way through it- not fake giggling or attention-seeking guffawing, but joyous, trusting, liberating laughter.

Whatever you are facing, wherever you find yourself right now, I hope you can find joy.  Trust the process- mine has been unfolding for years.  It is a bit like watching my girls learn to swim: there is the letting go, the sinking, the reaching for safety, but underneath the water, the constant kicking for the surface and the unwavering hand nearby to hold you above the danger.  And when the pieces begin to fall into place, there is the joy and satisfaction of having succeeded.

Broken Cisterns

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah 2:13

I’ve been digging for years. The soil is sometimes sandy; it doesn’t hold its shape; the rain passes through it without leaving any moisture.  Or the soil is rocky; my small spade bends; the hole is shallow and uneven.  But I am nothing if not persistent, and I keep digging, intent to complete a well and fill it with sustaining water.  Sometimes I am digging into ministry.  I am volunteering; I am “showing up”; I am hurrying and planning and doing in a flurry of religious fervor.  Other times I am digging into reflection.  I am reading; I am listening; I am choosing this person’s words or that person’s ideas to fill in my philosophy.  But whether I am doing or listening, running or waiting, helping or hoping, the power is often draining out the bottom of me like a sieve, faster than I can replenish it on my own.

I find myself like wandering Israel, wanting fulfillment but returning to broken cisterns.  Sometimes the cisterns are obvious- bad habits, even good habits, that are not building me up in Christ.  More often the cisterns are hidden.  As an avid book lover, I read many words; I am interested in the ideas and philosophies and beliefs of many.  Yet I often turn to books, studies, and sermons before turning to the Book.  I love events: times of fellowship, activities to promote God’s love. But I do not always actively pursue God.  I am digging, and digging, and digging, but the water is shallow;  it is seeping out of cracks in my life that I cannot fill with books or studies or people.  Like the Israelites who, “have forsaken Me, the spring of Living Water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water”, my work is not met with fulfillment, no matter how fervent my attempt.  And in reflection, it seems silly.  The source of Living Water is near, but my independent digging feels useful?  My futility is laughable.

From the outside, finding God in the midst of the desert should have been easy.  There were few distractions.   There were many needs.  But God felt so far away. And the people dug and dug and dug to find water, but their attempt was futile.  And so is mine.  I want God near.  I dig in the dirt to find Him.  It gives me purpose; it makes me feel like an active participant in my faith.  But man-made cisterns are not watertight. The filling is weakened by a constant, slow emptying.  It is the opposite of a spring, a constant steady provision of water.  So how do I set aside my digging to find the Living Water?  It is reading His Word, listening to His voice, waiting on His call.  Why do I insist on complicating my life with dirt and stones and shovels, when He has simply asked me to listen and wait on Him?   

He whispers, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:13

Accidental or Intentional?

I heard the slap of palm on skin from across the hall.  Annoyed, I rolled off the bed to check out the situation.  The victim daughter said the other hit “on purpose”, while the slapper insisted it was an “accident”.  Neither wavered in her insistence of the true motivation.  I was left refereeing an impossible situation, and it brought up (for what felt like the millionth time) a mom speech about intentional versus accidental acts.  And today, on this snowy precipice of a new year, my focus is on intentionality.  How much of my life is a series of accidents, things that happen along the way while I am distracted, and how much is intentional, brought under my control by mindful choices?

The way I see it, little good comes without intentionality.  I can hope for a happenstance opportunity to present itself and see it as fortunate, but let’s be honest, rarely does a gift of relationship, time, or talent arrive unbidden at the doorway for your use.  Relationships bloom, opportunities arise, and talent multiplies based directly on intentional attention.  

This fall, while continuing to wait for cardiac answers, but knowing that there may not be a clear directive, I decided to try a weight class.  I have always been weak.  Remember those Presidential Awards in middle school gym?  Yeah- I never received one.  I could not do push-ups, or pull-ups, or climb the rope.  I blamed it on my size, my weak arms, my broken bones, and more, but the truth was, I never intentionally tried to improve.  I was nervous to take a 6 am class devoted to free weights, for obvious reasons.  I started with 5 pound discs on my barbell.  I could hardly move the next day.  But it felt good, in a sadistically painful way.  I went back the next week, and the next.  Each week I tried adding a little, even if it was a mere 2.5 pound disc.  This week, I was up to 20 pounds on each side of my bar.  It feels good- I can feel and see change.  Exercise in general is such a concrete example of the reward of intentionality.  Adding a lap to a swim or a mile to a run is a tangible reward for intentional effort, as is losing a few pounds, wearing smaller jeans, and seeing a muscle that used to look like mashed potatoes.

