What I'm Into {December 2013? What?!}

31 December 2013



Welp, here we go. Last post of 2013. December was fantastic, exhausting, lovely, windy, sunny, beautiful, wet... and filled with friends, family, parties and lie-ins. Let's get right down to business, shall we?

BOOKS

The Wool Series, by Hugh Howey. I started reading Wool right at the end of November (due to the glowing recommendation of my the best friend) and couldn't put it down for three days. It's a hefty read, but thrilling and original, immersing the reader into the distant (?) future of the world; a small, deadly world. I moved swiftly on to the second book in the series, Shift, and while I didn't love it quite as much, I appreciated the quicker pace and introductions to several new, memorable characters amid the backstory (prequel?) of the Silos. While many questions were answered, new ones were asked, keeping the reader invested for the next book. Dust is the final book in the series and will probably be my first read of 2014.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. I highly anticipated reading this book as Matt and I fancy ourselves Frank Lloyd Wright groupies and spent the early years of our marriage less than a mile from his home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois. Loving Frank attempts to unfold the often-referred to (but never explained) affair between Wright and the wife of a client, Mamah Cheney. This fictional account is told from Cheney's perspective, with the desire (I think) to instill charity and sympathy in the reader for the repressed, spirited and feminist Cheney. Horan weaves an interesting tale of marital loneliness and artistic brilliance, but I really struggled to appreciate Cheney's motives, as someone who valued her womanhood over motherhood, responsibility or even compassion (must we really be "true to oneself" no matter the cost, hurt, despair?). We may never know the true story behind the novel - why Cheney ran off with Wright in the first place - and it will be forever overshadowed by the real-life tragedy that brought a devastatingly abrupt halt to their relationship (leaving me feeling somewhat uncomfortable reading the book, knowing what lay ahead). But haven't we all been seduced by art, mystery and adventure? I think perhaps that's the hidden heart of this book, maybe something Horan - who used this more as a feminist apologetic - didn't really intend.

Due to my interest in FLW and on the heels of this book, I also picked up Glass (Frank Lloyd Wright at a glance) and Frank Lloyd Wright (Critical Lives).

Current (or continued) nightstand reads: Grace-based Parenting (Kimmel), Mudhouse Sabbath (Winner), A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Held Evans), Bird by Bird (Lamott), Jesus Calling (Young).

TV

Last week I finished up the third season of Homeland. The last episode was brilliant, but the season as a whole? Meh. I'm not sure if I'll keep up with it next season after the - SPOILER ALERT - death of Brody, but my love for Claire Danes may keep me tuned in. We're also quasi-keeping up with New Girl and Grey's Anatomy, were truly brokenhearted to say goodbye to Matt Smith in the Christmas Special episode of Doctor Who, mildly underwhelmed with the Downton Abbey Christmas episode, and excitedly waiting for the premier of Sherlock on New Year's Day.

MUSIC

This year's Christmas soundtrack was brought to you by The Vince Guaraldi Trio (Charlie Brown Christmas), John Denver and the Muppets (Christmas Together), George Winston (December), She & Him (A Very She & Him Christmas) and, of course, Sufjan. Still digging Arcade Fire's Reflektor (they'll be in Dublin in June! Huzzah!).

MOVIES

Of course, Catching Fire, which was a great Debbie Downer of a movie. Meaning: It was great, for a movie/book that is so obviously very sad and disturbing. Jennifer Lawrence wins everything, especially cable-knit one-shouldered shawl scarves. Christmas movies included, but were not limited to Love Actually, The Holiday, The Grinch, Rudolph, Santa Claus 3, Harry Potters 5-8, and a half-dozen viewings of Despicable Me 2.



THINGS I LOVE

  • So many Christmas parties! Work parties, friend parties, dinners and coffees and playdate parties.
  • So many school parties/concerts! Asher rocked Rudolph (naturally), Jack rocked the violin, and Ella rocked Inn Guest #2, despite a wicked head cold. 
  • Related: I love our kids' teachers. They are amazing.
  • Family in town for Christmas. 
  • Jack making pie with Great-Grandma.
  • Ella posing with her namesake.
  • A sick Asher sleeping on my mother.
  • Four generations photos.
  • Dancing with my grandma to Asher's fine guitar skillz.
  • Our fake fire, a la Ikea candles.
  • Warm December weather.
  • Windy and wet December weather, viewed from our cozy sitting room.
  • Avoca morning.
  • Long walks with Cocoa in Phoenix Park.
  • Sunny Christmas day.
  • Dublin decorations.
  • Being lazy, lazy, lazy.
  • Happy kids on Christmas morning.
  • Recognizing what emotionally feeds us after guests depart. We happily gave in to some soul care and took the children and dog to the sea, climbing Killiney Hill and enjoying coffee and hot chocolate in Dun Laoghaire. For like a half hour or so, I thought, "I could not be happier." 
  • Neighbours, friends and coworkers we love.

For other things I love, make sure you visit me at Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I never take pictures of food; that's a promise.

ON THE BLOG

Most read this YEAR :: A (discombobulated) day in the life
My favourite, here, this YEAR :: In the garden, where we mine our hearts
Most read this MONTH :: We are barking mad, literally
My favourite, here, this MONTH :: Dear Sister {Christmas can wait till May}

INSTAGRAM

What if we viewed our lives this way, every day? I am overwhelmed with gratitude.



SCRIPTURE

(A song of ascents. Of David.)
My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131

Thank you for joining me here this year.

Linking up with...
What I'm Into

These are a few (from 2013) :: Give me your blah

30 December 2013

I don't feel like I'm standing on holy ground. It feels more like I'm standing on three day old remnants of shredded wheat. 

I don't feel like I'm giving my kids the greatest gift of love and therefore receiving their love and overflowing with God-love. It feels more like I'm just barely keeping them alive till bedtime, and before then the best gift I'm giving them is unending rounds of crackers (or m&ms or fill-in-the-blank).

I don't feel like motherhood is holy, like it's my highest calling, my greatest joy. It feels more like really, really hard work. Hard work I'm not even that good at.

Mommy bloggers, you are amazing. I love you and I am one of you. But really, if there is one more post or article or book about the wonderful redemptiveness of diaper-changes and burnt dinners and holy ground walking on a dirty kitchen floor and the beautiful gift of receiving God's Beautiful Gifts, I'm gonna go nuts. It's not that you're wrong or misguided... I think you're probably right, and I think there are some days where I do need to hear it.

But most days? Most days it's just blah.

Most days it's just coffee and errands and laundry. Most days it's just videos and temper tantrums and impaling my foot with a tiny lego man's lego sword. Most days it's just make it to the next days. Most days the only moment of peace is in the bathroom... and even then it lasts less than a moment because within 30 seconds someone is looking for me having spilt his milk all over the brand new computer keyboard. Most days I can't even think to whisper gratitude. Most days I don't think.

Do I love my children? Yes. Is this the job, the people, the life God has set before me? Yes.

Am I complaining? Yes.

