Our Marriage Needs a Prefix.

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Last night I told my husband that I miss him. He nodded in agreement as he sat beside me.

We are together a lot, but our moments of non-distracted, non-exhausted, non-sick, non-stressed, non-necessary, non-rushed, non-interrupted communication are slim. We’d like to add those little nons into our relationship, but they’re elusive little prefixes.

We strive to have non-distracted conversations, but texts, and emails, and demands keep breaking our concentration. Not to mention our kids.

We desire to talk about non-necessary topics, but there are fires to be put out before we can intentionally try to fan into flame our love for one another.

We want to give each other our non-exhausted selves. But, we can’t seem to find them.

We need the nons in our marriage.

But adding that prefix takes work.

And it should. Life moves forward after the wedding day and so should our relationship. It should grow and blossom instead of wilting. But it takes effort to remember to care for it in the midst of dizzying schedules and bursting calendars.

The daily, “What time should I plan dinner?” and,  “Did you remember we have that thing tomorrow evening? Did you find a sitter?” questions cause us to put a finger in the leaking dam and leave us in a bind the next time we hear, “Babe, can you give me a hand here?”

The days of long uninterrupted dinners and fun filled dates are taken over by quick, “How was your day?” volleys and conversations squeezed in while sitting in the bleachers.

You have to make an effort to add those nons. But how? What does that look like?

I think it takes many different forms.

Some days you make your kids gag as you kiss in the kitchen. Other days you put a movie in for them and you finish that difficult conversation that’s been driving a wedge between you. Some days you splurge on a nice dinner for two after they’re all in bed, and you tuck your phones away in another room too. Some days you go out to a movie neither of you really care to see just so that you can sit beside each other and hold hands.

And some days you simply acknowledge to each other that you miss the nons. Both of you do. That you’re striving to find them and you believe in each other and miss each other in the meantime. That the effort to find the nons is a small price to pay for the love of your life. You’re a team in this daily work.

Marriage. It sometimes needs a prefix.

And together, we’re going to work to add it.

Non-stop.


 

This post has been re-shared from its original publish date of September 21, 2016

Book Excerpt – “Letting Go and Moving Forward,” From – If Only It Were a Piece of Cake

Letting Go and Moving Forward

With school starting, parents dropping their sons and daughters off at college, young people beginning their first jobs, and empty nest transitions of no more preschoolers in the nest during the day, or kids living under the parents’ roof at all anymore, there’s a lot of LETTING GO and MOVING FORWARD happening this time of year.

Here is an excerpt from my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake, that deals with that very topic!

An excerpt from chapter eight, “Letting Go and Moving Forward”


There’s a difference between moving on, and moving forward. Not to brag or anything, but I’m in the company of Albert Einstein with this thought (this sentence may be the only time I’m mentioned with Einstein. Savor it.)

He said,

“It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.”

Moving forward indicates you’ve already been somewhere, and by moving, you’re continuing the journey. It doesn’t mean the past is forgotten, but that you’re now moving forward from it.

Moving on sounds a bit more like you’re leaving the past behind. You’ve finished the delivery, you’ve made the stop, you’ve completed the task. Now you move on and forget. This is fine if you’re a pizza delivery person, but as a general rule, we can’t just expect to move on to the next stop in life and forget everything else.

We cannot deny that the past happened. We should not deny the good or the bad. The past, the stages and seasons we loved and lived, are always going to be a part of us! The stages and seasons we loathed are too. That’s okay. We shouldn’t move on from them, but move forward in spite of them, through them, with them.

I often call to mind 1 Corinthians 4:16-18 in times of change and letting go. It reads,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Yes, this passage is about dealing with hardships, but also about change and letting go. You see, as we live, we are “wasting away.” Each day we are moving closer to the end of this earthly life. But inwardly, those of us who are in Christ are being “renewed day by day.”

This renewal is a process. It’s preparing us for eternity and shaping us to be more like Christ on this Earth. We can’t always detect the process or see the change, but it’s happening. Our bicycle wheels are barely spinning, but it’s enough to keep us upright.

Being renewed each day by Jesus requires letting go of what we were yesterday. Not denying it happened, but moving forward anyway.

A sweet little girl, a friend of our daughters, was learning to water ski last summer. I sat in the boat with my girls and our friends, who were driving and shouting out instructions to the little girl. My husband was in the water trying to help her get her skis on and learn how to hold the rope.

And she did it! She got up on the skis and took a long ride around the lake. In fact, a very long ride. I realized we had not clearly explained that she only needed to let go of the rope when she’d finished. Simply let go. But we didn’t make this clear to her, and so, she never did. She skied on and on. After awhile, her little body bent forward at the hips and she looked exhausted.

“You can let go!” her aunt yelled from the boat.

