Weakness

“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.”
Mary Oliver, House of Light

“This lotion smells like a barn.”

For someone who loves words, I certainly have a hard time putting them together in real-time. By no means a compliment, I neither meant it as a criticism. Somehow smelling both earthy and synthetic, I was five years old again, twirling on hay in my uncle’s barn, watching him feed a splotched-skin calf with a botte Jack must have tossed down the beanstalk.

No cows. No barn. Just me, a massage table, and my neck in a vice-hold by the physical therapist. Did you know I’m going to physical therapy? I think you’re supposed to go for a legitimate reason like “post-car-accident” or “surgery-recovery” or something with the phrase “rehabilitation” in it.

I am there simply because I’m weak. I ignored and gagged my inner alarm and when it still wouldn’t shut up, I just disconnected the battery pack. You healthy, regulated people know how this ends. The only thing stronger than my stubbornness is my body’s primordial demand to be listened to.  Eventually, more draining than feeling perpetually weak and tired is continually trying to outrun that feeling.

Here I am at physical therapy, shoulders looped to a machine, having to face the reality of my weakness. It’s not pretty. I am a proud, proud person. My body has always been strong so when three (count them one, two, three, that’s it) pounds cause my back to spasm during an exercise I don’t recognize myself. When an excruciating neck-stretch is interrupted by an aid because it looks from afar as if I “wasn’t doing anything and just waiting” (yes, someone said that to me),  I have a mini existential crisis.

Weakness is the battle. Weakness can be defined as a lack of vigor, a feebleness, an inadequacy. My day feels bound by the deficits. Deficit of time. Deficit of energy. Deficit of vertebrae that don’t reverberate with numbness. When I feel feeble, inadequate, lacking, I find myself waiting. That’s my true enemy. I begin waiting for a better time to begin. A time when there will be more time. When I will feel better. When I can start pursuing these ever-shifting dreams. Why are we waiting for a time we know is not coming?

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. (2Corinthians12:9)

I don’t understand these words. I just keep reading them because I trust it is true and at some point I will internalize this truth. For now, I have stopped running. I have turned and faced the looming wave of weakness. I am allowing it to crash cold and wet and powerful and shocking against me.  I’m ready to do the hard, disorienting work of building back my strength. I don’t want to outrun. I don’t want to wait.

I want to be dazzled. I want to stare into the mystery and yes, to maybe even float a little.

On The Reality of Having Feelings and Hope

You keep calling me brave and I keep receiving it with a confused look, because in my heart I know that there’s anxiety.

Approximately six months, one billion forms and documents and house projects and many hours of trainings and books later, we are near the final hoop of being certified for foster-to-adopt in California before being placed with kids. This is the good news. This is the obeying God’s call for our family news. This is the over a decade of dreaming news.

We had a hiccup in our final walk-thru this week that’s pushed things back a bit and made it all a little more “scrambly”. I’m not good at backing off a pursuit or waiting with grace or pretending like I’m not disappointed when I actually am, so that anxiety made me a little emotional. Presenting itself in nausea. As in drinking a Coke at 6:30am instead of coffee to combat the nausea, nausea. I am, however, much more familiar with The Scramble and the keep-moving-forward-when-things-get-trickier tenacity that life requires from us.

So you call me brave and I know that the sleeve of Thin Mints I ate between the sheets suggests otherwise. There is no question or anxiety around adopting or the messiness that is sure to follow. It is seared on our heart. My fear is tangled in the fact that we don’t even HAVE kids in our home yet, just empty beds waiting, and I’m already a mess of emotions, feeling attached to children that aren’t even mine yet. Not caring is so much safer, isn’t it? Caring requires a certain amount of vulnerability of the most dangerous kind. They are all the layered, both/and feelings of happy and worried, elated and unsure, so I doubt myself and the doubts whisper lies wondering if I’m actually strong enough to do this if I’m already experiencing emotions. God says we were ordained to connect through emotions. Fear says emotions are dangerous and put-together people don’t have them. As we all know, fear is a liar.