Because I think we need to know - the new moms and the old moms and the Princess Kates and the Kim K's - that it's not going to feel holy, amazing, fulfilling most of the time, probably not even a fraction of the time. I think we need to know it's ok to feel blah. It's ok to not feel like this is the greatest thing on earth, the most divine, the most sacrificially-like-Jesus we will ever be. We need to know it's ok to not like it. It's ok to look forward to the days they're all in school, the days they go to bed early, the oh-so-rare days we get to go away by ourselves and be refreshed and renewed by something other than soapy water.

It's OK. It's just OK.

We still love our kids. We still want them to grow up to be compassionate, loving, amazing, joyful people. We're still grateful for the gift of them. We want them to grow up and be the best moms and dads they can be.

And then, there will still be those moments of pure joy when we will bask in the wonder that is a child, a Gift From Above, who loves and forgives and trusts without even thinking about it... just because we're Mom.

But on the blah days, the blah months and the blah years, when we are just hanging by a thread... don't tell me how holy and blessing-filled and Christ-like I'm being. That just makes me feel worse, like my tiny piece of thread is fraying, leaving me and my children dangling in mid-air.

Tell me you and God and my kids will love me anyway. Tell me we'll all survive. Tell me about your blah days, minus the silver lining or spiritual lesson. Just give me your blah. Then, maybe, I'll feel a holy space to tell you about mine. And one day (probably not today), God will redeem it all.

July 2013

***

These are a few of my favourite posts from this year, things I've written during this epic phase of resettling in Ireland. If you blog, leave me a comment below with a favourite post of yours from this year. Would love to read how you saw yourself and those around you in 2013.

A little bloggery design



Remember how my friend Nicole let me redesign her logo and banner over at her blog? Well, another brave soul asked me to redesign the WHOLE of her blog. I so enjoyed working with Dawn and her fun family blog, Dawn's Cottage Corner. She was very patient with me and had a good idea of what she wanted, creating a Pinterest inspiration board with design elements she admired.

As you know, I have next to no professional design skills, but I'm somewhat skilled at faking it. :)



I used the "Simple" template on Blogger and just customized fonts, accents, colours and images.

Anyway, pop over to Dawn's blog and give her a nice hello. Thanks for letting me work with you, Dawn!

Click on my Writing & Design page to view more of my freelance work.

On goodbyes and Christmas and life at home

29 December 2013



Sunday morning is quiet and dark. It's the last one of the year and church is taking a day off. There was one major dog-related casualty in the night, the guts of a Buzz Lightyear pillow spilled out over the whole of the office. And the house is empty, minus two.

I think I'm fairly good at goodbyes now, and when they depart two hours before sunrise, I give long hugs and trade I love yous, stand at the door and wave through steamed glass. Then Christmas is over, I get back in bed with the children. We go back to real life and spend the afternoon by the sea. After 9 days with them, I'm full and contented. But a day or two after I miss everyone all over again, all the people who did not come. I long for my sisters, miss the company of my nephews, wish I could send the kids with their aunts and uncles into the snow.

I remember a year ago, all stuffed into Matt's parents' house, weighing suitcases and driving ice-covered Wisconsin backroads. We had left home on our long way back home. We'd already lived two and a half years in the in-between, what was two more weeks, anyway? In the basement, we'd sit on our knees, sifting through our past and future, packing and repacking what would remain. Christmas was sweet, yet heavy. Time was both long and short. We were finally, blessedly moving on.

Today our home awakes. Most of us, anyway. Cocoa sleeps on her couch, exhausted by the early morning shenanigans. The children trade turns eating and playing, Beautiful Day plays on the radio (my favourite thing about Christian radio here is the prevalence of U2 on the playlist, even if the DJ speaks only in Irish this morning). Laundry and hoovering and one last piece of chocolate pie wait for me. We made it together, my grandma and me, here in my kitchen. In my house. In this country we now call home. She left pie and pictures and memories in her wake. A year of settling insanity, a giant cake of beautiful change, topped with the icing of family on Christmas morn.

The house is quiet, dark. Empty but full. I'll take it, 2013. I'll take it.



My "one word" for this year was HOME. And I think we made good on it, making home here. I've not yet got my word for 2014, weighing a couple in my mind and wondering what this next year could hold. Did you have a word for 2013? A resolution, a hope? How did it go?

Dear Sister {Christmas can wait till May}

27 December 2013



Dear Sisters,

Christmastime has come and nearly gone and this is the first bit of time I've been able to sit down and write a few words for quasi-posterity. It has been a whole year now, since last Christmas Eve, when we said our long goodbye and headed north for Ireland. I find myself thinking of you all week long; not in sad, homesick ways, but in happy memories of past adventures and wistful thoughts of one-too-many hands in the kitchen and white chocolate pretzels by the handful.

Our house is a happy one at the moment, to be sure. There's a dog now, and two grandmas, and Christmas movies and pie and coffee and sunshine. Ella has literally never been happier, as she squeaks puppy toys and cuddles with Cocoa on the couch. They sit there, all twisted up in blankets and I think this may be the best Christmas ever. Asher walks up and down the hallway with his guitar, dancing in the glare of the sliding glass doors, and Great-Grandma and I dance to his music. That moment or two where we swing hips side by side, laughing, will live on in infamy. Jack finished his lego masterpiece in record time and we each take pilgrimages to his room to survey the wonder. Mom sits with tea and a book, reading Seamus Heaney or cuddling a sick child. I eat pie. Lots and lots of pie.



But still... you are not here, and I am not with you. Oh sure, you have your own families as I have mine and I think this is adulthood and real life. Most everyone is separated by cities or states or oceans. We send e-greetings, trade photos and post on Facebook, together in spirit if not in person. I know you both wore red, that the boys were silly, there was ice on the ground and a candelight service or two. You've been kept abreast of our activities, pictures of Mom and Grandma on Killiney Hill, Jack leaning over a mixing bowl. We are not truly alone and apart, but still I am lonely for you.

So this Christmas, as you are huddled in Kansas City, as we plant ourselves deep in Dublin, know you are loved. You are missed. You are treasured this day and every day. And I long to sit near you, laughing and posing, ignoring the children maybe just a bit, lingering over the dinner table one minute longer. The Irish homestead saves a place for you, a door forever open.

And in May we will dance at a sister wedding. Christmas together can wait until then.

Love,
Me




Sometimes I write letters to my sisters, women young and old brought to me through blood, circumstance and Jesus. Today I write for the two I share wedding photos and nephews and Christmas Eves with. Who are you missing this time of year?

Comfort & Joy

25 December 2013

From our Irish home to yours, we wish you tidings of great comfort and joy.

Surely He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace.



The t-shirts were an excellent Christmas gift from my sis' fiance Nathan at The Record Machine. I'm pretty sure this will be our new family uniform. Walking advertisements, we are.

Happy Christmas, friends.

These are a few (from 2013) :: In the shadows of someone's masterpiece

23 December 2013



Oak Park is a dream. When I close my eyes and try to remember when, I realize the colour of the floorboards is gone. I can't find the smell of the bookshop. We moved away from those tree-lined streets 12 years ago and I find myself still wishing we could go back, sit in the park across from Hemingway's old place, my head in your lap and the church bells ringing.