But this isn’t a post about my workout successes or my mashed potato arms.  It is a friendly suggestion to myself (and you) that as we enter a man-prescribed date of resolutions and change, we must be intentional.  If I don’t set a day to take Nick on a date, the weeks will pass unrelentingly, and it will be a month later before we face each other at a restaurant table for a real chat.  If I don’t determine to grade 10 papers a day, my stack grows and grows and grows.  Nothing happens without a decision that drives it.  Most importantly, God calls us to intentional service.  If I don’t watch for opportunities to serve others and serve God, I am easily eaten up by the daily grind, and my life continues in self-serving oblivion to the needs around me.  Sure, an accidental or providential situation may arise, but I am likely to pass up 10 or 15 opportunities because I have not been watching.  Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  The older I get, the more I realize the days are evil.  I can put off until tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow into eternity and never really accomplish anything.  I can claim that I am weak in so many things, but never flex my muscles to change.  This year, in whatever God puts in my path, I am going to make decisions, help others, and build myself in ways that are willful and purposed, in order to make the most of the life I have been given.


I love the look of all the farmhouse lettered signs- the weathered wood, the scrolled cursive and imperfect typeset, the sweet sayings.  They feel simple, conjuring up welcoming feelings of home.  I have one or two, but there is always one that makes me pause.  It is the sign that simply says, “Blessed”.  The same momentary sinking happens when I see that word with a hashtag underneath a perfect family photo or a new car.  I cringe a little each time.  Somehow that word, used in certain situations, feels unclean, stripped of its intent.  Yet I believe in blessings.  I believe that God wants to bless his children.  So I suppose I should attempt to explain….

I feel blessed.  I have healthy children, a nice home, a job I enjoy, and other sundry items to list at the Thanksgiving table.  I also have unanswered cardiac issues.  My husband was recently diagnosed bipolar.  I ran over one of our kittens last week.  My savings is at an all-time low.  Do these events and items make me feel less blessed?  No.  I still feel blessed.  Can I hashtag a picture of my smiling 7-year-old holding up a sweet note to Mommy to describe that I am blessed?  Maybe.  Can I hashtag a picture of the tiny kitten grave Nick had to dig for Clover last week?  Maybe.  You see, for me, blessings are not dependent on situations.  I am blessed to know that whatever I face,God is with me.  I know when my bank account hovers near zero, I am blessed to have assurance that my future is secure.  I can quote Philippians 4:11-13 to myself, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Somewhere in the social media world, #blessed seems to suggest that when life is great and we look good, we are garnering some special favor from God.  And I wonder what a friend recently diagnosed with a disease or an acquaintance suffering through a difficult divorce feels about God’s blessings.  When I am struggling, is God blessing me less?  Or worse- punishing me?  In my simplest, non-theological answer, I believe not.  God wants the best for me, for us, but we are fallen people in a fallen world.  His blessing for us as His followers is assurance, comfort, and strength.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds me to “not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  That is the message I want to give to the world, not the idea that I have garnered supernatural favor through some strength or power of my own, or worse, through a perfectly posed, hashtagged portrait of my life.

If #blessed becomes my status symbol, my shout-out to God that life is awesome right now, I am selling short my life with Jesus as just another “think positive” message among the throng of false happiness messages we receive every day.  I am blessed every day.  At Thanksgiving,  we focus on gratitude and abundance, and we see our many blessings and are thankful.  But if you are struggling, if it is difficult to find material or health or relational blessings this year, I urge you to consider that your blessing may be the strength God gives you to endure and the peace, love, and joy you can find in Him despite your circumstance.  

John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Novelty: A Little Love Story

 It was a fall weekend, much like this, when a much younger version of myself met a much younger version of Nick. He had come on our youth retreat with a friend. He was immature then, even ingratiating. I didn’t like him, then I got used to him, then I grew to know him, and eventually I loved him. The years passed quickly, and that was (shocking to admit) 20 or more years ago. And time is tricky, you know. It bends and wrinkles moments and skin, it builds then devours memories of bliss and sorrow. But here we are, and our story continues to be made new. God works our partialness into wholeness together. Sometimes he is dragging me along through stress and unsureness, and other times I am holding him up out of depression and struggle. And it’s muddy, and tiring, but also hopeful and comforting, because whatever Time and the Enemy are doing to drown us, we are always pulling a life raft alongside…you know, the old “cord of three strands” (thanks, Solomon).  And sometimes, what feels like the “little stuff” becomes the definition that carries you through when life threatens to overwhelm. And today I need to stop and focus on the little stuff that saves us, over and over.

