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Family- a fragile privilege

Family Hugs

Family Hugs

IMG_0562Maybe it’s because I’ve watched so many movies. Or because I’ve done Young Life work with kids and families for over 15 years. Perhaps it’s because my sister-in-law is a movie star (go watch A Godwink Christmas on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries right now!). Could be that the families on movie screens (I’m talking about the broken, raw, complicated ones like Goodwill Hunting, The Fighter, Black Swan, The Kids are Alright, Frozen, Manchester by the Sea and all the others featuring orphans, divorce, abuse, poverty, and more), and the heart break of some YL kids, show me the privilege it is to be me, in my family.

I have a husband who is my favorite everything and who finds me to be his as well. We have three kids who are healthy, strong, fun, and fearless (mostly).

My siblings are my best friends and my sisters and brothers in law are friend status with family benefits on every tree branch- Sustad or Osborne.

I live two doors down from my sister! We do life together all the time.

My sister in law is on TV! And movies!

I get to play four generation board games with my grandparents and my children when we travel OFTEN to Colorado.

My adult cousins and I have dear times together presently and the best childhood shared stories.

My Kansas City aunt and uncle and now cousins, were rocks for the early Missouri years here and are good friends now.

I was raised in love and with vacations, boundaries, big emotions and lots of honesty. I get to cherish the memories and pass on the good stuff.

I joined a family of strength, stability, generosity, love and geographic proximity. I love the Osbornes and very literally could not have done life and work the last 15 years without them.

It just hit me before Thanksgiving, that my family is another bit of privilege I carry in my blessed life. Those bullets just above form a long list and don’t tell the half of it. I didn’t get too mention clothes, make-up, jewelry and gorgeous smiley niece Remi!- all gifts from my sister Nat who I get to fly to see this weekend.

I am awed. Thankful. I want to steward the privilege well. I must recognize the responsibility to use the blessing to be a blessing.

Along with appreciation and blessing, my invitation is to step into areas of imperfection, struggle, mess and discomfort that are also a part of my family. We have suffered loss, divorce, manipulation, sarcasm, rejection, abuse, anger, outbursts, bad habits, mental illness, and contempt. Relationships between some are strained and bruised, perhaps beyond repair. I think however, the call is to recognize the good and enter into the bad, taking on some ugly.

If I have to endure some awkward, uncomfortable, messy, even painful family experiences, I trust I will make it through and be stronger. Our obedience to family allegiance will forge through some of the mess.

We don’t get to say where we are born and who we get. I’m glad I got my people and relish the privilege of being a Sustad/Osborne at this time of year  especially.

The privilege of being with our family, wrought with blessing and struggle, can be a fragile one…see part 2.

 

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Oakley's God-family

Oakley’s God-family

Snuggle buddies

Snuggle buddies

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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My Marriage Musings (with expert advice included)

family1 Mops Speaking: Marriage as Connection and Contract      January 9th, 2017

This is the content with expanded details for my presentation at the Pleasant Valley MOPS group. It’s written as an oral presentation with complete sentences and shortened stories that got restated and lengthened respectively at the “live event”. Keep in mind, this was a 30 minute talk…there are 8 pages of content here. You’ve been warned.

 

I’m Lindsey and I’m 36. My marriage is 12 1/2 years old tomorrow.

When I was in seminary in 2006, my marriage was 1 1/2 years old and we introduced ourselves around the class. The two guys my age introduced themselves and said they were Nick/Matt and had been married for almost two wonderful years. I said, “I’m Lindsey and I’ve been married for almost two kind of hard years.” I was honest, but was I normal? 

I love being married and at times is a really hard thing.

Drew and I are  two oldest children who love to be in control. We have strong opinions and lots of leadership.

We were just getting marriage figured out when we learned we were pregnant. Then we were just settling into that, and got pregnant again. Finally, with some thought, waiting, and preparation, we had baby number three four years later. 