“Do you want to let go of the rope?” my girls yelled as they made a motion with their own hands of dropping the handle.

She wasn’t understanding, and so she skied on, looking as if she were about to break in half.

Her uncle, the boat driver, wasn’t sure if he should stop the boat because we weren’t positive if she wanted to be done, and getting up again would be hard work. So she just kept on going.

Finally, we looped back around to our shoreline and stopped. She fell slowly into the water, still not letting go of the rope until she was forced to by the plunge.

“My back hurts! I’m so tired!” she said.

We all laughed. She could have stopped long ago if she would have just let go of the rope.

I get it, girl!

Sometimes I want to move forward into a new season, and I know it will be exciting once I get there, but I just don’t want to let go of the rope. I’m comfortable where I am. I’m not sure how the transition will feel. I like the way things are going now. Even if my back hurts and I’m tired of the fight, I’d rather hold on and be safe then let go into the unknown.

It’s not just about the unknown. Sometimes it’s about the sadness I feel that a particular stage is ending. I’ve loved it so much, whether it be having preschoolers at home, or working outside the home, or watching my children compete in a sport that they have now finished, that I don’t want to face the sadness by letting go of the rope.

But facing the sadness offers the chance for joy in remembering, and anticipation of what’s ahead. Just as looking grief in the eyes helps bring healing, admitting the sadness of leaving a season of life helps us to move forward with it. When we face the sadness, we also acknowledge the goodness of that particular season, and then hopefully that turns into gratitude that it happened!

As Dr. Seuss says,

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I say, if you want to cry too, that’s okay. Cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and then move forward. And if you need to cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and move forward again later this afternoon, that’s okay. This isn’t a one-time deal. You may have to let go of the rope multiple times. You may not realize you’ve grabbed hold of it once again.

Letting go is a process. It’s a healthy and natural process at that.

As I said in the Chronological Change chapter, Genesis 1 shows us that God created the seasons and time on the fourth day of creation. (Genesis 1:14) They were part of the original creation, before the fall, when sin entered the world. A part of the original design. So, this tells me that even if sin and death never entered this world, seasons and time still would have existed. Now, they would have been different in the sense that they would not have led to death, as time does for us now, but they would have still been part of creation. Seasons still would have been a beautiful framework by which to live, and this encourages me.

We see cycles in life when one season begins, and another one ends. When the leaves fall off the trees, they yield to winter. When the snow melts and the flower bloom, winter yields to spring. And so forth. If we’re still holding on and trying to live in the fall, we’re going to miss every other season.

Letting go is part of living.

I always remind myself that the alternative to letting go and moving forward is holding on and stagnating. Stagnant is never a positive word, is it? Nobody desires to drink from a stagnant pond that is holding on to its growths. Instead, we want to drink from a babbling stream that is moving, and fresh, and purified. Jesus didn’t call Himself  “Stagnant Water,” but “Living Water.” (John 7:38) Stagnating and holding on to the past doesn’t seem appealing anymore, does it?

So how do we let go of the rope?

We process the journey, remember the moments, grieve the loss, move forward. Process, remember, grieve, move forward.

Opening our grip and releasing the rope frees our hands to grab the present in front of us. 

When we’re free to move forward and live in the present, we’re ready to open the front door and usher in life, with all of its opportunities.

We shouldn’t put it off any longer.


For more, you can find If Only It Were a Piece of Cake on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1091280215/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

 

What the Bible Taught Me About Writing

I’ve written two books. I blog. Occasionally, I summarize my thoughts into 280 characters and tweet them to everybody and nobody. I post updates on Facebook and “The Gram” (as I heard a cool twenty-something call it). I’ve even written a children’s Bible curriculum.

No, this isn’t my resume.

The point I’m trying to make is, in my forty-one years of existence (see why I rely on cool twenty-somethings now?), I’ve written about a variety of topics.

I’ve told emotional stories with my words, such as sharing about my mother’s death, my son’s cancer journey, and our struggle with miscarriages. I’ve used my words to teach children how the Bible fits together, and the fact that Moses lived after Abraham, and before David. I’ve written about the time my middle school son wore the same pair of socks for seven straight basketball games and how I almost died from the odor on the drive home. I offer a wide-range of topics.

And that’s just me.

When I scroll through my newsfeed, or browse the library shelves, I see articles and books on every topic known to man.

What could possibly be left to write? (I know that sentence could be improved grammatically, as in, ‘What could remain about which to write?’ but this is my essay, and I happen to like the ‘left to write’ thing.)

So when I sit down to work on my next book, or to pound out a blog post, I sometimes get discouraged. What could I possibly write about that hasn’t already been written? What wisdom, humor, information, or idea do I possess that has not already been released into cyberspace? Won’t my voice just be drowned out by the millions of others who have already sung this chorus and verse?

