Thanks, Dave.

My mom was born and raised in New York. She and her parents and siblings instilled a deep and abiding love of New York in my sisters and I as we grew up. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it stuck. Along the way, there are a few things I’ve come to consider quintessentially New York: black & white cookies, bagels with cream cheese, Broadway, pizza, and David Letterman.

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I wish that I could stay up to watch Dave’s last show tonight, but I know that I’ll regret it in the morning, when Ian is running around like a crazy person and I’m nodding off next to him. So instead, I’m sitting here mulling over why I’m feeling kind of emotional about Dave’s retirement. Admittedly, I haven’t watched The Late Show since college, when my friends and I became devoted members of the Colbert Nation. Even so, thinking about Dave & his show fills me with warmth and nostalgia I just can’t shake.

Growing up in my home, my dad enforced strict rules about what media we were and were not allowed to watch, so I remember that it felt like a small victory when I was allowed stay up late enough to watch The Late Show. My dad is an early-to-bed, early-to-rise sort, and so it was just me and my mom, and occasionally Nanny or my younger sister. We would curl up on the couch, under our blankets, and settle in to watch Dave.

I remember Top 10 lists and Will It Float? I remember chucking watermelons off the roof and Dave touching his toes. I remember getting excited when our favorite movie stars were the guests, and I remember (though I can’t quite describe) the exact face my mom made when Dave said something a little too inappropriate. I remember being anxious to see what Dave would make poor Rupert G do next.

But mostly? I remember laughing.

For the rest of my life, I’ll fondly remember and treasure laughing on the couch next to my mom. I’ll recall how the next day at dinner, we’d try to recount the jokes and antics to my dad, but we could never quite deliver it the way Dave did. You just had to watch it.

So, thanks for the laughs, Dave. Thanks for the memories. I hope you enjoy every minute at home with your wife and son. We’ll miss you.

*image via

Ananias and Sapphira: learning to be honest

The last time I was working my way through the book of Acts, I came across the story about Ananias and Sapphira.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spiritand have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

What a weird story. It’s harsh. It’s the kind of story that I think, if we’re honest, most of wish was not in the Bible, because it is downright hard to explain. Two people tell a small lie and they just. drop. dead. One after the other. A husband and a wife. I feel as though I want to add more sin to their story. I want to say, “Oh, yeah, they lied, BUT they also…” Lying isn’t enough to justify such a harsh punishment, right? I want to know, “What else?”

As I read the story this last time, though, I wasn’t thinking much about honesty, pride, or greed. I wasn’t thinking about generosity or selflessness. Instead, I found myself thinking about Ananias and Sapphira’s relationship as husband and wife. How long were they married? Did they have children? Who’s idea was this? Did they both want to hold back the money? Did they both love their church community?

I wonder how long Ananias and Sapphira had been lying to the community around them. I wonder how often, when someone asked them how they were doing, they said, “Oh, fine! A little busy.” I wonder if Sapphira was embarrassed to admit how many times she ran through the Starbucks drive-through that week, or if Ananias was afraid to admit his failures at work.

As husbands and wives, we have the opportunity and responsibility to hold one another up. It is up to us to say, “I believe in you. You can do this.” We have the freedom to say, “Here is where I messed up today.” It is our job to push one another towards looking and loving more like Jesus. I think that at some point, Ananias and Sapphira must have stopped doing that for one another. The truth is, it’s easy to take the path of least resistance in marriage. It’s easy to submit to one another not out of love, but out of passivity. Sometimes, it’s easier to tell someone what they want to hear than to remind them of who God has made them to be, but I am learning that marriage requires a fierce and passionate honesty.

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As I’ve gone through the reGroup process, I’ve realized that lying is one of the ways I cope with uncomfortable situations, my fear of failure, and my desperate desire for the approval of others. It’s been a hard reality for me to face.

These days, I don’t always tell lies, but I stop just short of complete honesty. I say, “I understand how you feel,” but leave out, “but have you considered…” I temper my thoughts; water the down my ideas; and add disclaimers like “maybe,” or “I thought,” and “I don’t really know.”

Perhaps Ananias and Sapphira had stopped speaking the truth in love to one another. Perhaps they had too many nights up with the babies, too many budget categories disagreed upon, too many needs not recognized by the other. Perhaps they were tired. Perhaps they felt ashamed. And so, when an opportunity presented itself to say, “Wait a minute. Are you sure about that? I think we can trust God to provide for us,” they chose passivity. Instead of choosing passionate honesty, they chose, “Well, I don’t really know. Sure.”