So we sit in the middle of beautiful blessings and we live together with grace, guts, grief, and good times. 

 

Marriage is holy and really hard. Marriage is sacred and screwed up. People who marry with good intentions and God’s name can’t always make it last.

Marriage is beautiful and brutal. When you’re intimate with someone, you give them all your trust, your whole self. Sometimes, the person on the other end of your held out heart, isn’t careful.

Marriage exposes, heals, encourages, harms, helps, and expands two individuals.

Marriage is one powerful way we experience God’s love for us and have the chance to give love to another.

I wonder as you’re sitting here today, do you have more hope or hurt in your marriage? More fun or frustration? Please know I come with no answers but some ideas encouragement.

But first, lets play a game. You have small sheets of paper around your table. Take a piece of paper….play IF, THEN

 

I have a few I’ve finished as tenants of what I return to in marriage:

  • If you are connected, then your marriage will last.
  • If marriage is covenant, then married life is a contract

These are more universal. For Drew and me specifically, we might say,

  • If Linds is controlling,THEN Drew gets defensive
  • If we never go on a date, THEN we will start to disconnect.
  • If we finish a conversation while our kids are around, THEN we get a gold medal.
  • If we are really connected, and I have recently showered, THEN the sex is extra great.
  • If we plan in advance, THEN we can get free childcare for a whole day date!

 

But back to the more universal ideas.

If connected, then marriage lasting and fun. If covenanted, then contracts are key.

As human beings and children of God, we are created in God’s image. And God is a communal image. Three people in one. Holy and perfect relationship. In the Trinity, God is in perfect relationship with God’s self- there is sacrificial, mutually beneficial love shared between the God head. Out of love within God’s own self, God shared love with us.

In the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, God said six times it was good, one time it was excellent, and once that it was not good. 

  • Light- 1:4
  • Space to separate the waters and land 1:10
  • Plants and trees 1:12
  • Lights, stars, sun, and moon- 1:18
  • Sea creatures 1:21
  • Live stock and wild animals 1:25
  • People- excellent 1:31

And then after  seven Goods and VERY goods, God said, it is not good in Genesis 2:18. It is NOT GOOD for people to be alone. 

So woman was made, connection was forged, partnership created and nakedness celebrated. Genesis 2:25– “Now Adam and his wife were both naked, neither of them felt any shame.”

Perhaps the pain and the power of marriage comes in the ability to stay naked, and unashamed.

For Adam and Eve, for marriage in the garden, relationship is part of the image bearing. Connectedness is part of creation. Oneness is wholeness, unbroken connection where unity doesn’t destroy identity. It’s interdependence of two, not hierarchy of one above the other. Covenant fidelity, honor, sharing, and peace.

Because connected relationship is part of who we are, it makes sense that marriage is one of the most powerful places we experience a God-like connection.

Marriage is a decision to lay down your individuality, independence and agenda every day. Not completely but enough to be uncomfortable and frustrated. But ultimately, enough to be blessed because you’re giving yourself away to someone who holds you dear and is worthy of your service and care.

As I’ve officiated marriages over the past six years and met with couples for pre-marital counseling, we use the Bible and this small white book as texts. We use scripture and some science.

In, John Gottman’s book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work,  he approaches marriage with observation, evaluations, and  research. He studies couples in what he calls a love lab. He watches them interact, measures their stress levels, observes their eye contact and neck bulges. After listening, watching, and measuring- Gottman concludes: people who are happily married, like each other.

He says the one thing that makes marriage last is not good communication, clear gender roles, or the security of lots of money…instead, scientifically, it’s that couples actually really like each other. They enjoy each other’s company and advocate for each other’s dreams. They support each other and filter through the flack of stress over the years.

