2016 Oscar Showcase Summary

Four years and counting.

For the past four Februarys, Drew and I have spent two Saturdays in movie seats. Taking in screens of fantasy, story telling, truth portraying, agenda pushing, artistic awe-ing, talent showcasing, heartbreaking, mind changing, soul searching, question asking, and/or emotion engaging films, is one of our favorite couple traditions. We like good movies and long days together. It all fits.

We had great company this year and ran into acquaintances as usual during breaks. We bonded as lanyard wearing, popcorn toting fans “watching the best back to back.” Seems they took their tagline from the Royals past two years! It’s a great season in KC.

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Of the past four years, this year’s films do not stand out as most excellent of all time. There were a lot of ties for almost every ranking. I liked a lot of them third. I did finally rank them ,with angst and little expertise, in this order:

*This is how much I personally appreciated the movies, not what I thought should win Oscar statues necessarily.

*I give you one simple reason for my placement of each film.

1. Spotlight- I liked it best for its portrayal of the power of hard work, genuine empathy, and well written stories to change lives on scales small and large. 

2. Bridge of Spies – The message here was to do the right thing, even if its for the “wrong” person. I appreciated the layers and tension. I appreciated seeing strength to stand up for reasoning that there is always another side,  and a person on that side who should be considered at least, and respected and honored most times. Good Old-Fashioned Spy

3. Room-  I couldn’t get this movie out of my head. However, a hard movie to watch is most often worth watching.  Here the unsettledness in my soul moved me to appreciate how strong one can be when reality requires unfathomable strength. The film shows how brave moms are and the balance between telling kids enough truth to shape their world, but doing a whole lot of hiding what’s too hard for a little soul. She overcame loneliness and fear in ways I have never imagined one could. 

4. The Big Short- Complicated and detailed in actual content, this movie was entertaining to watch and engaging from its beginning to its raw finish- what a crappy victory for the victors. What I didn’t anticipate was how much of my adult life would be on the screen and how luckily, we came through unscathed, young and naive to boot. 

5. Brooklyn- She is beautiful and quietly determined to feel all of her feelings, letting pain direct her towards figuring out who she could be. We talked afterwards about how malleable love can be, which is a complicated and continuing conversation. 

6. Mad Max: Fury Road- While my first reaction was one of bewilderment of how this movie made the Best Picture list, I grew to appreciate it. To watch it is exhausting sure, but it’s perfect as a movie in most ways: amazing scenes, tons of action, great looking actors and actresses, and an adventure to find connection and identity- struggles we drive ourselves around in sand still today. 

7. The Martian-  Simply put, the book is way better. 

8. The Revenant- Simply put, it was too much, for too long, with amazing scenes great for a Planet Earth episode, Drew says, but not enough story to draw me into the dragged out drama. I could hardly even believe in the father son relationship on which the whole journey rests. However, I did appreciate once again, the illustration of how often we misunderstand and abuse those who are different than us. There is even a sign that points out a truth with irony so potent it took me to Jesus’ “King of the Jews” sign on the cross, and all the other violence wrought on good people who threaten someone else’s agenda. 

The themes through most films seemed to me to be:

  • survival
  • who you are and how you cope when you’re alone in a struggle
  • a journey that changes not only where you exist but who you are

The major question posed sounded to me like:

  • What will you choose to do inside your circumstances? 

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The other great movies, once again ranked, I saw this season rounded out a really fun winter:

  1. Creed
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. The Intern
  4. Straight Outta Compton
  5. Amy

I like to tell my kids to use their power- their power to say yes, or to say no. Power to make a choice or make a different one. Power to try again and power to help and heal. I appreciate each of these movie characters harnessing their power and the whole film industry for putting great stories in beautiful and artistic packaging.

Until next year…

 

 

Throwing Up and Growing Up

“Comparison is the thief of joy”…absolutely. I agree. But what about comparison when there is no joy?

My comparison in question is the sheer number of public place pukes that I have mopped up compared to other moms in their first decade of parenting.  Over the past 10 years, my poor kids have thrown up in public a pretty serious amount of times.

Public DOES NOT equal the our van/child car seats which, as locations unto themselves, have endured more than five “events”.

