Paperless Post: An (honest)ly excited review

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July is always a crazy month for our family. All four of our children have birthdays within nine days of one another, we generally attempt/execute a family vacation, and the growing season on our hobby farm is in full swing. Thankfully, my husband has time off from the busyness of the school year so we can tackle everything together but still… a lot of life happens in those 31 days.

This year, our summer has the addition of my 10-day mission trip to Paris, which means we have a little less time to fit everything in. A few months back, my husband and I pulled up our calendars and realized we only had one available weekend to throw our annual family birthday bash for the kids. Gulp.

Thankfully, a collaboration request from a company called Paperless Post popped into my inbox last week, offering their design invitation services in exchange for a blog post. Problem solved. I immediately sat down and started perusing birthday invitations.

Here’s the low down!

Paperless Post offers well-designed, on-trend email invitations, cards, thank yous, stationery, and flyers. The idea is similar to what you’d find at evite.com, but with a much more elevated selection of graphics and designs.

Of course that lovely design comes at a price; beauty isn’t free here. However, it is reasonably priced. My eight emailed invites cost 48 coins (their version of currency) to make, which put cost in the $12 range.

Following my rabbit trail of reason/rationalization, if I bought a box of 14 invites at the store, I’d probably spend $6-10 plus mailing costs. If I made photo invites and printed them, I’d be looking at somewhere around $20 plus mailing costs. If I sent a plain text email, I’d risk my guests doing what often happens to me: losing the invite in the mass of 3000 some odd emails that live in my inbox. (I’m not kidding. It’s my online version of hoarding.)

Bonus: the emailed invitation comes with the option to add directly to a calendar, which is a lifesaving feature I’m always grateful for.

What’s great?

Aside from invitations, there are plenty of other great design offerings. I particularly liked the thank you note section, the personal stationery section, and the fantastic birthday card section (perfect for people like me who desperately want to BRING BACK BIRTHDAY CARDS!!! but never actually have any of said cards to mail.) Being able to choose from a great selection of script-type fonts was another huge bonus, as was the fact that I didn’t run across any ugly designs. Seriously.

Also, no ads (yet). Bless you, Paperless Post.

What needs improvement?

The coin idea is a little strange to me. I’d rather not have to check a table that converts dollars to coins every time I add or detract a feature from my projects. I would also love to see a print-to-paper option for more of the designs. They currently offer that service for wedding invitations, stationery, and a few holiday cards, but it’s pretty spendy ($50-$100 for 20 pieces of stationery or 20 holiday cards) and isn’t available (that I found) for cards, thank you notes, or standard invites. I understand there are probably limitations with printing small batches… I’m just saying it’d be nice to purchase 20 really cool birthday cards to have on hand.

Overall

Paperless Post is a great online invitations+more service that provides timely, trendy design offerings at a reasonable price and value.

Meanwhile, I can mentally cross off birthday invites from my future to-do list without ever having to write them in. Score.

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(This is, as you may have guessed, sponsored content. Here’s the deal. I will occasionally share products and services I think add value to life, and/or that I would have organically used without any prompting. Note that all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. All images courtesy of Paperless Post. Collage built at Fotor.com.)

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The Fluid Nature of Things

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The last few days in Minnesota have been glorious. While the rest of the world may have been basking in spring for weeks already, us Northerners watched as flakes of white flew sideways across the landscape, covering the ground with drift after drift of frozen, icy gloom.

But suddenly, the sun came out Thursday and shocked us all with fifty-degree temps. The snow melted like mad, and my stir-crazy children begged to go for a walk. I was happy to oblige. I dug one scooter from a snowbank beside the house (did it stay there all winter?) and unearthed another and a bike from the dusty depths of the garage. Griff was already halfway down the driveway, so I decided to forgo the stroller or proper waterproof footwear (which I couldn’t find anyway) and let him walk as long as he wanted. Somehow, within minutes, we were off.

The delighted shrieks of the girls filled the air as we made our way down Reed Avenue. Griff kept pace a few steps in front of me in his halting toddler walk/run, stopping every now and then to pick up a rock and proclaim something. The sun sat warm as a promise on the left side of my face. Never did it feel so good to arrive at the creek and throw snow and sticks into the rushing, yelling farewell to winter.

