What I'm Into (July 2013)

31 July 2013

July was insane. Just insane. There was a road trip out west and camogie and serve week and computer camp and days without end where we stayed in pajamas for 24 hours straight (and then some). Summer always knocks me on my rear, and this one appears to be no exception. So before we hop on a plane, leave the kiddos behind with some family, do some more work and prepare for the next school year to start in 29 days (what? I'm not counting!), here's what I'm into:


Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver :: This is the first giant novel I've tackled in a long time and I'm nearly done. Oh, I really like this one, like experiencing the rhythms of nature through the eyes of the Appalachian female and how we're more animal than we realize.

Coming up...

I've checked out The Astronaut Wives Club and Painted Ladies for our trip to Germany next week. And the husband is requesting I attempt to read Tangible Kingdom again. Actually, I've started reading it multiple times, attended the conferences, bought the t-shirt and I'm all-in, I'm just lousy at reading non-fiction, particularly church/work non-fiction. Stay tuned.


We are almost done with Doctor Who! Just three more episodes and we'll be all caught up for the 50th anniversary. Have to tell you, though, not really loving it right now. It's like a first love that you're head over heels for and then you realise he's not funny all the time, and he yells at his sister, and maybe you got too serious too fast... I may be taking this all too seriously.

Other things on the telly/netflix... Portlandia (Season 3), The Americans (it's like Alias, but with Cosby sweaters, 80s music, and a super-mean Felicity), and New Girl (finally watched season finale, and... meh).


Silver Linings Playbook :: Finally got a chance to sit Matt down and force-feed this to him. Like a good man, he loved it just as much as I told him he should.

Saving Private Ryan :: I forgot how every single male actor in Hollywood was in this movie. I also forgot how melodramatic the soundtrack was. And how much I love Tom Hanks.

American Gangster :: Love this movie. Denzel is scary and Russell is the ultimate flawed hero.


On repeat... The Swell Season, Mumford & Sons, Waterdeep Worship.


This video (and article) of The Civil Wars made me feel all sad. Beautiful, haunting, sad.



Sunsets over the ocean
Rare thunderstorms
Family coming to visit
Making new friends
Reading in an actual book made of paper
Collecting my happy kids after a day of camp
The "unrelenting sun"
Rain returning
Walks in the evening with our crew
Kiddos stargazing and a crackling fire

We are all so beautiful (most-read)
Roundabout Russian Roulette (my fave)

So how about you? What were you into this month?

Note: links include amazon affiliates. if you click over and purchase, i may get a nickel or two. eventually. :)

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Brought to you by the link-up at Hopeful Leigh

Five Friday Favourites

26 July 2013

1) Duh. My sister's engagement! Jessica & Nathan got engaged last weekend and are planning a Memorial Day Weekend 2014 wedding. So excited for them and also already planning our American Holiday. :) Can. Not. Wait.

2) Palace Talks Signing with Record Machine... :: Speaking of Nathan, he owns a small record label out of Kansas City and here is a fantastic article about one of his bands, Palace, and their relationship with Nathan and his label. I don't want to gush, so I'll let the band do it for me.

3) Take Courage | Jennifer Ebenhack :: An old college friend and I have reconnected online through our blogs and I love it! Jen and I were both Kansas girls in the Moody Chorale, and then she found herself in Haiti, living and ministering through a 9-year adoption process culminating in the Port-au-Prince earthquake. She is encouraging, thoughtful and vulnerable. Please go visit her blog and give her some love.

4) Fox Books Files For Bankruptcy | The Onion :: Sad news from the Upper West Side. Fox Books, "...once known as the “Big Bad Wolf” for its ability to put independent bookstores out of business by wooing customers with its sharp discounts and designer coffee," has filed for bankruptcy. I can't speak for everyone, or the Little Shop Around the Corner, but I will miss never actually stepping foot inside this imaginary mega bookstore. Save Fox Books? [i love that this article combines some of my favourites lines from You've Got Mail, including "the lone reed," "bottles of olive oil," and "Jeffersonian purity." :) ]

5) Computer Camp :: This is the eldest, our proud computer geek. For as wild and fast as his sister is, he is reflective, creative and focused. He's already started his own blog (just for family and close friends, at the moment) and has hopes for becoming a writer, an artist, or a video game designer. Whatever he ends up being, I'm so glad there are programs and activities out there for him!

