2017 Reset Button

Today’s guest post is our first re:create recess of 2017! Last week’s post spelled out what we’re doing here, once a week, on the blog, but here’s a quick reminder: we’re thinking about create with a healthy dose of play and how both can lead to transformation. My friend Cole oozes playful creativity in her fantastic fashion sense and you should be so lucky to see her gorgeous home and courageous use of bold wallpaper… She originally said no to guest posting because mama to three littles is more than enough; but then she shared this tidbit of creative wisdom with our women’s group and so, here we are. I’ve already tucked one monthly card, and now another, into my gratitude journal. Join us in this creative and intentional pursuit?

re:create recess #1: Colecp-meme

If you’re like me, you might need to hit the reset button in 2017. I came into this ‘new’ year harried, beaten down, uninspired, and exhausted, with no gumption to set resolutions, create goals, start a new habit, get organized, become more fit, or get closer to a “new me in 2017.”

It felt like I was just trying to survive. The only goal I had was to sleep! To stay within the confines of my fluffy down comforter and sleep while someone else cleaned, cooked, watched the kids, put away the Christmas decorations, wrote the holiday thank you cards, etc… But one night as I surfed the web in the wee hours, I think I had a “Holy Spirit intervention” because I stumbled upon Ann Voskamp’s blog and her version of making new year’s resolutions. She calls it reSOULutions – a Year of Living on Purpose.

I like Ann’s simple, manageable approach to being intentional about making changes without the anxiety and overwhelm of the traditional approach to setting resolutions. I found myself peeking out from under my comforter with renewed hope excited to get creative and follow Ann’s easy steps to living on purpose.

Ann offers a list of 12 verbs for the new year, one for each month…Embrace, Believe, Do, Learn, Grow, etc., and invites us to add the nouns or intention pertaining to that word. The words are written on a beautifully illustrated printout.

Here is my example. I added my own words and chose to color in the flowers to inspire myself to look at it often (Ann even invites us to frame it!). I’m going to tuck mine inside my devotional, a good reminder of things I want to work on and become better at.cpresoulutions

Ann also created these beautiful monthly cards with the word for each month written on them where you can write your intention and your prayer for how God can lead you in this endeavor. You can cut up the cards and tuck them inside your Bible or devotional along with the other sheet to refer to them often as well….

What kind of year have you had or do you want to have? What are you afraid of or excited about? If you’re struggling to pick up your feet, your head, your eyes or your heart, this might be a small discipline you can do with the Holy Spirit’s help. Maybe, just maybe, amidst the shifting, the changing, the chaos, and the beauty of your day, you will take a moment to remember and breathe and do what the card says…it’s a small, easy way of connecting with God while pursuing stability in an uneasy world. Live on purpose while living out your purpose and your soul will thank you.

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Cole has been married to Shane for eight years. She is mama to three children, Ruby, Marlowe, and Hyde. She requires a steady diet of faith and fancy with a little mischief here and there for good measure. She strives every day to be more like Jesus and to remember that she is enough, despite her imperfections.

Bigger Than a Bumper Sticker

Last weekend I was One Proud Mama, overflowing with joy, as Teen had what may well have been the best weekend of his seventeen years.

It began with a rugby end-of-season barbecue where he won a coaches award for Most Improved player in his position. The coach spoke of Teen’s hard work, determination, and playing all in both before—and more significantly—after his six-week injury. He laid it all out for his sport and his team, and it showed.tournament 1

Racing home, Teen had 20 minutes to shower and change into his brand new Calvin Klein tuxedo complete with a tie-it-yourself bow tie for Junior Prom. It took Dad and Kid (consulting YouTube) a few tries, but he looked sharp—and he knew it, with that sweet arrogance of youth. This may have been one of the few times he did not complain about Mama taking too many pictures. He patiently smiled and posed, on his own, with his stunningly beautiful date, in this spot and that, and with friends. We even got a couple of family shots. I kept thinking: who is this good looking young man, and what happened to my rascally kid?prom

But Sunday was the best, a culmination of years of diligence and small achievements along the way. Sunday Teen’s Boy Scout Troop celebrated its 53rd Eagle Court of Honor to present eight new Eagle Scouts with Scouting’s highest honor.

Teen and I sat in the front pew of our church during Scout Sunday when he was just eight years old, not yet a Cub Scout. He watched older boys—shoulders back, heads held high—lead the service and share stories of adventures, brotherhood, and faith. He turned to me and declared, “I am going to be an Eagle Scout in this troop.” And he is.