  Nick is a techie, an inventor, an ADD bundle of doing. So I was surprised after almost 14 years of marriage when he said, “I want to read your books. I want to know you better.” He had signed up for Audible, an audio book app, and he began to load it up with my favorites: Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, 1984, and more. He listened every day on his long commute, and he came home eager to ask about the lady in the attic, what happened to Piggy, or the modernity of Big Brother. We talked about culture, and society, or, while drifting off to sleep, whether Jane would find love. Let me tell you, ladies, there is nothing sexier than your man whispering some Jane Eyre to you. Seriously. More importantly, the talks built to something more than a run-down of the kids’ schedule, or a check-in about bills, or a momentary “hey” looking up from a pile of grading or sinkful of dishes.  Somehow he knew that what we needed to break out of the mundanity we had fallen into required a sacrifice of time and interest on his part.  

   And I felt more in those moments, talking excitedly about books with my previously non-reading husband, than I felt in our wedding vows and 14 years of marriage, how much Nick loves me and wants to know me. This man of quiet love and daily honor spoke more words than all those books together. He made our love new and novel.

  The story is not to tell you that love is easy, but it is simple. It is knowing what makes the other one tick and caring enough to learn it, or do it.  And when the hard days come, and we are grasping for the edge of that life boat, the reminder that knowing each other and loving each other is a priority keeps our head above water. Not long ago, I attempted to return the favor of all the time listening to those novels; I versed myself in table and chop saw usage and took over a never-ending flooring project so Nick and I could have more time together.  The differences that could separate us have become tools of intimacy, of knowing each other more each day.  And I don’t say it often publicly, so this is, in my own way, a thank-you letter back to Nick for wanting to know me, even at my worst, and striving to do so in myriad little ways.

Summertime, and the Living is….Easy???

Oh, summer, you two-faced fantasy.  You fickle beauty. You inconstant friend.  On harsh winter days, we dream of you.  We spend all of April and May waiting impatiently for you. In the pick-up line at school, or the hot, smelly waiting room at gymnastics, we pine for you.  And then you are here in all your glory.  We make bucket lists, visit the beach, buy s’mores and ice cream with abandon….until August, when the gluttony has us lying on the couch, the late nights have us lounging until noon, the entertainment (or lack thereof) has children bickering and whining, and we cannot wait to kiss you goodbye.

The topic in grocery store lines this week and the knowing glances exchanged between moms in the church foyer today reiterate the notion- summer is almost over- thank you all that is divine and relenting!  We have checked off activities, indulged in a multitude of ways, and we are…well, over it.  My teaching job has always afforded me summers “off from work” (usually meaning: reading up on new novels, thinking about seating arrangements, attending professional development- OK, different post).  In my early married years, I prided myself for the summer version of me: Summer Wife.  Summer Wife was fun- she stayed out late on weeknights, made hubby’s lunches, kept the chores up, and tackled other necessary problems.  Summer Wife was always relaxed and generally well-tempered.  The birth of children ushered in a new monarch: Summer Mom.  Summer Mom is fun.  Summer Mom cuts the crust off all sandwiches, drives across town to the beach sometimes multiple times in ONE DAY, indulges weird fantasies of strange slime concoctions, and rarely yells the word “HURRY UP!”  But Summer Mom is TIRED- tired of refereeing fights, tired of impromptu friend visits that last just a bit too long, tired of 4 or 5 different lunch requests (I only have THREE kids- where is all this food going?!)  Summer Mom reveled in the No Schedule months of June and July, but she is begging for a calendar so she doesn’t oversleep ANOTHER doctor’s appointment or forget to send ANOTHER house payment.  Summer Mom is grumpy- so many questions, so many outings, so many public bathrooms and grubby hands and crowded lines…..the stress level is creeping up while I revisit the underbelly of summer fun.