So those are my top five for this week! If you've got your own Friday favourites, comment below. Or write your own blog post - if you do, you can use this handy button to join in on the Friday fun!

The River Into Words

Give me your blah

24 July 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.


Ok, so it's probably just me, but do you ever just feel blah? About parenting or work or marriage or whatever? 

Dear Sister {On your engagement}

22 July 2013


Dear Sister,

I've had tears in my eyes all weekend. Dumb ocean. Of course I missed the 2 am (and then the 3am) texts. Of course cell reception would be bad. Of course I wouldn't hear your voice tell me those sweet words. Of course your world would be sleeping, while mine would be rejoicing, wanting to shout from rooftops.

Of course, none of that matters.

Ella is fine wearing a dress, she wants you to know that. Matt told Jack, who came downstairs twinkling, giving his own play-by-play to the others. I sat on the couch with my coffee, blinking away the happiness, the melancholy of being separated. It's bittersweet, just a bit, but so much more sweet than I can fathom.

You will be a wife soon. A wife!

Oh, we have prayed for that man. Knowing God could only create a wonder, someone who would be good enough for you, someone who could match your creativity and your joy and still joke about your tall forehead. Only those of us who love you best could understand that, and we're all in on the joke because it shows how much he loves you. Just you. For you.

We toasted you last night. Because you are worth celebrating, not just for the engagement, but for your past and present and future. For how God made you and how He knows you. For Nathan and the adventures you will have together. For the joy and wonder (perseverance and patience, too) we know is coming. And for the little art-cultivating, music-playing, people-loving babies that may come your way.

For all of it.

So Sister, here's to you. On your engagement. Even from afar, three cheers to you and your fella. Hip Hip... 



I write letters to my sisters, both the God-given ones and the blood-tied ones. Letters for the regular days and for the totally-amazing-non-regular-in-every-way days. This day was one of the latter... more of both, though, are still to come.

Five Friday Favourites

19 July 2013

1) 32 birthday gift ideas for girls who don't like princesses :: I remember, before she was born, praying for our sweet little girl and asking God to make her however He wanted her. I prayed she would feel free to be or do or go wherever, that she would never feel hemmed in by her gender or her age or her circumstance. I want her to be fierce, God, I prayed. Fierce and wild and strong. And He said, Sure thing, Karen. So that's how we got Ella. I love this list of birthday ideas for non-girly girls, which will help immensely when her 7th (7?!) birthday rolls around in October. Thanks, Rookie Moms!

2) Mornings with my boys :: Matt's been working an actual normal schedule this week, and with Ella @ Camogie Camp, just me and the boys have been chillin'. These guys... they play hard and fight hard, and Jack is so patient with Ash, and Ash is so in love with Jack. "My brother!" they both cry, frequently, in good times and bad. Love them.

3) Date nights in the garden :: You know how people say, "You should do regular (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, whatever) date nights. Married people need date nights!"? Well, they're right - we do need date nights. But the euros required for actual date nights are few and far between. So we do date nights with Doctor Who on the couch. Or we do date nights in the twilight of the back garden. This week we sat back there, after the kids were in bed and the daylight waning, and we listed our missed things, well-loved things from back home. Top of the list: the people (family, friends, Crossroads, community group), then places (River Market, our park in the city, the Grand Balcony), then food (ohhh, Margaritas, how I need you!). It was bittersweet, but good to remember. And truly, we have traded quite nicely. Date nights in the garden... what will we do in winter?

4) What Missional Communities Do :: An acquaintance on Facebook shared this, and it's totally our jam:
What Missional Communities do:
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again. 

