The dying macbook's one last gasp

29 December 2012

So here it is, friends. 2012 is coming to a close and we are days away from moving overseas. I told you how God worked me over hard this year. I'm so glad He used you, my dying macbook, and three sticky kiddos to show Himself to me, over and over.

Mega thanks to (in)courage for allowing me to share my thoughts on 7 with Trash nerd (reflections on waste and creation care), thus making it my top-read post of this year! For reals, people, get on this book if you haven't already. I plan on reading it out loud to Matt on the plane...

Honourable mentions go to:

A gentle reproof over white coffee, in which my son schools me on faith.

In defense of the silent dissenter, in which I attempt to love my neighbours more than politics.

I was ugly :: 31 days of messy parenting, in which Asher came to us.

The piano wall, in which my husband destroyed a piano and many (if not all) things were made new.

So here we go: a new year and a new home and starting again, again. I will see you soon... this time, from Ireland.


If you blog, won't you share with me your favourite post from the year? Or was there a book, movie, article that stayed with you?


27 December 2012



An early nap has made him restless. His siblings are asleep, while he clicks his camera and flings his Woody doll. I don't really mind the interruption in routine or the sleeping musical chairs. It's the price we pay for a weekend with family, songs with my grandmother, games with my cousins, pie for breakfast. I know these moments will soon be gone.


It's been awhile, but here I am, back where we started. Snow is falling like tiny, lazy confetti, getting lost on its way to the ground. I've spent the last 48 hours huddled in an uneasy rocking chair. Reading, thinking, too cold and exhausted to venture out of doors. Until today... realizing this gift card has a very quickly coming expiration date. So here I am, sitting too close to the door of the coffee shop, searching for snowflakes without a home.


I'm in Wisconsin, having said goodbye and moved away on Christmas Eve... Where did Father Christmas find you this year?

A thousand words

20 December 2012

When someone perfectly captures the spirit of your family in one picture, it's impossible to pay them back. I feel like I see them all with fresh eyes, with bigger heart, with praising spirit.

Our friend Erin at Verite Photo did this for us. If you live along the Kansas/Missouri state line, I highly encourage you to seek her out. You won't be sorry!

2012 favo(u)rites :: The success lie (on family, failure and faith)

19 December 2012


We are babysitters this weekend, slumber party novices leaving evidence of mildly irresponsible late-night milkshake drinking. Blankets, pillows and swords litter the hallways. Before he heads to work, we cuddle in a very large, very comfortable, very I-don't-ever-want-to-get-up-from-here bed. I feel his chest rise and fall heavily, hear him sigh as he says, "I'm sorry our bed sucks. I'm sorry for all of it."

It takes me a moment to register what he's saying, what he means, how his heart drops in the memory foam of the bed.

We are laying on a big, soft symbol of success. And our pokey, old, free-for-the-taking mattress back home is a symbol of failure. 

We all believe that, don't we? The house, the job, the car out front, the kids in excelled learning, the 401k. These are barometers of a life well done. We work hard for them, make sure they're shiny, take comfort in them and feel successful. This is what we're told we deserve, what we can get it if we try hard enough, what will make us happy and what will keep us secure.

Except, it's a lie. It's a lie we are all too willing to believe. Honestly, it is so much easier to look successful with hard work and money than it is to prove we're successful in quiet prayers and patience.

What is success anyway? How other people see you? How you think you look to the outside world? Does it really matter what Dave Ramsey thinks? Is the interest rate that big of a deal? I don't believe those things influence or determine success. 

My sister is successful not because of her wonderful bed, not because of her athletic kids, not because of the house or picket fence or chocolate lab (though those are all real and fantastic things). She's successful because she and my brother-in-law just celebrated 20 years of marriage. They are successful because of the hard work, time, patience and sacrifice they put into marriage and parenting. They are successful because they come home together, pray together, serve God together, and love their kids together. They are successful because they believe all these things are gifts from above, a life they never imagined, a family based on faith and hope and love.

And us? We haven't failed just because we don't have a house, a backyard, a sturdy retirement account or spotless refinished hardwood floors (though that would all be very nice). We are successful because our kids are happy and we get to spend the majority of almost every day with them. We're successful because we are pursuing something we know God has called us to do. We're successful because at the end of the day, we come home to each other. We're successful because we get to show our kids and our friends and our communities how faithful God is, how He's provided, how He's leading, how He loves. We're successful because we work hard, not for the house and the car payment or the fully vested stock options, but we work hard at prayer and perseverance and obedience.