Like most worthwhile pursuits, it hasn’t been an easy road. The troop prides itself on being boy-led, which means each Scout must play his role and take the leadership failures and successes at each level. Which means that, if you’re a Scout—or a parent of a Scout—in a patrol where the leader fails (it happens often), you feel the bumps. The learning curve is huge and yet, from this vantage point, I can truthfully say it has been the best long-term leadership training we could ever have hoped our son would experience.

During the private pinning ceremony, we presented our son with a blessing of words before we pinned the Eagle Scout pin on his uniform, right over his heart. We expressed gratitude for this Troop which has developed his leadership while allowing him to indulge his passions for the outdoors and for animals.

We told stories of his perseverance (he designed the District award-winning patch with the theme of Perseverance)—climbing out of his crib and over two stacked childproof-gates all the while whispering, “I can do it. I can do it.” At times, Scouting itself has felt like a sky-high mountain of switchback trails, and yet he has persevered.

We told stories of his gift with animals—just two examples, book-ending his Scouting experience:
his first Troop hike, accompanied by the Scoutmaster Emeritus, during which Teen safely caught and displayed (and released) countless reptiles and opened the Scoutmaster’s eyes to how many species of reptiles inhabited a trail he’d hiked for 34 years…
his kayaking trip last summer, when he was the only person deft enough to catch one of the many turtles populating the river.

During the Court, his Scoutmaster shared Teen’s outstanding qualities: kindness, thoughtfulness, his desire and gift for mentoring younger Scouts. A family friend told about Teen as a preK who, much like the Croc Hunter, insisted he come along while Teen narrated a critter-filled walk around the block. Teen’s spectacular gift is to insist that we notice critters we might never see otherwise and help us appreciate them for their God-created place in the ecosystem.

Passionate, exuberant, spontaneous to the point of recklessness… For most of Teen’s life I have been his advocate, helping others see the strengths in what, at times, seemed like weaknesses. On this afternoon, I listened as others spoke to the beauty of these strengths and how they will be gifts Teen will use to change the world.

These eight new Eagles form an impressive group. Two high school seniors and six juniors, they have a combined total of 387+ camp outs. They include the ASB President and Vice President and the Quarterback of the championship football team. They have demonstrated their duty to God through 24 trips to work among the poor in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. They are scholars, athletes, musicians, and leaders in several arenas. While several have shared significant friendship beyond the Troop, together they share in a unique fraternity.2016Eagles2

Teen has participated in over 48 camp outs, including 5 week-long Wilderness Camps, a 3-day Mini Backpacking Trek, 2 Orange Torpedo Kayak Treks in Oregon, 2 Bike Treks, and a 50-mile Mt. Lassen Sierra Trek. For his Eagle project, Teen refurbished and built exercise stations for the Raptor and Reptile Rehabilitation Grove at Lindsay Wildlife Experience, an animal rescue/rehabilitation organization. In the words of the gentlemen who reviewed his project and approved his Eagle Scout application, “he didn’t build just another bench.”

A hawk working out on Teen's refurbished exercise equipment

A hawk working out on Teen’s refurbished exercise equipment

After the post-Court reception, after the post-reception dinner, after the cards and gifts had been opened, Teen explained to his grandparents the meaning and experiences behind each patch he had received on the road to Eagle. Tremendous experiences, so many memories, some hard and many glorious. At the end, I watched as my son turned his head aside. I sat on the floor at his feet and I wonder if anyone else heard as he almost whispered, almost to himself: “I set a goal, and I achieved it.”

There are very few goals of this caliber one can set in childhood and achieve during adolescence. Fewer still are goals of this caliber that will last into adulthood. Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout. He has accomplished something that will hold him in good stead throughout his life. He should feel proud of himself, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Happy Leap Day!

For most of us, today probably feels like an ordinary Monday. I’m doing my normal Monday routine – working from home, an extra load of laundry spinning as I type. But this Monday is a once-every-four-years event and for some reason this year I feel a particular urge to celebrate.

Probably because Leap Day only arrives every four years, it doesn’t have as many time-honored traditions, no special foods or colors or parties. At one time, culture encouraged women to turn the tables on gender roles and propose to their man on Leap Day, but times have changed and now women can take the relational lead any day of the year. As the New York Times declared on February 28, 1976, “In these liberated times, every day is Leap Day.”

When Teen was in kindergarten, he asked for Froggy Cupcakes to share with his class for his December birthday. If I still had littles, I might feel motivated to make dessert. Maybe we’d even play Leap Frog. But as I have adolescents, probably not on both counts.frog cupcakes

Instead, we’re trying something else. Like New Year’s but better, Leap Day give us an opportunity to consider: Who am I becoming? Who do I want to be in four years? More than What do I want to be doing?, be(coming) is the operative verb. Tonight after dinner I’ll pass out blank cards and envelopes and each of us will write a letter to our 2020 self.