 “Happy marriages are based on deep friendships. By this I mean a mutual respect for an enjoyment of the other’s company. These couples tend to know each other intimately- they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in a big way but in little ways day in and day out. Friendship fuels the flames of romance because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial toward your spouse. Their positivity causes them to feel optimistic about each other and their marriage, to assume positive things about their lives together and to give each other the benefit of the doubt.” (Gottman 19-21)

Goal is emotional intelligence: to understand, honor, and respect each other

Connection is about caring. Friends care for and about each other. Marriage is the super friendship and care must be the dominate agenda.linds-and-drew

 

TABLE DISCUSSION ON FRIENDSHIP/CONNECTION

If your husband was that great in the beginning, it shouldn’t be that hard to nurture your original love and keep liking and enjoying him right? And yet, Gottman would say that over time, the blissful state of the beginning on a relationship starts to fade. Without work, care, and paying attention, negative sentiments take over the positive ones.

For Drew and me, because we are connected, we have some conveniences. Drew will unlock the door for me if I’m coming back from an early morning workout and it’s cold. If I’m headed upstairs first, I’ll set out his contact solution. For his birthday, I’ll make biscuits and gravy.  He makes my coffee sometimes even though he never drinks it. The other night we were listening to spotify while doing the dishes, TOGETHER, and after one song with way too much hard rock instrumental ended, I said, “Eh, that’s not my favorite song”- slightly exasperated. Drew exclaimed, “I KNEW you’d say that!”He wasn’t mad that I didn’t like his playlist. He laughed with love. I felt good being so known.

Its small, all these things are. But added together and in the moment, it means we know each other and express care in little ways.

The Bible also encourages believing the best about our spouses. I recently read a devotional by Richard Rohr. He was talking about love as open heartedness. He interpreted 1 Corinthians this way- 

“Love is patient, love is kind, Love is not jealous, Love is never boastful or conceited, Love is not rude, nor does it take offense. It takes no pleasure in other people’s’ faults. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure. Love does not come to an end.”

Rohr continues,

“It doesn’t help that our brains have evolved to hold onto negative thoughts (like Velcro) and let the positive thoughts slip off (like Teflon). To retain a positive experience, you have to intentionally hold onto it for at least fifteen seconds to allow it to imprint on your brain. You have to deliberately, consciously choose to love and not hate.”

Rohr says Spirituality is whatever it takes to keep your heart space open. That is daily, constant work because your ego and the events of life want to close it down.

Practice NOW: In your seat, by yourself, close your eyes. Think of one thing you love/appreciate about your spouse and hold that thought for 15 seconds on my go. Ready, NOW.

This is about noticing, holding onto, and appreciating the good in your husband. It’s about thinking before we speak, and asking “Is this comment helpful or hurtful?” If you tell someone else what you enjoy or appreciate about your husband, tell him too. If I really am FOR my husband, does he know it? Feel it?

SO, if we can believe happy and long lasting marriages are ones where the people in those marriages connect as friends. This requires constant care, attention and what I call contract negotiation.

When I had been married 5 years, my parents 34 year old marriage ended. They were loving Christian people and their undoing shocked me and many others. It’s been really rough. Luckily I was in seminary at the time and did a seminary project on mid-life marriage crisis. I found that gradual changes can dismantle a marriage if attention and effort is not given towards addressing them.

My seminary research taught me that marriage is built on two levels: the covenant level and the contractual level.

The covenant says: We will be together. We are bound together with God.

Covenants are unbreakable, made for mutual benefit and characterized by making the other person just as important as oneself. Covenants are established and built to last. A covenant bond is not entered into lightly and is created by some intense ritual that makes a permanent imprint on both parties.

A covenant is a one time thing.

Contracts are renegotiable.

If the marriage covenant says, We ARE TOGETHER, Marriage as contract says: “This is how we will be together”

  • A set of plans and roles, behaviors and goals that create the shape of your life together.
  • Must be renegotiated and reviewed, reworked, and changed over time. Each contract holding member can make requests for review or rewrites.
  • Contract renegotiation happens with communication, commitment, compromise and compliments!

Reworking your marriage contract is necessary after major life events in the marriage or either peson involved.