We would ride our bikes on those streets, looking at these old victorian houses, the craftsman porches. You had your favourites and I had mine, and we envisioned this prairie life in the city, where we'd walk our children to school. Sit on the porch swing. Knock down some walls and plant a lilac bush. Open our own bookshop.

There were all these Frank Lloyd Wright places and we could never decide on one. You know, just in case. You liked the one with steep, sharp angles. I like the one with the rounded front door. These were our Sundays, spent in the shadows of someone's masterpiece.

Oh, we had so much time.



I think about it now, and what we thought growing up looked like, what success looked like. I sit here, today, coffee in hand by the kitchen door. I see the carrots popping up and the hydrangea sprouting new leaves and how our children prayed for a tree. Who'd have thought He'd give us so many trees we'd have to cut down a few just to make room? I watch as the yellow sun on our garden turns to grey and the rain comes in. I smile when I hear it on our skylight, I'm so glad I haven't put out the laundry yet.

It's not Oak Park, not the dream of those houses, not the porch swing, no Chicago skyline. There is no mortgage here, no deed. Frank Lloyd Wright never came to Ireland and I don't think Hemingway wrote from behind these windows.

But we have covered walls with paint swatches. You fret over the lino-wood flooring. The tree out front is in bloom. And we sit in the bay window, in our landlord's two leather chairs, king and queen of our own masterpiece.

Not the house, not the city, not the country, nothing but His design. 

I still cry over Oak Park, that we left and can't go back. I know it's all aglow in wistful unreality. I know we're changed and it's changed. I know these 10-plus moves in 10-plus years can really do a girl in. My homesickness is truly all over the map. But when you first brought me home a week after our wedding, with our quilt on the bed and the chest you built and your grandparents' old dresser, I didn't know I'd only ever want to live there. Frozen in time, forever. I didn't know that a dozen years later when I'd close my eyes, I'd still feel those floorboards beneath my feet.

And now that I can't see the colour, can't smell the books, can't remember what road that one house was on, I realize forever has changed. A dozen years from now, when I close my eyes, this is what I'll see: me at the kitchen table, coffee in hand, looking out on our back garden to the trees our children prayed for. 

Not the house, not the city. I will only see the masterpiece.

May 2013

***

These are a few of my favourite posts from this year, things I've written during this epic phase of resettling in Ireland. If you blog, leave me a comment below with a favourite post of yours from this year. Would love to read how you saw yourself and those around you in 2013.

These are a few (from 2013) :: Take courage

16 December 2013

We're doing the midnight bed dance again because the truth is: no one really knows where we are. Living out of suitcases for over a month, in our 4th round of beds in as many weeks, children bump on the floor in the night and cry out. They don't remember where the toilet is, where our room is, where home is. It's all we can do to spoon them back to sleep, propping our heads up on thin pillows, arms under their weary necks. It's all we can do to set an alarm, find a clean bowl, drive them to a new school.

The exciting adventure of our days gives way to fitful dreams and midnight cries.

I was praying for them, the night before we sent them to school, when we knew where we would settle but weren't quite settled there yet. We faced a long commute, an alarm set before dawn, and I woke at 4 unable to sleep, praying, praying, praying over them. My inclination, my first instinct is to pray, "Lord, keep them safe." But I thought, if that was our only priority, surely we wouldn't uproot them, put them on planes and trains, walk them through the doors of another new school. No, it's not safety we want for them.

It's courage. And faith.

So instead I prayed, "Lord, make them brave." It didn't put me back to sleep, but it put my heart in its place and my hope up high. Oh, I want them to be brave, to know they can, to wonder and doubt and cry a bit maybe (it's hard to be brave if nothing at all is scary), to know when they fall off the bed they'll be found and carried to safety, to hear the wind and see the rain and still long to run outside and face the storm.

Oh, God, give them courage. Make them brave. And give me strength to spoon them to sleep once more.



From January 2013

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These are a few of my favourite posts from this year, things I've written during this epic phase of resettling in Ireland. If you blog, leave me a comment below with a favourite post of yours from this year. Would love to read how you saw yourself and those around you in 2013.

Five Friday Favourites

13 December 2013

CHRISTMAS EDITION! We're very literally in a vastly different place than we were last Christmas and I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to maintain some semblance of tradition and familiarity among our ever-changing scenery. So here are a few favourite things that are keeping us all in the holiday spirit!

1) This old picture ornament of Ella. Our tree is filled with old photos that tell stories of our children. We carry them in a shoebox across oceans. And this one... I hardly remember her like this, as her personality today is as big as her eyes are brown. But I remember we were on holiday at my dad's and she had just woken from a nap, walking away from me in the April Kansas sun. She was simply golden.



2) Eastside Manor Christmas Sessions 2013. I'm always on the hunt for new Christmas music and was so excited to see several of my friends promote this folky album from Noisetrade. So far, so good.

3) Family coming for Christmas! I've been shouting near and wide how my Granny is coming for Christmas, 92 year old Eleanor the First. She's only been to Ireland once before and needed to make a return trip before her passport expires. And even though we'll be seeing her in May for my sister's wedding, and even though my mum was just here in August, I can't wait to open our doors wide to them early Thursday morning. I also can't wait for her French Silk Pie. That may or may not be the main reason we invited her. Just sayin'.

4) Family cinema parties. I love Christmas movies almost as much as I love to torture my children with Christmas movies. They always say they don't like Elf, but every year they sit all the way through it and laugh till the end.

5) Storytime snuggles with the two puppies.


What's on your plate this holiday season? Favourite Christmas album or movie? Favourite tradition? 

We are barking mad. Literally.

10 December 2013



One week ago I sat here pouring out the angst and heartache of having to break my children's hearts at Christmas. We were saying no to a dog and I typed the grave injustice of it all...

Today this dog snores on our landlord's loveseat, nose pointed in the air, her name Cocoa.

I should apologize first to my friends and father, whom I bombarded with tearful texts and questions and frustrations. Our life is normal, but it's also not. And the bumper-stickered car next door - "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas" - haunts me still. I'm not accustomed to making decisions "for life." I can hardly make decisions "for Monday." 

But after 48 hours worth of research and emotionally turbulent negotiations, we said yes to a dog anyway.

Ella hasn't stopped creating still-life portraits of her since. Our house is overflowing with Cocoa drawings. Four days in and we wake up early, to make sure she goes outside. Matt keeps her from climbing into bed with us at night. And we have four babies now lined up on the sofa (sticky hands on her head and her ears and her back left paw) watching cartoons after school. Asher is more puppy than she is and Matt says, "Now I feel like an adult."

How did this all happen? Life and work and house and dog in Ireland? I do not know, and yet I know it seemed to take forever. I know it was over 10 years of waiting and praying and mumbling Soon, Yes, Thank You over and over. I know we're not here without the very literal support - emotional and spiritual and financial scaffoldings, holding us ever higher and stronger - of hundreds of people. I know I wake up to a lurcher/terrier cross the colour of Bambie and ask, "Do you think we've all gone mad?"

My mother says, No. You've fulfilled a promise. And I don't say it then, only realizing it now: No, not us. But Him.

Oh, the story isn't over. Not by a long shot.