What if, actually, bravery is holding space for sadness when we face a disappointment, the honesty to walk through it, the resiliency to continue to hold our heart open and tender.  Hope is always what that choke-weed fear is trying to wrap around. Hope. That faith of things hoped for and the assurance of things unseen (hebrews 11:1)

When our kids (whoever they are) do come home with messy, wrecked hearts we will hold hands together down the long road of the healing process. We will ask them to face all their sadness and rage and uncertainty and we will hold space for it. We will walk through it. We will ask them to do the Big Scary of tenderizing their hearts again. We will whisper God’s love. And it will take every ounce of courage their tiny little bodies can muster to trust in this, in love, our love, God’s love.

So keep telling me I’m brave. Because I’m going to be telling them.

But, you know, drinking all the Cokes and eating all the cookies too!

Leboffe, Party of Seven

It’s a fresh year. While the rest of you were Instagramming vignettes of your 2015 planners and glitter pens and mini desktop succulents the past few weeks, I was actively avoiding even looking at the calendar app on my phone homepage, lest it told me the actual date signifying the end of free and carefree schedules. Two weeks! Of vacation. Of not normal life. Of jammies and board games on the floor. Of chasing sea and sky and mountain. Forget NYResolutions. Here’s the new goal. Become independently wealthy so we can just go on endless adventures with our kids. And without our kids. We’re still throwing ourselves a pity party over here about our re-entry to routine.

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I don’t have an inspirational word to sum up last year or to project forward. While more unscheduled time seems unattainable and unrealistic, we are hoping for moments. Little blitzes of time together that are unmistakably holy in their goodness. 2015 promises to be a big year for us. Nate and I will be putting a flag in our tenth year of marriage, and we are excited to share we’ll be expanding our family! No, I’m not pregnant so please don’t congratulate me on the baby bump you’ve secretly been tracking. (That’s just my post-babies-pillow). Our family is in the process of becoming certified for foster-to-adopt with the intention of adopting a child or sibling set. Leboffe, party of 7!IMG_8257Still pining for vacation days past and wishing and watching for those flash moments ahead for you and for me.

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But That’s Okay, Mama.

I am the girl with mascara gunk in the corner of her eye. I don’t want to be that girl, but I am. To be fair, I do have a tiny little dark freckle on the inside corner which I myself mistake for unruly makeup no less than four times a day. Then, again, annoyed/enraged/resigned that it is, in fact, permanent.

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Truthfully, I want to be so much more put together than I am at this moment. After producing a much thematically resplendent class snack for the letter C at Josiah’s preschool, he let me know (after it all went down), “ack-ch-ually, the letter of the week was B…but that’s okay, Mama.” Grace and Love from a four year old. I want to wrap up in it like a blanket and sleep in that goodness. In my days of trying and striving and cloying, I hold onto that. The gracious place rolled out by a four year old.

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As my six year old let me know today, “Mama, you’re the one stressing us all out right now.” Yes, I see that reality. Also, please, fortheloveofallthatisgoodandmyholysanity, Get. In. The. CAR. Everyone!

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You might understand trying really hard but still, somehow, totally missing it. Or you might understand not having the capacity to always be “on” as your best self in a group of people who don’t know you very well yet. Or, possibly, you have a little godforsakengunk in the corner of your eye that betrays your TOGERTHERNESS to the world!

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I’m looping a season of stressed and crazed and disoriented. But I hold onto the truth that God is holding me in it anyway.

For those of you who rocked out letter C when it was letter B, in the simple and profound and grace-inviting words of a four year old, …”but that’s okay“. Wrap up in that blanket of grace the four year olds and God provide us. Roll in it. Rest in it. Come up stronger, if not just again, for a new day. It’s okay.

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(all “good” pics photo cred goes to Mike Leboffe)

Sayonara September!

I prayed all through August, scared of September. But September came anyway, that merciless louse, without regard to the fact that I wasn’t ready to trade in the freedom of summertime for mornings of rush and hurry and scheduled-in schedules.

20140727_182342And now we’re in it! Homework packs and piano lessons and Saturday mornings at the fields with shinguards and coolers full of watermelon and gatorade. Sayonara September! You will not be missed. You came in with your platform of promises. School supplies! Pumpkin everything! Crisp, happy encouragements! Instead, you stole my lunch money leaving me spiritually hungry and physically hot and frantic. Frantic for water. A cool glass of water. Still, calm waters. None of this harried and hurried and always rushing from one to the next to another. Late. As ever. As always.