Public DOES NOT equal the basement of my in-laws house, the closet of the VRBO mountain home we had over Christmas in 2013, or our home…bunk bed, kitchen floor, couch, or crib.

By public I mean,

  • the carpeted elevator lobby of my grandparents posh retirement home
  • the upper deck of Coors Field during a Father’s Day Rockies game
  • the 2nd grade classroom coat rack right next to the trash can,

and just yesterday,

  • the small arcade section of our local Walmart.
  • Plus, I think I’m leaving one out. 

Don’t other families have kids who get to toilets for throwing up more often than mine? But again, why despair and compare?

I’m really writing today to acknowledge that a major shift has occurred in my relationship with Eli. He has grown out of just care-demanding-dependence and into a maturity that allows him to work for his own survival (watch him serve himself cereal on a Wednesday morning!), thriving (so much reading!), and just recently, in major ways, as a co-collaborator with me in trying times.

There was a rough night two weeks ago when Drew was out of town, Andi was at a sleepover, and  my boys and I  had a night to ourselves. Through a random course of events, with details too many to mention, my doubled Chipotle burrito bowl went into the shopping bags of a tight-lipped but kind patron three people behind me in line.

Slipping right off my tray and onto the floor, table, and their stuff (shoe boxes, a backpack, and ugh…two pairs of athletic shorts), my dinner and decorum were lost.

Eli steadied our shaky ship. He and Oakley sat at the table and ate their food, the food that Eli had carried smoothly on a tray to the table. As they sat, I slid the guacamole off the shoe box, wiped salsa off the shorts, and apologetically handed the soggy receipt to the forgiving family. Eli was strong, stable, and unwavered by the raucous. He calmly ate, interacted with Oakley and asked very few questions. He held his head high and helped me make it through.

Then yesterday, I had all three kids at Walmart in the 6:00 PM hour. I don’t do that, like ever, and don’t encourage it either.

We shopped for essentials and lolly-gagged through toys and that clearance aisle. Christmas scented candles for $2?! A small Star Wars saber for $1?! And, “Oh Mom, a kitten cuddles calendar for $.50!!!!”

Oaks had said back in the toys that his tummy hurt. I checked in shortly after to see how serious it was and it didn’t seem dire. Still, I was trying to move us out of there. I had 24 items in the 20 item check out line and was hustling. They all three asked to go look at the arcade 10 feet away and I allowed it. 

After check out, I went to the arcade to round them up. Eli and Andi had three discoveries to explain and Oaks, ignoring my request to get in the cart, climbed into the Mickey Mouse car ride. As I approached to get him out, he threw up all over the seat of the car, and then onto the floor.

I had nothing. Except regret about all that clearance aisle shopping.

I grabbed a produce bag sitting in my purse (randomly) and tried to wipe Oaks off with the thin plastic. Not working.  I told Eli to please go ask a worker for help. I left it as open-ended as that.

Eli came running back in seconds with a giant roll of paper towels. When I asked him later what he asked he said, “I went to aisle 6 and said, ‘My brother threw up in the arcade and we don’t really have anything good to clean it up with.’ and she handed me the towels.”

I was able to seat Oakley in the cart and mop up the mess. Andi and Eli diverted their eyes and kept their freak out emotions completely in check. Their calm helped poor Oakley endure. Almost done with the wiping, I asked Eli and Andi to head to customer service and let them know they needed to come clean/sanitize.

They were back in 30 seconds and had secured that maintenance would come and clean more thoroughly. Once again, Eli had calmly and honestly explained the situation.  I hope the maintenance man was pleasantly surprised when he came to see all the chunks were already cleaned up. I left towels covering the fall out area so no other kids would ride the tainted ride.

Eli returned the towels to aisle six and we left. At the car, I stripped Oaks out of his clothes, covered him in my sweat shirt and headed home to a really late dinner. During which, Oaks with his head on my lap on the bench, threw up again, five minutes into the meal.

All of this to say, I’m appreciating how steady, headstrong, calm, and capable Eli is being these days. He might not appreciate how many opportunities his burrito spilling, Walmart sick-kid toting, Mom is giving him, but since we are living it, I might as well mark it with gratitude, a little bit of awe, and a “I see you Eli and cheer you Buddy.”