Isaiah 58:12 {The Message}
5) #IrishHeatwave :: Want a dose of happy? Search the instagram hashtag #irishheatwave. We may not have any air conditioning, nary an outdoor swimming pool or splashpad, but we've got beaches and oceans and loads of shiny happy people frolicking in this unbelievable weather. Thanks, God, for your good common grace.


Ok, that's my list. What's yours? 

Camogie Camp, a restropective

I watch for her, sweaty children in masks making their way from the clubhouse. Her pink backpack precedes her and I wait, anxious: Did she make it ok? Sid she stay dry? Did she love it? As she turns, her frown confirms my worst fears. Slowly, she makes her way towards me, her arm juts out, middle finger upturned in my face. Oh no! I think, Already? She's turned on us already? It takes a moment for the flesh-coloured bandaid to register. "I got hit," she says. That's a relief!

Fumble. She goes missing for a few minutes in the locker room whilst I wait outside, camera in hand, to take a picture of her with helmet and hurl and smile on her face. I find her crying on the bench inside, knee banged up, all determination and joy gone. We cuddle for awhile, get her helmet fitted, take a couple of very sad photos, then the smile returns. This picture is for Papa, I say.

ella @ camogie

The boys and I arrive early to catch a glimpse of our little camogie darling. It is hot as all get-out and it's hard to find her in a sea of small people with caged helmets and green uniforms. Finally we spot her and watch her stand there, walk aimlessly for a bit, and then break out in a dance when her team scores. "Did you see me make a point?!" she asks. "I saw your team get a point, " I say, afraid I'd just burst her bubble. "Oh yeah, that's what I mean!" Joy undeterred. She is pink as a grapefruit.

"I scored 100... no... 1000!" ...Questionable.

We are now both adept enough to get her helmet securely on, and we take action shots for the family back home. I promise to arrive early to catch a few minutes of her last match. But... I get that sinking feeling all parents get when they drive into a parking lot only to see it completely full, knowing that you must've missed something. Sure enough, it's the award ceremony. I spot her in the middle of the huddle, all shiny and exhausted. And when she finds me, I get two big thumbs up. She is wearing green, white and orange. Her new colours, and one shiny medal.


So this is what we did this week... plus drama workshop, plus grocery runs, plus temper tantrums in car parks, plus sun sun sun. What did your week look like?

Wordless Wednesday (out west)

Five Friday (and/or Saturday) Favourites

13 July 2013

A day late, but here are the goods:

1) yankee BAKER :: Our friend Sheryl is running a fabulous little bakery business out of her home in Dublin. For our anniversary, we enjoyed her amazing cinnamon rolls and I'm sure we'll be frequent customers (and weight gainers). If you're local, please visit her page and order some tasty treats!

2) Loop Head :: One of the perks to our job is we can frequently "take our kids to work," especially when we are visiting other members of our organization. So this week we grabbed the fam and visited a coworker on the west side of Ireland. She was so gracious to show us around and let our kids explore a bit this beautiful area. At one point it felt like we had reached the edge of the earth. So remote, so beautiful, up high on the edge of the sea. Thankful for moments like this that keep us refreshed.

3) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society :: After five years of this sitting on my shelf, I finally read this quick, enchanting novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Set in the aftermath of World War II, the characters were so rich, funny and endearing, and the unfolding history of this literary society was surprisingly profound. Especially after visiting Loop Head this week, I could so envision the Channel Islands and the community of Guernsey. I want to go to there.

4) This video mashup of The Lumineers' Ho Hey and Will Ferrel's impersonation of Harry Caray.

5) Compassion on Instagram :: Celebrating their 2nd anniversary on Instagram, Compassion International is sponsoring a Photo Scavenger Hunt. Through the end of July, you can participate by capturing an image of one of several items including - but not limited to - a baby scale (representing their Child Survival Program), a flag of one of the nations where Compassion works, a goat or cow (representing the livelihood of the developing world), a stethescope, and many more. I've just joined Instagram for android and am already bummed I missed so many cow picture opportunities on our trip out west. :) For more image ideas and how to enter, visit Compassion's Blog. And don't forget to use the hashtag #compassionhunt. And if you're not on Instagram, no worries! You can also join in on Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. Oh, and did I mention there are prizes...?

