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Open Handed

Happy Birthday to my Youngest Gift: Oakley Andrew is 6 years old today. IMG_0604

After we enjoyed a donut the size of Oakley’s head, complete with white frosting and assorted sprinkles (his fave), as well as assorted and seasonal donuts for all, brought by good friend Carol, consumed by sweet siblings and courteous, cute cousins, the birthday boy went to school and I went to the gym.

Completing what felt like another breath-taking (literally) and leg-leading (this is when my legs feel filled with lead), Crossfit workout, I went to give props to a fellow, yet stronger, athlete, Caroline. We walked towards each other arms extended. I balled my hand for a fist bump and she had hers open for a high-five. In a split second, we switched. The result: I wrapped my open high-five hand around her now closed fist. We smiled, she mused: “This is the modern dilemma right? Fist bump or high five!?”

I walked away and thought, “I do want to live my life open-handed…”

It was a brief, gym-brained moment but I rode it a bit longer. Open hands call me to two postures: open to receive, and willing to let go.

I’ve prayed on my knees for 9 of the last 14 days. The thought came and stuck so I called it Spirit and slunk down. I go to my knees and put my hands out in front of me, palms up, fingers splayed. The intention is to release (mostly) my kids back to the God who gave them to me.

Perhaps if I’m not holding on so tight, I’ll parent less with anger, frustration and control, and more with listening, grace, and wisdom outside myself.

On my knees, I’m palms up for reception. I want to receive what I cannot have alone. I want to be OPEN to what the day and the people, the plans and the quiet will bring. Can I really be open to receiving what I do not expect, am uncomfortable with, and cannot control? Can those receptions shape and move me?

Mostly, open hands mean I’m looking more to possibility than pessimism. To potential instead of problems and plight. I yearn to grow more naturally into this more hopeful perspective as my default. I need to open my hands.

think letting go is the hardest. To trust Eli, Andi, and Oakley to live their own lives, in the step of the Spirit who dwells within and leads ahead, with the mark of the initiation of God’s grace and the support of their family (and by family I mean FAMILY- read: blood relatives, neighbors, assigned team families, YL friends and more), means I don’t fully lead, shape and direct but steward, consult, let fail, and constantly support them in all of their uniqueness.

I do really want to open hand my kids.IMG_0937

Oakley, after six years of holding onto you, this year I’ve had to let you go like never before. My hands are open to the grace of the gift you are in my life and I’m willing to let other people know, love and enjoy you.

Oaks, from you I receive, with open hands, your dimpled smile, tiny nose, still small questions, child-like wonder, and creative inquisition. I release you, I let go, so you might risk, run, listen, learn, know and kneel, accept and reject, befriend and bless.

Oh to have you go. And yet I am open, handed and hearted, to receive what God has next, all the while understanding my hands and heart are already so full.

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They Went on a Wednesday: A Thank You Note

Today is the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL across Kansas City. The Osborne three joined the masses. Recent graduates of the unofficial Osborne-Elementary -home school- gap year- adventure, Eli, Andi and Oakley went to 6th grade, 5th grade, and kindergarten today.

I’m not crying. Today I’m celebrating, indulging, and remembering. Maybe tomorrow I’ll cry. Today has been too carefully planned and filled up.

6:15- Eli awoke and showered.

6:20- We have breakfast (cereal- it’s a Wednesday) just us and E

6:50- Eli left on the bus for middle school. Andi woke up to wish him a good day. Super sweet move by the sister. (Agh…they’ve done SOOO much life together these two…this split between schedules and buildings feels severe)IMG_0854

7:20- Drew woke Oaks up and he found his new favorite clothes and the light up shoes to complete the look (What if they come untied? He’ll never keep them on all day right? He NEVER wears shoes. Can he run fast in those? Is there gym today?)

7:45- Breakfast conversations with Oaks about how he doesn’t remember where his class is and he remembers the bench in the lunch room looks much longer than the bench here at home he’s sitting on.

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8:10- Out to the bus stop. We have a great neighborhood party at the bus stop. Cute puppies play, very cute kids connect with excited energy.

8:18- The bus pulls up. Oaks says and I quote, “I’m going to get on the bus and I don’t know what will happen. I get to get on the bus.” Then Benjamin touched his arm and they walked together, backpacks facing parents, faces facing the new year.IMG_0862IMG_0855

8:25- Drew and I toast 12 years of parenting, and the third and final round of kindergarten send offs, on our new deck and new deck furniture.

10:15- I get a mani/pedi with birthday money and sit in the salon with three moms doing the same first day of school move I’ve chosen- self care!

12:30- Camper and I go around the walk and pray for the kids where and how they are at school.

1:30- I have a phone call about the vision and logistics of my new job.

3:00pm- Now Eli will be home any moment. Andi and Oakley will arrive around 4:00. Hopefully the bus quickens.

I am grateful.

Thank you Eli, Andi, and Oakley for all the ways you’ve been for each other and for our family mission*.

Thank you Andi, Oaks, and Eli for swinging together on the swing set last night and being sweet to each other this morning.