If you’ve read all of this and are still hungry or interested in being my friend, you too are a strong person.

 

 

African Wisdom for Ash Wednesday

 

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One of the sessions Drew and I attended at YL75 was on the African Leadership Tree…a method of developing people as leaders through one on one mentoring, life sharing, and cohesive mission. The deliberate and passionate stories, diverse among country and gender, encouraged us as we realized just how big the world is how easily God’s work happens in humbly brave vessels.

They shared “isms” and essentials that direct their mission day to day and year to year. They gave non-negotiables and palpable tenets to take home and contextualize. I said to my friend right next to me, “I want my family to be formed by these ideas.” So, in efforts to remember and begin, the list of YL Africa’s intentions:

In YL Africa, WE:

  • Listen- To God. To the Spirit. To each other

  • Sing– Every chance we get.

  • Dance- Every time the music plays. We are bodies, not just spirit.

  • Pray- Cannot live without this.

  • Walk- Everywhere. Everything we believe must walk.

  • Laugh- This is power. This is life.

  • Go- Wherever the Spirit calls and leads.

  • Stay- Even when it’s dark and dangerous

  • Love-  God. Enemies. Neighbors. Brothers and sisters. Selves.

  • Obey- God. Spirit. Leaders God places in our lives.

  • Give- The nature of God. Greatest weapon against poverty: generosity.

  • Celebrate- Thank God and others every chance we get.

  • Welcome- Kids. Each other. Strangers. Aliens. Sinners. The Spirit

Furthermore, part of their DNA was described in these ways:

  • “Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka”– “The slow way is the fast way”.   No shortcuts in the Spiritual life, friendships, planting/reaping, discipleship. We value the power of time over efficiency. Only time deepens relationships with God, kids and others. We believe that efficiency does not always equal excellence.
  • Pamoja Pamoja” – “Together Together”. We are committed to unity and empowerment across every line- tribal, country, gender, class, language. We are a ministry of reconciliation.

  • Mangoes not tomatoes- Tomatoes grow easy and fast but we have to plant them every year. Mangoes take a few years to produce but then they produce fruit year after year on their own for over a hundred years. We choose to grow leaders the mango way- leaders to last, multiply, and transform.

  • Bend and not Break- Life is hard and unpredictable in Africa. Like the tree in the storm we need to be able to bend but not break. Flexibility is a high value.

Today is Ash Wednesday and time to experience a Lenten space for Jesus to enter.

My desire, this year same as most, is to empty, let go of, and lay bare what is empty, broken, hurried, frantic, without lasting meaning, and fleshy.

I’d like to give up complaining this year.

Can I make it a discipline that makes me rely on strength outside myself and calls me to rid of dark and fill with light?

Perhaps the African words of listening, laughing, dancing, staying, loving, obeying, and celebrating will call me out of complaints.

Anything on the list call out to you?

With all the world around me, sitting in my small place, I say,

Blessings on you in this season and take a walk.

More info on Young Life Africa here 

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New Year, New Words

signsign 2Despite being a blog about words, I promise not to use too many.

I like words because they express meaning, make a statement, can be memorized, remembered, written in calligraphy or bubble letters,  and communicate reality. Of course not only words express reality- so do our feelings, relationships, trips to loud waterfalls, quiet beaches, or majestic mountains, the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and the unforgiving weight of gravity, among so much else.

I guess what I want to affirm is that I have a great relationship with words, really enjoy them and prefer them to numbers. Give me words in a book, on a list, in a crossword puzzle, or a fortune cookie. I’ll take the words, leave the cookie.

Every now and then, we need some new words, lest our sentences sound stale (like a fortune cookie).

How about these this year? If not new to you, then props to you…your word bank is affluent.

words

Affable- characterized by ease and  friendliness , pleasantly easy to approach and to talk to; friendly; cordial; warmly polite

 

Serendipitous- occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Magnanimous– upright, benevolent, considerate, forgiving, fair and generous

Implicit Bias  – an implicit bias is a mindset held somewhat subconsciously or thoughts implied, but not expressly stated.

