Friday, January 6, 2017

the art of failing

i constantly feel like i'm failing. constantly. there's always more to do. more to accomplish. more to be.

part of what's taken the hit in all the busyness of late is my writing. there was so much going on over the holidays that i rarely got enough sleep, and thus didn't wake up as early to write. {my lovely bout of strep throat about a week before christmas certainly didn't help either.} now i'm just getting back into the habit of waking up before the kids to get my thoughts down.

i feel off because i haven't written as much. i feel less connected to myself. yet the reasons i haven't written are good ones.

i constantly choose between good things. i don't have time for all the things. recently peter and i have talked about margin. {there's that word again} what would give us more margin in our lives? my answer: less responsibilities. but in a culture that praises busyness it's difficult to shed responsibilities.

do i want my house to be somewhat organized? my kids to be healthy? us to be healthy? my family to eat well? to make a difference in my world?
i'll need 30 hours/day, please.

there are a lot of things i want to do. a lot. and every single last one of them takes time.

some days i wonder what my life would be like now if i had pursued a career. if we had moved somewhere else. if. if. if. it's not that i'm upset with where we are, i just wonder how things would be if i had done things differently. i wonder most on the hard days.

but it does no one any good to wonder. i look at the world that "might have been" with rose-colored glasses. no matter what path you choose there are hard days. nothing is perfect. no one is perfect. and perfectionism is a b. believe me, i've lived with it long enough to know.

i'm still learning how to fail up. part of the problem is that i hate failing. really, really hate it. i hate the gut twisting feeling that goes with it. the shame of failing. i hate it. i know it takes a few knocks to get things right sometimes, but i'm no good at taking them if i'm not on a soccer field.

some days i have to stop myself and think - what's the worst that could likely happen in this situation? because most of the time it's really not that bad.

but i don't even like writing about failure. even when it sounds much better - the art of failing. because it is an art to fail up. to fail well, and make it less of a true failure. but i still shy away from it. people don't like thinking about failure, much less make it an art form. so why write about it?

this draft has been on my list for a few months now. sitting and mocking me. i failed to finish a post on failure. seriously ridiculous.

but how do you fail up? sometimes i'm not entirely sure. but i think the biggest thing is to learn all you can from it, and keep on going despite it.

i tend to shy away from failure even after it has happened. i don't want to think about it. i don't want to dwell on it. but there is a difference between dwelling on it and using it - dissecting it and learning from it and putting into practice what you learned.

changing. using it to change for the better.

change is hard, but it happens whether we acknowledge it and purposefully do it, or simply let it happen.

i've failed a lot in my life. i'm sure i'll fail plenty more.
it's about time i started making it an art form.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

a year of margin

{found via pinterest from flickr}

happy new year, friends.
i hope it is for you.

this year was the first year in recent memory that i did not greet the new year at its moment of inception. i went to bed. i figured it would come whether i was there to greet it or not.

i'm not quite sure how three full days have passed since then, but somehow they have, and i'm moving right along with them.

as we traveled back from pittsburgh on monday we discussed some big things for this year. not exactly resolutions, but reflections on what we've been doing, and what we plan to do as things shift in various areas of our life. {how's that for vague?}

the biggest idea overall is that of margin. having margin. having a buffer. banishing busyness - especially busyness for the sake of busyness. because all that does is stress me out, and what's the point?

we're trying to pare down without losing much. sounds paradoxical, but in many ways we're gaining. we're gaining time if we do it right. we spend so much time taking care of the things we don't really need. far too often i waste my life with maintenance. maintaining things that don't really matter, that don't add much to anyone's life. yes, some maintenance is necessary and will always be there, but if i have to spend more time maintaining it than enjoying it is it really worth it?

i'd much rather spend time doing the things that matter. {wouldn't we all?} i want to read and think and write instead of watch. i want to have conversations instead of simply exchanging information. i want to make time for family and friends first, and then schedule the other things. i want to live purposefully. i want to recognize where i'm in control, and where it is out of my hands so i stop trying to change the things beyond my level of influence.

i don't want to live my life in fear of failing. i want to fail up when i do fail {because i will}. there are a lot of abstract things i want to do. and it's really easy to just say i want them - to wax eloquent {or try} - and then keep on doing the things that i've been doing. to keep doing the things that lead me away from where i want to be.

change is hard. habits are hard to break, but they're also hard to make.