Thank you Oakley, Eli and Andi, for being brave today. For going back to school, and into it for the first time, having had two years outside of what your friends have been doing. You truly are brave and bold and I’m proud of you.

Thank you Park Hill Schools for working hard to be inclusive, prepared, high tech, benevolent, safe, and strategic in offering education to our kids.

Thank you my extended family for caring about our kids as they have gone through this and many other changes and transitions. Your thoughts, prayers, and Snaps were soul boosts today.

Thank you Classical Conversations of Shawnee for the last two years which are present in my passing thoughts and memories often these days. Thank you for the strong connections in their heads of dates, names, and sentence diagrams. The people and learning we received leaves a meaningful mark for which we are better- more connected as a family and deeper thinkers.

Thank you Castaway for the summers we spend on mission, in beauty, and encountering Jesus at His closest.

Thank you Drew for dating me, marrying me, having kids with me, and saying yes to some crazy (and good!) ideas I get. As one comes to an end, I look back with awe at how much your support, hard work, slow processing, great perspective, and willingness to enter in has made me stronger and helped me get here.

Thank you Here for the chance to walk into newness with faith, hope, and open hands. We look to be amazed, and want to bring help and hope.

Thank you Camper for keeping me company. Leash up, let’s go get the kids!

 

*We recently penned family values by asking, “Who are the Osbornes?/What are we about?” and collectively said:

  • We play games together
  • We are a drug free family
  • We believe the best about each other- we know we have each other on our team/side
  • “Just go to bed”- is what we often say, which really means, we value good sleep in our family
  • We have good gifts from God and our job is to take care of them and share them
  • We are blessed to be blessings
  • We do things to be safe, strong, smart and spiritual with good self control.

Child- Like

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There are adages about “child-like things”- faith, enthusiasm, or directness.

You can see by these pictures in the post that there is a bravery, a lack of concern for slimy-creepiness that kids possess. A zest for experiencing the fullness of what’s offered that can lead them to leap!- into holding Precious (Oaks’ buddy there) or Bumblebee (the one who kept his head up). *     **

e, because a team was losing their cohesiveness, and right before talking humans through conflict management, Jesus grabs a child and figuratively (maybe literally too) holds her up.

 “ And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

It was about a month ago that I was sitting on the floor of the deck after hanging laundry that Oaks came out with a book. He backed himself up and plopped himself down in my lap. Oakley pushed deeper into the crevices of my hips and knees, nestled his head back carefully to my chest, and grabbed one arm to place my hand on top of his leg. Not only on my lap, but inside my grasp- Oaks asked for the book.

I thought right then of “child-like faith.” (Which Jesus doesn’t expressly command but people say…)

Child-like faith assumes an open lap,  unconditional, ready and willing, yes-saying Love. Children believe adults will love them, welcome them, accept them, meet their needs and be strong enough for their push backs.

Being child-like means expecting people will love you. Kids believe they are worthy of climbing into the lap of one who loves them, into the arms of one always open for an embrace.

I bet the little kid came to Jesus just like Oaks to my lap, “Of course I can walk into a crowd of amped up adults…that guy loves me, he’ll have me.”IMG_8042


Andi dances. She always has, and only for one semester in a studio. Andi’s debut was a Christmas Day dance in my sister Natalie’s basement. She was almost three and she had moves, but mostly she had the freedom to dance what she felt no matter who was watching or what they thought.

We do family dance parties and they’re magical for sure, disco balls and all. But Andi dancing for the couch of three watching? Andi dancing alone, willingly, without sunglasses or a costume, with self choreographed moves…at age ten? That,  I happen to find astounding. She did it Friday night to a four minute song while Drew, Oaks, and I encouraged and watched in awe. Creative, free, and expressive she moved. We oohed and cheered. Being child-like is being free to express what you love to do or make- boldly and proudly.   (IMG_0181-ANIMATIONClick on the picture of Andi and she’ll dance!)


It was Friday she danced after Thursday when she swam. Eli and Andi’s swim careers have always been childlike. Being childlike is wearing a one piece, swim cap, goggle lines and participation ribbons all night. They just want to be where their friends are, back at the blankets in-between swims, playing games, coloring with markers, and appreciating the attention of coaches who know their names and advocate for their personal bests.

When you don’t care what people think of you, when you don’t care what you look like, what do you gain?

Jesus says, “The kingdom.”

A place where there is love, there is freedom, and there is enough.


Kids ask for big things and expect to get them. Jesus also invites this- He is the one who gives more than anything we might think to ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

It’s not hard for my kids to ask, “Can we can print 10 copies of coloring sheets? Open a new jar of peanut butter because it’s smoother to spread? or Run water for playing with the hose for 30 minutes?” They don’t think about how ink runs out, or water costs money, or multiple jars of open peanut butter is cabinet clutter. They think about maximizing the moment, serving the whims of their friends and utilizing resources that seem to be sitting there.  Why do I (all adults?) seem so bent on worrying about when things might run out? Childlike is fully enjoying the gift of whats available without worry. IMG_0366


Eli has been at Boy Scout camp (Bartle in Osceola, MO)  for six days and will stay another three. We miss him but he’s thriving. Being childlike is putting on the full uniform and carrying a backpack holding  anything you might need for the adventure.