My friend Hilary told me about a discussion she led high school kids through regarding race, justice, and equality just before Christmas break. She used a tool called the implicit bias quiz from the MTV Look Different campaign.  Their definitions:

  • Racial bias is a form of discrimination, often unconscious, that results in the different and unequal treatment of racial groups.Screenshot (49)
  • Gender bias is a form of discrimination that results in the unfair treatment or stereotyping of men and women because of their sex or gender.  These attitudes are based on the beliefs that women and men should act, dress or behave in particular ways.  Gender bias is mostly targeted at women but can negatively affect men as well.

The goal is awareness of what we hold deep inside and a movement to heal ourselves of the harm we did or could, cause.

 

The project offers a quiz  that tests your implicit bias and supplies, not judgement but proactive work in dealing with your result.

I took the quiz today and am signed up for a bias cleanse. (Conincidentally, the Crossfit Northland Clean Eating Challenge began this week…cleansing all around..mind and body!)

Constructive tension- I reread MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail today. The letter is brilliant and oozes humility and hope from a man and for a cause where hope or humility would have been hard, if not impossible, for me to conjure up.  On constructive tension he says,

I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettere

d realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Indeed, tension makes us move. Movement is better than stagnation, ignorance, or inaction when justice is within reach. Constructive, non-violent tension can open up conversations, force the deeply held but perhaps flawed beliefs to be spoken, debated, discarded and forgiven.

Last words…

– Appreciation Rampage. I heard this at yoga and it’s just what it sounds like. Inside your head or aloud, say one thing you’re grateful for… then another…then another…

-Okimafire– (oak-i-mma-fire) a cool mist humidifier.

This is the word you need if you’re putting Oakley to bed these days. Please tuck him in and turn on his okimafire before you leave the room.

 

Let’s go…and as we go, share our words for hope, healing, help, and higher consciouness.

Enough said.

 

Some Mom Moments: I said YES so WE…

…Held a Home Amazing Race and went on a Mommy/Daughter Date!

I hold it as a hallmark of my parenting, or at least my best intentions, to say Yes as often as possible. I want to be a “Yes-Saying Mom” to allow my kids freedom to express and employ their own ideas, to allow them to risk and enjoy, and to let go of my own control. Last week, because I said yes, we had some marked some major moments.

Some back stories:

Drew and I have loved watching CBS’s The Amazing Race with it’s whirlwind races around the world and complicated drama on the two-some teams. We love seeing the world and appreciate the edits that offer humor concise story telling. After watching 15 or so seasons together, Drew and I decided last fall, to let our kids in on our amusement. They loved it…even Oaks. They appreciated the challenges, the beauty and awe of the places they traveled on screen, and the nuances of the game as it was played between teams.

After we watched three shows, Eli’s self spilled out.  Mid-episode, he said, “We should do our own family Amazing Race.”

This is quintessential Eli. He does not just consume or view life, he enacts it. He likes to make his own bands, sledding jumps, snow boarding practice hills, Rube Goldberg’s, arcades, restaurants, and even has one CD. (It features Drew on lead vocals and finds its way to be played when random adults guests are popping in.)

I digress. All this to say, I love to say Yes but sometimes, because Eli wants to actually create so many real life situations, I sometimes have to say No. “No we cannot build a salmon ladder for Ninja Warrior practice in our back yard…. “etc..

However, I wanted to say yes to this family/neighborhood Amazing Race request.

And I did so on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week. I spent a day and a half writing clues, collecting items for the challenges, painting a check-in mat, and stuffing 40 envelopes with Route Info, Detours, and Road Blocks. We assembled teams with neighbors and some of their sleepover friends and had ourselves a little COVES Amazing Race 2016.

I was thankful my friend Taylor was wiling to enter the fray having very little idea what she signed up for when coming over that day. Turns out, she’s a strict but fair judge and a quick distributor of clues.

The four teams wore matching t-shirts (Drew and I have tons of the same clothes!) and completed nine tasks including: completing two mixed up puzzles, unscrambling block letters to spell the next destination (“fridge”), eating “gross” foods (cashews, pumpkin seeds, deer jerky, or pickles), climbing the tree to grab a bandana, sorting two shuffled decks and putting them in suit and number order OR creating a marble run track (that was the detour!), memorizing a quote by MLK Jr. (“Our lives will end when we stop caring about the things that matter.”) and scoring an air hockey goal against Goalie William.