We all burst in the house an hour and half later with red cheeks and flyaway hair. Griffin’s soaking wet, muddy feet and shoes demanded immediate attention, and I vowed that I had to find his hand-me-down rain boots before he set foot outside again.

Thursday’s walk was so great that no one hesitated when I suggested we do it again yesterday. I made a few slight adjustments to the lineup (scooters for all three girls, stroller for Griff when he got tired), and made another sweep of the basement for Griffin’s rainboots. Lo and behold, there they were, tucked into a storage tote labeled 0-3 mos. *Snort*.

Boots on and scooters ready, my small tribe gleefully picked their way down the rut-filled mess of our driveway and set off for the creek again. I couldn’t help but laugh inside thinking that last week, I was planning a Christmas party with a sweet friend as an act of defiance/acceptance of the forthcoming April snowstorm.

After all, it’s all so temporary, isn’t it?

We arrived at the creek, and the girls assumed positions at the top of the culvert, throwing in sticks, rocks, snow, and anything that would splash. Meanwhile, I sat down on the side, legs dangling over the water, and put Griff on my lap so that he could safely throw rocks in without me fearing for his life every time he leaned over the rushing water.

He was having a grand time chucking dried grass stalks in and kicking his legs against the edge, when suddenly, I heard a plop that was different than any of the others produced recently. Sure enough, I looked down, and there was the much-sought after rubber boot, gently bobbing sideways on the surface of the water.

The girls went crazy, demanding that I rescue the boot now making its way toward the fork in the stream. I quickly deposited Griffin in his stroller and buckled him in his seat, and then raced down the banks, stirring up a winter’s worth of dust as I picked my way through the dried yellow grass of the creek side. I grabbed a branch and made a few worthless attempts to snag the boot, but it doggedly kept bobbing just out of reach until the current took it downhill and all further efforts became futile.

There’s something poetic and important about physically letting go of something beyond your control, so I stood there a moment, watching the black rubber boot float away down the stream. It was clear I was never going to be able to retrieve it. It was also clear that I should not chase after it, since I left four unattended children watching aghast as their crazed mother attempted to rescue a boot from a raging spring creek armed with nothing but a weak sapling branch.

I hiked back up the ditch, listening to Ellis give an animated play by play of the lost boot escapade. Griffin, entirely unamused at this point, kept pointing at the creek and shouting “shoe, shoe!”. Lucy declared we might as well go home, and Gabby agreed, noting that there were still popsicles in the freezer. We walked back up the road in sunny camaraderie, as though I had just survived a lion attack instead of a failed attempt to rescue a rubber boot, and made it home without further incident.

Later that evening, it struck me that I had been searching for those rainboots off and on for weeks. How ironic that on the day I found and finally employed them, their usefulness slipped out of my grasp in a matter of moments.

Some people call it Murphy’s law. Some call it karma. I see it a little differently.

I see the reminder that the things we think we hold in our grasp are fluid – with us one moment, washing away the next. I see our human nature to fight, rescue, and retrieve what we lose.

I also see a loving Heavenly Father whose store of provision and grace never runs out. I see the relief in opening our clenched fists in surrender, letting the circumstance of life stream through our open fingers.

Why?

Because in this constantly moving flow of grace, I have never been left empty-handed.

It’s been easy to complain about the weather and I’m just as guilty as anyone. I could also be annoyed about the lost boot or being unable to drive on my mucky driveway. But that also means I’d be focusing on what’s lost, and not on what’s continuously being given.

I’d be anxiously looking down at what was falling out of my hands, instead of looking up at the stream of goodness that continues to keep them full.

Easygoing Breakfast Frittata

We just got back from a couple of days soaking in the beauty of Minnesota’s North shore for spring break. I know, I know. Most people would rather head South than North after a long winter full of snow, ice, and subzero temps, but my husband is a die-hard northerner, and if I’m honest, I love it too. Hence, we drank our morning coffee on the beach in the warm glow of a 28-degree sunrise, worked up a serious snowshoeing sweat, explored a few new parts of shore, bought a gigantic canoe in prep for some family fun this summer, and filled up on some pretty darn good food.