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It’s our first fall of multiple children in multiple places. Older mamas, you didn’t warn me. Why didn’t you tell me September is a bully? It’s okay. I wouldn’t have believed you. You can’t fully understand the know until you’ve lived the know. But now? I know. At this stage we’re in, September can empty you of your breath and gas tank and sanity.

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Our tectonic plates of life are shifting over here. We’ve jumped head first into a parent participation preschool with Josiah. He’s also proven to be a little rockstar at his music class and I’m trying to not get too excited about how innately good he is at drums.

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Selah is the bravest kid I know. We started a new school this week, switching her over to a charter school with oodles of creativity in and outside the classroom. It’s asking a lot for a six year old to change her world one month into the school year, but I’m so proud of how Selah (my highly structured, no change is the best change child) is navigating the newness of it all. Serendipitously, Selah just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and was given a cd of her new school’s musical for the year: Willie Wonka! Praising God for these little coincidences. They are gifts. Little love notes reminding us it will be okay.

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Teagan Elyse turned TWO this week! The only bright spot of September, that last day that is hers. And ours for splatter painting sidewalks and decorating cupcakes and doing dances of gratitude for surviving the infant years of all our children. IMG_7874 IMG_7835 IMG_7756

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Cheers to a new month and finding a sustainable pace. Get out of here September, you’ve been a brute. Be a friend, October. Be a friend.

Guest Post & Going The Full Monty!

You guys! I can share one of my secrets with you today! I have a guest post up over at Leeana Tankersley’s blog. She’s an author and a key dropper, encouraging us all to unlock ourselves from our own prisons. Plus, she can rock the boho-chic or the long and lean tank with equal etherealness.

When she asked me to guest-post I kind of freaked out a little bit because she’s like, um, an actual writer. I felt 16 all over again; awkward and shy and hopeful that the hunky guy was looking my way. So I wrote something that was awful and not at all what I was actually wanting to say. And then I wrote something that was honest and in a million chunky thoughts that never melded together and I ostriched under the afghan as my husband read it. Then, after he coaxed me out of hiding I did the excruciating writer’s process of writing what I actually did want to say and make it make sense to people who don’t traverse these scary synapsed highways of my brain.

I felt awesome about it for a few days and then last night I almost flagged Leeana down and told her to call the whole thing off because going “the fully monty” with emotions is scary business. Thank you for the huge support already today for making being honest not feel so naked.

If you haven’t read it yet, check it out at http://www.leeanatankersley.com/2014/08/squeeze-space-jenny/ . 

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Proof of parenting growth. Found MARKER on our legit 1960’s couch and only gave a hug, stern talking, and threat of no markers ever again until highschool. Ug!

What We’re Made Of

Family values are built in the everydayness of life. In the loading and unloading of the family wagon, the shared laughter and the public meltdowns, the refilling of water bottles, and the  walks around the neighborhood. It is built in the little in-betweens that seem un-extraordinary but build into a large chunk of life.

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Step 1: Tape out an arrow shape on the hallway wall. Step 2: Paint and peel.

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Step 3: Salvage blue tape by re-using pieces to create other arrows. Repeat process, measuring even distance between each. Delegating labor to the oldest child is always helpful too.

We want our children to know what our family is all about through our daily actions and interactions. But sometimes it’s easy for me to lose sight of what those core values are when the daily tasks of having a house that needs attention and a husband who needs attention and small children who need attention feel urgent and overwhelming. Sometimes I need reminding of Who and what I am tethered to. So I painted it. In arrows. Big. On our wall. 

Friendship

Creativity

Generosity

These are what are family is about. It is played out in different ways through our different gifts and personalities, but shared among all of us. These are road signs we are pointing our kids toward. They are our compass and what we come back to when evaluating our time and energy and what we want to teach our kids as we show them how to live in a wholehearted way with an understanding of grace. It’s our family pulse. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

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Step 4: Use gold pen to freehand wording. It was a little worrisome to think about how letters could tank this whole wall, but they really were the whole point so I started writing and didn’t look back until I realized I should probably hold a ruler in my non-writing hand to make sure my lettering remained roughly the same size.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

And sometimes I need to write these very literally in gold calligraphy pen on my walls.

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Teagan woke up from a nap just in time to add her finishing touch of Sharpie. *heavy sigh*