These doubts slow my creative process, and often bring it to a place where I sit and sulk with my friend, Low Self-Esteem.

Why tell my story? 

Why add my voice? 

Why write my words? 

And then one day, while I was doing my hair in front of my bathroom mirror, I looked at myself, and I thought, What about the Bible?

There are 66 books in the Bible, written by about 40 different authors. And, many of those authors write about topics in their books that are the same, or very similar, to the topics in other Bible books! They are humming the same tune. That’s quite the choir!

For example, take the guys in the Old Testament called “The Prophets.” There are 17 Prophecy books in our Bibles. Five of these are Major Prophets, and 12 are Minor. By the way, we call them “Major” and “Minor” because of the length of the books, not because Isaiah and Jeremiah had a weight problem. Just FYI.

Anyway, these 17 Prophecy books were written by 17 different men (actually, to be technical, 16, because Jeremiah wrote Lamentations. He’s always making things difficult), but these books all basically have the same message.

“Turn back to God or you will be punished.”

I’m summarizing, but that’s the main topic of each. Most of these men are even writing to the same audience; the divided nation of Israel. (Jonah, however, was called to Nineveh, and is an exception. If you remember him from Sunday School, you always knew there was something fishy about him!)

So, these 17 authors are all adding their voices, out of obedience to God, because they were called to share the message He gave them. Even though they aren’t the only ones sharing it.

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And then there’s the New Testament.

As I always tell my 5th grade students in my Bible class, the closer we get to Jesus in the Bible, the more information we have written. So in the account of creation, we only get about two chapters in Genesis, but by the time we get to the New Testament, we have four whole books dedicated to one man’s life. Jesus.

Four books. Four different authors. Four different versions. Four different voices.

But they all put their own flavor to it. And that’s what makes them so special.

Matthew was a Jew, and really connected with the Jewish reader. The Jews knew the Old Testament writings, and therefore Matthew shows them in his book how Jesus is the Messiah that fulfills the prophecies they’ve read so many times.

Mark wrote to a Roman audience. He tells of the same wonderful Jesus, but is writing to people who aren’t as familiar with the Old Testament prophecies, so he doesn’t explain how Jesus fulfills those. Rather, he tells of Jesus’ many miracles, and points them to the true God – who is greater than their many gods.

Luke was a physician, so one of my favorites little tidbits about him, is that in the story of Peter chopping off a guy’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus, (Peter was a not a subtle dude), is that Luke is the only writer that mentions that Jesus puts the ear back on! You can read about it in Luke 22:51. Of course a doctor would take note of such a “surgery!”

And John, he wrote to the world! He’s the one who wrote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John has gotten the most post-Bible era press for this verse with the invention of the football end zone.

So basically, if God designed the Bible to be a collection of voices, and styles, and flavors, and audiences, and personalities, then having a sea of voices sharing about the same topic must not be so bad after all.

I guess it’s time I stop second-guessing the messages and stories I feel led to share, and get to work.

Sharing my words, even if I’m not the first (or the best) to write about the topic, is an act of obedience to the loving God who is able to use them for His glory!

 

Assault with a deadly pair of socks.

 

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I’m not sure if it’s a blessing, or a curse. Maybe it’s both.

I’ll just come straight out and say it. I have an unusually good sense of smell.

I hate to brag. But, yes. I’ve got a good sniffer.

Case in point, I have called the city gas company on several occasions alerting them of a specific address or intersection where I smell a potential gas leak. Do you know how many of those times I have later seen a crew repairing said gas leaks in the exact spot that I’ve reported? Every single time. I’m not saying the city should hire me as a “gas sniffing unit” just yet, but they might want to keep the idea in the back of their minds.

Anyway, this sense of smell can come in handy, but it can also lead to suffering. Suffering in the form of extreme awareness of foul odors.

And let me tell you, I have I met some foul odors in my day. But just this past weekend, I experienced a new level of one particularly rancid odor.

And it wasn’t it a gas leak.

It was my son’s socks.

Granted, the poor kid has been hearing complaints from me for years about his socks. They’ve never smelled like roses. In fact, roses are probably now offended that I even dared make the comparison. Please forgive me.

Anyway, one time, in a hotel room, our family decided to put Karson’s socks and shoes in the hallway overnight because none of us could stand the odor with them in the room. We figured if anyone dare steal them, then bless their hearts. And noses. We’d buy new ones. But, his socks and shoes were there in the hallway the next morning, and my son’s pride remained in tact. Karson owns up to it. He’s just thirteen, but he’s a true man when it comes to owning his stinky feet. He’s not ashamed.