We're successful because when we fail, it's not over. The failure is never permanent. Mercies are new every morning, and we get to try again. Jesus holds it all together, and it all belongs to Him. 

"Oh, babe, don't say that," I tell him. The house we are staying in is filled with the laughter of our children and their cousins. They are so happy and free. We get to serve my sister and her family on this happy occasion of a 20th wedding anniversary. And I feel so blessed and so thankful for one night of peaceful sleep in a big, comfy bed.

We are a success story... one I can't wait to tell.


I'm reposting a few of my favourite bits and pieces from this year. God worked me over hard... I want to remember. Leave a comment with a blog post of your own, a favourite or a new one. Let's remember together.

I believe, and I know, and I groan

17 December 2012

We wait two days before sitting down with him. We let it wash over us in stinging cold waves before we allow him to wade in with us. We are torn.

How do we share this? Do we even dare?

We live a thousand miles away, with no real connection apart from the children we bore and send off to school.

We are parents, weeping with parents from afar.

He is nearly 10 and his soul is a tender root and he knows - he knows - when something is off in our hearts. We want him to hear it from us, to ask us the questions, to share with us the fears and the prayers. Fourth graders talk and gasp and stories grow scary (and isn't this the scariest story of all?), so we want him armed with truth... and with faith.

We try to transpose into simple words what happened, when the truth is we have no words. We tell him it is over. We tell him God is here, right alongside him. And we tell him God is still there, too, in the empty halls of a broken school a thousand miles away. Even when it doesn't feel like it. Even when we cannot see Him.

And we tell him, and I try to believe it and understand it myself, that he is safest wherever God is, wherever He wants us, calls us, asks us to go. And while I know this to be true, my heart still groans the question, "Isn't this what their parents believed? Isn't it it true for them?"

I believe, and I know, and I groan. They are Yours, I say. So I open the door, and send them off to school another day.


2012 Favo(u)rites : That caviar is a garnish! (and other things I learned from Nora Ephron)

12 December 2012

You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. Oh, I know it doesn't feel like that. You feel like a big fat failure now. But you're not. You are marching into the unknown armed with... Nothing. Have a sandwich.
Nora Ephron, You've Got Mail
I was just thinking last week that I should write a post on my obsession with the You’ve Got Mail apartment. 

You know the one: Kathleen Kelly’s shabby chic brownstone walk-up, home to the lone reed and upright piano, walls covered in books and mementos, and open window overlooking a beautiful autumn New York City morning. I’ve laid awake at night, trying to figure out this apartment’s dimensions (Is it a studio? U-shaped? Does the kitchen lead into the bathroom?), imagining where I would put my mother’s secretary or the wall shelf my husband built me six Christmases ago.

image source

I love that apartment. I would be happy in that apartment. I belong in that apartment, in the city, in the Autumn, with a bookshop around the corner.

So yes, I had formatted in my mind this beautiful ode to the You’ve Got Mail apartment. And then Nora Ephron died.

Nora Ephron, to quote the younguns, was a beast. She was a writer, in every sense of the word. Journalist, essayist, playwright, author and screenwriter. She nearly literally did it all. And then she started directing movies, where she created girls like me - independent, quirky, proud, loud, naïve, flawed, sensitive - and a world girls like me could inhabit.

Her genre was “romantic comedy,” but her stories were so much more than that. They were about messing up, and someone loving you anyway. They were about taking a chance, and getting let down. They were about discovering your true self, and falling all over yourself in the process. At least, these are the ones I remember.

I’m too young (yes, I get to use this phrase!) to know about Silkwood, and maybe a bit too young to really appreciate When Harry Met Sally, but I remember crying along with Annie in Sleepless in Seattle as she first heard Sam’s voice on the radio. And I remember the first birthday after we were married when my husband gifted me with a VHS of You’ve Got Mail hidden inside a brand new grey felt messenger bag.

Oh, I so wanted to be Kathleen Kelly. I even worked in a book shop (on the corner of Oak Park and Lake Street), wore black tights and black skirts, and sadly, experimented with an ill-advised short haircut.

(Side note: no one, in the history of the world, will ever have Meg Ryan’s hair in that movie. I don’t care who you are.)