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Eli left in full “Class-A” dress- its green and brown and button up- an outfit that matches him to others on the same journey. Clothes that say, “We are all in this together. From any house or home life, a Scout is a Scout. Who cares what you “regularly” wear.” When he added the hat they gave him before he left and strapped on the pack, we knew he was fully embracing the risk, the separation from family, and the freedom of the trip. His tent mate is a kind boy named Matthew and they’ve thrown sand around in a game of bags and their dirty clothes into the same stinky mesh laundry bag.

Being childlike is being brave enough to grow up, secure in who you are and who you’re with. 

What I saw in Eli on Sunday was a kid, surely, but a growing up one. He was going on a hike with a friend, and no adults. He was showing us around places he’s conquered we knew nothing about. Eli was kind and respectful but playful and competitive too.


Jesus is correct, kids get the kingdom. When you are a kid, you are free to play. Play involves imagination and big messes. Play means the world is out there with a place for you to create in it. Kids look for others to see their stuff, cheer them on, know their tears and pains, and pick them up. Kids are vulnerable without trying to be- they must cry out.

I love my kids and want to be more like them. I want to go back to when I didn’t know and didn’t care what I looked like or who might not like or accept me. I want to walk and talk, write and sing (loooooong shot!), without fear.

If the kingdom is a place of love, acceptance, enough, security and joy, I know there are kids there and I have work to do to get in. Jesus, help me be childlike. 

*Since I’ve sat down to pen this post, two of the occasions about which I’ve intended to write have been happening- three books read to a snuggled-in boy on my lap and 30 minutes of uninterrupted water play with our backyard hose.

** Those snakes, Precious and Bumblebee, are a part of the ecology center at Bartle. I never expected Eli or Oaks to be so curious or brave as to hold a snake. Wow…they were tough. Andi’s engagement and interest never surprises me with the animal kingdom. She is a lover of all God’s creatures- fuzzy or scaly. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walk Away Dinner and Drew’s New Walk

IMG_9535In early December, Drew and I did what we do best- love each other well when far from home, work, parenting and shared responsibilities. We’ve done this before- we were amazing in Austin when I went to officiate a wedding in 2011, we loved each other to the max in Michigan on our 10 year anniversary trip in 2014, and we are all-in with each other at Young Life All Staff conferences in 08 and 2016. In Miami, Drew was in conferences all day and I did some work and a lot of laying on a beach in awe and gratitude for getting to spend a December day that way- the latest installment in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a great beach read! At night we got to dine together, catch up and enjoy long conversations and the view.

We could not be more thankful for the effort GG put into making the week so great for our kids back home- as the substitute teacher and field trip aficionado, she took them to see eagles, gave them a candy shop to create a gingerbread house, and drove them all the way to Olathe for the Prairie Fire museum and rolled ice cream. Perhaps most precious, their assigned write ups of the week. Thank you Gayle!

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Back to the beach…after Drew’s conference ended Wednesday night, we were free to spend Thursday on our own exploring the town. We checked in our luggage and filled up our water bottles. We rented city bikes and rode from Mid-Beach to South Beach. Amazing street tacos became lunch before a ride across five bridges to downtown Miami. There we had a cocktail at an outdoor bar with a swing for a seat. We went to the Wynwood Art District with walls of street art that captured hope, inspired truth, and shared struggle. Building after building was covered in expression and beauty. Art Basel was beginning so many painters were in process as we strolled by in awe. IMG_9534 IMG_9532 IMG_9527

Finally, we took an Uber to the very end of South Beach and walked up the sand for a mile. We were hot and hungry and feeling a little grimy from the bikes and the beach and the downtown. Just off the beach, we saw a colorful restaurant and friendly attendant harking the specials and inviting us in. A $9 dinner option looked good to me so we asked for a table. After sitting there with waters and perusing the menu, which turns out only sold five chicken fingers or some bad pizza for $9, while most of the dishes cost $23 and looked like bad bar food, we looked at each other.

Drew said, “Do you want to eat this?” and I said, “Are you sad we sat down here?” I felt some allegiance to the friendly waitress who asked us our names, assured us all the food was “sooooo good” and had brought us water. But still, nothing looked or sounded good. Drew said, “We can eat here. It’s going to be expensive and not too good. Or we could leave.”

Leave?! Leave a table we sat at with sweaty beach walking bodies? Leave after we drank the waters?

Drew said, “We can leave. We can tip her for the waters and say we’ve changed our minds.”

Despite the social discomfort, I wanted out. It didn’t feel like a place we wanted to be. Why wouldn’t we just leave?

So we did, we stood up, addressed the waitress by name at the front of the restaurant and let her know we had changed our minds. We walked away.

Around the corner, feeling free and not at all regretful, I thanked Drew for helping us out of that one. To advocate for yourself instead of sitting idly by and enduring a situation you’d rather skip, is a good skill. We could change our minds. Realizing our first decision was a poor one, we reserved our right to take a different path.