Yes, this trick has been done so many times before. But in less than four years, Teen will be in college and Tween in high school. As a family we are in a highly transitional lifestage and it seems timely to think about who we want to be and how best to achieve those goals. Not this or that college, or straight A’s, or even Man of the Match, although some of that will surely happen along the way. Instead, thinking ahead to what we will be doing in four years, who do I want to be as I engage in those activities? Kind, brave, creative, thoughtful, a good friend… And what can I do to become those attributes, starting now?

The real trick for this disorganized mama will be: where will I put the letters so I can easily find them again in four years? Hmm…maybe one of my becoming goals should have to do with organization?

How about you? How will you celebrate the gift of an extra 24 hours, and more importantly, how will that contribute to who you are becoming?

End of 2015 Reading

As a result of my last reading post and the reading crisis within which I found myself, a generous friend gifted me a book: Me Before You. An avowed Read-Page 1-To the End reader, whereas I am a Read-the Last Page-About a Chapter In reader, she swore me to uphold End Page Secrecy. I did, and I’m glad. I couldn’t possibly have understood the last page before its time.

And then I have these ambitious friends who have posted on Facebook their tremendous accomplishments of having read 60 or so books in 2015. Egads, people! You must read at Light Speed. And yet, they inspire me.

So I looked at my Goodreads account a few weeks ago and gauged a realistic number: I could reach 30 books by 2015’s end. The last one is a bit of a cheat, a book of “cat poetry” I read aloud with Tween, accompanied by his hilarious cat-howl laughter. It was fun, not at all serious together-time, and worthy for those very reasons.

So here are my last few books of 2015. Happy reading in 2016!

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In desperate need of a new story to whisk me away, a friend gave me this book. Indeed it whisked me away. I fell in love with two worlds-apart characters who meet up over extraordinary-ordinary reasons: need and money. Without beating me over the head, this story had me think deeply and want to live bigger, and with more love. And it broke my heart in the best way.

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seemingly ordinary yet terribly broken characters crash their lives into one another, telling lies and believing whatever seems most convenient, until tragedy befalls each one. Not a perfect book, but a quick and suspenseful read.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible StandardsFor the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book of essays made me laugh and cry and think and feel. As a 40-something pastor’s wife/writer with kids at home, Jen and I share so much in common that occasionally I wanted to beat the book on my head and ask, “Why didn’t I write this?” But she is much, much funnier than I am, and I will read whatever she writes. I preferred Seven, but I’m sure I will return to the essays in this book from time to time.

Three Times Lucky (Tupelo Landing, #1)Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great read-aloud to share with my Tween – original characters, entrancing writing, fast-paced and engaging story. I would guess the only reason this Newbery Honor Award book didn’t win the Newbery itself is because of tough competition in 2013 (winner: The One and Only Ivan, also a delight).

A Northern LightA Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A coming of age story set in 1906 Adirondacks, this book gives a fascinating view into another time and place, centered on Mattie, a poor, smart farm girl raising her siblings after her mother’s death from cancer. She longs for a life of the mind while struggling against the harsh physical realities of her days. Mattie’s life juxtaposes Grace’s unfortunate and untimely death, one who can change her fate and the other eternally trapped. Not a perfect book, as the jumping back and forth in time make it confusing at times, especially for a YA book.

A Year of Living Prayerfully: How a Curious Traveler Met the Pope, Walked on Coals, Danced with Rabbis, and Revived His Prayer LifeA Year of Living Prayerfully: How a Curious Traveler Met the Pope, Walked on Coals, Danced with Rabbis, and Revived His Prayer Life by Jared Brock
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is fairly well-written, entertaining, thoughtful and funny in turns, and a complete mess. I have marked sections I want to remember and wish I could excise whole chapters. Brock is smart, energetic, and wants to change the world in Jesus’ name. To do so, he knows he needs to learn how to pray. But some of the stops along his journey seem intended to shock more than educate – Westboro Baptist, really? Benny Hinn? Even Tony Robbins (and coal walking)? He knew before he went in that those folks were not going to teach him what he wanted to learn about how to sincerely pray in Jesus’ name. He did learn a few things about prayer throughout the year, and he  gleaned truth to share, I just wish the book had been more carefully orchestrated and edited so as not to poke fun at those who have enough trouble already and to be more genuinely helpful without the distractions.

I Could Pee on This And Other Poems by CatsI Could Pee on This And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Recommended by cat-loving friends with kids, we bought this for our cat-loving Tween. He giggled throughout, and the giggles themselves were worth the purchase price.