Let’s not choose passivity in our marriages. Let’s spur one another on towards love and good deeds, by taking a deep breath, speaking from a place of freedom rather than fear, and saying, “God is within us. We will not fall.”

*image via

In November

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Evan and I learned I was pregnant while we were here in Grand Rapids house hunting. Right off the bat, Evan and I had a fun, exciting, and very special memory here in our new home, before it was even our home. It felt like a gift.

In November 2015, we will welcome a new little one into our family.

Of course, he or she already feels like part of the family, even though I can’t yet quite picture how another baby will fold into these new rhythms we’re trying to establish.

In reality, I know that by November, everything will be vastly different. By then, it will be winter, a phenomenon I can’t even wrap my brain around just yet. (And to be perfectly honest: I am scared about enduring my first Michigan winter with a newborn at home.)  Ian will be 27 months old, and I can only imagine how much he’ll change over the next seven months. Evan will have worked out a good rhythm at work, and we’ll have our “regular” Grand Rapids spots to frequent. Every time we explore a new place or make a change to our new home, every time we try a new store or adjust our weekly routine, I wonder, “What will this be like when the new baby is here?”

Part of me wants to speed along the process of settling in, thinking that I better get it all figured out before this new little one is born. I want to be able to draw clear lines or circle dates on the calendar: this is before we got settled, this is after we got settled, and this is when the baby arrived. The planner in me would like a clear picture of what life as a family of four will look like. But, I know that change doesn’t quite work this way. I am learning to embrace and even look forward to the unknowns. That feels like freedom, and I’m grateful for it.

So, no, I simply can’t imagine what life with this new baby will be like, but I am so excited to find out.

I can’t wait to catch glimpses of those first smiles and feel a tiny baby hand wrapped around my finger. I am excited to find a spot downstairs for a swing and to put my Ergo to good use again. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for laundry to increase and sleep to decrease. I’m thrilled with the possibility of adding some pink and sparkle to our home, but I’m also more than happy to further embrace the title of “boy mom” if that’s what God has planned! I’m excited for a baby asleep on my shoulder once more and to read Goodnight, Moon again every evening.

Though I can’t imagine how it will happen, I can’t wait to feel our family and our hearts expand again.

Dear little one, we can’t wait to meet you.

Dear Ian (20 Months)

Dear Ian,

You and I are having a good week, little man. We are still adjusting to being home together all the time, but I am choosing my battles more wisely, and you are going with the flow a bit more. This morning after you woke up, you gave me the sweetest hugs and kisses, holding my face in your tiny little hands. It’s moments like those I will replay in my head like a movie, over and over again. Simply the best.

Last night at dinner, though, was a different story. You were already finished, so Dad and I were eating our dinner and you were playing in the kitchen. You pulled an empty Starbucks cup from the trash can, and the lid popped off. You were mad, and you immediately started yelling and crying, pacing back and forth across the kitchen. Dad and I decided to ignore it–you weren’t hurt, and we are trying to teach you to ask for help before the meltdown. But melt down you did.

After several minutes of this, I couldn’t take the noise level anymore. I looked at you and rather frustratedly said, “Ian, if you want help, ask for help!” You looked at me with the biggest crocodile tears falling down your red face and, in between sobs, eked out, “Mama…help.”

Your dad said, “Well, that’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

It really was, and I felt terrible for ignoring you for so long.

We put the top back on the Starbucks cup, and you happily went along pretending to drink your coffee. (Never mind the fact that it came out of the trash can. Again, choosing my battles here.)

We have a lot of interactions like this lately. You want to do so much, but your motor skills just can’t keep up with your ideas and desires! It seems so silly, but it’s so true. You get frustrated easily, and we’re trying to help you navigate that. But in every moment, I’m always second-guessing.

Is this a moment when you learn to be patient or to dig your heels in further?

Is this a moment when you learn to use your words or that mom ignores you?

If I’m not careful, mom-guilt will sneak up on me real fast, but I think that parenting isn’t a zero-sum game. Not every interaction is THE. ONE. that will teach the lesson, but the sum is greater than the parts. At least, I hope so. So, in-between these moments of frustration, I try to squeeze in as many hugs and smiles and silly faces as possible. The truth is, it’s both exciting and exhausting to watch you grow.