I am not complaining (well, not much).  I love summer.  I’m not known for sleeping in, but I am happy to stay in sweats until 9…or 10…or so.  I am thrilled to have time to read entire novels (I can jump right back into reading a novel a day in the summer).  I am satisfied to watch my kids cannonball into a pool again and again.  But I have a wandering soul.  The summer days eventually leave me looking for something to do, starting another project I likely won’t finish, and tiring of the constant questions of “what next?” from little munchkins who have grown used to entertainment.  I am ready for the expected schedule, the clarity of days outlined by lessons, practice, homework.  I am ready for the house to be empty long enough each day to remain a little tidier.  I am ready to not be a short order cook multiple times a day.  I am ready for the mundanity of daily life.  It has all become just a bit TOO MUCH for this Summer Mom.  You know the feeling?  It is like that last bite of cake that sits unsettled in the top of your stomach- it sounded good, it looked great, it felt right, but it is obvious that it was TOO MUCH!  I see that look, fellow Summer Moms.  You are in a long line at the fair in mid-August, your eyes glazed, your patience thin, your coinpurse empty, and you hear that whisper- IT IS TIME!  Time for September and the ushering in of school, sweatshirts, and pumpkin patches.  Bedtimes reminded by early evening darkness and mornings reinforced by a Trolls-themed alarm clock singing, “I will get back up a-gain!”

I’ve been a mom long enough to know better than to wish away the moments and the years.  But I have also been a mom long enough to know that our best times are not always long, hot vacations, but sometimes daily car rides after school.  Our most intimate family talks are not always around a campfire, but sometimes piled on the couch on a cold evening.  Our best selves are not always the fabled Summer versions that while away the time with abandon, but sometimes the stalwart daily versions that find magic in the mundane.

So this is my loving Farewell to you, Summer!  As always, our affair has been hot and wild, but I must bid you adieu.  Summer Mom must put on real pants (with a button and everything) and transform back into School Mom.  But I will try to take a little of your fun and freedom with me this year…I will drag out my summer silliness once in a while-write to me in late September to remind me.

When to Rest

I don’t always know when to rest.  I like to get up early; it is how I prepare myself for whatever may lie ahead.  I like to stay up late; it is quiet and I can gather my thoughts up and sort them into piles from most to least important.  I prefer saying “yes” to saying “no”, often finding myself at the bottom of a laundry lists of obligations and expectations that I chained myself to willingly.  I add miles to my jogs to keep going…and going…and going.  So it should come as no surprise that it takes a freight train to tell me to stop.

Last month, I got the message.  In the midst of a successful season of 10K training, my body started saying “no” when it had previously said “yes”.  I felt fatigued beyond the normal mom-of-3-teacher-runner fatigue.  I would sit down and my eyes would involuntarily close.  It felt often like a foot on my chest, bearing down and taking my breath away.  My always-low heartrate slowed, and slowed, and slowed, frequently dropping into the 30s.  I did what I hate to do then- I went to the doctor.  I was told to stop running.  I was sent for more tests, revealing an arrhythmia, and later, some leaky valves.  Neither of these are earth-shattering, or even particularly noteworthy, diagnoses.  I am fine. But I am still under orders to REST.

I am uncomfortable, itching to get back at it.  I am in the midst of essays, a looming graduation speech, and a couple of outrageously large cupcake orders.  Rest seems impossible and inconvenient.  But my body is still telling me- Nope, I’m not doing that today, lady.  I am waiting for one more test.  And while I do,  I am trying to take in the message.  I am taking it easy- which isn’t easy at all.  And in all honesty, I’m not even doing a very good job of it.  Just yesterday, I took on another task.  Some days, I feel pretty good, and I overdo it.  And then my body taps me on the shoulder and reminds me, Hey, not yetdude.

But I am going to try to take away a positive message this month and focus on shifting priorities.  I am going to form my lips into a clear NO until it is a practiced skill.  I am going to play badminton in the yard with the girls and leave the vacuum in the corner for a bit.  I’m going to listen to my heart, which is beating a tired reminder to slow down.  I’d like to stay I will lessen stress, but let’s face it, I have 2 1/2 weeks left in a room full of restless 17-year-olds punctuated by nights with a 4-year-old who hates to sleep.  So, you know, stress levels are sort of unavoidable.  Either way, I am following my post on running, which ironically I wrote right before I was told to stop, with a post on resting.  And I’m going to say to you, too, that it is OK to rest.  Our society makes rest seem lazy, careless, irresponsible.  But rest is necessary, healing, valuable.  Rest allows us to be the people we were intended to be.