But back to Nora. Her movies made me feel like it was ok to be weird. In fact, I could be weird and smart. Weird and smart and loved. Weird and smart and loved and imperfect. I could lose my temper, make a mistake, try again and conquer the world.

And now, at 33 and a mother of three and in the midst of so many life changes I can hardly stand it, I’m realizing that loving her stories doesn’t mean recreating the Meg Ryan look or working in a book shop. Loving her stories means I’m embracing my own. Loving her stories means I go forward bravely, confident in who God made me, believing that my loudness or weirdness or sensitiveness isn’t a mistake. Loving her stories means acknowledging that the world is messy and we are messy, but still, somewhere, there’s a place for us in it.

Oh, I love the You’ve Got Mail apartment, but no matter how I try to bend it, I’m not sure it’s possible for the pictures on the screen to match the dimensions in my head. Still, I’ll take solace in the world Nora Ephron created.

In her stories, it’s not about the apartment, anyway.


I'm reposting a few of my favourite bits and pieces from this year. God worked me over hard... I want to remember. Leave a comment with a blog post of your own, a favourite or a new one. Let's remember together.

I want to help you. I want to make it.

10 December 2012


When the children say "I want to help you," I cringe. I think to myself, "No, no, no, you'll wreck it," but I say outloud, "No thanks, sweetie, I got it."

The wee one repeats himself over and over, "I want to help you, I want to help you, I want to help you," grabbing a chair and rocking the table. The stove is hot and he spills the soup on the toast in the skillet, and I say, "No, no, no, you'll wreck it."

He doesn't hear me, though. Picking up wooden spoons, stirring the pot, patting the bread. "I want to make it, I want to help you." He will not be stopped, will not be deterred. There is nothing to say to a determined three year old eyeing nothing but grown-up goodness and a chair next to mama.

I turned off the computer today because in my head I say, "No, no, no..." too many times. Two weeks left here and I worry about the square pictures on a sticky screen when the man and the children and the Lord say, "I want to help you. I want to make it." 

My place is not virtual, my body is not digital. I am here now, my heart beating and breathing. Help me. Make me.

See the drops of soup on the bread.

He is making.

Christmas card preview...

07 December 2012

Joy For All Christmas Card
Create from the Heart: photo Christmas cards from Shutterfly .
View the entire collection of cards.

A Christmas gift guide (for the family on the move)

05 December 2012

One question has plagued us for the last two Christmases: what do you give the family, the children, the friends who are about to move? We've been in a perpetual state of waiting to move for that long and even before that, were always searching out new, small, easy to pack yet meaningful treasures for our wee three.

With that in mind, I'd like to offer...

1) DIGITAL GEAR : You may see this as a cop-out, but I see this as a God-send. If you've ever travelled 28 hours in a van with three kids in the course of one weekend, you know what I mean. Now is the time to maybe corral your mutliple item gift-giving into a single more expensive, but long lasting (and peace-keeping) digital gift. 

Ideas: E-reader, MP3 player, portable dvd player (if moving by land), handheld game device (if moving by air).

Pros: The whole family will be entertained and occupied during the move and long after; games, videos, books or music can be purchased affordably online or in stores; easily transportable; many options come with headphones.

Cons: Large one-time expense; screen-time overload; if moving overseas, check region restrictions.


2) BOOKS : Thanks to the e-reader, travelling or moving with your library intact is so much easier than before. Everytime we move, we unload our collective body weight in books. But this time, we are taking an e-reader loaded up with our favourites. If the family in question doesn't have a Nook or Kindle or are afraid of it like I was, children's books or colouring books are still in vogue and easily transportable via backpack.

Pros: gift cards (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes) make online purchasing and downloading easy and fast (no need to check region restrictions); affordable apps and games for kiddos; you can literally read anywhere; educational fun for the whole family.

Cons: Internet connection to download is a must (once downloaded, no need for wifi); children may be prone to losing gift cards; that one free app that keeps freezing up the Nook (I speak from experience).

3) CLOTHING : I don't want to pack things that will no longer cover the belly buttons of our growing children, so before we move I take a strict inventory of the clothes we have and what we'll need. Things to keep in mind: the climate, shoe size (I always forget this!), socks and underwear, layering, seasons, wrinkle-free options, and puffiness of winter coats.

Pros: practical gift giving you know they will benefit from; clearance for off-season items keep it affordable.

Cons: some children may not react favorably to opening a present filled with socks. Ignore them; you know what's best.