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Cheers to some serious ya sure, you betcha.

Meanwhile, I loved time off from the kitchen – particularly not cleaning the kitchen after making a giant food mess, which I’ve done a lot of this week. But after a couple of meals away, I started to get a little twitchy about what was going into my food and how it was being prepped. Call me a control freak. (I’m not, I promise.) I just love cooking my own food.

So as soon as I rolled my happy, slept-in self out of bed this morning, I started thinking about breakfast. Grandma and Grandpa still had the kids for the day, which meant I had the leisure of not putting food on the table for four children in three minutes or less, otherwise risking the cacophony of whines, angst, and chaos that usually erupts from a table of four hungry children.

And what did I decide on?

Frittata.

Frittata, that gloriously forgiving vehicle that takes whatever you put in it and turns it into an easy, hearty and flavorful meal. In case you’ve never made one, the general premise is this: peruse whatever you have on hand, chop it up, pour beaten eggs and milk over the top, and plop the whole thing in the oven. 30 minutes later, boom. Done.

I told you it was easy.

Side note: Breakfast is a bit of a misnomer. We routinely eat this at lunch or for supper on busy nights. It’s a great way to gather the bits and pieces at the end of the week and use them up.

Ready? Your turn. You know you want to.

Easygoing Breakfast Frittata

Easygoing Breakfast Frittata 

Ingredients:

  • onion
  • zucchini
  • carrot
  • fresh parsley
  • ham
  • cooked quinoa
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of 2% milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (or any cheddar blend)
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Butter
  • Parmesan

Method:

  1. Saute onion in an 8-inch cast iron or oven-safe pan
  2. Chop or shred veggies in half cup portions. If using zucchini, spread out on a paper towel, sprinkle with salt, then squeeze out excess moisture.
  3. Chop ham into bite-sized pieces
  4. Beat eggs and milk, stir in cheese. Add salt/pepper to taste
  5. Add 1 tbsp of butter to cast iron pan of onions, coat bottom and sides of pan
  6. Add vegetables, ham, and quinoa. Mix gently with onions.
  7. Pour eggs/milk/cheese combo over the top, smoothing for even coverage.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or till lightly brown and firm in the center.
  9. Allow 10 minutes to cool and set before serving
  10. Top with Parmesan, hot sauce, green onions, etc.

 

In case you need inspiration for other flavor combinations, I also love frittatas with:

  • ham, broccoli, garlic, and cheddar
  • mushroom, asparagus, goat cheese and spinach
  • tomato, spinach or kale, and mozzarella

 

 

High School Mission Trips: We’re not going to Change the World

During my high school and college age years, I was privileged to be a part of six different mission trips as both a student, and a chaperone. If you’re not familiar with the phrase “mission trip”, it’s generally a faith-based volunteerism trip where young people tackle projects that need extra manpower. For example, in Mexico, we helped build a structure (though to this day I can’t quite tell you what it was supposed to be). In South Dakota, we scraped and painted houses. In Kentucky, Louisiana, Arizona, and Brazil, we staffed various types of children’s camps.

arizona mission trip

Side note – I used to be impossibly cool. Pink pajama pants girl, I’m looking at you.

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A lot of people are on the fence about the role of short term mission trips. They wonder how much “help” can really come from a group of inexperienced students. Do the gifts and supplies volunteers bring actually do much good? What happens when the volunteers leave?

These aren’t easy questions.

As a young mission team member, I didn’t realize these questions existed. I only knew that I wanted to help people, because I had begun to learn the quiet joy that crept in after doing something kind for someone else. And if I’m honest, I think most students today are in the same boat. They aren’t worrying about the efficacy of their time away. They aren’t doing cost/value analyses, or measuring outcomes.

But they know that as the next generation, they are called, and they are capable.