The different path led us three blocks off the beach to a simple Mediterranean restaurant run by a hard working, kind and quiet woman, and her family. We sat on the sidewalk. Our plates of hummus, gyro meat, rice, and vegetables was authentically tasty. She brought us homemade baklava and a sincere smile with our check. The meal goes into the “Drew and Lindsey Amazing Dinners” Hall of Fame

I won’t forget the power of standing up and walking away from mediocre and expensive, to simple and sincere. What is loudest and easiest (good advertising and close to the beach!) is often a facade of what we truly hunger for, a piece of someone’s best work and a sidewalk seat for reflecting, conversing, and enjoying something real. IMG_9518

We ended our night in Miami and our trip with a 1.5 mile walk back to our bags and a cab for the airport. What you notice when you’re walking, you often miss under the roof and behind the glass of a car.

What you notice when you’re NOT walking, is how simple and essential, convenient and necessary it is to take steps.

Drew ruptured/completely tore his Achilles’s Tendon a week ago this morning. After two years of tension and nagging pain in his heels and decreased athletic movements, Drew did five months of physical therapy and deliberate stretching to get healing at the end of 2017. He was granted freedom from pain and a stamp of approval from the doctor that his tendons were ready to get back in action.

On January 4th, the action of an early morning basketball game, became a breaking point. His left Achilles tore down low in his ankle, in an explosion of connective tissues.

Drew cannot walk. Hasn’t walked since last Thursday. We are so lucky we get to borrow crutches and a kneeling cart. We can’t imagine the road of healing and rehab ahead. I’m so sad to lose my Camper walking partner and amazingly helpful husband. Drew is keeping his spirits up, perhaps more so than me, and has kept working hard at the office at at home- making me coffee, cooking our eggs, and tucking the kids in on floor 2!!!. The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, January 16th. IMG_9680

Until Drew can walk well again, I’ll cherish the memories of our Miami walks, our restaurant walk away, and the years we’ve had to walk through hard times and amazing blessings together. With all that is within me,  I’ll cheer Drew on in his steps towards recovery on this winter walk of injury. IMG_9628

Broken Bowls and a Baby: Homeschool Report

Last week we went to meet a baby and broke two bowls.

Friday morning was an Osborne Elementary field trip to meet my friends Amy and DJ’s new baby. They are brand new parents and wonderful people. The trip was 50 minutes each way so I planned and packed some “school” for all three to complete in the car. Working dutifully, they completed dictation, math, and cursive. In the last 10 minutes, they were set loose and chose to write a “songs in real life” script. Eli and Andi made up a play where the characters speak mostly in song lyrics from today’s hit songs. If you know Young Life camp, think a small-scale opera. What I noticed is their creativity and partnership in giving ideas, giggling and being goofy, and being so excited to write and perform something.

We arrived at their house and I panicked. What are my three big kids going to do in a house with no toys and one baby? I offered books and more school but they ran off into the house, “No thanks Mom!”

Meeting EveLynn was joyful. A very perfect, snugly, and sweet baby in the home of parents so vulnerably in love and well prepared, was a warm setting. Eli loves babies, Andi loves holding babies confidently, and Oaks thinks babies are soft and smooth.  They pet their dog, complimented her style and decor, admired her button bouquets and amazing craftiness (crocheted flower baby blanket! amazing dream catcher mobile!) and didn’t even ask to see the basement until I offered to show them the all-brick walls and floor down the steep steps. Everyone took turns holding Ev and no one wanted to leave. Walking back to the car, Eli said, “That was great. I had a good time Mom and at no point did I ever wish I had a book.”

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Driving home, I realized gratefully, my kids have grown to be very appreciative and inventive. Homeschool allows these gifts to be practiced and promoted. Eli appreciates babies and can invent Hot Wheels tracks the whole driveway long. Andi appreciates art, projects, and expression and can invent melodramas. Oakley appreciates a dog’s soft underbelly and invents worlds with cars, Lego people, or pillows. None of them was extraordinary that day with Amy’s baby but they appreciated the magnitude of the moment and were present fully in it.

Sunday, we were home alone for dinner with Drew at a YL meeting so I “planned” a throwback dinner menu- Sustad family Sunday night dinner plan: popcorn, Mark’s shaved ice lemonades not included.

Oaks helped me with the air popper and we filled up a big blue melamine bowl.  I moved away to cut up an obligatory vegetable plate (no memory of broccoli on Sustad Sunday nights) and heard a crash behind me. Oaks had jumped off his stool and his hand struck the side of the full popcorn bowl. The bowl crashed and cracked into pieces and the popcorn flew. Eli walked in from a friend’s house and I let him know his dinner was on the floor- welcome home.