So, this past weekend, my husband and I “divided and conquered” with the kids. I took two of the kids to Michigan for my son’s basketball team to play in a tournament, and my husband stayed home to coach our third child’s game. We all had fun. It was a wonderful weekend of friends and basketball, and my son’s team got to play in seven basketball games over the course of two days. And bonus, they won them all! What great memories!

But here’s the problem. Minutes after getting into our van to drive the two hours home Sunday evening, I smelled trouble. I did not even have to turn around to verify my suspicion. Karson had taken his shoes off.

And I was about to pass out.

And then I find out why it’s this bad. This whole new level of awful. This “my eyes are burning” odor that is now assaulting me from the back seat.

He wore the same socks for all seven basketball games.

Yeah. You heard me. All seven basketball games. Same pair of socks. No washing machine. No spray deodorizer. No “airing them out outside.”

No comprendo. 

So… the conversation went like this.

“Karson. Something has to happen right now with your socks. I can not make it the rest of the way home in this condition. This situation is not going to work.”

Deep breath. Hold it. 

Exhale.

I continue. “I don’t care if you like those socks or that they’re Under Armor socks. Do we need to pull over and throw them away?”

“Hmm.” Karson thinks. Karson shrugs. Karson barely notices the odor and doesn’t understand why wearing socks seven games in a row without washing them is bad.

I exhale and reload. 

“Okay,” I add. “I have an idea. Why don’t we find a bag and you can put your socks in it and wrap them up SUPER tight to try and stifle the odor.”

Karson thinks. Karson shrugs. Karson slowly wraps the socks of death in a trash bag that we miraculously found in the van.

And we made it home.

Who knows, we may have passed several gas leaks on our way and I was not able to sniff them out and call them in because of the sock situation.  I guess I may never know.

But this I do know.

Seventh grade boys aren’t always going to smell great. Or even acceptable.

And they don’t care.

But, if you can hold your breath for awhile, and remember how much you love them, stink and all, you’re in for a great ride!

 

 

Temporary Regret.

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Regret. She was feeling it.

Karly had wanted to go to the butterfly exhibit at the local Botanical Gardens. The colors and delicate flapping wings had put smiles on all of our faces. We read the informational packets and tried to identify the different types of the beautiful creatures. How fun.

And then a butterfly landed on Karly’s head.

She wasn’t thrilled. Let’s just say that.

I get it. She inherited the “freak out when an animal touches you” gene from her mother. You might remember my tale of fish touching my legs in the lake where I was swimming (how DARE they!) that I wrote about here. https://christycabe.com/2012/08/13/do-as-i-say-not-as-i-swim/ Need I say more?

So, Karly’s reaction to the creature on her head spoke clearly to me. I read her nonverbal clues and knew exactly how she felt. And I did what any mom would do.

I took a picture.

I’m happy to report that Karly did survive the “landing” and she now looks back at the day with fondness.

Her regret was only temporary.

I get that too. I have moments of temporary regret. But, looking back, the regret dissolved. It fades into something else. Gratitude. I feel thankfulness for the moments I pressed on and through the temporary regret in order to get to the goodness on the other side.

The temporary regret that accompanied my pounding heart and shaking knees as I stood in front of 700 college students at my alma mater and chose to share my vulnerable story in their chapel service turned into gratitude that maybe I encouraged one heart that was needing hope.

The temporary regret of my aching back muscles from hours spent on bleachers watching my children compete dissolves into gratitude for the friendships and the lessons gained on the court.

The temporary regret of sleepless nights and swollen ankles during the late weeks of pregnancy led to a gratitude I can barley contain now that I have those babies who have grown into young people I adore.

The temporary regret of burning muscles and screaming lungs as I excercise turns to health and happy endorphins.

The temporary regret of choosing not to watch that television show and instead having a face to face conversation with my husband leads to a real life romance that beats any that would play out on the screen.

Temporary regret. I get it. I’ve felt it. I don’t love it.

But I do love the beauty it produces in its aftermath.

The delicate and fleeting moments of temporary regret are soon gone, like the butterfly wings that fly away and leave behind something beautiful.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes about a topic based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: REGRET

 

I Care About How My Kids Look During Their Sporting Events.

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When we were kids, my younger brother owned a sweatshirt with words on the front that read,

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you look playing the game.”

Oddly enough, this statement was accompanied by a cartoon penguin wearing a baseball cap. Apparently this image was to help convey the message that we too could look as cool as an athletic penguin while competing in sports. Built-in tuxedo not included.

Regardless of the marketing scheme, I remember the motto. “…it’s how you look playing the game.”

I never really bought into the sentiment.

I’m more for playing the game with determination and grit than winning any style points. But, as I’ve gotten older, and have become a mother to young athletes of my own, I’ve changed my mind a little.

The sentiment has taken on a new meaning to me.