For me, being called and capable meant I put hundreds of *mostly* crooked nails into wall frame studs. I ran around a soccer field with a happy, screaming group of kids who were more interested in the free snacks than the lesson time. I let someone smash a pie in my face. I journaled during our designated “quiet time” and read my bible, waiting for God to speak.

I did not come back from any of my trips with a specific vision, or a giant life lesson. I did not see any heavenly signs or miracles or crazy shows of healing. What I did gain was this: I lived in a broad and beautiful world full of people who all needed something.

Some of them needed a house. Some needed a hot meal. Some of them needed my sad attempts at hair braids. Some needed a buddy to play with. Some of them needed a friend to listen to their stories. All of them needed a reason to hope.

***

One night, the Cross of Glory (shout out!) youth group and I were winding down from a service day in Arizona. The students and I were lounging in an outdoor amphitheater connected to where we were staying when our youth pastor Dan joined us, carrying a bucket of warm water and a towel. A few other groups were with us at the time, and their leaders also came out with water and towels. With only a brief explanation of what was happening, they started washing our feet.

The space grew impossibly quiet as the leaders went from student to student, washing and drying their hot, tired feet.

Afterward, someone gave a brief message, explaining how in John 13, Jesus gets up in the middle of supper with his friends and starts washing their feet. This practice, normally reserved for the lowest of servants, shocked his friends, who were confused by his actions.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

My bare feet tingled in the cool air of sunset, and something about that story sunk deep. Jesus’ life and years of ministry were not marked by fanfare and success and solving the world’s problems. Instead, he impacted the world by servitude, by grace, and by love. 

Somehow, it’s been seventeen years since that trip.

Six of those years have been spent relearning the importance of everyday service as I wipe not just the feet, but the noses, hands, and bottoms of my children. Almost fourteen of those years have given me ample time to practice grace in my marriage. And during each of those seventeen years, we’ve been a part of three churches, loving the small groups, students, worship teams, boards, and other opportunities we’ve said yes to as we grew in community.

While none of these are major, world-altering acts, they have changed me, and how I connect with those around me. But I wouldn’t have understood that if I hadn’t learned what it meant to serve and care for others.

This summer, I’ve been asked to pick up where I left off fourteen (*gulp*) years ago, and chaperone another student mission trip – this time to Paris, France.

After I stopped squealing OUIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!! in my head, Jason and I had a couple of long conversations about safety, responsibility, and my leaving for ten days in July. After securing the assistance of a small army of family members, we decided I should say yes. (OUIIIIII again!!!!! Thanks Grandmas and Grandpas!)

Envision Paris, the group we’ll be working with, is an ongoing effort with the Christian and Missionary Alliance to bring a fresh understanding of the transformational love of Jesus to their city. The traditional church in France, for all its ornate beauty and history, is struggling to meet the deep, connective needs of its people. Envision Paris wants to change that.

Our goal for the time we’re in Paris is to come alongside and encourage a newly formed church community. Our six students, a few of whom actually speak French (huge bonus!) will be participating in English conversation classes and evening student gatherings. We are hoping to use art projects, music talents, and kitchen skills to create friendships, build community, and share our stories of faith.

Spoiler alert: We will not change the world with this trip. But what I do see is the opportunity for each of these students (and myself) to grow in their understanding of what Jesus taught about service, grace, and love. I also see the places where they might experience confusion, rejection, and hurt as they step outside their places of safety and rely on their faith for the first time.

For the record, I value both. I value both because I have seen the different character qualities that beauty and hardship alike can develop in my life.

In the process, I see cross-cultural friendships being built. I see students encouraging one another on in love and good deeds. I see laughter, and big questions, and marginal airport food.

We may not change the world in July, but we ourselves will be changed, and that’s a start.

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As with many youth endeavors, the cost of our students’ trip will be covered by fundraising and financial gifts of support. Please consider giving! I’d love for you to partner with our team and stay tuned for prayer requests, updates, pictures, and posts from the field while we’re there. Click here to visit our team website, where you’ll find easy and secure online giving options for any amount. Your prayers and support will be incredibly meaningful to our team as we prepare to go.

 

Refusing to believe I AM NOT

piano keys worship music

I am not a worship leader.

