Thursday, November 29, 2012


When I tentatively published my first post a couple of years ago, I kept it secret.  It felt scary and vulnerable so I didn't tell a soul.  Then I shared it randomly, still with a tightly clenched fist.

I got distracted.

I wandered back.

I'm enjoying this outlet of the written word and I've decided it's a good practice for me in this place of life.  But the blog needed to be more ME, where I am right now, as the woman I'm growing into this moment.

The wildflower story is pretty intimate but important to me.  It speaks of seeing myself in a better light, seeing myself in a loving and gentle way, the way I think God sees me.

So it's new.  I'm a little more brave about sharing.  A little.



Scary but good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wild Wild West

Photo Courtesy of BBC Radio, TODAY show
Dust blew across the now-deserted dirt road that served as Main Street in Anytown, Wild Wild West.  Curious and frightened townsfolk pulled back their curtains just enough to peek through the windows and watch what would happen between the dueling parties.  Children were hushed and scurried off so they wouldn't be exposed to the carnage sure to follow soon.  Horses stamped nervously and whinnied with the tension.  Crunching of packed-down sand came from two sets of boots and spurs walking with determination to face the foe, six-shooters hanging ready in hip holsters.  Muscles tightened and teeth were gritted in resolution.  The adversaries had piercing, cold daggers in their eyes as they surveyed the rival.  An eerie, heavy silence settled down upon the scene while everyone waited to see who would act first.

It's a showdown!  Wild West style.   Well, not exactly.  No six-shooters.  No holsters, chaps, or spurs.  No tumbleweed rolling across the desolate landscape.  The setting is less glamorous...just my home.  No cowboys and saloon girls.  The characters in this husband and I.  But we have no shortage of stubborn determination and pride.  Piercing gaze for the adversary spouse?  Check.  Teeth gritted in resolution?  Check.  Waiting for the first move?  Check.

I found myself in a showdown recently.  Our relationship encountered a juncture that positioned me on one end of the street while my husband faced me down on the other end.  We had named the issue we wanted to address.  We knew what needed to be done.  Yet we still waited, angry, frustrated, and each convinced the other was wrong. Each was committed to getting our personal brand of justice.  Who moves first?  And  no--don't worry--not for a six-shooter.  In this scene the move is to lay the six-shooter down on the ground.  Hands might be raised in surrender of pride, or in a gesture to reach out to the other person.  But alas, we continued to hold our ground and piously wait for the other to ask forgiveness so we could dole it out graciously, ever benevolent and tolerant.

I probably have spent enough time reasoning about why I'm right to have earned multiple graduate degrees.  My evidence can reach thesis-level documentation and research into the facts pertaining to my case (as I perceive them, of course).  Whether it's prosecution or defense, my verdict is always innocent.  I even like to imagine the presiding judge shaking his or her head at the antics of the other side, clearly seeing the errors of my husband's ways and supporting my claims.  Certainly I cannot be expected to be the first to back off in a showdown?  Why, that would mean admitting I'm wrong.  That I actually contributed to the problem.  That I screw up--well, all the time.  That my pettiness rises up and that my choices aren't always life-giving.  That I like to find the speck in my husband's eye before I remove the log in my own.

Humility has to be one of the most difficult choices, ever!  What if I don't get the apology I--ahem--deserve?

So that I don't leave you in suspense with a cliffhanger, here is the conclusion.  The effort was made, by my husband and myself in different ways.  Each of us took a couple of hard steps that involved humility and a dose of awkwardness too.  I'm incredibly proud to say we both climbed that mountain together.  It felt like a dam breaking open after a crack weakened the previously formidable structure.  Forgiveness began to flow, conversation resumed and even flourished.  Laughter broke forth again and refreshed our dwindling reserves. Our companionship deepened yet another level. 

This isn't only about marriage, is it?  That's just my story for today.  Showdowns happen all the time in different ways with different people living out different roles of life.  May I remember the fruit from this experience and use it for the next.

Linking this here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hello Monday

Hello Monday and a new week!

Hello suitcases!  Packing up the bags never ceases to get my adrenalin flowing.  We'll be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes for Thankgiving to visit family.

Hello turkey craft!  My little guy and I will be putting these together to give to family and friends.  They're fun for the two of us to make. The act of giving always helps me to be grateful.  I hope these seeds planted in my son will grow as he gets older.  I tweaked this a bit, but the original idea can be found here.