My anxiety is at an all time high with this crazy girl-pup. I didn't even think about the fact that we just emerged from babyhood only to find ourselves back to scheduling meals and toilet breaks. There are two dog beds in my house that are as-yet unused. I'm totally terrified of leaving her alone for any length of time. And Asher follows her around the house asking, "How I ride on her?" The amount of dog-related-including-picture texts I've sent is absolutely over the top. We've all become crazy over raisins, since apparently they're poisonous to dogs, and the wee pup next door has gone crazy with this new canine in her midst. They take turns barking and whining and the aforementioned fulfilled promise seems null and void in the midst of us actually choosing to ADD ANOTHER LIVING BEING to our everyday chaos. I'm already having visions and night sweats over placing her on a plane and taking her back to Kansas with us in a few years.

We are barking mad, I think.

But look at this face. I mean, really. Like this story was going to end (or begin) any other way.



Oh, by the way, just a couple of days left to check out my story over at The Iron Writer. Challenge ends tomorrow, so vote for your favourite today (at the bottom of the post)! I'm currently tied for first place!

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What crazy, night-sweats-inducing decision have you made recently? I'm contemplating cutting off all my hair if only to make the dog decision pale in comparison.

The Doctor of Naperville

05 December 2013

I didn’t think they existed, these men of magic and menace. At least, not here. And he’s not what I expected. 
He arrives in a trench coat, gray and damp from December’s drizzle. His collar is turned up and he stands near the door – my door – a less than imposing figure, looking more like an imitation Sherlock than a voodoo witch doctor. 
Spying from the kitchen counter, I stir cream in my coffee, slowly. His narrow frame is not tall. Hair trimmed close, the color of ash. He removes his coat with precision, revealing an argyle sweater and black slacks hemmed an inch too long. He turns my way and I drop the spoon nervously into the sink, the ting of metal on metal an embarrassed echo in the empty house.

So, yes, I'm trying my hand at fiction. Click on over to read the rest and if you like it, would love a wee vote. Ever grateful for your kind words and encouragement. xx

IMG_1073

Especially that girl, right there. That face screams encouragement.

What I'm Into {November 2013 edition}

01 December 2013



I'm in complete denial that the end of the year is inching ever closer. This year has been a lifechanger for us - literally - and I'm kind of sad to think of it being over, of starting anew. And you know how I get absolutely melancholy in the month leading up to Christmas. But all that's still to come. For now, we celebrate November and what a mad month it was in our little house (hint: cold & flu season).

READING

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, is a continuing source of inspiration and encouragement. I often laugh to myself reading it, and then upon Matt's queries, find myself rereading section after section aloud to him. I'm still working on this book (months after first mentioning it) because at the end of every chapter, I just have to dig into a keyboard or notebook.

The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte by James Tulley seemed promising. What really happened to all those lonely sisters? A handsome young man and mysterious poisonings? But the narration lagged in starts and turns every chapter and I found myself righteously indignant on behalf of the Bronte sisters for being subject to caricatures in someone else's sad stories.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This book was just... wow... I'm still ruminating on it. It's dark and clever and light and terrible and all told from the perspective of the bravest, saddest 7 year old boy I've ever come across. I was afraid to come back to this book after putting it down, and yet I couldn't not turn the page. I have a feeling the myth of the Hempstocks and all that happened on that lane will stay with me for years to come.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I want to love Flynn, as a fellow native Kansas Citian turned Chicago transplant. Like Gone Girl, I struggled with the personalities and motivations of every character, but was drawn into the dysfunction and the depth of murder in this scary small town. With only 30 pages left, I had to sneak a peak at the end just to quell the anxiety that seemed to rise within my chest with every turn of the page. Flynn is an amazing storyteller, even if her stories are of the devastatingly twisted variety.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth finally released and I gobbled it up in a day and half, and then spit it out. Oh, young adult fiction. You just aren't gonna match up to Hunger Games. Give your young people something new to chew on, not just governmental conspiracy after governmental conspiracy after governmental conspiracy. Oh, and what lies beyond the cruel fence beyond a post-apocalyptic Chicago? O'Hare Airport, of course! Sillies. Though I loved much of the Divergent series and especially appreciated the Chicago setting and complex family dynamics, I struggled to maintain an attachment to the narrative in the final book. The narrator changed nearly every chapter between two characters who were so alike I had to keep checking who was actually telling the story. And I found Four/Tobias sadly underdeveloped after a particularly promising start in Divergent. What say you?

In the queue: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, the Wool series by Hugh Howey and Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey (I'm late to the party on this one, but waiting until its release here in Ireland so I can underline the heck out of it and share it with my lady friends). 

TV

Did anything else happen this month besides the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special? Since we don't get BBC we indulged our inner nerds and saw Day of the Doctor in the cinema with 3D glasses and loads of adorably cute older men (and little boys) in bow ties. It was fantastic, as I knew it would be, and a fun cultural experience to be a part of. We've also been watching Spooks (aka MI-5) on Netflix, only furthering our belief that British dramas win at everything (Matt says it's like a British Alias, but better, to which I responded: "How dare you?!" and haven't spoken to him since).

MOVIES

I saw Blue Jasmine in the cinema, even though I'm not predisposed to Woody Allen. But Clate Blanchett, like always, was brilliant and the film left my heart achingly frustrated. And my friend Bronagh indulged me by participating in my annual viewing of You've Got Mail. Other than saving myself for Catching Fire (not yet seen as of this posting), our library loot includes The Conspirator, Lincoln and Despicable Me 2

MUSIC


Last week we finally cashed in my last birthday present and saw The Lumineers live in Dublin. It's slightly concerning to be of the mid-30s mindset where you wonder if you'll be the oldest at any particular thing. Nevertheless I put on my hipster shoes and skinny jeans, reminiscing about the good ole days where my sister and I would stand in line for 12 hours in the freezing rain for a chance to be "in the heart" for U2 in Kansas City, clapped with my man to Big Parade and sang loudly to Stubborn Love. They put on a great live show. My only complaint: their music is so succinct, many songs were over just as you started stomping your feet. :)

On iTunes repeat starting today: Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas and Silver & Gold, Arcade Fire's Reflektor, and revisiting a favourite: Everyone's Beautiful by Waterdeep.

THINGS I LOVE


  • Seeing Matt realize a life-long dream of visiting Berlin
  • Autumn's final song, nearly 3 months after the first red leaves dropped
  • Matt and I sharing chips and a burger from a food cart while queuing for a show
  • Getting our hibernating Christmas tree out of the attic
  • My very first time hosting Thanksgiving, especially for the lovely time with our American friends and colleagues here in our home.
  • Remembering CS Lewis on the 50th anniversary of his death. Of the two Irishmen who died on November 22 1963, I defer to Lewis, every time. His words have influenced the trajectory our life, our understanding of love and the hearts of our children who recognize the spirit of God in Aslan.
  • Road trips to familiar places
  • My new blog design
  • Writing class... so thankful for the people I met and the push I needed to try something new and risky
  • Trying my amateur hand at fiction
  • Skype dates and coffee dates and Ikea dates with friends, so many friends, everywhere. 
  • When the fever breaks and the smiles of the little ones return
  • Babysitters who love my kids
  • Studying, praying, learning peace for our 50 days of peace experiment
  • This post by Shauna Niequist on motherhood, calling and being fully alive in God: “What’s so sad is that when women fail to take their lives seriously, nobody wins. Our kids didn’t win. They got a devoted, conscientious mother, who picked up after them and made sure they got their homework done. They got a mother who adored them, prayed for them, always wanted the best for them. But they didn’t get a happy mother. They didn’t get a fun mother. They didn’t get to see, up close and personal, a woman fully alive in God."