I wasn’t upset and understood the purely accidental nature of Oak’s action. I went looking for pieces of plastic and pulled out some bags of microwave kettle corn- thank you Boy Scout Eli. As I paid attention to the popping noises in the microwave, I didn’t look behind me for a bit to the mess on the floor. I served dinner- rescued floor popcorn, broccoli, and warm chemical-laden kettle corn. We had fun and added Parmesan cheese sprinkles to our bowls of buttered corn. We talked about cars (Eli’s obsession right now) and how they might go to Young Life camp themselves one day. Camper helped lick up Parmesan cheese but didn’t go crazy for the popcorn.

After I loaded the dishes in the dishwasher, during which I broke a glass bowl when my Swell bottle toppled over and pushed the bowl off the counter, I had a kairos moment.

I became fully aware of what I had missed before. I felt grace and peace in the middle of chaos. I felt calm and grateful even though I stood in the middle of a mess. 

My epiphany: I did NOTHING to clean up the popcorn. Eli, Andi, and Oakley picked up the big groups of popcorn, found a new bowl, swept up the small smashed pieces, and apologized for the broken bowl loss.

They took care of a problem without being asked! Industriously, they dove in to a situation to remedy it together! Together they cleaned up a mess, with a broom even! With care, they offered me concern.

Throughout the course of the last 18 months, my kids have increased in responsibility and effort. As part of the blessing I say to them, I say, “You’re capable and curious” and they have never ever lived these two truths out more poignantly. IMG_9441

We have hard days, I flop as frustrated teacher/mom, they don’t focus, we put other things first and chase the school train, or do so much school my job suffers. Last week, a new baby and a broken bowl reminded me we are living a gift- time with each other and the space to be inventive, appreciative, responsible and so so aware of God’s great grace.

Photos: Appreciating the “tree of wonder” on a walk, bikes in our van for a bike ride with Will last week, and the Hot Wheels line up. 

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Castaway Blessings Counted- Osborne Family Edition

IMG_8762To whom much is given, much is expected.

I tell my kids we are blessed to be a blessing. No where does this adage get lived out more expediently than on our summer assignments at Castaway.

I also tell my kids that EVERY time anyone does something for them or gives something to them, they are to say THANK YOU. So, Castaway, for all that you’ve given me, for what you did for us this summer, once again, we say thank you.

The blessings by bullet points: 

  • Quick service at Wendy’s on the way up. Seriously, a very smooth fast food experience in South Dakota. I made the determination right there to be grateful for it all – to appreciate the big and small. 
  • Easy and genuine connection between nanny Hannah and me, and more importantly, Hannah and my kids. She made a friendship with each of them and was selfless, attentive, patient, and gave caring help that allowed me to work and my kids to thrive. hannah and oaks
  • Andi and the Obstacle Course #1. She couldn’t find me or Eli at the end of the first O Course. It was late and dark and she was wandering alone when we passed each other on the sidewalk. I walked on past but she called out, “Mommy!” I didn’t recognize how tall she’s become and how dark the night was. She however, saw through the darkness and called out to me like only a kid can for a parent. How often do we wander in our darkness with God so close? Do we miss the arms of Ultimate Comfort if we don’t try hard enough to see the Light?  Will we call vulnerably enough in our fear for the One to stop and grab us close?
  • Andi and the Obstacle Course #2. Andi came back from the O Course week two and was over the moon excited. She cried out, “I love it here Mom! The high school and college kids are just all so nice. It’s like no where else.” Indeed, the calling of God’s kindness and Christ’s love emanates even in the goofiness of an obstacle course, settling on the developing confidence and tender spirit of my nine year old. 
  • Maddy Messenger is a student staffer I worked with last summer at Castaway. Last year she was curled in with anxiety and depression. This year she was set free with confidence and acceptance of God’s love for her. She had a willingness to serve and share she was incapable of last year. I’m reminded of  process and the patience required as we shepherd such young adults. They are not yet who they will be but are well on their way, and under the care of a very creative and present artist. 
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    summer staff girls

  • The camp director said twice I should be the camp director at Castaway next summer. My mouth dropped open. I feel humbled and hopeful. If anywhere, YES, HERE.
  • Eli prays eyes closed, palms up, hands open on his lap at dinner. He would go on to become very open to Jesus as a real presence in his own life- owning his faith for the first time in ways we’ve never seen.
  • Eli enjoys camper friends during the first week- good laughs, a secret handshake and even a letter from friend Maggie while we were still at camp.  At home a week after Castaway, Eli asked us what our dream home would be. In describing his own, he mentioned a big enough house and the associated land with dirt bike trails and trampolines, and then added, “And a Maggie. To keep me company because I can’t stand being lonely.” He might not marry her but he felt friendship and affirmation that gave him a taste for connection I hope he holds onto.
  • Andi rode the zip line with her new friends Liz and Lilly and told me, “We always pray for good landings Mom. At the top, I say a prayer and then I feel peace about going down.” Once again, I haven’t known Andi to invoke prayers on afternoon adventures before. The spirit of prayer without ceasing seeped into our kids. FullSizeRender
  • Georgia from the store came up to me with a story. She said Eli and Andi came by the store often. She told me it took her a few times to figure out whose kids they were and then when she asked, “Oh are you Lindsey’s kids?” they said, “Yes. She’s our mom and she’s really cool. She’s a great mom.” Unsolicited sweetness. Yes, please. Wow. Thank you Eli and Andi.
  • Oakley was tickled, played with, cuddled, carried, cheered on and held. He was loved by leaders, assigned team (what a gift to be loved by parents of other kids on camp!), summer staff, and work crew. Campers would seek him out in the sand and build a castle, bridge or river by the lake. From the sand, Oaks received such positive attention that he felt secure enough to try new things, hope for a future where he’ll find love, and truth that he has value and goodness just in who he is.