  • One spouse  experiencing hardship, depression or pain?  RENEGOTIATE
  • One person starts to work, the other stops, anyone get a new job? Pay attention. RENEGOTIATE
  • You have a baby, another baby. One more?! RENEGOTIATE
  • Your kids are not babies but middle schoolers? RENEGOTIATE

You get married at one point and become a family. Husband and wife in COVENANT is a family. Kids join and change lots but cannot take complete control of your marriage. The best thing you can give your kids to take care of your connection and renegotiate your contract. Your kids leave, and you are left with your husband.

As Drew helped me prepare for this, he said, “A lot changed a few years ago when you got through to me and asked me to be nice to you.” I remember telling Drew in the middle of that hard fight, “I’m going to mess up, You’re going  to mess up. I’m going to be really emotional and throw some fits and say stuff in frustration I don’t mean, but give me a chance and know I’ll get out of it. Please just be nice to me. Love me. I want to love you.”

It was scary to ask so vulnerably but I’m glad I did.    

For Drew and I contractually, we agree that if we aren’t talking about it, something is or could be wrong.  If you can’t talk about it, it’s probably not good.

We review our contract on Monday nights during a time we call Monday Mid-rash. It’s about setting apart a night for finishing conversations, checking in and offering care. No TV. NO checking out. We assign a topic to each week. We talk about money, parenting, marriage and spirituality. We want to shine light, open the conversation, and pursue connection and care in every area.

10 years ago we renegotiated our Valentine’s day contract. We had three Valentine’s Days with varying levels of romance and disappointment. We decided we’d write each other a love letter and buy each other one pair of underwear.

We are getting better about asking each other for what we need and want. The less mystery the better. I don’t need to wonder what I’m getting for Valentine’s day or what Drew needs in the middle of this argument. We talk, expose, pay attention and move through

My encouragement to you is to be brave and  vulnerable. Don’t be mysterious. Tell him whats going on and change the contract.

One of my favorite song lines if from the Fray song….and it says, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

The Fray, “All at Once”

Maybe you want it maybe you need it,

Maybe it’s all you’re running from,

Perfection will not come. Sometimes

We’d never know what’s wrong without the pain

And all at once the crowd begins to sing,

Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same

Being married it hard but I believe, only a hard thing is really worth doing.

1 John 4:17 says, “God is love, And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.”

We don’t get married without enough love to last, but as we root our marriage in the love of God so much greater than ourselves, we can endure to love each other.

May the God who brought you together, sustain you on the journey with grace and love unfathomable.

 

 

Gap Year Journal Entry #2 We made it to the half-way mark!

Journal entry #2?! Two? Just two?!

I’ve been lapse and absent indeed. Thank you Blog, for waiting for me, allowing me to under perform without penalty.

The journey of homeschooling has taken over mind, schedule, free time, mental space, sanity, laziness, and routines. We are not who we used to be. I cannot write, sit, focus, commit or dink around as much. We are close, connected, together and ON! The gap gapes on some commitments I’d rather honor but gathers on other blessings I’d never trade.

Osborne Elementary or “The Gap Year” has given us the privilege of sitting around a table together three times a day. In an age where people say family dinners are rare, we are lucky to have family breakfasts, lunches, and dinners daily. The break from packing lunches to take to school is a nice one and the lunch we get to eat together at home, warm leftovers, consistent macaroni and cheese days, and lunch creations we craft together, are simply the method to the ministry- our talking and listening, retelling, planning, or questioning conversations. I cannot fully explain how much I love the lunch times.

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I also love/appreciate/exploit the help homeschooling affords me in my mom/home-owning life. I LOVE help. Help is what I wanted for Christmas. Help is how I feel loved. Help is how I’ve been able to parent.

img_7957Eli, Andi, and even Oaks are well conditioned to our Chore Chart and contribute on a daily, as needed, and weekly basis with their chores. Together, we’ve raked, organized, raked, cleaned out the van, raked, vacuumed the steps, raked, picked up toys, raked, and made meals.