For other things I love, make sure you visit me at Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I never take pictures of food; that's a promise.

ON THE BLOG

Most read post this month :: Doing the math :: thoughts on Jenkins, gambling and wealth
My favourite post this month :: How stupid gets washed away

SCRIPTURE

Turn your back on sin; do something good. 
Embrace peace - don't let it get away!
Psalm 34:14 {the message}

Linking up with...


What's been on your plate this month? Any good, new Christmas music out there?

Christmas cards for the indecisive with Minted

29 November 2013

I am notoriously indecisive. My husband can attest to the amount of time it takes me to choose between different options of mild cheddar cheese in the grocery-store dairy aisle. I weigh everything, and then I second guess my first, second and third instinct until an hour later I'm paralyzed by price per kilo and I grab three packages of string cheese and head for home.

So yeah, it's kind of an issue. Especially when it comes to design and even more so when it comes to Christmas cards. I want to be whimsical, yet organic; fun, yet elegant; timely, yet timeless. But most of all I want our family Christmas cards to be unique: a snapshot-peek into the values of our family and the importance of the season.

One might think perusing holiday card options over at Minted would put my indecision into hyperactive overdrive. I mean, really:




I wish I had designed this card. I also wish my children would sit this sweetly together for any length of time. This picture of my own children may not look so amazing with a Minted design, though it would at least improve it:


Remember our peace experiment? Calm-ish seems about right.



And not only are the designs beautiful, but I was surprised to discover Minted also gives you the option to personalize cards with different paper, borders or colours. They also have plenty of non-photo cards to choose from as well. This is so much better than perusing the Christmas card aisle in Target during this crazy shopping season. Oh, and they offer free envelope addressing.



My usual default to indecision is overpowered by the knowledge that the perfect design for sharing Christmas cheer from the Emerald Isle is in this batch of offerings. For our family, we're not looking for flash or loads of fonts. We want something that says, We miss you. Wish you were here.

And I love the ethos behind Minted:

Our mission is to find exceptional artists and designers all over the world and bring their work to consumers who appreciate great design.

So check out the selections at Minted if you're interested in trying something a little different for your holiday cards. Sadly, compliant children not included.

What say you? Do you send out Christmas cards? Photo cards? E-cards? 

Disclosure: this post is sponsored by Minted. I'm happy to partner with them because I value good design and supporting artists. The views expressed here are entirely my own. Visit my advertising page for more information.

How stupid gets washed away

22 November 2013



When I was nine I spent approximately three weeks laying on my hands in bed, sick to near-death from the chicken pox. My mom may dispute the three weeks claim. It could've been one, or it could've been five for all I knew in my state of delirium, but it seemed like an eternity's worth of Monkees and Brady Bunch reruns, interspersed with Ducktails and chicken noodle soup.

I was somewhat new to school at the time, in our first year back in Kansas after a year's exile in Missouri following my parents' divorce. It was a nice school in a nice neighbourhood, but I didn't like my teacher because she wore an unrealistic curly brown wig.

She was different like I was different and I hated being different, therefore I hated my teacher. 

I also didn't like the fact that I was put in a reading class for "special" readers. You know, the one where they put the children who struggle with dyslexia (most of whom didn't know it yet) or near-sightedness or speech-related issues. I suffered from none of the above, but I was new and anxiety-stricken and drew a lot of slightly disturbing sad faces, so I think they put me in this class to encourage me. This experiment - the "encouraging me experiment" - failed when, in week three of reading class, I walked in to find scrawled on the desk in freshly learnt script:

karen is stupid.

At the time there were two Karens in the class, though other Karen was actually spelled Karin, so I knew it was meant for me: Karen with an e. I was mortified. I was smart and I knew I was smart, but I felt stupid. All the time. The stupidness and the smartness had no relation in my mind, for my heart almost always ran ahead of my brains, the stupid feelings preempting the smart ones.

And here, of course, was proof. Someone had outted me, had seen it, too. Someone turned out to be other Karin: Karin with an i, a 5th grader with gorgeous blond hair.

So you can see how the chicken pox came as a relief.

This week has been the week of sick children. Asher went down first with the flu and today I've got a girl with a temperature in the living room. She's currently using a roll of craft paper as a telescope, and even though her cheeks are flushed and her throat is sore, she is exploring and experimenting and drawing, all from the edge of our sofa.

My kids are smart kids. Jack is light years ahead in reading and Ella is kicking math butt. They love school and the subjects they're studying, about Galileo and Florence Nightingale and the Irish word for pink (bándearg). We discuss all this - and how they're actually thankful for it! - on the way to kids club. In the mornings we pray over such things, asking to show a bit of the heart of Jesus by how we act and treat each other and learn from our teachers. They hop out of the car and run away from me smiling, laughing. School and science and Irish and maths... these are all stops on the adventure train; puppy show-and-tell, sometimes included.

I don't know how they ended up (or are starting up) this way. As Jack walked through his school gate this morning, I stared after him in slack-jawed awe. We grew a person!, I thought. An intelligent, loving, happy person. Though at times he feels fearful or frustrated or sad, he never feels stupid. He feels burdened for the people and the things around him, for his mum when she's overwhelmed or his dad when he's away from home or the rubbish along the side of the road. The heart-burdens are positives in his book and ours, and the confidence that's somehow embedded in his psyche had to come from somewhere. It sure didn't come from me.

The girl, too, even on the sick days: she knows she's awesome. Smart and creative, too. She never cleans her room, she spends hours with a nutella mustache like a garland round her lips, and she gets angry like you wouldn't believe if you stared into those big brown eyes for any length of time. But she embraces these things as proof of her brilliance. I want her to stay this way forever, to always feel this strength within her.

It's too soon to tell with Asher. He's still our surprise baby, a hazel-eyed mystery.

Twenty-six years later I write these things knowing this: the power of feeling stupid can be broken. It can be washed away by something more powerful and elusive than generational patterns. Inside their tender bodies my genes flow, but somehow smart and independent and free shine through. Stupid dims in the background, overcome by a sturdier ground they walk on.

There may be a kid or two who write the words of shame on their desks, but the words on their hearts are in fine print, a permanent warranty against the lies of this world. 

I have them, too, written by One who always knew I was more than a label on a desk. They lay dormant for awhile, blurred by circumstance or covered with the scribbled drawings of a chicken-pox infested nine-year-old girl. But they remain, long after crayon fades away.

***

How do you see your childhood self? More importantly, how did you cope with chicken pox?

Oozing peace when Jesus calls

19 November 2013

The eldest is preparing for a third appointment with the dentist in as many weeks. He's not actually had anything done yet, and though he's fairly happy-go-lucky about the "baby root canal" that's coming his way, the multiple delays and anticipation of the unknown have caused his sensitive heart a bit of anxiety. That's how he puts it:

I'm a bit anxious, he says.