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Andi and Sydney- first place winners!

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Team “#Speedy” reading their clue…ready to memorize.

The rules were simple. Read the whole clue. Work together always. Don’t give up. First team back to the mat wins. IMG_6057 IMG_6063 IMG_6066 IMG_6076

They pushed through puzzle confusion, playing card overwhelmedness, and memory-blocked memorization.

They were patient with and encouraging towards their partners.

Each kid impressed me at some point with an overcoming of a fear, a tenacity towards a task, or a patience with their peer. They all had fun.

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Background: Mallory and Lydia sorting decks. Front: Kiley and Kaitlyn on the other half of the detour, building a marble track.

  • You can do more than you think you can if you’re put to a tough task
  • It’s worth sticking it out even when it seems hard or impossible
  • Helping another person through something is a victory
  • When you’re competing, you try harder, faster and with your whole self (instead of sometimes giving up and walking away when you’re on your own)
  • Scavenger hunts are always fun.
  • Being on a team is a good thing. We need each other in life.

I was exhausted Monday night but will do it again…probably in the summer..and at the kids’ requests, with more of the neighborhood in play.

By Friday, I had revived my mom mojo and was ready for another YES.

Backstory. Andi has been wanting to go ice skating all winter. And, Andi did not want to attend the showing of Charlottes’s Web at school because Charlotte’s death moves her to tears and she wasn’t in the mood for a PTA sponosored sob.

When I asked Andi if, instead of going to the movie night at school which Eli was excited to do, she’d like to do something with Daddy, she said, “I want to do something with YOU Mom.” I was surprised- it’s usually Drew who gets picked for the fun extra stuff. Alas, I was a definite YES for this invite from Andi-girl.

She caught me checking on ice skating hours on my phone so I went forward with the ice skating idea- shucking off the scares of a 20 degree evening, 20 miles of driving and $20 of costs. It was worth it to see the light in her eyes, the enthusiasm in her gait, and the audible excitement in her speech all day. She felt it was going to be so great to be just us girls. I did too.

We went skating, shopping and to Starbucks. She did a great job skating and was undaunted by the falls or the falling temperature. She spun and smiled and took special care to stop and ask me, mid-loop, “What was something you did with Oakley today Mom?” It was a shot straight to the heart of this mom who LOVES thoughtful questions. Andi one-upped herself later in loving me, when she asked if the radio could be turned off so we could “just talk” while we drove. This girl!

After skating, we shopped for loud leggings (she really wants pants with cupcakes, cats, or dogs on them) with no success, and then went to the Plaza Starbucks for hot chocolate and whatever else she wanted, which ended up being a blueberry muffin and a chocolate chunk brownie. IMG_6092IMG_6096IMG_6087

The night was magical. And because I said YES to Andi, I learned a lot about how we are together.

I realized most of the context of my mothering of her exists in instructions, requests, demands or questions. I think I mostly tell her what to do instead of simply slowing down, stopping everything, and playing with or listening to her. Or, when I do slow down and lean in, I’m also still half invested in cooking a dinner, or often interrupted by a brother, a text message, or a trip to the bathroom.

When we were out together, I had nothing to do but be with Andi. It was amazingly apparent we need more of these times.

We were glad to come home, giggling and tired, and learn the boys had a good night at the movie too.

I don’t get it right all the time and surely give my kids a fair share of struggle with me as their mom, but I think the race on Monday and the date on Friday will be memories we all share that tell the bigger truth: we are a family who does love, adventures, invitations, and yeses pretty well most of the time.

 

Blessings Big and Small

There are so many ways my life is great. IMG_5889

  • We have a wood burning stove and have enjoyed building, feeling the warmth of, and watching the beauty of, fires at home this week.

Thank you Binny and Bill Pearce for the wood and the fire place tools plus wood tote bag!

  • Our washer washes really big loads.

Very helpful for my laundry once a week rhythm!

  • The circle of our first floor.