Don’t get me wrong; I care very little about my kids’ appearance on the court or field when it comes to their fashion. The cartoon penguin may have them beat in the “cool” department.

But, I do care about how my children look during their sporting events.

How they look in the manner of what they do.

Because what they do is an overflow of who they are.

For example, if my son accidently collides with an opponent at first base, I’m concerned about what his next actions look like. Will he get up and brush himself off and argue with the umpire over the call? Or will he get up and reach out his hand to help his opponent to his feet? No matter the umpire’s call.

If my daughter is called for a travel on the basketball court, will she slam the ball down and roll her eyes, or toss the ball to the referee and continue to play the game to the best of her ability? Even if she knows in her heart she didn’t travel in the first place.

If my son’s team wins on a buzz beater will he still line up to give the other team high fives and congratulate them for a game well played?

If my son’s team loses a heartbreaker, and he’s the one to miss the game-deciding free throw, will he still believe his life is no less valuable than it was twenty minutes before?

You see, how my kids look during their athletic competitions is the indicator of who they are that I can see as their mother. Their actions are an overflow of their heart. Their responses and reactions to the game show me their character.

And as their mom, I care deeply about their character.

Matthew 12:34b says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

I want them to be children who value kindness more than victory. Empathy more than points. Integrity more than statistics. Sportsmanship more than sports.

I want them to look their coaches in the eye and truly listen to their instruction. I want them to be respectful to the referees, as well as to their own teammates, and opponents. In victory, or in defeat.

Don’t get me wrong. I want them to win. They get their competitive nature from both their dad and me. And it’s a pretty strong one at that! But, as much as I want them to win, I care about their character even more.

The games will end. The scoreboard lights will be turned off. But who my kids are, as a result of what they learn on the court, will remain. And that’s how I ultimately define winning now.

I guess how they look playing the game is pretty important to me now.

Too bad I don’t have one of those penguin sweatshirts to wear to their games.


This article originally appeared as a guest post on the Winning Women website: “Connecting and Equipping the Female in Sport.”

17 Things I Learned During the Christmas Season of 2017

Each year for the past several, I have taken the time to sit down and write out my thoughts and ponderings at the end of the Christmas season. Granted, by the end of Christmas break (yes, it’s January 6th, but my kids haven’t been back to school yet) my “thoughts and ponderings” have been boiled down to bullet points. No deep philosophical quotes are being conjured up here. Even that last sentence took longer to write than I’d like to admit. But regardless, I like to summarize what I’ve observed during the month of December.

And so, I give you:

17 Things I Learned During the Christmas Season of 2017

  1. If you’re losing to your son in a game of Checkers while on a date with him at Cracker Barrel, you can get out of the loss by claiming probable victory when your food arrives before he takes your last piece.

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  1. Just because the candy/icing/sprinkles say they are edible doesn’t necessarily mean they should be eaten.

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  1. You are never without holiday entertainment when you have two daughters ages seven and nine. Show times and themes vary.

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  1. If you invite a group of fifth graders over to your house for a Christmas party, you might as well take the mistletoe down before they arrive. The shrieking, pointing, and giggles will be quite disruptive until you do.
  1. Handmade cards with misspellings are my favorite. (Unless they’re from my husband. He should be able to spell correctly by now.)

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  1. If, due to sickness in the family, you all binge watch an entire season of a Hallmark show in a matter of two days, the sappiness in the acting and script may in fact lead to more feelings of illness.
  1. Sometimes your husband gives you three flashlights in your stocking with no explanation. Go with it.

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  1. Children love to shop at the school “Holiday Shop” and surprise their parents with “real gifts” on Christmas morning. They also like to hide said gifts in their shirts.

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  1. Pretzel rods dipped in chocolate > pretzel rods. This should really go without saying.

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  1. Eaves dropping on two sisters playing a strategy game at the table is well worth your time.

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  1. Store bought cut-out cookies don’t taste as good as homemade sugar cookies. However, the fact you don’t have to make them from scratch brings their taste level up to “rather delicious.”

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  1. You’re never too big to sit on Santa’s lap.

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  1. There’s something hopeful and fresh about the blank page of a calendar.

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  1. Candlelight services are beautiful and meaningful. Hot wax that drips from said candle onto your youngest child’s hand causing weeping during Silent Night seems to steal a bit of sanctity from the moment.
  1. When you are used to calling your son’s basketball compression shorts his “special undies,” and you need to take some back to the store and exchange them for another size, don’t ask the male sales clerk if he has “special undies.” Instead, stare at him for an uncomfortably long amount of time while trying to think of the words “compression shorts.”
  1. There’s nothing that will put a spring in your step quite like when you’re in what is literally the world’s largest high school fieldhouse and you’re sitting three rows from the bottom and have at least 50 steps to climb to get to the restroom, and your youngest child looks you in the eye and says, “I think I’m going to throw up.”
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  1. Sharing with groups of women during the Christmas season about the “Light of the World,” Jesus, and why you have chosen to live in His light instead of darkness is quite possibly as special as it gets.