Ok, so what are you up to this week? Any favourites?

Dear Sister {Roundabout Russian Roulette}

10 July 2013

Dear Sister,

There's a game I like to call Roundabout Russian Roulette, wherein your car stalls right after you drive through a roundabout. You sit your car there in the left lane (right lane, for you), watch the bevy of cars come at you in the rearview mirror, and wait. The game ends either when a car hits you or a tow truck comes to rescue you. You can also forfeit the game by leaving said car, stranding it alone in traffic or in the hands of another player.

Well, I played Roundabout Russian Roulette for about an hour one day.

I tell myself it wouldn't have been so bad had Asher not been with me. Or if Matt had. Or if our mobile phone service had been working (on the morning it acquired another mobile company, thereby making it the most powerful phone company in all the land; the irony is not lost on me).

But the truth is, no matter how many players were in the game or what rules we had to play by (I couldn't even phone a friend!), I would've lost my crap anyway. And I did. I lost it. I mean crying hot tears of abandonment and ordering Jesus to HELP ME.

Asher, good sport that he was, kept his cool, offering ocassional anecdotes and waving to the angry cars as they passed us by. "I love chicken nuggets," or "It just needs a battery," or "Why your phone not working?" My screams and abuse of the steering wheel didn't seem to alter his good mood in the least.

Sixty long minutes, many unanswered phone calls and one order of curly fries later (the ill-fated drive thru which precipitated this dangerous game offered me at least one consolation), Matt and the ever dependable Tom arrived. I passed the baton to the more able-bodied spouse, forfeiting my lot and speeding off with Tom, Asher and Cyclops (toy) to collect the big kids from school. Matt survived the game, too, when two hours post-hence a tow truck arrived.

And our car? Oh, it won the game of Roundabout Russion Roulette without a scratch. The actual diagnosis that left me stranded in the first place? IT RAN OUT OF GAS! In shame I hang my head thinking about it, though it did afford us some friendly ribbing from the mechanic and the minor cost of some labour and a full tank.

The only casualty in this game of dare was Matt's poor finger, the tip sliced off in the euphoria of post-victory dinner prep.

In hindsight, the finger now healing and the car back where it belongs, I remember how I literally demanded Jesus to help me. How I hyperventilated and lost all the cool and level-headedness I ever had (not much to begin with, anyway). I remember how silent it was in the car, just me and the crying and heavy breathing, no discernible movement from God to coach me through. I would've prefered the loud grunts of Bela Karolyi in that moment to the holy silence that seemed to surround me. I remember the momentary relief in surviving one minor catastrophe only to replace it with another.

But, but... because you, Sister, are not here to lean on in these moments, we have no choice but to reach out for others. And they met us here, in spades. Tom and so many others, in prayers and school runs and trips to the ER and kindness, kindness, filling us to the brim.

It's such a small thing, to feel a brief bit of holy silence in a broken down car.

It's such a big thing, to see Jesus in so many, running with us, towards the finish line.

I hope I can be that for the next one, whomever it is, when he or she is stuck in the game of Roundabout Russian Roulette. Hold me to it.

Miss you,

I write letters to my vast array of Sisters (and occasional Brother). Because I'm terrible at real correspondence, and because they are really here with me, even if not geographically. Win or lose, what was the last game you were forced to play?

No fear for cold

09 July 2013

family on the green

For someone who says she hates summer, I am certainly head over heels for it today.

For today, all day, it is hot enough to languish in the sun. To wear shorts and hang load after load of laundry. To lay out a blanket and call it a picnic.