slowing down is a habit. it's an extremely tough habit in a world that tells us we have to chase after things to gain happiness. we forget that happiness is a by-product of how we live our lives.

i'm still figuring out what all of this looks like going forward. i think we all are. we like to think we can wrap things up, but life keeps on going until it doesn't. it's all a process, and it's always in process. we never arrive. i have to keep on keeping on because c'est la vie.

so instead of wrapping this up nice and tight i'm just going to let it be for once.

much love to you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

a century

my grammy would have turned 100 today. it hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday morning, and i realized all over again that she was gone.

i remember calling her a little over ten years ago, and reminding her that she had a "big birthday coming up." because ninety is pretty big. and without pausing she responded, "i have a big birthday coming up in ten years."

here i sit though, ten years later, with a palpable void of no one to call in this quiet morning - 100 years in the making. {granted, she never would have been awake at 6 a.m. so i couldn't have called her now anyway.}

but i can hear the joy in her voice as she talks to my children, and tells them she loves them. the children she never got to meet.
even so, i can hear them sing happy birthday to her, and picture her face with the gleam of contented love and pride in her eyes as she listens.

i really thought she'd make it to 100. i think we all did up until the end.

and if i had to guess i think grammy would have said that the secret to a long and healthy life is to love God and love others, to daily drink a lot of coffee plus a glass or two of wine, and to do it yourself if you can.

if you told her not to, she wanted to do it all the more.

one day when i was in college she told me she liked my watch. "my mother didn't approve of watches," she said. "she didn't think i should have a watch, or a black dress. so, do you know what i did? the day i got my first paycheck i walked out of there, and i went and bought a black dress and a wristwatch."

in the laughter following that moment my tendencies made a lot more sense.

and she loved high heels. she couldn't wear them anymore for most of the time i was alive, but she loved them. one christmas eve when i was in college she came to church with us. as we carefully picked our way back to the car through a snowy parking lot she looked at my 4 inch heels and said, "you be careful not to break your ankle in those things, but oh i envy you."

there is a pair of black and white shoes that i have that i will keep always. i wore them to her funeral because i knew she would have loved them. i wore them when our son was baptized because they reminded me of her, and i wanted her to be there in some small way.

despite her contentedness with her life it always felt a little bit like the world wasn't quite big enough to hold her. she was as feisty as they come - not walking with the walker they gave her if she was just going one room over, insisting on moving the step stool and putting her coffee in the microwave herself despite the repeated instruction not to do so. feeding the dog reese's cups multiple times a day simply because annie wanted one, and who cares that she wasn't supposed to?

she was so proud of her family. she loved her kids. she loved her grandkids. she was over the moon about her great-grandkids. i wish she could have known mine.

i wish i could have a cup of coffee with her today, and kiss her wrinkled cheek, and tell her how grateful i am that she made it to her "big" birthday.
but i am still grateful.

i am grateful for the many things she taught me. i am grateful for the 92 years of life she had. i am grateful for the feistiness and the love of shoes she passed on to me. i am grateful for how she loved me always. i am grateful that she was always on my side even when she wasn't.

i am grateful for all that i have, and all that i am because of her.
happy birthday grammy.
i love you.


Sunday, November 13, 2016


i'm just going to write and see where it takes me. i've had so many thoughts tumbling around inside my head this week, and i don't even know how to express them. this will likely be a jumbled mess if it comes out as anything at all.

we are so broken. every. last. one. of. us.
and i think if we were able to grasp that a little bit better as a whole society, then we would be able to make strides we never thought possible.

there's a saying in psychology: hurt people, hurt people. and it's so true. and there are a lot of hurting and broken people in the world. really, i think all of us would fall into that category.

it's the nature of the human race.

in this country this week there has been a whole lot of name-calling. there has been a whole lot of anger. there has been a whole lot of fear.

leading up to this election has been a hideous time. a gut & heart-wrenching time. and the end of it has not amounted to anything different.

i think everyone is scared and worried about the state of our country. we are coming to a place of fear and hurt on all sides, but for different reasons. and frankly, i think that fear is justifiable. the fear on both sides.

but we don't have to live there.

we do need to find a way to live with each other.

it breaks my heart that people see christians as hateful. it breaks my heart that people see christians as people who are against a whole lot, but not for much.

because as christians, we are called to love God, and to love others.
we are called to love our enemies. we are called to love.