 

3 Things I Expected and 3 Things That Surprised Me About Releasing A Book.

IMG_0757My latte not only tasted delightful, but it looked good too. How accomplished it must have felt to bring joy to my senses of sight, smell, taste, and touch all wrapped in one warm ceramic mug. That is, if a caffeinated beverage can feel accomplished.

My remaining sense, my sense of hearing, was also being satisfied by the voice of a dear friend who sat across the table. Terri and I don’t get together often anymore, but when we do, we make it count. When I sat down in my chair, the steam from my latte had barely risen to my nose before she asked the question.

“So, it’s been about a year since we’ve really been able to chat. I want to know this. In the last year, as you’ve released your book, what has it been like? Do this. Tell me three things that have gone as you expected they would, and three things that have been a surprise to you.”

Terri doesn’t mince words.

There was no, “How was your Thanksgiving?” or “It’s unseasonably warm today.” No, we got right down to it. And I like that. I find it the mark of a true friend who is able to take you to the heart of things before your coffee is cool enough to sip. I believe it’s an accomplishment. A decaffeinated one at that.

“Hmm.” I said. “Let me think.” And I did. I thought it over for a few moments as I reflected on the previous seven months since the release of my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels. And here is what I said.

Three things that have gone as I expected with the release of my book.

  1. It has been a lot of work. I am not complaining when I say this. Like I said, I expected a book release to be a lot of work, and I was mostly prepared for it. Writing a book takes a lot of time and effort. Releasing it to the world does too, only you have to add courage, money, time, hopes, dreams, logistics, public scrutiny, a speaking tour, and the cost of shipping. It’s not for the faint of heart, or the faint of public speaking. Thankfully, I’ve enjoyed the work my book release has brought, and as I told Terri, I mostly expected it to be as it has been.
  2. It has been brought me a lot of joy! I had a feeling that writing and speaking would be would right up my alley. Not that I had never done either before the release of this book, but since the birth of this book baby, I’ve definitely done more writing and speaking than ever before. And I’ve loved it. It has been so much fun, and I’ve found that there is such a joy and peace in serving God and others in what you feel is your God-given purpose (at least for the season of life you’re in). And, my joy has been almost immeasurable at times, like when my own children have read my book and talked to me about it. My conversations with my son about his cancer (‘That was a sad chapter, Mom.’ ‘Yes, Karson. It sure was.’) and with my nine-year-old daughter about how her Daddy and I met and dated (‘Daddy said he liked your legs!’ My face turns red.) have been beyond special. What great joy there is in seeing the fruits of your labors, even when the labor is plentiful.
  3. It has complicated the family life vs. work balance. I figured this would be an issue, and it has been. The delicate balance of knowing when it’s okay to say yes to an oppuntuntiy that takes me away from home, and husband, and kids is a tough one. Overall, I feel like we’ve been blessed with our family schedule and my speaking and travel schedule working together pretty well. But, there have been occasions when I’ve missed events and/or when I’m home, but busy and distracted with preparations and such. This is tough. In the near future, I’m traveling and will miss a band concert, at least three basketball games, and more. I hate that. But, it’s been a growing experience. It has taught me, and it has taught my family. My kids don’t need me to be involved in everything they do. My life doesn’t actually revolve around them and which set of bleachers I’m sitting on (though sometimes it feels like it does)! My kids know I am present at their events most of the time, and it’s proven healthy for them to see me work hard and share the message of hope and faith with others when I’m not in the stands. They are excited for me and the opportunities I’ve had, and so far, they haven’t seemed to resent it (it would break my heart and cause a lot of revaluation if they did.) We’ve been open about this family life vs. work balance as a family. We’ve prayed together over opportunities, and talked honestly about how it makes us feel. Has it been all bad? No. Has it complicated the issue. Yes. Did I expect it to become complicated. You bet. But just because you expect something doesn’t necessarily make it any less difficult when it arises. 

Three things that have surprised me with the release of my book.