One of my motivations for the Gap Year was to not be alone in the house as much, to connect and adventure together, and to increase their level of responsibility and team work. HELPing achieves all of these Gap Year Goals.

On the upside, we’ve settled into some routines and Eli and Andi have become a bit more self sufficient in their school work. Finding friends at our Classical Conversations community days that also attend our church was a huge bonus. I connected with a mom I can respect and admire and my kids were given friends they could appreciate, help, advocate for, and take down to the frozen pond one Friday morning.img_7860

We’ve treasured the travel time. We got to take a long Thanksgiving in Colorado and stayed two extra days- the perfect amount of time to see three great grandparents leisurely and one Young Life student staffer I met at Castaway!

Highlight of all highlights, we have gotten to spend Laura and Henley’s maternity leave in close contact. If we wonder what Henley is doing or if June can play, we have been afforded immediate gratification for our wishes. Together, we hiked the trails, created Christmas cut out cookie masterpieces, and went to workouts. When Laura goes back to work January 3rd, our Gap Year world as we know it, will shake, tremble, and readjust. img_6899fullsizerender-3

There are high, highs in homeschooling, no doubt. Halfway through however, I have had some doubts, frustrations, freak outs and fits.

For 90 percent of the days, I was met with opposition and antagonism when I suggested or mandated school work. Often, even if it started well, there would be an Andi meltdown, an Eli marker flipping distraction, or a sibling rue that threw us off course at minimum, or me or them into a fit at maximum. I have felt overwhelmed, like I wasn’t doing anything well, and exhausted. I have been defeated and guilty when I yelled and flabbergasted when they just wouldn’t listen, respect, or obey. When the sign on the wall reads, “we will apologize and forgive”, it has good reason.

Besides my own shortcomings as teacher/mom or their bad behavior, I wonder at half way, if the Gap Year is hurting them in someways, instead of helping.img_7764

I haven’t been as disciplined or consistent as I thought we’d be. Consistency is good for kids and we’ve not had much. Perhaps the lack of structure adds to some of their opposition of the school work assignments.

The lack of social opportunities for Eli is hard sometimes. He wishes he had more friends and more opportunities to make them. As a maturing ten year old, he is kind, energetic, and creative. There are other social skills he needs to shore up and this year hasn’t allowed him very many chances to do so.

Andi only has Eli if she’s looking for a class rank. While she excels at cursive and drawing and is on or above grade level in reading, writing and math, she has an eye turned towards the other side of the table and cannot keep up with Eli’s mental math or constant chapter book consumption. In a room full of 23 other kids, she enjoyed reading groups, table time, and working with some fair competition. Here, if I’m spending too much time with Eli, she’s often stuck or sad. It’s hard enough to be the middle kid between brothers, now she has to sit in a one room school house with them too!

I’ve had to take them on all my errands. For the shopping season that is Thanksgiving and Christmas, we were bulky and whiny and ask-y and clumsy. I handled it better than I thought I would and I bought less- fewer and faster were the trips! However, with their allowance money in small purses, pockets and sandwich bags, they bought their own stuff often. Most of what they bought was gum, food, chocolate milk and candy. Other times they bought junky toys they don’t want now. Preciously however, they bought candy for Oaks too, and at their best, they generously and beautifully bought presents for each other and us parents at Christmas.

The Gap Year goal of sibling bonding is working, they play, read, invent, invite and work together. BUT, I miss my time with Oaks only and feel like he’s getting the shaft of attention in this year where many days are mostly Eli and Andi school focused.

Personally, less blogging, NO YOGA 🙁 and  probably too much TV at 9:30pm when all I have left is to want to be awake, but alone, and not doing anything.

It’s not perfect but it’s what I wanted, where we are, and we want to finish.

We are off school this week and done April 10th. I think we can make it. Plus, we have four more books in the Little House on the Prairie series and we are all in on those.