Hello appetizer recipes for Thanksgiving dinner!  It's my year "off" from hosting, so here are a few dishes I'm bringing to munch on before the actual feast. Note:  Since I haven't prepared these yet, I've used some photos and given credit.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with tortilla chips, recipe here.

Photo from

Fruit Kabobs

Photo from

Cheddar Cauliflower Bites, recipe found here.

Photo from

Hello running shoes!  I'll be lacing up my trusty Mizunos and running the Turkey Day 5K in downtown Minneapolis.  I can't think of a better way to start Thanksgiving.  I'll bet you've got a Turkey Trot close to you. :)

Hello family!  I get to spend more time with my favorite two guys, as well as other family members I haven't seen in a long time.  This time is a gift from the Father that fills up my heart, especially when I remember to take off my "Martha" hat and embrace Mary's spirit of soaking in time with people precious in our lives.

Holidays can be crazy, chaotic, and a blur of busyness.  I'm really striving this holiday to get rid of expectations and just enjoy the moments as they come, receiving them with a thankful heart.

Linking up here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Breakin' my Rule

I have a quirk when it comes to the year-end holidays. Perhaps I'm getting crusty and irritable in my old age, but I think a little Thanksgiving is just what the doctor ordered for many of us.  Thanksgiving has quickly disappeared in the mad consumer-driven rush to sell, I mean celebrate, Christmas.  My preschooler keeps asking me if it's Christmas yet when we enter a store filled with decorations and  music.  Not a turkey, pilgrim, or cornucopia in sight!  I'm fairly stubborn, so my family knows that the Christmas season starts AFTER Thanksgiving in our house.  We are going to wait and embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving first.

Well...sigh.  We've talked about taking Ian here

to see this

Photo from Up

and this

Photo from The Cardinal

and this.

Photo from

So I'm breaking my own rule.  We will still be striving to instill thoughts of gratitude at this time of year.  But tomorrow we'll be joining the throngs of other parents lining Michigan Avenue to see the parade and light the tree, just a little early this year.  NO TREES in the house until next Thursday! 

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Time for Play

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

No play?  No time?  One of the most frequent topics I hear discussed among women, whether it's while grabbing a snippet of conversation in between playground equipment or sipping coffee at Starbucks, is finding balance in life. What do we allow into our days?  What do we edit out?  24/7 is hardly enough.

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is not a post about how to navigate the jungle of playdates, sports, music, school, family time, church, work pursuits, and other activities that seek to devour precious time. Except, perhaps, practicing the word "NO."  Consistently.  Brutally.  Even against the cultural tide of busyness that threatens to sweep the years away before we know what has happened, and we find ourselves looking back on a landscape littered with piles of activities and lists that no longer seem important.

What I know to be true about my own life is that I am MORE than dull when I don't make time for my own unique version of play.  The proverb might be rewritten like this, "All work and no play makes Kristen impatient, tired, discouraged, dull, less creative and less grateful." Gotta play.

Before there is a cacophony of voices demanding how play is supposed to happen, I want to acknowledge that there are different phases of life.  There are seasons when creating time for play is less complicated, when time and freedom are more abundant. There are also seasons when time is scarce, a precious commodity in our personal economy.  We wonder whether play can really be part of the picture. Adding in play takes committed intention. 

Please don't give up, even when it takes more intention.  The intentionality required will force you to sharpen your vision, to narrow your focus and spotlight the priorities that are most cherished in your life. You might find that you can be ruthless when cutting the extraneous junk out of your life.  It might require you to, say, keep the TV off at the end of a day instead of collapsing on the couch.  Maybe it means trading childcare to find a couple of hours here and there. Guilt-free.  Not easy.  I know, I know.

One of the ways I play is to get outdoors and run.  Up early before my husband leaves for work, I roll out of bed and lace up my shoes in the dark. Many Saturday mornings I step carefully and creak down our old home's hallway and close the door behind me, leaving my two favorite guys sound asleep in their warm beds while I head out into the crisp air.

Sometimes the start is groggy and sluggish--have to admit it--but on the return I'm energized and thankful.  I feel the strength God has given me surging through my arms and legs, grateful for my lungs breathing deeply.  My heart rate quickens and my body does the amazing work of supporting the increased exertion I'm asking of it.  I find my spirits lifting as my feet pound the ground and the miles tick by.  I always notice the trees.  They change season by season, mirroring the continuing changes in my life as time marches on.  When running with a friend, I find encouragement in hearing her life journey and embrace the connection in conversation, sore muscles, and laughter.  By myself, I crank up the playlist on my iPod and JUST GO.