4) TOILETRIES : If moving overseas, do not underestimate the gift of toiletries. The comfort your loved one will feel when they taste their favourite toothpaste, smell that one brand of shampoo that suits dry and frizzy hair, or live worry-(and perspiration)-free without having to find deoderant for a couple of months will be INVALUABLE. For reals. Tip: gift it to them in a tupperware container for ease in packing and containment of possible spills.

Pros: low investment; small and easy to pack; practical with a capital P.

Cons: not super sentimental or fun; requires research (as well as checking airline and security requirements for liquids); spillage.

5) LUGGAGE : A few times the grandparents have bestowed upon our children new suitcases and/or backpacks. They love this! Within moments they're filling it with the rest of their gifts and excited for their new adventure. 

Pros: super practical; wheels for ease in transportation; options are everywhere and prices widely vary; will carry all of the above gift options.

Cons: requires checking of airline size and weight limits.


6) PHOTO ALBUMS : This is where practicality gives way to sentimentality. Before we move I ask family members to cull together photos of themselves and the kiddos into a small photo album. They want to remember you, want to hear stories about you, want to kiss you goodnight. What? No, I'm not crying... moving on...

Pros: can be made digitally; small and cheap photo albums available everywhere; easy to travel with.

Cons: Requires effort (and tissues).

I realize this is a pretty specific gift-giving guide for a pretty specific purpose in mind, but we all know someone who is downsizing, living in flux, or travelling. Whether you or your loved one is moving across state or across oceans, these gifts will help you go together.

Have fun, go shopping, pack kleenex.

Ooh, I should mention that this was inspired by Jen Hatmaker's christmas gift giving advice: "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read." Thanks, BFF. What is your favourite practical or family friendly gift idea?

2012 Favo(u)rites : The Old People

04 December 2012

We sit on the hardwood floor, facing eachother, surrounded by half-opened wedding gifts and torn pastel tissue paper. My pen in hand, he reads aloud to me:

"Wine decanter," and who it is from.

I write it down for the thank you list.

We are on the third floor of an old Chicago brownstone. Our first apartment; our first home. The wedding was the week before and we are just now opening and reading and laughing and dreaming. We are married now, and the proof is in the cards and the bows and the matching pillows paired on the bed.

I slit open a small white envelope and take in the image of entwined hands, the typed sentiments, and the tiny signature written in the far right-hand corner of the page: the old people.

"Who are the old people?" I ask him, laughing.

He knows. "My grandparents." The only ones living, who couldn't make the journey, who I'd only met once or twice before. In all honesty, I wasn't sure they knew my name.

"Oh, the old people," I say, and smile. Old people who sign their cards the old people must have a story. And they did. A story of a farm, and a dozen children, and of loss, and of celebration. Of prodigals and companionship and the passing of time.

jack farm 4

We give them their first great-grandchild and he meanders along the dirt rows of their farm, chasing barn cats. They meet and hold the girl - "Oh, look at that hair." - before we whisk her across the ocean. But while we are away the old man goes Home and we mourn from afar. The old woman still sees more great-grandchildren, laughing at their names (and we laugh, too, at our earnest originality in naming). And our children remember her and sigh with heavy eyes when she goes Home, too.

But she was ready, we say. She missed him. She is finally where she wants to be: with Jesus and with Grandpa.

A dozen years from the start we reminisce, sift through the wedding box and find the card with entwined hands. Inside hides a crisp $20 bill and it is signed,

the old people.

We laugh and laugh. "How did we miss this?" we ask. Because we know the time is soon, he writes the old woman to thank her and to tell her that we'll do with it what they would've done: go out for coffee, sit side by side, and talk about our story.


I'm reposting a few of my favourite bits and pieces from this year. God worked me over hard... I want to remember. Leave a comment with a blog post of your own, a favourite or a new one. Let's remember together.

Trust and obey

02 December 2012

There's a song we sing when someone is baptized, memorized words in unison floating over the blue of the pool. I don't remember ever learning it, but always knowing it. I remember the comfort and fellowship it brings to see it released from the mouths of people you've known your whole life, consecrating the baptized, young and old, following Jesus.

I was thinking about it today, as so many questions and fears and doubts run races round my head and heart, three weeks before we leave my hometown - again. I don't know, Lord. I don't know how this will all work, but I trust. And obey.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

John H. Sammis, 1887