And all the while, I am constantly taking deep breaths, learning to hold my plans and productivity a little more loosely, and learning to get used to LOUD NOISES. All. the. time.

I love you, my silly, stubborn boy.

Mama

At 20 months, you…

Love macaroni & cheese. You’d eat it for every snack & every meal if I let you.

Refuse to drink water from sippy cups. Only regular cups with straws will do.

Watch Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime and Peppa Pig on youtube.

Say cheese, bus, night-night, blueberry (bloo-bah), I want, hmmm, and house.

Greet every stuffed animal with “Hi!”

Park your toy cars by lining them up against the couch.

Cry whenever you run out of fruit snacks or applesauce.

Make kissy noises, instead of just smashing your face against ours.

Dance hilariously, by spinning in circles and bouncing up and down.

Are sweet, silly, stubborn, and very curious.

Springtime

Outside my window, everything is blooming.

One day last week, as we walked through a Target parking lot of all places, Evan exclaimed, “Why are there flowers on EVERY tree?!” (His allergies weren’t thrilled about it.)

“This is what spring is!” I exclaimed, much more excited about the prospect.

In Florida, there are four seasons: summer, summer, DEFINITELY SUMMER, and summer. For approximately 2.7 days, the temperature will drop below 70 degrees, and we all pull out boots and scarves, and we wistfully call it “fall.” It hardly qualifies as it’s own season. And as far as foliage goes, it’s dark green, tropical, and swampy, all day every day.

When Evan and I came to Grand Rapids for our house hunting trip, everything was covered in a foot of snow and very, very gray. Every tree was just bare brown branches, sprawling and reaching up like spindly spider legs. Because our lawn was buried in snow, we weren’t really sure what we’d find when we moved in. When we finally got here in April, I thought I discovered a bunch of dead bushes and trees dotting our yard: just sticks, nothing green.

Apparently, I was wrong! Everything is blooming. What I thought was a dead bush out front is actually hydrangea, and it’s sprouting the most beautiful, wide green leaves that grow larger every day. Out our dining room window is a tree that had been completely bare, but sure enough, some green and red leaves have started poking out along the branches. In the backyard, a patch of leaves looks like it may in fact be daffodils or tulips.

Hydrangea!
Hydrangea!

This is so exciting! Dead things coming to life all around me. As I list what I’m grateful for each day, inevitably, the plants and flowers are making the list. And this from someone purports to hate being outdoors for too long.

As the whole world comes to life around me, I’m wondering: is it spring within me, too? Admittedly, I don’t feel like I’m blooming. By nature of our move, I have fewer people to see, nothing much on our calendar, no real to-do list to plow through. I’ve peeled back some of the extra, but most of it never felt like excess to begin with. Have you ever seen a plant that’s been pruned harshly? The branches short, stubby, and bare, only a few spots of color remaining? I feel a bit like that.

Yet I look out my front window now, our street so still and sunny, the trees so green and some of them full, and I know that the pruning always serves a purpose. We have to make room for new growth, after all. You know that poem, about how the sun doesn’t strive or compare by simply shines? The same goes for the trees: they don’t achieve or plan, but just bloom. Can I be this way, too?

I hope it’s not a tired metaphor, all this talk of pruning and blooming and sunshine. But I just can’t help it! As I’m enveloped in what seems to be a real Spring for the first time in my life, it makes more sense to me than ever. It’s no wonder, really, that Jesus talked all the time of planting and harvesting, reaping and sowing, abiding and growing.

Check in with me about this again after months of hard winter, but there is something to be said for living in a place where you can clearly see and feel the seasons changing around you. It’s reminding me that our God is not only present and moving in the circumstances and events of our lives, but also in the very ground on which we walk, the water we drink, the sun and starts that light our way. He is a creator, after all, not just a strategist.

I’m praying for spring within me, too. Admittedly, I feel stuck and stagnant at the moment, when even going to the grocery store feels like an adventure I barely have energy for. I want to feel vibrant and alive. I want to grow and stretch. I know this is a good environment for it, so I’m leaning in and asking for the grace to push through the dirt toward the sun.