Of course he is. There's a doctor and a shot and a drill (though we haven't exactly divulged that last point to him) and there's plenty of things that can cause him to lay awake in bed at night and be just a bit anxious.

Matt was gone over the weekend so our peace experiment was more like a peace mirage that hazily drifted before us on the horizon, a mere glimpse of something sweet. Yes, we had our occasional moments of togetherness and calming prayers, but it was hard to put into practice the idea of intentional peace when the little people outnumbered this one supposed adult. So the one thing we've managed to do (most nights) is read Jesus Calling together. I read it in the mornings and then we do the kids version at night.

And this book oozes peace.

After we read, as I pray over them and touch their shiny hair and beg God for good dreams instead of bad, I tell them: He's right here, you know. He is in this room and He guards you day and night. As all 10 years and 9 months of Jack look at me with a crinkled eye, saying, "I'm a bit anxious," we remember tonight's words:



Let My Spirit give you words of grace as you live in the Light of My Peace.

We are living in the Light of His Peace, I say, even in the anxious moments, the hard moments, the wild moments where two out of three of them are running circles around this house and the hacking coughs and giggling fits of the younger two overshadow the quiet doubts of the eldest.

Peace transcending understanding.

And in that moment, there on Jack's bed as we give thanks, we remember: He is so near; His peace always within reach.

***

I am no longer an amazon associate as Missouri has weird laws and we actually don't even live in the US anymore, so there's that. But I sing the praises of the books that sing to me, so there you have it. Is something singing to you of peace?

Asher has something to say

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[written before the cold/flu hit... he even pushed enter and moved the mouse around and told me not to touch it. A writer already.]

Five Friday Favourites

17 November 2013

Yes, it's Sunday. It's my blog and there are no rules. :)



1) Pumpkin! Shocking, I know. We have finally started harvesting our impressive six-pumpkin collection for consumption. So far we've made pumpkin soup (using a variation of this recipe), pumpkin bread and muffins, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie. And we STILL have 8 cups of pumpkin frozen in the freezer. I'm toying with trying this pumpkin mac & cheese recipe, and we're making sure we save enough to make pumpkin pie for an American Thanksgiving get-together later this month. I'm open to more suggestions!

2) The grand finale of Autumn colour. The eldest was due for a "baby root canal" on Tuesday, but when it was cancelled at the last minute, Matt and I jumped at the chance for a quick - and breathtakingly beautiful - morning walk through Phoenix Park. Even though Autumn begins early here, it seemed muted until just this last week. Everywhere we go now, the trees are on fire. We've even had a good bit of sun, almost making up for it setting before 5pm.



3) The Peace Experiment update :: So far, mostly good. I've been praying peace over our children before school, we've been sharing what we're thankful for during dinner, and we're all trying not to yell up and down the stairs at each other. I printed off these images to display around our home and above our kitchen table, and I've started a devotional on peace through YouVersion. Also, Jesus Calling for this week has been the perfect compliment to our growing focus on peacefulness. Of course, a couple of mornings have been a wash and the bedtime routine was wild whilst Dad was away, but we're aiming for intention over perfection.

4) What I'm Into. So the last few months I've been trying to do the monthly link-up What I'm Into with Leigh Kramer. This month she'll be having a giveaway for all those who participate in the What I'm Into for it's one year birthday! This is one of my favourite bloggery things to take part in, always inspiring me to read, listen to or try something new, write concise reviews and get to know new bloggers. You should do it, too!

5) Serve the City. Since moving back to Ireland, we seem to have hit our stride with life, school and work (we think, mostly), and one of the ways this is all syncing for us is through Serve the City. Matt's taken on a leadership role with STC Dublin and it seems to be a perfect fit, not just for his awesome man-skills, but also for our ministry philosophy: we want to see glimpses of God's Kingdom here on earth, and through serving the vulnerable in our city, we get to share a little bit of that Light and Hope. And by "we" I mean mostly Matt and the amazing STC leaders and volunteers. Matt spent the weekend in Berlin with STC leaders from around the world and it's so confirming and encouraging to see how the crazy puzzle pieces of our life are finally starting to fit.

That's it for me this week. How about you? What's been a favourite happening in your part of the world?

The peace experiment

12 November 2013



I have a little helper sitting next to me. It's the big kids' homework time, so he and I are doing our "work" upstairs on his bed, pressed up against his window, a gray sky our backdrop. He's tracing lines on the LeapPad, working on his writing, practicing how to hold a pen. The pincer grasp has been tough for him to master, so with each "good job" or "you're doing great!" he flashes me a crooked smile. He's four, and though primary school is less than a year away, I can't imagine him walking through giant glass doors, a tie around his neck and a crest on his chest.

After the mid-term break had finished and the morning angst of school days had come back to haunt our kitchen table, Matt and I wondered if there wasn't a better way to do this whole thing. The parenting, schooling, working, living, serving, loving type of thing. It's not like our lives are insanely busy. Our extracurriculars are at a minimum and the only thing that keeps our car moving in opposite directions is Matt's unorthodox work schedule and the school drop-off/pick-up puzzle. So when he said he thought we needed to "practice a month of peace," I laughed at him. What should we drop, then, I asked. We're already about as bare bones as you can make it, and still each morning we run around like headless chickens in search of coffee. How do we institute peace here when this is as calm as life will ever be?

The answer, we think, is not in doing less stuff. We still have to feed children and show up for meetings and do laundry every day. He's still in Dublin one day, Clare the day after, and I still hustle three children to three different schools twice a day. These things have to happen; we are already doing less stuff. But how we approach these necessities, and the broad stroke with which we allow our kids to work within them, needs some tweaking. Not twerking. Tweaking.

And, wouldn't you know, we're 50 days out from the New Year. Advent is fast approaching. And life - as it tends to do in the holiday crush - is about to get much more wild.

So our tweak is this: peace. Our intention is to infuse peace in our daily, little acts of chaos.

Not just for us, but for the children, too. We want them to treat each other with gentleness, responding to conflict in peace, and they will learn this from us as we model it. I'm assuming. Hopefully.



We need peace during homework and at the dinner table and in the back seat of the car on the way to church. We need peace at bedtime and bathtime and quiet time here on Asher's bed. And we need peace in this city and in this country and in the queue at the shop. And we wait for the Prince of Peace, the way we do every year, except that we usually forget about Him till the last minute. On Christmas day He arrives with guests and gifts and we think, "Oh, there You are. I totally forgot You were here." And for the Christ-follower to forget that Jesus brings peace? That is not the way I want to go about life.

I don't know how this is all going to work, but we're thinking of some ways to institute peace. We are starting to be mindful of the loudness we live with and how to quiet the noise. We are asking for words and Scripture and prayers that speak of peace. We want it to fill the rooms in this house and overflow into the streets, infuse every interaction and conversation we have with those around us. That's our hope anyway. And along the way, I'll share some bits of it with you. You and I can sort some of it out here, define peace and peacefulness and peacemaking... and figure out if it's even possible in a family filled with strong personalities and at least one mildly destructive streak.