 

 

Little Kids, Big Questions

The title is ironic. I think my kids are still little but in all reality, Eli is 3 days into being 10 years old and Andi is not far behind. They are mid to upper elementary school age. Even Oakley, at three, is bigger than little. I mean, June, our live in cousin, is “little” at age 1, and so cute and smart too!!! Waking up with June in our house is a gift. but I digress. My kids are big but in the scope of aging humanity, with medical miracles and God’s grace, they should live many more decades.

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So assuming they are all actually still little, I’m reeling from and relishing the conversations we’ve had this summer.

Conversation #1: The Sex Talk

It was early June when Andi found a condom in our bedroom- she plays in small places…I guess her imaginary world was under our bed that day. When she asked me what it was, I said, “It has to do with sex. Do you want to know more about it or just know it’s for sex?” She said she definitely wanted to know more so I told her she had to find Eli and I would find Dad. Oaks came too and we had “the talk”, a bit spontaneous and completely open with Eli and Andi. We were all five in Andi’s room; Oaks played in his own world on the floor.

We talked about the purpose (for connection and creation) and the mechanics (they had anatomical questions). We talked about the ways it can go wrong and how absolutely great but private and intimate it is. They had questions about frequency and were a little surprised to know we have decided for sure on no more babies. Yes, the small package that started the whole conversation, is stopping the sibling expansion.

I said that day, and in the next month to my high school campaigner girls (not planned), that I love to talk about sex. When I talk about sex I love to say:

  • Sex is good, precious and powerful. So good, precious and powerful, it’s worth protecting and saving. 
  • Sex is healthy and good to talk about with the right people. Don’t hide your questions or feel like you can’t ask them.
  • Sex is part of who we are and works with what God wants us to do as people who love, know and follow God.
  • Sex is best with one person who really loves you, and always will.

Conversation #2: What is the meaning of life?

One night with Drew at bedtime and the next day with me at lunch, early July, Eli posed the question, “What is the point of life?” Like I said, little kid, big questions!

I asked it right back and they had ready answers.

Eli said, “I think its to have fun, make friends and do work.”

Andi said, “To love and be loved. To have water, family, food, home, and clothing…so you can really live.”

I feel like I should have an answer for them too. Do I say,  “It’s to live as a child of God and ambassador for Christ, making God’s kingdom real on earth with reconciliation and love?”.

Or, simply, “It’s to live loved so you can go love“.

Or, “Life is about relationships. To know and be known, love and be loved. Life is about living in relationship with God for full life on earth.”

It’s fun to think about and I hope they keep asking.

Conversation #3 Birthday Attention 

Eli turned 10 on July 17th and we marked the moment. I hosted a Decade of Parenting Party to toast with my friends about our 10 years of lessons and laughter in parenting. We shared what we learned, how we messed, up and what our kids have done to change our worlds. Then we listened to my friends, who have young 20 year old kids, share about how to make it through the next decade. What was shared that night is worth it’s own post!

Then we had an Epic Eli bday party on Saturday the 16th. With a few friends and some of Eli’s adult friends, had lunch, played Nerf Capture the flag, and went to Oceans and Worlds of Fun.

I had 10 people write craft a page and made a book celebrating Eli’s life so far and cheering him on for the days and years ahead.

On Sunday, Eli went to church in the morning and the end of the season swim banquet at the end of the day with a family party in the middle. He was grateful and said so all throughout the celebrations. Here’s the conversation part.

Me: “Eli, did they know it was your birthday at church? Did anyone say anything?”

E: “Nah. No one knew. No one said anything.”

Me: “Did that bother you? Did you want them to?”

E: “No. It’s fine.”

Me: “Really? I love people knowing its my birthday!”

E: “Yea. I just don’t really like the attention of people who don’t know me very well being paid my way. “

Indeed- Eli meant not to disparage the relationships he has at church. He was simply stating reality. His birthday is about relationships, the knowing and being known, the celebrating and having fun, should be with people who are invested in his life. The obligatory “Happy Birthday” from stranger or acquaintance wasn’t necessary to expand or deepen his weekend. He was humble and honest and I think, very mature. That 10-year-oldness fits him.