Rescuing Jonah

Ian has this little book called Baby’s Bible Friends. Its pages are made of thick foam, perfect for infant gums to chew on. It mentions different animals found in the Bible and the “friends” who interacted with them. It starts, “Jonah’s whale and Peter’s fish in the sea so blue…”

I don’t love the book for a whole slew of reasons, but that’s an analysis for another day.

I have been thinking a lot about Jonah and that whale.

As a kid, I watched this story unfold on flannel board, and I’d venture to guess that even if you’ve never cracked open a Bible, you are probably familiar with it.

Here’s the deal: God asked Jonah to go to Ninevah, but Jonah hated the Ninevites too much to ever share God’s Word with them. He deliberately disobeyed God and was angry and ashamed, so during a storm, he begged a ship’s crew to throw him overboard and let him drown. “I’ve messed up,” he told them, “and this is the only way to fix it.” And he had messed up. Big time. He wasn’t wrong about that. He ignored, lied, schemed, and ran away. He couldn’t handle the guilt, so the crew threw him overboard as he requested.

You know the rest of the story, right? God sends a whale, the whale eats Jonah, Jonah hangs out in the whale’s belly before being spit out onto shore, at which point he decides to obey God’s original orders after all.

Even though I grew up in Sunday school and sometimes think I know a story well, as my faith changes over time I realize that I didn’t actually get it at all. I love that about Scripture.

Slowly, the lens through which I view God is changing, moving from restriction and fear toward freedom and love. It’s been happening for years now, but I’m still amazed by the moments I can actually notice Jesus making things new. That’s happening with Jonah and the whale.

All this time, I thought God sent the whale to punish Jonah. What a terrifying, harsh, and strange way to punish someone for their poor choices: let them get eaten alive by a giant sea creature. Of course, the whale eventually spits Jonah out and he survives, but I assumed that God just changed His mind and decided to be merciful later.

The truth is, Jonah had a death wish. He was in such a pit of despair that he would not allow himself to be rescued by human hands, so God got creative (as He often does). He had a different plan for Jonah, and it didn’t involve his death. Our mistakes never disqualify us from God’s love or from His ability to use us for His purposes, and so He is willing to go to great lengths to rope us back in to the family. Jumping off that boat should have been the end for Jonah, but God wasn’t finished with the story. He would have done anything to redeem Jonah’s story, so He sent a whale.

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God would do anything to redeem my story, so centuries later, He sent His Son.

In my own life, things have happened and I wrote them off as punishment. All the while, God meant them for mercy. A weird experience at youth group one night? I thought it was God punishing me for not reading my Bible enough, but I think it was a merciful reminder that Christianity doesn’t fit in a box. A bad break-up? Not punishment for making poor choices in the relationship, but God clearing the way for much better opportunities and teaching me to trust Him. A job loss? Not punishment for idolizing my job, but an opportunity for God to blow us out of the water by the ways He provided moving forward.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I know that God will sometimes ask us to walk through difficult circumstances and trying times (I don’t imagine there was anything pleasant about Jonah’s experience in the belly of that whale). But we lose hope when we forget that God is on our side, not our opponent. What I know now is that His goal is always grace and mercy and Glory and Love. That’s why Scripture tells us He’s working all together for good.

That whale? It was not Jonah’s enemy or an opponent, not Jonah’s final chapter or punishment. That whale was a second chance. It was mercy.

It was rescue.

I Had to Share: April 2015

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I guess I’m technically one day late. Oops! Better late than never, right? (There was too much good stuff to share, so I couldn’t bear to skip out!)

Reading On-Line:

I love this simple and he artful glimpse of ordinary family life.

I cried. Welcome to the World, Ace.

My friend Eddie shared about the importance of community and on remembering that “church” is not limited to four walls. Such a good reminder for me as we continue church-hopping here in GR.

This story encapsulates so much of what I love about working and sharing life with kids.

I can’t wait to bake these! (Somehow, I had forgotten how much I love this blog!)

This perspective changes what I say “yes” and “no” to.

Staying home with Ian is reminding me of all my highly-sensitive ways.

Speaking of motherhood, these photos are just wonderful.

Reading Off-Line:

Darling Greatly, Love Walked In (finished–loved!), Team Us, The Memoir Project 

Listening To:

I just started listening to The Popcast which is VERY fun (but their pop culture knowledge FAR surpasses mine) and Sorta Awesome, which I’m also really enjoying so far.

I’ve also been listening to Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors on almost endless repeat. What took me so long?!

What about you? What did you love in the month of April?