This is our peace experiment, for these next 50 days, plunging head-first into the most wonderful and chaotic time of year. And today we begin with Ash and I on his bed. Him and his LeapPad and me right here, writing to you, giving brother and sister some peace while they do their homework.

Oh, and you should know: this isn't a blog project, another 31-days-type challenge. Matt and I want to do this for us and for our kids and for the family and home we want to nurture. Sharing here along the way will help keep me accountable, though there will be other stuff happening on these pages, too. And when it all goes to pot in like three days, I'm sure you'll find me back here lamenting my lack of follow through and my usual lazy mom ways.

Or we can just forget I ever said anything. Deal?

***

How peaceful is your home, family, relationships? What white noise is clouding your blue sky?

Doing the math :: thoughts on Jenkins, gambling and wealth

08 November 2013

So just as I was about to hit publish and was following up with proper links, I saw Jerry Jenkins responded just today to one article. I appreciate this lengthy, quite open and frank letter. Thank you for sharing it with us, Jerry.

***

And now an update on something that will only interest you if you grew up in the American Christian subculture of the 1990s. Yes, I'm going to talk about Jerry Jenkins and gambling. If these words mean nothing to you, feel free to move on to This American Life or Real Simple or something.

Ok, everybody else still here? Welcome Moodies, youth group friends, and Mom. Let's recap:

A few weeks ago World Magazine published an article on Jerry Jenkins and his frequent past-time of playing poker for money. The article quoted Jenkins - chairman of the Board of Trustees for Moody Bible Institute and best-selling author of the oft maligned, though still popular Left Behind Series - saying,

"… You can do the math. I’ve sold 70 million books. So to break even making $8,000 playing poker, it’s kind of pocket change for me.”

This article pushed a couple of long-simmering buttons for me, as it did for many others, particularly fellow alumni of Moody. But gambling isn't one of them. Though I'm not particularly keen on the "sport" of gambling, Jenkins would claim what he plays is a "game of skill." 

“I don’t play for what I would consider significant amounts of money. And I wouldn’t gamble, either. I mean, I don’t play slots,” he said.

It can be argued he is in fact gambling if he's winning (or losing) $8,000 worth of pocket change from his opponents. But again, that alone is not the soul of the troubling issues this article brings to light. 

My uncomfortableness rests in three things:

1) The double standard Moody seems to place on its students, staff and trustees, setting forth strict codes of conduct based on (or implied by) biblical principles for students and staff (gambling, for one, is strictly prohibited; other activities such as drinking, smoking and movie-going are also prohibited for students) while the trustees enjoy no such prohibition. See also The New York Times article 'In Culture Shift, Evangelical College Lifts Alcohol Ban.'

Asked whether Jenkins’ hobby might send a mixed message to students, Regnerus said the school expected students to recognize matters of Christian liberty, while abiding by rules meant to accommodate families and churches with stricter convictions. 
“Moody is aware that Jerry Jenkins participates in poker, which is not prohibited in Scripture,” Regnerus said. He added the school does not have an official position that would clarify whether it considers poker to be gambling.

This exchange was frustrating, and though it may very well have been unintentional, to many former students it seemed misleading and disingenuous. Yes, Jesus doesn't mention poker. But the student life guide does. And while the weaker brother argument is a valid one - not wanting to discourage or discriminate against students who may come from more conservative or traditional faith traditions - it seems untoward to expect students to respect the Christian liberty of the men whose names are on the buildings and make the decisions for the student body. After all, they are the ones making rules for the students that they themselves do not abide by.

2) In the World article, Jenkins admits an attempt to hide his poker playing from the Chicago-area Christian community. 

“It’s too close to Chicago. I serve on the board of Moody, so I wouldn’t want to cause any embarrassment to anybody if they had a problem with that. … I live in Colorado, so if I play it’s outside the Midwest.”

I fail to understand his reasoning. If he's not gambling, as he says, then why hide it? And if Moody doesn't have a problem with its trustees gambling, whom would he embarrass? He's also been known to enjoy this game of skill with James MacDonald, a Chicago-area pastor and co-author of Jenkins' latest book. Both men are extremely well-off financially, supported by the same community they're hiding from.

3) The most troubling aspect of the article was the perceived posture of Jenkins, who refers to himself as being "flush," refers to the money he's gambled, lost and won as "pocket change," and states that playing in a casino where his son is a dealer is the only way he's able to interact with non-believers.

“Frankly, were it not for poker, we would hardly ever rub shoulders with unsaved people.”

What concerns me most is his flippant disregard for people and resources. What is pocket change to him is nearly double one month's salary for a middle-class family in the US, and it could very well be the difference between life or death in many parts of the world.

It's not just that he's a high income earner. There are many wealthy people who practice good stewardship and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability. But it's the idea that someone who so easily plays away - or, conversely, takes away - large sums of money as a means of "ministry" is a gatekeeper and leader of the modern evangelical church movement in America, shaping future pastors, teachers, bible study leaders, worship leaders, and - yes - missionaries.



Many of these students, alumni, teachers and donors are in the trenches: caring for those in need, leaving the comforts of home to live in the developing world, flying planes filled with food and medicine into the jungle, ministering to and sharing Jesus with prison inmates or preschool moms or the orphan or the homeless. Or any other number of ways Christ-followers choose to share his love with others. We look to people like Jenkins or MacDonald to show us the way of Jesus. A better way. I simply struggle to find the spirit of love Jenkins may share as he takes their money from the table. "Blessed are the poor in Spirit?"

Anyway.

After sharing these frustrations via Twitter, a representative of Moody Radio contacted me and kindly forwarded my email to Moody. It was lengthy and I probably went off the handle a bit and asked them if the president of Moody, someone Matt and I deeply respect, had any response. No, he didn't.

But Jenkins did, again through Moody's PR manager.

"I love Moody Bible Institute more than I can fully express. Having been a student here in the 1960s, then editor of MOODY magazine and finally vice president for Moody Publishers as an employee of more than 30 years, and having the privilege of serving this wonderful organization on its Board of Trustees, the last thing in the world I ever wanted was for my personal activities to bring harm or embarrassment to this place that I love." 
"I never perceived my playing poker to be anything but a hobby, but I see now that it is inconsistent with my role as a Moody Trustee. I viewed it as something I was free to do, but on reflection I understand that the negative aspects of the commercial gaming industry taint any association with public card playing, regardless of my intent." 
“I am sorry for this error in judgment and for the harm I have caused. I ask your forgiveness and ask that you pray that I would be found worthy of the great privilege and high calling I have been given as Moody's chairman of the Board. Thank you."

We, too, love Moody more than we can express. It gave us eachother, refined our callings and honed our gifts. It gave us brilliant friendships with students and with faculty that still ring true and run strong. We go back frequently and reminisce, showing our children where we first met and which dorm I lived in and how we sat on Culby 2 with all of our floor-mates watching the series finale of Seinfeld. In the spirit of full disclosure, we maybe even stroll through the tunnels where we would sneak an illicit kiss between class.