When we lived in our first house, I always loved going to houses that had “a circle” for my kids to run in between rooms. Now we have a circle of our very own and my fears that my older kids would be too big, are totally moot. Eli, Andi and Oaks regularly run, alone or all three, around and around and around. My heart is so happy hearing that pitter-patter of feet. 

  • Andi plays with Oaks.

I had always wondered if the four-and-a-half-year gap between Andi and Oaks, and the six-years-and-2-month gap between Eli and O

aks, would leave Oakley in lonely sibling land.  No way. Once again, why did I fear? Andi, especially,  has always paid good attention to Oakley. She has always tre

ated him as a real friend, a capable playmate, and an equal in any imaginary world. They share an eye and mind for puzzles and can enjoy quiet, alone, imaginative play- manipulating a character out of any plastic creature- with a voice, a struggle, a family, and often, an injury that needs an Andi created cast. Their times together are precious and I’m lucky to have a view from the kitchen as they play in their own world right over there.

  • I only work part-time.

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As much as I sometimes struggle to find part-time child care for days I need to work, or for the times when I cannot focus on work because I’m home with kids and trying to work, I really, really treasure the flexibility, time with my kids, and the wardrobe. 

  • Words that right me when I’m crooked: 

Philippians 4:6-7 (Message) “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Life is full. I am blessed. I will give out of the fullness of all I have received.

 

A Vent After Vacay

What I want to write about today is how much it is taking out of me to take care for Oakley in his current stage of attitude, emotional fit throwing, and obstinate disobedience.

But, when I start to write down what has been “Soo Hard” about my day with Oaks today, it seems ridiculously small, insignificant, fleeting, and whiny! Which, of course, proves that I am whiny and don’t deserve to talk about raising a three year old as actually having a real problem.

Plus, it’s indescribable how it is in our house at the loudest, craziest moments and should probably stay that way. Our moments of noise sound out and then seep into the walls and ways of our family history- a bit messy, often energetic, openly communicative, active, intense, in home and out-and-about, bent on being together, and showered in grace for and from each other, that we gather from God who gave us this gift and helps us hold together.

Alas, I won’t vent in angst, but with thanks.

I just returned from the Young Life All-Staff Conference/Celebration: YL75. 

Drew and I went together, without our kids, and joined 5,000 other staff and spouse Young Life friends. We filled the second largest hotel in America, (The World Center Marriott in Orlando) and half the Port Orleans Disney hotel with attendees. And we overflowed the tiny Marriott Starbucks- the lines at Disney paled in comparison.

From my single seat in a crowd the size of three huge high schools, I heard, saw and felt richness in most every aspect of a mission based vacation.

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  • We got great gifts- sunglasses (thanks to the TOMs founder Blake and his YL connections!), surprises, and excellent speakers and sessions. 
  • Drew and I enjoyed each other and being OFF– of work, of parenting, of cold Missouri weather, of Christmas chaos, of household work…Oh my how well we get along with no real responsibilities. Funny how the inconvenience of caring for others and cooking can disrupt our couple zen. Ha!
  • We absorbed great conference content:

Louie Giglio encouraged us to continue to take on the weight of what it takes to make a significant change in someone’s life.  (Mark 2)

Efrem Smith spoke with loving admonition to: turn up the volume on kingdom compassion, have the kingdom of God move with expansion and inclusion to welcome the untouchables and outcast into our midst, and join a revolution that Jesus has wrought from the beginning to say all lives matter equally to God but not in the world, which is a call to the church to step into the hell of marginalization and reach deep into the muck and mire to lift people out with the love, hope, and light of Christ.

Jen Hatmaker said today’s adolescence value: community, justice, anti-consumerism, and mentorship. They don’t need “cool”, the world gives them “cool,” but instead real adults showing up in their lives, present and available and lasting. (Very encouraging to increasingly un-cool 35 year old me.) They are looking for people to lead them with their life, not their speeches. She encouraged YL to continue to reach this generation by any means, wherever the gospel is rising- giving kids a safe place to ask their questions, share their struggles, and fill their emptiness.

Worship and presentations by YL from Africa where staff people are vigilant, kids engage with Jesus, and people dance daily. The whole time they shared, I felt smaller and smaller in our world that is so big, with so much outside my experience, education or imagination. I loved feeling little because it made any problems or fears I had shrink to their appropriately minuscule proportions.