What do you do to play?  Have you made any time for it lately?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Out of the Comfort Zone

I spent the teen years of junior high and high school working hard to fit in, perform well in sports, snag decent grades, and curl my feathered hair into Heather Locklear waves (Hello 80's).  Friends ruled ALL for me.  Teachers, parents, and coaches were in the mix somewhere, but heaven forbid if I didn't have a posse.  I needed girlfriends for sauntering around the hallways during lunch, entering the basketball game to find a bleacher seat, circling the mall looking for cute guys and hoping we were cute too, and taking multiple trips to the bathroom. I'm fortunate, I guess.  I actually can say that I look back at those years and have a surprisingly large number of good memories despite the snake pit of hormonal teenagers corralled together in what we like to call high school.

But underneath that, sometimes I cringe when I remember the people I ignored in my quest to be with those in my "target" comfort zone.  I have one clear memory of feeling elation at being invited to sit with a large table of girls who--at least in my estimation--were "it" girls.  The tables scattered around our cafeteria were filled with laughing, teasing teens.  Then I turned slightly to see three girls who were not considered "it" girls, sitting at a nearly-empty, silent table.  Their eyes were down, faces sober.  My gaze lingered for a moment, and I can still remember the question popping into my head, "What would happen if I walked over there and joined their table?"  I quickly pushed this thought aside and turned away from them, uncomfortable observing their isolation and yet unwilling to jeopardize my status.  Though I was not always this blatant, I continued looking for people in my comfort zone throughout college and even into my 20's, though I would have liked to think myself more evolved.  I might have reached out externally to people--yes.  But often there was an internal judgment occurring, of which I am not proud.

Then a curve ball came my way.  I got married around 30--a pretty typical age for Chicago singles who enjoy their freedom, higher education, and careers.  And then...I couldn't get pregnant.  Slowly, everyone around me had one, then two.  Still no baby.  People became awkward and changed the topic of mothering when I came around.  There's much more to that story, but the point here is this--many women in my target comfort zone became uncomfortable with ME.  Oh.  Huh.  Ouch.

Curve ball again.  Years later, I somehow managed to become pregnant with my first child.  Fantastic!  We were and continue to be thrilled with our little guy.  And just as those I had known who had been having children for the last several years were returning to work and starting the soccer/baseball/music lessons/dance recital marathon of parenting school-age children, I decided to resign and stay home full-time. 

Just for a little more challenge, my husband and I decided to pile on the additional layer of practically-annual moves from one community to another.  We were gypsies without a place to call our own--in our late thirties when everyone else was being responsible and paying mortgages like proper adults should be--and we were living like recent college graduates.

Every time these life shifts happened on a different time table than everyone else, I was presented with a isolated or get out of my comfort zone.  This was not easy for me, at all.  Just saying.  I can't tell you how many moms groups, church nights, community playgroups, and general local gatherings I entered into with butterflies in my stomach while I scanned the room for a place to connect.  I have now lost track of how many times I have initiated, "Do you want to get together?"  I made new friends and expanded my comfort zone.  Good stuff.  I also found out what it was like when people were not interested in taking "new friend" applications, or at least not mine.  Life had set me into a different place.  I felt (and sometimes still do) like the three quiet girls back in that old cafeteria, looking and hoping for a place to belong.  I've also learned the power of initiating, taking awkward first steps, and inviting others into your home and life.  Also good stuff, although not quite as fun as those who immediately want to enjoy life with you and share a good laugh while doing so.

I can say that over the years this was just one of the lessons God taught me through fertility issues about how to reach out to anyone, everyone, in all walks of life.  About how to "cross the room" and engage people from different cultures and different lifestyles.  I'm proud to say I count my good friends as being many years younger and many years older.  We live in tiny apartments, huge houses, and those homes all sizes in-between.  I have friends who cannot stand exercise and crafting, although I love both. I enjoy friends who share my faith and those who do not. We focus on the things we love and respect the differences between us.  I am keenly aware of how much I learn from these relationships, even the ones that aren't always easy.  So thankful to get out of the comfort zone and trek into the unknown.

Linking this story here.