Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodbye, 35

You can look at it two ways: today is the first day of the rest of my life, or it's the last day of 35. Both are true!

Yes, tomorrow is my 36th birthday. Let's just get that out of the way now. Yippee, happy birthday to me, "...and many more..." and all of that jazz. Thanks for the well wishes.

Now, on to business!

I have a special wish for my birthday. Yes, I know writing that makes me sound like my six year old daughter, but it's true! Here's my special wish: I want you to go to this link and give me a dollar. That's it. Just ONE. Think you can swing it? In case you don't feel like giving me a dollar online, you know I'll take your cold hard cash in person next time I see you too.

C'mon. Give me some love, y'all! And feel good knowing you are helping to save lives too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tissue Cozies

Thanks to Holly at stitch/craft, I now have a new obsession. I will be making 20 of these tissue cozies for Katie's class "Friendship Party." (Can't call it a Valentine's Day Party... huh?)

I made my first one today, in just a few minutes. Seriously. It was so fast. If you can sew four straight lines, then you can make these. Here's how mine turned out:

I would have preferred the green gingham be on the inside of the cozy, but it was my first attempt and I was just thrilled that it actually worked. (I have a history of not giving much seam allowance and messing things up.)

So I dug through my stash of fabric scraps, and found a pile of these odd little bib-shaped pieces that I got at my favorite store. For those of you who have read my blog for more than three days, you know the name of my favorite store: Leftovers!!!

I found these bibby things there at least a year ago, and grabbed them with no plan in mind. Turns out they are exactly the right size for the rectangles of the tissue cozies.

I spent the rest of Jackson's naptime cutting rectangles with my handy rotary paper cutter, and all 20 cozies are ready to be stitched together. That will happen tomorrow during nap.

And, yes, Jackson actually took a real nap today. He hasn't been sleeping for the last 10 days. Instead, he prefers to turn nap time into Wrestlemania, and kicks and bangs around in his crib. I was terrified that nap days are over, but he psyched me up with a real nap today. Katie was home early from school because it was a half day, and she spent her time making those melty bead thingies while I cut rectangles from bibbies.

Oh, I can't wait for nap time tomorrow! I'm gonna be in sewing frenzy!

Camping in the Living Room

Jackson went to Mother's Day Out yesterday, and the day's theme was Camping Out. There was a large tent set up in the classroom, full of books so the kids could go inside and read. We came home from MDO and pulled the IKEA igloo tent out of basement storage. It is now the main fixture in our living room.

This morning, Jackson and I hung out in the igloo.

The light from our front windows struck the side of the igloo and was perfect for some silhouette photos.

But these are my favorite photos of all:

I love this last one because it so perfectly captures my son at this point in his life. He so completely adores guns. Yes, I know. It isn't quite P.C., is it? But it is what it is. At first, I tried to deter his gun  love by calling guns something else like rockets or fire. But that didn't work. Then I wouldn't let him have anything that remotely resembled a gun. Uh, nice try. The boy will make a gun out of anything: fingers, carrot sticks, and he even built his own rudimentary gun from Legos about two weeks ago. (I was both proud of his building and imagination skills, and horrified at his deep-seated desire for guns.) So now the rule is that he can't shoot guns at people, even the guns he makes by extending his pointer finger. Today, I asked him to show me how he shoots a gun. He wrapped the fingers of one hand around the fist of the other, pointed his index fingers, and started making "pshew" sounds. This photo shows the result. His eyes are all shifty (because he's in battle, you know), his mouth is in mid-pshew, and his fingers gun is a blur of action. This, my friends, is life with a boy. Sweet and terrifying at the exact same time. Oh, how I love my son!

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Dear Lord,

Just when I think I've got my balance and figured a few things out, You sweetly sneak up and surprise me. With a little tap on the shoulder, You remind me that You are in control. You are working in him, in countless unseen ways.

And it leaves me breathless.