These were the first words that came to mind when our associate pastor asked me if I’d be interested in leading worship at a winter family camp retreat this past weekend.

Let’s be frank. I’m not. I pound on the enormous ebony grand piano in our church with all my heart most Sundays, but I am not the leader, the melody, or the keeper of time. I am the background. The harmony. The filler of sound.

Saying yes was a stretch, not only of my capabilities, but of what I believed about myself.

Even though I stress telling the truth to my children (one in particular that needs help deciphering her imagination from her reality), it’s embarrassing to admit that I routinely lie… to myself. These lies range from big to little: I’m not a good mother, I can’t keep anything together, I’m a mess, I never have time, I shouldn’t say yes, and my particular favorite thorn, I’m not enough.

Sometimes, I can see these lies for what they are – trickery, falsehood, arrows aimed at the heart of who I want to be. Other days, I fall into their wide open trap.

***

This weekend, we had the opportunity for some family play time in the Big Sandy Camp gym during the retreat. One of the activities offered was crate stacking. I’m not sure where this originated, but it’s a unique (and strange) challenge.

The crate stacker harnesses up in climbing gear, and hooks into the belay. Then the stacker starts stacking, creating a tower of side by side plastic milk crates. The operative is to stack enough crates on top of one another in order to touch the ceiling of the gym. Helpers hand, then toss, then all out throw the crates up to the stacker, who attempts to do all of this while maintaining balance, managing fear, and ignoring the burn and tingle of tired muscles.

crate stacking

I watched the process, and point blank told myself, I’m not going to be good at that. 

That was, actually and probably, the truth. I have torn cartilage in my knees and a marginal sense of balance. As much as I love thrill-seeker experiences, my performance abilities are average at best.

But something inside me said, do it anyway.

So I did. I put on the ridiculous harness that accentuates parts of me that don’t particularly need to be accentuated, stepped on the first crate, and started stacking.

I stacked, and squealed, and wobbled, and laughed, and kept on climbing. I felt fear tighten my senses and narrow my vision. I gulped in enormous, burning breaths and felt the green plastic crates swaying under my nervousness.

I stacked until my lower half tingled with exhaustion and nervousness, and then I slowly stood up, still a few too many inches away from that corrugated white metal ceiling. I knew, with the certainty born of experience, that if I stayed up much longer I was going to fall. My feet were numb, my legs were burning, and I couldn’t steady myself enough to catch and climb another crate. My only chance at reaching the ceiling was to jump for it.

I shouted down to my belay that this was it, I was going to jump. And in that moment, I knew I probably would not reach my goal. The probability of my getting enough vertical to hit the ceiling by jumping off a 20 foot stack of precarious milk crates was decidedly low. 

But falling, without trying, was not something I wanted to do either. So I jumped.

I jumped, and I reached, and I missed.

And in that moment of exhilarating failure, I felt the rope catch my body as I stretched my arms wide anyway, realizing that I could still fly on the way down.

jump fly fail

***

Believing the lies we tell ourselves is a common plague. And like the plagues of ancient Egypt, they are dangerously incapacitating.

I am not turns into I can’t, and I can’t turns into I won’t, and I won’t turns into a heart closed off from the possibility of growth in our lives.

One of the lines from an All Sons and Daughters song named Called Me Higher that we sang at the retreat this weekend said it this way: “I could hold on. I could hold on to who I am and never let you change me from the inside.”

It’s easy to hold on to our lies, isn’t it? It’s easy because lies feel like truths in our moments of messing up. Saying I am not confirms something about what just happened, whether it’s failure, or a faltering, or a simple mistake that we’d easily forgive someone else.

Believing the abstract of I am, or I can is much harder. It means trusting our intrinsic worth over our temporal works.

For a person of faith, asserting our I am’s over our I am not’s is an act of belief. It is understanding that God’s words are more than stories and platitudes from an ancient book; they are promises from a living and active Father who wants us to recognize and be secure in the value he created us with.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. -1 John 3:1

I said yes to leading worship. I said yes, knowing full well that I’m not a worship leader, and that very soon, everyone at the retreat would know that too. I said yes because despite my limitations, I love to play, sing, and be a part of a community of praise.