  • We had EXPERIENCES. A night with fireworks and characters and a birthday party just for Young Life’s 75th year, at Hollywood Studios. Then a day at Universal Studios with my friend Alex. Really fun roller coasters, really tasty butter beer, really long lines, and really a lot of fun. (Check out the theme of food and drink in these pics!)IMG_6025 FullSizeRender (3)IMG_0023
  • And yet, as we walked past families experiencing Disney’s best with their kids, I couldn’t help but think of the gift we’ve been able to give our kids of adventure, humor, surprise, and good food in a crowded room when we go to Castaway in the summers. To be known, loved, tossed in the lake, and freed to play in the safest community anywhere, the gifts Young Life has given us as a family through assignments, might just trump a day at Disney.

I felt affirmed and spurred on, Drew felt encouraged in the mission, and we loved seeing our friends from Chicago, Nicaragua and a few places in between.

We are thankful our kids were cared for so well at home that they cried when Maama left, and wished for another night with GG and Pops.

I can’t wait to keep marinating on the memories and walking out the invitation to kingdom expansion and inclusion here in Park Hill.

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5000 people with 5 finger flashlights held high. We pledge to take the light into dark places going forward for another 75 years.

Thank you YL75 for a wonderful week..

And thank you Oakley for taking a nap long enough that I could breathe and refocus…

Saying “Thank You” is so much better than saying “Poor Me.”

 

On the 10 days of Colorado Christmas…Our 14-Peopled-Love Will Give

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Ninja warrior competition for kids in Denver for Eli’s Christmas present from Maama. All his hard work in trees, our back yard, and the CFN gym paid off as he was strong, balanced, brave, friendly, and unbound in his exploration of a space made for adventure.IMG_0011 IMG_0036

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Trips to Colorado in 4 days for Drew who came for the competition, then went back to work, and then came back for Christmas.

3 kids

of mine who I love to see play the days away without school, with each other, outside in Colorado sunshine.

4 Christmas cookies

that we eat before noon.

5 COUSINS!

Eli, Andi, and Oaks are loving Christmas with their little cousins June and Vienna.IMG_5917IMG_0003

6 Cavities

found while getting our teeth cleaned. 5 for Andi and 1 for Mommy. Agghhhh! The good news: Oaks was a great patient for his first ever visit to dental hygienist Maama!IMG_0005

7  Projects

we did for Mom with planning (Laura), tenacity (Natalie), expertise (John), skill (James), climbing coordination (Scot), many a job (Drew) and clean up (Kim).

8 Ways we see God

in conversations with each other, smiles on baby faces, a table full of life and love,  joy, truth told, and forgiveness.

9 Clues

solved leading to our escape from the Toys in the Attic Epic escape game! Team Eli, Andi, Drew, Linds and Maama solved in 51 minutes. Unfortunately, we lost all our aunts and uncles to zombies in the room below.IMG_0040

10 Luminaries

lit along the path I want to light from Grammy tonight.

Light in the darkness. Warmth in the cold. Love all around.IMG_5851

 

Towards Next Year Now

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Nestled into our kitchen corner from NYE- it stayed put all year!

Today marks day 342 of the year 2015. With 23 days left this year, time wanes and goals might be going unmet.

I don’t remember what I set out to do in 2015 but do remember the way we welcomed the new year: with family, shared experiences, a party in house with games, good food, and a solid soundtrack. Looking back now, I’d say many of those favorites found their way into wonderful moments and experiences, ordinary and extravagant, all year long. With a new niece, my first nephew, great jobs, health, family, traveling, and joy, our year was a very good one.

Outside of my direct experience, 2015 held hardship, horror, and helplessness for many of God’s children in the U.S. and around the world. How do you move ahead if the year behind you took away something you held so dear? How do you move forward past discouragement, pain, and fear towards new hope and a fresh start if you’ve lost a lot of power or all of your trust?

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The mantle marks the memory-making season

Honest intentions, basic needs, or disciplined desires need time to surface. Perhaps now, 23 days before the new year comes, is the time to look back and think ahead.