We have wonderful, beautiful memories and in so many ways, Moody gave us the life we have. It's not a life like Jerry Jenkins has, and I hope he understands that. The students he's leading may very well choose a different way.

People over things, and a posture of love.

I find myself in a daily struggle with obedience in the pursuit of those callings. A good, painful struggle; a different type of game of skill. And I hope to share more about it here, with you, soon.

If these banks are going to burst

07 November 2013



So by now you've probably noticed a few changes around here. I've been a longtime admirer of Carrie Loves and somehow managed to win one of five blog templates she was giving away. Carrie let us choose our own template and then graciously worked with me on the colour scheme and any technical difficulties. You'll also find some new buttons and links to the side, showing you around the place a bit more. I hope you like the new look as much as I do... I find it calming, yet spirited and inspiring.

I also wanted to thank you for all the visits, comments and encouragement for my #31days series: at home in Ireland. It was such a treat to share more about our newish life here, show you around our home and hear some of your own stories. I had no idea I had such strong feelings on laundry, heated water and European fashion!

Now that October is over, this area of my life feels a bit spent. I'm tired of writing about moving, transitional struggles or being done with childbearing (I'm sure you're tired of reading about it, too!). And I'm looking forward to writing about other things, though they may not end up here. I'll still be around, posting a couple of times a week; I'm just not sure about what yet, and I have no idea the direction it will take. It'll still be a river into words, it'll still be a poem to the King, there will still be some occasional yelling. But I may be trying something new...

Do you like how non-commital and non-specific I'm being? Yeah, that's how my brain feels, too: an unruly tide of ideas, unable to focus on anything particular, falling quickly on one notion before flitting off in the opposite direction.

If these banks of my heart are going to burst, I want to spill beauty. I'm hoping November will give these things room to swim, and I'll be able to share the process here with you.

But now I must jet as I'm off to a final creative writing class celebration. We're a great gang of mums and grand-dads and storytellers and friends. Yes, I think we're all friends, now. And writers, too.

We are gathered under His light :: at home in Ireland

31 October 2013



Yesterday we took that wee trip to Lough Key, rain lashing down on us half the time; the other half scattered with sun. We listened to a Harry Potter book on tape, there and back, laughing at Stephen Fry's voice inflections, cheering for Ireland in the Quidditch World Cup.

The wee lad napped twice and the girl bought a pumpkin and the eldest decided hiking was a fun adventure after all. We also had a near-death experience on an old metal elevator, leaving me breathless and weak-kneed for the better part of an hour. We ate greasy food at an Irish fast-food joint and we raided a tidy little organic cafe in search of the loo. We ordered tea for two and mined stories from the kids: if they remembered our last visit, how Asher was only 8 months old, how Matt held the other two in the crook of a tree. Dusk comes fast this time of year and by the time we reached home at 6pm, the pitch blackness was overshadowed by a warm kitchen welcoming us back. Home. Back home.

And now as I write, a child is in the bath and one cleans his room and another one makes art projects she learned from a friend. It rains sideways, again, and the writing nook frames the oranges and reds and greens waving beyond our windows. The afternoon is mostly calm, gearing up for the Halloween rush and I'm just now able to sit back and watch... listen... as our life finds its rhythm.

Several weeks ago we read Jesus Calling to the kids. Life is an adventure with God, she hears Him say, and while anxiety and frustration and impatience lie in wait, we need only look for Him, listen for Him, to know that He is in it and with us all the while. There are no coincidences, only His orchestrations, or - as Andy Crouch calls it - full catastrophes, this beautiful dissonance of human existence.

For the children, and for us, it often goes unsaid and forgotten, misplaced in the chaos, hidden under school lunches and behind toy boxes. But in this month and the days of writing these words of home and life and power showers and tears in the McDonalds drive-thru, I see Him in it.

Familiar mums hold my place. A child curls up against the radiator. Matt off to work, dedicated to restoration. We revisit the places of our past, make memories for the future and open our doors for people to sit and eat and rest awhile. We place a pendant over the kitchen table and gather under it's light for dinner.

Today is the last day of our writing class and a man reads a poem they all know well. At the end of each stanza they recite the lines together, heads nodding in unison, laughing,

A pint of plain is your only man.

Can't you see Him in everything? 


 

Thank you for joining me in these 31 days at home in Ireland
Maybe you should come visit... I'll put the kettle on for you. Just in case.
But before I go, tell me: where do you see Him, in anything?

Day trips from our doorstep :: at home in Ireland

30 October 2013



This week is mid-term break for all students in Ireland. Like Spring Break for our North American friends, we enjoy a week off in Autumn with nothing to do but kill time until school starts up again. I'm only half joking, but it's true. I'm that mom who loves when school is in session. When it's out and we're all home and under the same room all week/christmas/summer, I go a little stir crazy and the kids go a little wild. There are many wii games, toy fights and time outs. And that's not even counting all the shenanigans the kids get up to. :)

So in honour of mid-term break, and to find something not-screen-based to do, Matt and I are planning a wee day trip for this week. When we remember how small Ireland is (just over two hours drive from Dublin to Galway; a little over 5 hours from Cork to Derry), we're amazed when comparing it to the days long road trips we enjoy (endure) in the US. Some of the most amazing natural wonders are within a half day's drive from our doorstep. That's pretty impressive, and overwhelming. How do we even decide where to go?

Our highly specific criteria?

  • Must not require getting up and/or leaving early.
  • Must involve playground or other such free-kid-friendly activity.
  • Must be home within an hour of proper bedtime.
  • Must enjoy only one meal out; bring food and snacks for any other meals.
  • Must make memories.


Apart from that, anything goes. We load up on water, books, rain coats and wellies (you never know) and hit the road. And here's just a peek into some of the destinations we've already discovered:

1) Cliffs of Moher. This is kinda the proto-typical tourist destination of Ireland. We hit the Cliffs during our first go-round here, and though the weather was manic and the kids were more interested in the cows than the landscape, the clouds parted and a rainbow appeared just as we arrived. Though we could make this a day trip, there are fantastic B&Bs and other gorgeous sights to see. Including...

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2) The Burren. Not far from the cliffs is this amazing moon-like landscape where the rock replaces soil and wild flowers grow from deep beneath the stoney cracks. For a family of rock scramblers, this region is the best. Wild and strange and beautiful. There are also several old ring forts and ancient tomb-like things to explore.

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3) Avoca. The village of Avoca is found just within the Wicklow Mountains to the south of Dublin and is where the original workshop of the Avoca Handweavers is found. It is absolutely breathtaking in the autumn, with trees turning and the meeting of the waters and a great little village to go exploring in. Plus, any time you can enjoy tea and scones at an Avoca Cafe, you simply have to take advantage of it.

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4) Belfast. When we first lived here, we were just an hour and a half from Belfast City. We would venture up north for outlet shopping, seaside arcade towns, and the aforementioned Chili's in Victoria Square. The city centre is easily walkable and I've heard it currently boasts a fantastic Titanic exhibit.

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5) Lough Key. Tree bridges, lake and castle facade thingy. This was our last day trip before moving back to the US and it is where we're headed today. Can't wait!

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Hope this inspires you to explore the natural wonders that may be just beyond your doorstep!

 
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