  1. The amount of speaking I’ve done in past 7 months. I know that I just said above that I expected it to be a lot of work. Yes. And I did expect to do some speaking in relation to the book. However, the opportunities that I’ve been given to speak and share have been far more than I ever dreamed! It has taken a lot preparation (think Power Point, handouts, outlines, discussion questions, travel, logistics, book tables, business cards, credit card readers, etc.) but it has been SO much fun! I’ve had the opportunity to speak to groups of women, senior groups, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups, my alma mater’s student body chapel (Huntington University), a corporate chapel, podcasts, radio interviews, a parenting seminar, private home book parties, my denomination’s national conference, and even as a keynote speaker at a church’s women’s retreat. It has grown me and pushed me and sometimes worn me out (at the women’s retreat where I spoke three times in three days, I feel asleep in the middle of the day on the bed during free time with all the lights on and with my shoes on – and woke up two hours later!) Yesterday someone asked if I now call myself a communicator, or a speaker. I said I don’t call myself anything! But, I sure have enjoyed these opportunities.
  2. The fact that people actually read and care about my story. This sounds like a really stupid thing for an author to say. If you’re going to put a book out there, you shouldn’t be surprised when people read it. But I have been. I’ve been surprised that people care about my life story. I mean, I figured my parents would read it. And maybe my husband. But the rest of you? Bonus! And, the comments you’ve made to me, sent to me in cards, messages, etc. have absolutely humbled me. It has been special (and surprising) to hear how the stories or Life Morsels have touched many readers in very meaningful ways. As I was sharing this with Terri, I speficially mentioned how many comments I’ve gotten about Kraig and my love story. Terri said, “I still count it as one of the diamonds in my necklace of life that I was able to actually live that out with you all those years ago.” How can you not like a friend how feels that way? Or who says “necklace of life”? Anyway, the various ways the book has impacted its readers has been humbling. I still can’t get over it.
  3. The amount of work… and joy… and complicated schedules it has brought me. I know. I know. I’m cheating here. I’m basically taking all three points from above that I said I expected, and now I’m putting them down here in the surprise section. Deal with it. I’m serious. They go both ways. I expected to be busy and for it to be complicated and for it to bring my joy, but it has all surprised me at the same time. You know how that is. Things can feel both ways. I’m sorry I told you to deal with it. What I mean is, thank you for understanding.

For those of you who follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen these photos as you’ve followed along with my speaking over the last seven months. For those of you who are not on social media (What’s a Instagram and why does someone want to request my friendship?)  I will post some photos below.

Thanks for reading and for your support in this journey. I wish I could share a chat and a latte with each and every one of you. But then again, that would be an awfully lot of caffeine.

Cheers.

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My turn signal pinged its rhythmic song. I heard it, but wasn’t really listening. I watched the oncoming traffic, and waited for my chance to make a right turn.

My thoughts were ringing in my head, playing the harmony to the accompanying noise around me. I was trying to give my thoughts my full attention in hopes I could corral them into orderly conduct.

“You, over there. Yes, I know I have laundry in the washer that’s been sitting there wet for three days. I’ll run that load again when we get home. And yes, I’ll add detergent again. I know it stinks.”

“Excuse me, what? I have to write two checks to the school when I get home? One for a lunch account and then I have to order that sports gear. Oh, and the photograph form. Got it. I’ll try to get that done before picking up Karson from practice. Wait, is his jersey in the washer? What time is his game Sunday afternoon?”

“What’s that, Mr. Stomach? I haven’t made dinner plans yet for this evening? Give me a break. I’ve barely even been home this afternoon. You’ll just have to wait.”

My own mental conversation was not the only one echoing in my ears. In the backseat of the van, my daughters, ages seven and nine, were having one of their own.

I could hear them, but I wasn’t really listening.

“Let’s make up our own cheers, Kenzie.” My oldest daughter was saying.

“Okay. Let’s use letters and then think of words that they stand for,” Kenzie replied.

I tuned them out again.

Where did I put the checkbook?

“I know. For the letter ‘O’ we can make it stand for ‘Honesty!’ ‘O’ says ‘Ahh’ so honesty is a good word! I like honesty!”

“Yeah! ‘O’ for ‘Honesty’. Good idea Kenzie!” Karly responded to her little sister.

“Honesty actually starts with an ‘H,’” I chimed in. “How about ‘Octopus,’ instead?”

“No way, Mom!” Kenzie said. “I like ‘honesty’ better.”

I looked back at the road. I never was a cheerleader. What do I know?

“Okay, now for the letter ‘C.’ Kenzie continued, “Let’s use the word “Kind!” I looked in the rearview mirror. She was smiling and enthusiastic.

Once again I broke in to the conversation.

“Kind actually starts with a ‘K’ not a ‘C.’” I informed.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Yes, it does.”

“No, it’ doesn’t”

“Yes, it does.”

The turn signal kept the beat.

“Well, we don’t really care. We like honesty and kindness so we’re going to use them.” Kenzie said.

I thought about it.

Whose team mascot is an Octopus, anyway?

“You know what?” I said in my best Mom Authority voice. “I like honesty and kindness too. Go for it!”

And they did. They completed their homemade cheer and happily chatted the rest of the drive home.