Asher comes in, in the early morning, declaring he's a "naked baby" (again; this is fairly common), and we don't mind. Because it's hot. He's three weeks toilet trained, now, so he and his underwear are good friends. The little nautical striped briefs go everywhere. He uses them as a holster. As a tool belt. As a power ranger thingy-whatever-that-is. Legos stick out from the sides and a plastic blue toy he uses as a phone. He is a naked baby, all day, no fear for cold.

Last summer, when the heat was so bad, bearing down on us like hell in humidity, there was no escape. No yard/garden to run willy-nilly in. Nowhere to run but up to the north woods. We were encased, pent up like animals in heat, so exhausted from sun we dare not open a curtain.

But this year, we fling the windows wide, airing out a long winter. We spend all day outside (OK, some of the day outside; there was still Wii-playing and video-watching). We get out the hose and let the kids have a run through it; her clothes dripping wet, she drops them on the spot and up on the line they go. We picnic in the back garden, hot dogs spilling into grass. 

I know too soon this will be over, and last week will return next week, when mist came in through the windows and I sat in this very chair contemplating my collection of scarfs instead of sweating under the sun. Today I guzzle cold water for I know next week I'll be nursing hot tea. Probably. Maybe.

Or it could stay like this forever.

This week, the country feels magical. Everyone is giggly; I can hear it on the road and from the houses. Grown adults eat popsicles in the street. The radio announcers thank their American guests, sure this weather can only come from the New World. We chat over the fence to our neighbours, the woman at the till remarks at the luck.

So sunny, so warm, so much summer for such an island as Ireland.


Linking up with Heather of the EO and Just Write.

A holy strangeness

08 July 2013

2013-05-19 10.50.44

Here is my current psychosis:

Moving across the ocean is a drop in the bucket compared to visiting a new church for the first time. Which is too bad, really, as it's in the job description right now. Visit churches, meet people, listen to their stories, see what God is doing. I love all those things, except the visit churches part, which I hate. Super hate.

I wake up late and grumpy. I put on my dour face. I stare in the mirror for long stretches. I am short with the children. I am angry with Matt. I get in the car feeling all the feelings. I stare out the window in search of a way out. I literally drag my feet.

Being new, feeling different, being conspicuous, looking lost... this is what I do and am and look like every day! I don't know the songs or the rhythm. I don't know where our children go or when to stand or sit. In the shops or the school yard, at the meetings or in the church. I don't know anything at all.

It is a holy strangeness, feeling called by God to do something that requires you do something that you really don't want to do. In fact, even if you want to do it, you feel really bad at doing it. You have nothing of yourself to give or offer that will enable you to do it. You are almost certain that you will fail at doing it.

And so, we offer up our complete incompetence. 

We ask, be my strength in spite of me. 

We admit, I hate this, God, is that ok? 

We say, You are enough when I am nothing.

We pray, You are here and we are Yours.

And we sit in the pew (or the back garden or under the covers) and wait for Him to show up. Which He does, always does. 

Turns out, He was just waiting for you this whole time. Even in church.


What was the last thing you really didn't want to do?

We are all so beautiful

05 July 2013

I've mentioned this before, how she sends us pictures. We come home to a small white envelope, a letter detailing her parade outing (she was the grand marshall), the weather report (hot and dry), and pictures from my childhood. I cringe at the bangs, the perm bordering on child cruelty, my penchant for hats.

I think, no wonder she's sending these to me. Who would want to remember those dangling bow earrings?

My mother's always been good to keep her up to date with photos. Tiny albums filled with baby cousins and weddings and distant relations we may only see in heaven. They do their time on her coffee table, eventually finding their way back to me, or my sister, or any of us. We trade and laugh and remember what the heat felt like on bare, prepubescent legs. Where grandpa would hide the Easter eggs. Football in the school field.

And among the memories and the photos and the dangling bow earrings, there is always a gem. A forever moment. I am in her arms as a newborn, the sun is setting. Her hair is as it always is, only darker, she is so young. The image greets me several times a day, sitting in the windowsill at the top of the stairs.

She is so beautiful, I think.

We are all so beautiful.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo and friends for Five Minute Friday.