Yes meant possibility. Yes meant growth. Yes meant serving something bigger than my own need to be perfect.

Yes meant that I am not had no power over what could be done if I simply tried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be a Bad Blogger

IMG_20171229_125018Greetings from no-man’s land, that strange and glorious stretch between Christmas and New Years. I have made it out of the house precisely twice since Monday: once for an epic double date with our dear friends, and last night for an emergency milk and cat food run with all four children to Walmart, during which all three girls insisted on pushing a cart, but since I trust exactly *none* of them to safely escort their baby brother around the store, we made a giant four-cart train through the aisles, much to the smiles/consternation of other shoppers.

Such is life with four kids, which brings me to my next point. I’ve been terrible at blogging this year. Capital T terrible. I apologize. It’s not for lack of writing on my part – it’s simply that my writing time is being pulled in other directions, which leaves approximately zero luxury time for sitting at the computer sorting out my thoughts, which you all have been so gracious to read and share.

Now since it’s almost the New Year, and the role of mistakes and mishaps in life is to learn from them, I decided I’d pen down a few ways NOT to be a good blogger in hopes that maybe I can trick my brain into some sort of reverse psychology and get my creative butt back in gear. Or maybe I just found an extra hour today and felt like writing. Either way, let’s begin.

1. Go four months between blog postskid shenanigans self haircut

Yes, that’s right. Process none of the wonderful, thought-provoking, difficult, epic, and laughable things that happened in your life during the past four months. Especially don’t mention the time you found a few goodly chunks of hair (previous owner unknown) floating gently in your toilet, accompanied by a little light reading and the assumed weapon of choice. Let it all breeze by with the occasional picture on IG/FB, and just keep rocking the daily grind. Tell yourself you’ll write about it later. If you’re lucky, you might remember to… or not.

2. Forget all attempts to recap party planning hacks

Every year, we throw a big informal Friendsgiving bash complete with half eaten side dishes, glorious pies, Jason’s epic smoked turkey, and the delicious gravy I *may* have borrowed from my wonderful mother-in-law post Thanksgiving. Some pretty awesome pictures of cute children and smiling grownups were taken from this event, but I didn’t manage to write or share about any of it. My hopes of starting a holiday gathering journal with notes about seating, numbers, favorite dishes the kids ate, and easy hacks? Never happened. Maybe next year…

3.  Post pictures of delicious food, but forget to write down the actual recipe

This fall, I threw together one of the best salmon chowders I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. I still think about it. Except that I did it in the fever of getting supper on the table one night and used whatever I had laying around in the fridge, which apparently was the perfect combination… but now I can’t recall what I did or what herbs I had on hand or just, exactly, what my method was in the first place. All I know is that I have a small serving of frozen smoked salmon just begging to be used for the same purpose, and I have no way of recreating my previous kitchen miracle.

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4. Enjoy freelance work so much you allow personal projects to lapse.

It’s been a great year for new endeavors, and I’m totally grateful for it (especially since one of them helped us purchase a new stove since our finally died). I did some content editing (WHICH I LOVE!), website writing, and specialty writing for a marriage and family therapist, and I contributed to my first actual published BOOK – a faith meditation and devotional project that I’ll tell you more about once it’s back from the publishers. I even managed an afternoon of solitude and reading and writing at our state park for that one, and I had to take a picture because the moment was so quietly…amazing. However, that meant my windows of writing time were spoken for, and my personal projects got set aside. C’est la vie in this current season.

solitude writer state park vistor center

5. Relish that all your tiny humans sleep through the night. Sleep more accordingly.

We are in a beautiful state of sleeping homeostasis right now. All four children go to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 pm, sleep solidly through the night, and wake up anywhere from 6:30-8:00 am. I can hardly believe it. In celebration, I have abandoned all habits of waking early (which was easier when I was ushered into being awake during the wee hours by nursing, or fixing blankets, or finding nuks, etc.) and am taking full advantage of getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep a night. It’s magical. And unproductive. And magical.