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  • Castaway once again tells my kids they are precious, worthy, loved, and able to do hard good things with and for others. With so much love, they became their best selves- positive, brave, gregarious, friendly, thankful.
  • When the bus from Omaha arrived, it was a kingdom in 3rds. One third of the bus was urban kids of color, one third suburban small town white kids, and one third Capernaum campers (kids with disabilities of all different colors). There were leaders from different ages, stages, and diverse backgrounds. At the top, two women I led in Leadership II two years ago and admire and learn from even if I was their teacher.
  • When Drew came, he volunteered his time to serve. He served in the kitchen so we could host the whole summer staff for a banquet dinner. He gave sweat energy in the kitchen for hours and came out…grateful. What most impacted him that night was how much Castaway said “yes”. They said yes to special diet needs- a-plenty as well as picky high school appetites and simple extras as well. To have your needs met and then your desires fulfilled…could this be the extravagance of a good good God?
  • At the change over talent show for work crew and summer staff, Eli and Andi both preformed. Eli solved a Rubix cube on the balance Indo Board and let someone in the crowd solve the last move. I thank YL for teaching him how to share the energy and success with a crowd. Andi did a dance with two friends. They worked hard in practice for a week. Even more impressive than the gymnastic moves and coordinated and creative dance, was the fact that a threesome of 8-10year old girls could get along and encourage each other instead of attack and compare.IMG_8738

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  • Eli told Drew he had a God moment one day when he saw a camper transform from angry and distant to soft and interested.
  • Andi and Eli learned to water ski! Got up the first time and didn’t want to get down.IMG_8726
  • Oaks climbed the rock wall for his first time. An exercise in risk and trust that pushed him to a new level- literally.
  • Being summer staff coordinator with Brad Pearce. We were a great team of intention and adventure. We had the gift of stewarding, mentoring, shepherding, vision casting, and leading a group of 41 college students. Jesus worked in and through their efforts to serve and their experience in a healthy community. I learned from Brad about YL staff stuff, a growth mindset, assuming positive intent and saying yes to something big and crazy. 20170719_201659
  • The sunsets. The indescribable sunsets. And yet, the best was saved for last. The beach party night week three was gold, pink, bright, orange, slow and so tangibly gorgeous it even showed in pictures.IMG_8763
  • Adam, Mary Kate and Cousin Wilson came to Castaway to be our friends, family and the camp medical assistance. They gave of their vacation to work and thanked us. The magic of Castaway and joining in God’s work is that even the sacrifices feel like gifts.IMG_8789
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With pure humility and for each blessing, I’m so so grateful. I got to live as a trillionaire for three wonderful weeks of sunsets and Spirit. Castaway you were wonderful once again.

Connection Trees Part II

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As humans we are created by and for connection. While connection and relationship occur across a broad range of human relationships, I explore the ramifications for marriage.

The tree in the picture for my marriage counseling meeting two is a connection tree. “CONNECTION” is written down the trunk. The roots of connection are two fold: TRUST and INTIMACY.

The TRUST sub-soil or trailing roots involve:

  1. commitment (a deliberate intention to another person)IMG_8201
  2. proximity (alignment of your life with another’s)
  3. engagement (an ongoing, care-taking of the togetherness)

The INTIMACY sub-soil or trailing roots involve:

  1. identity (understanding that you are loved so you can give love away to another)
  2. love (the paradigm, perspective, and plausibility through which we view the other)
  3. conflict (a dance that involves taking turns, lots of energy, and risk. Conflict happens because of the depth of intimacy and for it. To avoid conflict is to avoid intimacy. Disengagement deadens relationships over time.)

With strong roots and rich soil, with the unseen and intangible foundation of trust and intimacy,                                     a couple’s connection tree bears fruit.

Fruit is visible and tangible. Fruit are the habits and behaviors that show on the outside of a couple’s life together.

  • What do they do? (make a home, have sex, make conversation, grow their personalities as individuals and a couple, work jobs etc….)
  • How do they appear to others? (how do others describe their communication style? what does their house feel like to others?)
  • How does being married feel? (what emotions do they experience? what feelings occur most often? what does their silence together say?)