and i need to have the guts to look in the mirror and recognize the hypocrite staring back at me. because i am one. i do not live out my values perfectly. some days i don't even live them out well. too often i don't love God with all that i am. if i did i would also love others well, because loving others - ALL others - as myself is what loving God would lead me to do.

let he who's without sin cast the first stone.

we cannot spout love, and then spew hate from the same fountain.

i have not listened well to those around me. i have not shut my mouth, opened my ears, and sought to understand people wholly different from myself. not very often.

i have made my circle too small, too insular, too homogenous.

we all need to stop blame-shifting and pushing responsibility off on someone else. we all need to step up, and be accountable for the ways we have fallen short. because we have all fallen short.

we need to be able to disagree with each other, but actually understand the other side.
we need to have conversations instead of debates.

and we all need to add a big spoonful of humility into our coffee in the morning alongside the cream. i should not assume that my perspective is always right just because it's what's inside my head. everyone brings their own experiences and pre-conceived notions with them into every situation. we need to bring some grace too.

how often do i give people the benefit of the doubt? how often do i seek to understand before i seek to be heard?

i've been struck by how much i need to pray for others this week. people that agree with me, and people that do not. people i see every day, and people whom i have never met.

i trust that God is in control. i am thankful that he still holds the world in his hands. but i do not say that flippantly. because i believe God holds the world in his hands. i believe he is in control of this country, and this world.

but others do not believe that. and i'm heartbroken enough at how people have turned on each other even with the hope and belief that i have. what must it be like for those who have put their complete hope in their choice of government leader? it has got to be utterly devastating. absolutely devastating.

we have to have the courage to meet people where they are. we need to climb down into the depths of their despair with them, and give them a hand up whether we agree with why they're despairing or not. when one is despairing that is their reality - meeting them where they are means understanding where they are, whether we think they should be there or not does not change where they are.
it's what the God of the universe did for us.
how can we pretend that it's not our role to do the same for others?

above all else this week i have been struck by how i have fallen short. how i need to take more responsibility for doing what God has called me to do. i have been struck by my failings, and by how thankful i am for the hope that i have despite those failings.

how can i better meet others where they are?
by going to where they are.
at the end of the day, it really is that simple.


Monday, October 31, 2016

my dear boy

our little man is 4. four. 4. he's growing up so ridiculously fast, and it gets faster all the time.

dear monkey,

thank you for coming. i know your coming really had nothing to do with you, but i'm just so thankful for you. thank you for making me a mama.

words cannot even express my gratitude. words cannot fully express the hopes i have for you. the hopes i have that you would grow up to be a man after the heart of your creator. that you would love God and love people well. that you would have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the heart to understand those around you.

every day i pray that you would follow hard after the God of the universe. i pray that you would know his voice.

four years ago i was just coming out of the anesthesia. right about now is when i met you and got to hold you for the first time. it breaks my heart that almost 3 hours passed before i got to hold you, but you were here, and you were okay, and my heart was about to burst with overwhelming joy.

when you were born you took a piece of me with you. you're a piece of my heart walking around outside my body {as they say}. i love watching you get older, and i hate it all at the same time. watching you grow is a wonderful thing, but as you get bigger kisses and bandaids will no longer be able to make everything better. i'm not looking forward to those days. i know they are coming.

learning life lessons are rarely easy.
life's not fair, but God is good. even when you don't understand the evil things of this world, God is still good.

you are so loved, kiddo. i hope you know that. i hope you get sick of hearing it. i hope it permeates your life so much that you never doubt it, even when you're a teenager and you don't want to believe that we're saying no to things because we love you and want what's best for you.

i hope and pray that God gives us wisdom and courage as we raise you that we may meet you where you are, and be the parents you need us to be.

you are such a great big brother, monkey. you have such a heart for people, and i love watching your heart develop. i love watching your mind work. i love watching your creativity develop. you definitely think like an artist. i hope that sticks around as you grow. i hope you continue to see past what's in front of you, and see what's possible through it.

observe people. pay attention to them too. be kind. be considerate. know that you are so loved. ridiculously so. and love others through the love that is lavished on you. you are one of the lucky ones who will grow up surrounded by a web of people who love you. don't take that for granted. use it to love others well too.

as i think about you getting older it reminds me of what i should do now. for now i will hold you in my lap, and snuggle you, and kiss your oh-so-kissable cheeks while you still let me. while you still fit in my lap. while kisses and i love yous don't make you crazy.