And there you have it. If you too want to ignore any lovely little endeavor (be it blog, or personal business, craft project, or exercise regimen) you started a few years back when you were stumbling through a life circumstance and needed an new outlet, you have my full permission. To everything a season. Meanwhile, I’ll write when I can, and stop wasting time feeling bad about it. I hope you give yourself enough grace to do the same wherever you need.

Happy 2018!

 

 

 

One Mom’s Response to the Tragedy in Las Vegas

Untitled designThe sky was alternating between a light and dark blue-gray and the air felt cool with rain, but Griff and I hopped out of the van and threw on the pack anyway. Every fall I make it a point to spend as much time as I can out at Wild River, the state park that’s just a couple of miles down the road from our house.

Today we took the easy trail through the oak savannah, in part because of the pending rain and me breaking in new boots, but also because I needed an autopilot sort of walk. Earlier, on our way to school, I had turned on MPR and heard the news about the Las Vegas mass shooting. The rest of the drive back, my mind felt numb.

There’s no one response to hearing news of violence and chaos, the gunshots ricocheting like harmless firecrackers on the radio. Here in the northern Midwest, I felt the strange combination of being far-removed yet somehow still close to the tragedy, as though some smarmy stranger had entered my home unannounced and left his greasy business card on the kitchen counter.

Tragedy is invasive. It is a reminder that safety is relative, and the world is not as friendly as I want to teach my children it is. It casually drips fear into the normalcy of our daily lives, discoloring our thoughts and leaving us upset, uncomfortable, and confused.

It also makes me never want to be in a mass gathering of people ever again. (If you need me, I’ll just be holed up in my kitchen, thank you very much.)

My son and I walked along the paved trail, and I pointed out the different colored leaves, the trees, the moss, the puddles. He bantered along in one-year-old babble, occasionally uttering something that sounded close to the word I was repeating. It felt good to focus on something near, pushing the senselessness out and away as I worked on expanding my son’s vocabulary.

Right after I heard the news, I Voxed a friend, recording a jumble of messy emotions that basically boiled down to, “this is horrible and I’m upset and I have no idea what to do.” There was nothing to do, of course (which is my normal route – when in doubt, make a meal, bake a pie, buy a gift, clean a kitchen, send a card, just don’t. sit. still.).

But sometimes our restless hands have to be stuck, still – caught in the needs of our daily life and those who depend on us – while we feel our way through the event, our emotions running from shock to anger, to sadness, to fear, to worry.

I’m learning, lately, that it’s important to listen to each of those emotions as they come, allowing them to sit in my cupped and shaking hands. Being true to myself also means being vulnerable, expressing my confusion and darkness and fear, because those are the places I am most likely to connect with others and find solace. Or in the words of Matthew 5 and the beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Friends, I have nothing profound to say about today’s shooting. I’m just here in my little blue office, surrounded by legos and drawings and bills and an embarrassing amount of empty coffee mugs, and I’m sad. I hurt for the parents who sent their son or daughter off to their first concert, not knowing their children would come home with a new understanding of hate. I hurt for the couple who went to hear their favorite musician but can’t get the sound of gunshots and screams out of their heads. I hurt for the friends having a girls’ night out who are now scared to open their apartment doors. I hurt for the hotel employees and policemen and EMTs who looked into face after face of pain and shock and terror. I hurt for the loved ones on the other end of the phone line, receiving the darkest, hardest words.

I hurt because I am human, and even though I teach my children that humans should not harm one another, I know it still happens.

I hurt because this is a broken world, a fallen world, and hope can be a hard hand to grasp.

Nevertheless, I have found that hope is somehow always present, reaching through the panic and pain, not as a quick fix or a religious pill, but steady as a Father’s heart beating for His children. It is this heart and hope that I choose to stake my faith in, even on days like this.

So today I hurt, and today I hope.

And tomorrow I’ll get up, spend time praying comfort over those affected by the shooting, and then go about my work teaching my children to love, respect, and protect one another and the world around them.

It seems a small consolation, given the size of the loss. I know that. But it is something, and if we all did the same, choosing hope instead of hopelessness, action instead of anger, the next generation could only be better for it.