When I hosted a Christmas party this week, I asked the room to light a candle and share two words: one that summed up 2015, and one to direct 2016.

My friends shared bravely and directly, trusting that to say it out loud and light a candle, meant darkness will become enlightened, and the hopes for the future will have feet to run on.

They spoke of a year that was complicated, fun, surprising, hopeful, hard, and full of joy, worry, anxiety, running and growth.

Looking forward with light to lead them, my friends held out words that would call them to: let go, play, navigate, heal, be brave, have hope, set intentions, and connect.

How about you?

What can you look back and see from the days behind you this year?

What do you want to hold onto, let go of, raise higher, or erase forever?

How will you walk, lead, dream, parent, work heal, play, let go, hold on, or choose this next year because of,or in spite of, what this past year has held?

Who will you be for yourself and what will you do for others?

What is the word that sums up the pace, priorities, and experiences of 2015?

What is the word to guide your ways and days in 2016?

When you have the words, tell me or someone else so they begin to become more real right away.

I’ll end with the Pope Francis’ Jubilee word: “mercy” and affirm his hope that doors would open in mercy so that “anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.”

Photo and quote from  BBC News

 

 

 
 
 

When Sno-Cones Speak to Thanksgiving

I have been happily hosting questions, musings, and wonder in my head this week as Thanksgiving Day and celebrations approach.

What does it mean to give thanks? 

Whats the opposite of thanks?Coves Rad

First, the verb.

To give something requires you to offer something you have to someone else. Giving can be partial, (give some money, some time, some attention) or complete (all of your heart, the whole piece of hard candy, or Jesus’ whole life laid down), but happens with a transfer of possession: something I have, I choose to give to you.  

In the dictionary, definitions for “give” include, “to supply, impart”, and “to present gifts.”

As we approach Thanksgiving, perhaps the action of giving thanks should be our sacrifice to impart or supply a gift to another. 

An illustration: For two years in a row, Kristin and I have served for a shift at the school carnival sno-cone stand. Every kid there can have one free sno-cone; they need only to stand in line. When they approach the table, every kid can choose blue, red, or purple, or the mix of all three. We scoop, squirt, and hand it over. When we serve about 100 sno-cones in an hour, we accumulate a bit of data about children’s thanking habits. Indeed, saying “Thank you” or “giving thanks” is part habit. From year one to two, our data is very similar.

About half of the kids who grab a sno-cone say thank you. Between us, we have six kids, we admit the 50/50 ratio applies inside our families.

I am willing to totally take into consideration the carnival environment: a highly energetic, chaotic, fun, busy, and sugar-filled night with friends. Even the most polite kid might slip out of thanking practice. However, I’ve been thinking about how much it bothers us and why. What does it mean when a kid stops with sno-cone in hand to look back and say, “Thank you?” I think it means they are willing to give attention, pause, and appreciation. It means they acknowledge, us, the person behind the gift and reception of something they would not have had without help. When they don’t, we feel a bit ignored, unappreciated, and like our finger are so, so cold.

Perhaps to give thanks is to acknowledge our own limits. Saying thank you reveals our dependence on others to get what we want, or other times, desperately need.

If we are not giving thanks, what are we doing? What is the opposite of thanks?

Now the noun.

Without prefixes, modifiers, or any participles, what follows are some opposites from my own behavior.

When I’m not giving thanks, I might be giving:

  • demands
  • excuses
  • opinions, or
  • complaints

All of which have their place in thoughts, conversations or blogs (ha!), but none of which should replace a moment where thanks should be given.

So for thanksgiving, I’m going to try to supply gratitude, impart appreciation, realize I cannot exist or thrive on my own, name the gifts I’ve received for which I am so thankful, and spend time with people who I love and appreciate so very much.

I hope to have thank-filled conversations. Drew Lap's street found this Seth Godin gift, The Thanksgiving Readerfor a 20 minute communal reflection on Thanksgiving around a table or living room. Absent from Seth’s beautiful compilation is the reminder of James 1:17-18,

” Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

May you give and receive, to and from, God and others,

the blessings of grace, an attitude of gratitude, and the wonder of watching as you pause and enjoy.