(Here, on the handout, you can draw leaves on the upper branches and write: communication, friendship, parenting, sex, time together, having fun, shared interests, emotions, listening,  etc…)

Fruit comes the way fruit does

  • With seasons and stages (parenting and child rearing fruit)
  • With flavor and appearance (bright and shiny mostly but with bruises and rotten ones in every bushel)
  • With show (an image on the outside that reflects, or can betray for a moment, the actual health)

Fruit grows up and out of the roots of trust and intimacy. If there is a problem with the fruit, it’s probably a manifestation of a root issue. Under the surface, the roots feed what shows on the outside. Fruit problems that are simply fruit problems, like a wife’s dislike of a beard he’s growing, will resolve on their own. Fruit problems that reveal root issues, like a partner no longer asking questions about the other’s day, isn’t just a listening issue- it’s an abandonment trust problem.

The invitation is care about the roots and not so much about the fruit. It can be easier to talk about “His personality this…” or “Her feelings that…” or “We can’t communicate right now…” or “What will people think if we…” without tracing the lifeblood of the argument down to its root cause.

When trust is broken because there is a lack of commitment, a disengagement, or a misalignment…hearts hurt. People trail away.

If intimacy is shattered because one person refuses to accept the love and value of their own identity, breaks their love paradigm for seeing the other, or refuses to give love away anymore…marriages hemorrhage.

Broken people enter into bonds of marriage that are not supposed to be broken. It seems impossible and inhumane. However, to enter into a sacred and deliberate, sacrificial and mutually beneficial relationship with another, is actually the most human and Godly thing we can do.

If God designed it, God will sustain it.

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Our Jamaican honeymoon in July 2004

When I sat in the bridal room on July 10th, 2004, I shook. I had just realized I didn’t love Drew enough right then to last a whole life together. The love I felt I had to offer that day felt tiny, immature, and naive. Then I remembered and had someone read to me, 1 John 4:16-17  which says, We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.”

God is the creator and sustainer of relationships and love. If Drew and I could rely on and live in God, God would grow our love for each other to be more perfect. We, 12 years in, do indeed see the progress and God’s faithfulness.

The Bible begins and ends with trees. The last trees are alongside a river flowing down from God’s throne seen in a vision, On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything.” Revelation 22:2-4 

The promise and the ever present pull of God is toward these life trees. Trees that bear fruit to provide abundance and medicine for healing. Curses lifted, life restored.

Blessings on the planting of your connection tree Haley and Walker.

For married friends, lets take care, pay attention, tend and nurture, dig up and burn away dead pieces, and bear fruit for the good of the world.

Connection Trees

I’m in a pre-marital counseling season this Spring. I never take for granted the privilege to hear from a couple at the precipice of their forever which is really, a continuation of their connection and a jaunt on a long journey.

My second IMG_8202meeting is titled, “Connection at the Core”. We talk about trees.

We start by talking about Genesis 1 and 2. I briefly explain God’s creation story is one of invitation, relationship and participation. As the story unfolds in chapter one, God looks and says, “” six times. Finally, in Genesis 1:26-27, God (three in one) says, “WE will create people in OUR image”.  The seventh “It is good.” is actually a “It is VERY good” and refers to this Image-bearing human set in the garden.

During the creation account in Genesis 2, God looks over everything created and proclaims once,”It is not good.” God looks at the one human and says, “It is not good for people to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) So out of triune relationship, out of self-giving, mutually beneficial, loving relationship within God’s self, God gifts humans with relationship.

The essence of God is perfect relationship. As people, made in God’s image, we are at most basic, and yet fully realized, made for relationship.

Genesis 2:24-25 affirms the original human relationship was one with beautiful freedom and vulnerability. People were naked and unashamed. With God and each other, they were invited into provision, trust, freedom and abundance.

God’s first command was “Eat! Eat freely! Enjoy!” (Genesis 2:16)  with one caution. “Eat everywhere EXCEPT from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:17)

God is offering all they need and the boundary in which to enjoy it best. In one metaphor, God is like parents who gives their kid a hammock and say, “Lay! Enjoy! Play all over our grassy lawn and strong trees. Please, just don’t hang your hammock in the middle of the street.” There are guidelines and recommended uses for all the things we use to live.

In marriage, God’s caution is not for the restriction of enjoyment, but for the fullest of healthy relationship.

God says, “Let me keep the knowledge of what is good and not good. Let me decide ultimately what is best. You, humans, eat from the tree of life. Be together, enjoy the world. Do life. Depend on me for the decisions of what is good and evil. Come to me to find knowledge. Don’t take it for yourself.

Knowledge, full life, real health, was supposed to be found in dependence, and interdependence. Through relationship with God and right relationships with each other, people could KNOW and were deeply and fully okay with being known.

When the created people break the rule, they supersede God’s caution, and they purport, “We can know for ourselves.” They seek knowledge outside of relationship. They put their hammocks in the street.

The fallout is devastating. Instead of vulnerability and intimacy, there is hiding and shame. Instead of peace and harmony, there is defensiveness and blaming. Instead of freedom and health, there is hard work and heartache. Forgoing provision, the people shrink along in scarcity.

Next post- how we tie this all back to marriage in the 21st century.

tree pic

 

 

 

Recently Overheard Around Here

Beep. Beep. Beep. 