So, with fear and awe, gratitude and joy, I can only hope these big conversations keep happening with my little people. 

 

 

Gap Year

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For over two years, I’ve been toying with, mulling over, wondering about, dreaming towards, wishing we could, forgetting about for awhile, discussing with close friends, praying privately around, and researching the possibility of what I’m calling, “A Gap Year”. Also known as, “A Sibling Year“, also known as, “Home School Year”.

Sunday, as a family, with varying levels of excitement (from very angrily anti, to eagerness tinged with trepidation), and with faith, trust and hope in each other and the God that holds everything together, we committed formally to the Gap Year reality.

Next school year, August 2016- May 2017, Eli and Andi will not return to Line Creek Elementary but will stay home with Oaks and me for home school through the Classical Conversations (CC) curriculum and our part in a local CC community. We will accomplish all the necessary educational requirements for them to stay on track and re-enter as 5th grader and 4th grader for the 2017-2018 school year.

I was never drawn towards the home school idea because of dissatisfaction with the public school education we receive. In fact we are beyond blessed to live in one of the top school districts in the state and have had great teachers in each class for the past four years.  One of Drew’s biggest questions or hesitations has been, “Why do we need to change something going well?” Drew doesn’t like changes and is slow to process big ones. I’m thankful he’s walking with me in this, listening, and agreeing despite the parts of himself that cry out, “What?! Why? Now?”

We are NOT going Gap Year because anything is broken, or because someone else is doing it, or because anyone else suggested it. Nope, instead, this has been an idea, an urge, a desire, a pull that I have had felt and engaged all on my own as I trust God is speaking to me and moving me on kingdom purposes for the time, place, and people God has me in and around.

I feel it is the right thing for us right now.

In and through the Gap Year, I want to:

  • Develop a depth of relationship between parents, siblings, and learning.
  • Be with my kids.
  • Know my kids deeply and establish a deep trust in each other.
  • Deepen roots of love and identity
  • Bond them as siblings. I want to give Oakley what Eli and Andi experienced their first 5 years of life- daily life with each other.Castaway 2011 018
  • Have family be the most formational force in their life for a year. I want to shape, mold, inspire, get to know and encourage them more intentionally.
  • Dump a ton of facts, knowledge, and data into their malleable brains- taking advantage of the capability now and building a foundation for everything they’ll need later.
  • Secure their identity as children of God and coheirs with Christ
  • Expand their understanding of God and God’s kingdom purposes in the world- I want to make their world bigger, not create a small Christian bubble world, but engage God’s work, experience how Jesus loves people, and serve together in some cool ways. (Play games with nursing home residents? Deliver Valentines to lonely and left out people?)
  • I want them to become more fully who they are and expand their personality and gifts.
  • Have an adventure, a challenge
  • Engage this choice for the benefit of my kids and because of the flexibility of my part time job. I have extra capacity for my capabilities in the current scope of my job. I want to give what extra I have to my kids.
  • To go to Colorado and Chicago to be with our extended family more often for longer periods of time.3 line up

It’s scary and exciting and asks a lot of us because it changes everything we’ve gotten used to. I have a list of things that could go wrong. However, the list of what I hope for and feel we could accomplish together, is a stronger one.

As we walk this out, I’m sure I’ll update and share stories. Or perhaps, blog writing goes off the list of things I can accomplish- a gap in my writing?

When we talked about it with our kids Sunday morning, I told them I wanted to extend an invitation for relationship, education and adventure. I told them they could feel anything they wanted about it (nervous, excited, mad, ready, angry, so-so, pumped etc…). We agreed we all need faith, trust, hope, and teamwork to make it happen.

It’s on. I can’t fully believe it and simultaneously believe it’s about time.