They may not be winning the spelling bee anytime soon. But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t really care.

Honesty and kindness trump winning in my book, anyway.

Hip. Hip. Hooray! You go girls! Let honesty and kindness be traits you always cheer about.

And who knows. Maybe I could have been a cheerleader, after all.

Fruit•it•ta•tion

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I turned my back to the class of fifth graders in order to write their responses on the marker board. The chatter continued behind me.

I had placed the students from my midweek church class into groups and had asked each to read from Genesis in their Bibles to discover what God made during each of the six days of creation.

“I have day 3! We know it!” one of the boys shouted.

“Go ahead. What did you find in Genesis chapter one?”

“On the third day, God made land and vegetation.”

I nodded and wrote with the smelly dry-erase marker again.

Day 3 – Land and Vegetation.

“That’s right.” I confirmed. “Now, can you tell me in your own words what vegetation is?”

“Oh sure! Vegetation is what vegetables grow on, and fruititation is what fruit grows on.”

I should have turned my back again, because I laughed out loud – right to his young, eager face. A technique surely not recommended in the teacher handbook.

“You’re right about the vegetation, but fruititation is not a word. Fruit grows on vegetation as well.” I said, bursting his bubble and maybe wounding his pride.

But, I’ve got to admit, I like the word.

Fruititation.

It’s really growing on me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fruit. The kind of fruit that we bear in our lives, and how it’s seasonal, just like the kind of fruit we pick, whether from trees or the produce department.

Recently, I walked through the hallway at church, on a Sunday morning, and was stopped by a friend. She told me she’s in a small group Bible study, and they are currently using my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, as their study guide. I was shocked and humbled.

Really?

She went on to tell me that they’d been having such great conversations within the group and were learning so much. I thanked her and walked away in a daze.

My mind wandered back to the hours I sat in my home office with tight shoulders and an exhausted brain. It took me three years to write that book! I literally spent days in front of a blinking cursor pouring my heart onto the page. I devoted time, tears, and cash preparing for the book launch.

One specific night, I stayed up well past midnight adjusting margins and headers, section by section, in my manuscript. It was tedious, boring, and frustrating work. I did not enjoy it. I remember being tired and annoyed.

I came back to the present and walked up the stairwell in the church that leads to and from the childrens’ classrooms. I had just dropped my own children off, and was now heading back up the steps. I passed two kids carrying their Bibles and curriculum. I wrote the curriculum they carried. The kids had their arms wrapped around it as they walked past me on the steps.

Again, my mind flashed back to the season before that curriculum was finished. I spent months writing the content, years teaching it and fine-tuning it, a solid year giving it a “makeover” and learning graphic design tricks and tools to make that possible. I put a lot of sweat equity into that curriculum.

And now, preteens, whom I don’t even know, are carrying it with them to class on a Sunday morning and unknowingly passing the author on the steps on their way.

Could this be the culmination of fruititation?

Is this the wonderful cycle of bearing fruit?

Those tedious and seemingly wasteful hours of mundane and difficult work are important. In fact, they are more than important.

They are a vital part of the fruititation cycle.

Vital how? Vital because during those tedious tasks, the not-yet fruit was being tended. It wasn’t time for the fruit to be picked, but time for it to be watered, cultivated, lovingly pruned, and painstakingly nurtured.

The fruit wasn’t yet ripe. It was out of season. And being out of season usually means it can’t be seen. It’s not ready.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t growing.

David, the psalmist, wrote about this in Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

David mentions the tree that is planted and prosperous. But, he also mentions that the tree yields its fruit in season.

In season.

Not always. Sometimes the tree does not have visible hanging fruit. But it’s still a fruit tree.

Sometimes my efforts are not publically visible either. They are margin moving, cursor crunching, photo editing, head gripping, tear rendering, heart stirring moments of cultivation.

And sometimes, the fruititation cycle in my life has nothing to do with writing, but with raising kids, cultivating my marriage, planting seeds of deep and meaningful friendships, and tending the soil of my own heart. It looks like difficult, honest conversations that would be easier to avoid, midnight touches of warm foreheads and beeps of the thermometer, tough love and deliberate discipline that wrings your heart into a knot, intentional time set aside for listening and truly seeing the needs of a friend, and daily surrender to selfish desires.

It’s a struggle. A daily toil.

But the cultivation leads to the culmination of fruititation.

The fruit becomes visible. But only for a time. It won’t last forever. It’s just ripe for a bit.

But oh, how fun it is to see others enjoy it!

I am thankful for the moments when the fruit of my life is juicy, and ripe, and ready. But I’m also thankful for the reminder to press on in my daily, mundane, unnoticed, and often frustrating cultivating efforts.

Because they are vital.

Without them, fruititation is just a made-up word.