It was 6:35 and I was up on a Friday morning. I was sorting laundry in our bedroom before I started the two-story journey I would walk over eight times that day from bedrooms to basement laundry.

I moved two pieces of clothing and was stopped by a sudden need/desire: COFFEE.

I contemplated stopping mid-task to go downstairs and make the coffee, then coming back up to finish. As soon as I had courageously resolved to continue folding, forgoing coffee for another 10 minutes (15 if you count the extra five minutes I’d spend waiting while it brewed), I heard that sweet beep.

Three beeps. Three generous beeps. The coffee was made, ready, and waiting for me.

Downstairs, Drew had made the coffee for me, not even aware I was now awake. He loves me. He really loves me. Without enjoying a drop of coffee himself, ever, Drew has taken to making it for me. Not every day but increasingly more often. And often, just in the nick of time.

Thank you Drew.

Am I wrong Mom? 

Oaks came streaming through the garage, trailed by two little friends- aged five and four. They were all yelling.

Oaks: “I’m not wrong!”

Alex: “You are wrong. He is dead.”

Ben: “No he’s not. He’s a baby. You’re wrong, he’s a baby.”

Oaks: “He’s alive. Jesus is alive right Mom? Am I wrong?”

I look at the three boys. Where did this conversation start? What was the first comment? How were they all invested but all in disagreement?

I tried to enter in immediately, but thoughtfully.

” Guys, let’s not point out when our friends are wrong. Lets celebrate each other’s ideas. Oaks you’re not wrong. Jesus is alive. He’s not dead. Alex, Jesus did die, you’re not wrong, he was dead. Ben, you’re not wrong. Jesus was  a baby.”

Ben: “And now he’s a ghost. A whispy big one.”

Oaks: “God is the biggest. He is in-con-struct-ible.”

There were more. Lots more comments in a short amount of sweet time. Little boys and big questions, thoughts, and ideas. As they grow up, I can only hope they keep wondering, keep discussing, and do less finger pointing and more other-appreciating, despite differences.

Let’s do this again next year. 

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A roller blade and scooter ride down the Line Creek Trail with friend Michelle today

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Skiing Copper Mountain with Grandpa

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Traditions! Valentine’s Day dinner and cake with Mom.

Currently, the Gap Year is a sweet, shiny, success. We are loving being home, being together, leaving town, skiing on weekdays, laying low on sick days, creating something from scratch, and learning together. What we battled in the beginning is refined and days are smoother, trust deeper, and enjoyment higher. Eli was most adamant a few weeks ago that we should do it again next year. Just one more year? The last year before Oaks goes to school.

We are thinking, weighing, and praying. April is decision time.

 

How much can a heart hold?

Last week was a bright and shiny home school week. I reconnected

Let hope bloom and colors call us to Jesus.

Let hope bloom and colors call us to Jesus.

with well-intentioned ideals from the Gap Year dream stage and took Eli and Andi to the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum on Wednesday morning. We looked at paintings of artists they are studying and knew what “Baroque” meant when we wandered. Thanks to their study of the timeline, we had appreciation for what 450B.C.E. Egypt looked like and how impressive that stone carving was for the ancient people. We walked and played in the chilly glass maze and met Drew for lunch at Winsteads. They bubbled over with how much they saw and the fun they had and we all ate too much milkshake.

 

At home, last week hosted symbiotic sibling playtime where they all listened to each other, engaged with problems solving and cooperation, as well as encouraged each other in worlds of imagination and simple play. Dreams coming true with magnets and a wide open carpet floor.

For the last 10 days however, I’ve been wrecked by news of hard things in the lives of good friends, family, and my city. I hurt and ache, pray and question. My heart is heavy and hope feels almost too big a burden after this many prayers, this many days.

Friends in chaos and pain. Family with uncertain news. A nation in transition and upheaval. And most recently, a tragedy of youth and potential lost in the death of Yordano Ventura of the Royals. Seriously, the heart, it hurts.

In the middle of all the darkness, confusion, sadness and noise, I’ve been hearing from God in good ways.

From Richard Rohr’s daily meditations:

On using our faith to follow Jesus’ example of elevating others, not an empire, he writes:

But when Scripture is read through the eyes of vulnerability—what we call the “preferential option for the poor” or the bias from the bottom—it will always be liberating and transformative….The bottom, or what Jesus calls “the poor in Spirit” (Matthew 5:3) in his opening address, is where we have no privilege to prove or protect but much to seek and become.    from 1/17/17

From a daily devotional book given to me as a Christmas present which reminds me of God’s action before my own awakening each morning, Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:24

Living God, your knowledge of me is infinite while mine of you is tiny. The mysteries of your being and your ways are always beyond me. So in humility and reverence, help me to rest content as a follower of Jesus. Give m the loving trust to learn what you show me in your Word without going beyond those limits. Amen. 

When the pains of this world, shock, surprise, fear or uncertainty, bad news, wrongs allowed and rights thwarted, aches, pains, endings and deaths weigh on a human heart, it makes sense to depend deeply on Jesus and cling closely to good friends.

I’m thankful I have both and hold onto to hope.