i'm sorry for the ways i fail you. i pray that you know how sorry i am when that happens. i pray that you see God at work in your parents, just as we see him at work in you and your sister. i pray that you never question God's love for you. i pray that you see yourself through the eyes of God - that you would know you were created in his image, and you are his masterpiece.

you are so loved, little man.
happy 4th birthday.

your mama

Thursday, October 20, 2016

going home

a few mondays ago i packed up the car and the kids and drove home. through the mountains, through fog and rain. through small towns, curving highways, and the beginnings of fall.

i still say that - drove home. after a decade in a place you'd think it would be home, but i don't think it will ever change. pittsburgh is home. and that week felt like home.

we visited with lots of family. i took my kids to a couple places i went to as a child. we explored outside in gorgeous fall weather.

the a/c was off, the windows were open, and the sky was close to the ground.

we went back for our college homecoming. we saw people we miss and talk to regularly, and people we had forgotten.

we saw old coaches, and old friends. everyone seemed exactly the same, just older. at one point the kids weren't with me and i got asked if i was a student. i'm not going to lie - that one felt good.

going home is always strange. sometimes things are exactly how i remember them, and nostalgia sinks in, and my rose-colored glasses rarely leave my face {except when my daughter won't sleep}. other times the differences are stark, and it feels like my home got lost inside this other place that only sort of resembles the place i once knew.

this time i drove past new stoplights. we visited a playground i loved that had been torn down, but rebuilt in the best way.

my kids climbed on grandpa's fire trucks.
another morning we went to an orchard i hadn't been to in years, and picked out small pumpkins and apple cider to bring back with us.

we watched my college team play a game. the kiddos spent the entire time running back and forth at the bottom of the bleachers chasing each other and squealing with glee.

the kids read books with grandpa and watched old vhs tapes that were quite literally watched to death by the end of the week.

i went for a run through the hills and the rain.

we watched the start of the homecoming parade, and the kids collected enough candy to last them through halloween. by the time we left for lunch we had a backpack chock full of candy - so much so that we had a hard time reaching the necessary diapers inside.

the weather was my kind of perfect. it was a mix of sunny some days and cloudy and grey others. the kind of clouds that wrap you up and promise that rain is coming, but you don't have to bear the rain quite yet.

it made me miss those days. college days were always full of promise. of not knowing what would happen later in life, but still being excited about the prospects.

there tends to be an air of optimism on college campuses - a world-conquering attitude that makes students think anything is possible.

it's intoxicating.

real life can smack you around a bit.
sometimes it takes going home to know that there are still endless possibilities out in the world.


Friday, September 9, 2016

preschool. take 2

our little monkey started his second year of preschool on tuesday. this year he decided not to pose for pictures. as in: adamantly refused to pose for pictures. i stole a couple while he was getting ready to go, and he got rather upset.

he seemed a little more nervous than last year, but we dropped him off without a hitch, and i managed to not cry until shavasana at the end of my yoga class. only a few tears escaped because - as i told peter - i knew he'd be fine, but i wanted it to go well. it's always hard to let go a little more, but it's the goal. the goal is to one day let him go completely. and i know that if i made a big deal of dropping him off at preschool, it would be for me, not for him. wanting what's best for him demands that i give him the best transition possible. even when it's harder for me. and that is hard in and of itself.

when i picked him up in the afternoon and his teacher said he had a great day i realized just how long i had been holding my breath.

i know that sometimes my want for it to go well will end up disappointed, but i'm glad today was not one of those days.

i know he'll love school again. i know his nerves were just a matter of walking into something new and not knowing what to expect. in my head i know all of those things, but it's always hard to watch him {or her} struggle with something, even if he has to struggle through it to learn and grow and move past it.

i am really not looking forward to a year from now when i need to drop both of them off. i'll probably just sit outside and cry for a while. let's not think about that's just crazy how literal the "letting go" is.

lately i've tried really hard to just enjoy where we are. i've tried really hard not to wish to go back, or propel forward. i've tried to enjoy the age and stage we're in right now. some days that works better than others.

but when i sit in these quiet mornings, i am so thankful. i am thankful for life, and for breath. i am thankful for the two sleepyheads in their beds. i am thankful for a roof over our heads, and clothes on our backs. i am thankful that i have two kids to slowly let go. i pray for the third - whomever he or she may be - as we slowly start the process of adoption.

life is not always easy. but it is good.