I love all the ways you gleefully enhance my life, all the little love notes you leave me in unexpected places. The ways You tug at my heart, the ways You speak to me through other voices. How amazing it is to be loved by You!


How Much Eraser Do You Have Left?

Each time I volunteer in Katie's first grade class, it strikes me how often little kids use the erasers on their pencils. By the time they finish their first opening sentence during creative writing, their desks are covered with little rubber shards from their erasers, which get swept on the floor and make a mess. Some pencils are completely flat on top, with no visible eraser left. These kids have made so many mistakes that they have no eraser left.

After my volunteer time was over this week, I walked away thinking how my life's "eraser" is still pretty pink and definitely not very short. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to say I am perfect and don't make mistakes. On the contrary! Maybe my eraser is still pink and pretty because I am not getting out of my box often enough to even try anything new. Therefore, I'm not messing up too often. If I stick with what I know and keep doing what feels comfortable, then it's pretty easy to get it down pat. Right? But when I step into the unknown and have no clue what I'm doing, the eraser gets lots of use. I write and color outside the lines. I make mistakes and I correct them.

On Wednesday, I was talking to another mom I know about making mistakes. She thought she messed up on parenting her kids, and emailed me about it. I told her not to sweat it and that I've learned a big part of motherhood is making mistakes and learning from them. Then again, isn't ALL of life that way? We just do the best we can with what we have, and pray that it can be redeemed into something significant. It's trial and error and as soon as you find your footing, you get another curve ball that throws you off balance. I told her we'll make it through, we just have to lean on others for support.

The question is: do I want to live my life in such a way that my eraser is hardly used? Or do I want to continue learning and growing and, inevitably, making mistakes which will need erasing and correcting? I think God put us here to make mistakes and learn and grow from them. It's why we have a memory, so we can learn and move on.

I don't want to live my life in the same rut, doing the same routine over and over. I want to keep learning, keep stretching my soul, and I want to use my darn eraser. I know there will little rubber shards to clean up when I'm done, but I know that in advance so I'm prepared to forgive the mess I'm going to make.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Fresh Reflection

Want to make someone's day? Specifically, my sister Mary's? Then head on over to a new blog, The Fresh Reflection, and leave a comment.

Fresh Art photographers Jodie and Kim started a new idea after this blog post about seeing the worst in ourselves while strangers see the best. We point out our ugly chins or our mismatched eyes and say how awful we look. Turns out others think those very qualities might be our most beautiful. So Jodie and Kim started a blog where they'll post a photo of a woman and ask strangers to comment and give love and confidence to that woman.

I submitted a photo of my sister Mary (one of my very favorite pictures), and I'd LOVE for you to leave a comment and boost her self-esteem. She can use a boost these days. Originally, I wrote a long email to Jodie about why my sister is so awesome, but Jodie decided to post only the photos of the women so our comments are strictly based on their beauty and not the things we do that make us beautiful (or haggard, in my case!).

Once you're done commenting over at The Fresh Reflection, feel free to poke around my blog and read about my sister and how much she means to me. Here's a good place to start.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Winter Haikus

There's a challenge at (in)courage that I am joining. It's an artistry challenge to create and stir our souls.

Today's challenge is to write a haiku set in winter. I started writing and Katie came over to see what I was doing. She and I worked on haikus together. Here's my first one:

Winter is in me
Silently frozen down deep
His warmth will melt me

After explaining a haiku to Katie (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables), she came up with this:

Jesus’s birthday
Icy crystals falling on me
Snow is white and cold

And then, my last haiku:

This winter’s tight grip
Can’t stop spring’s tiny whispers.
I see buds outside!

I'd love to see you join in the challenge too. Leave your haiku in the comments, or link to it on your blog.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Dance

I am seeing some amazing things these days: God is working in so many lives, mine included. I don't mean that in the cliched, trite way either. I mean it in the true, life-changing presence He is developing in people He has put in my life. It makes my heart skip a beat to think of those I love drawing close to Jesus. When someone experiences such a huge change in their life, it makes my faith seem even more real. There is power in community and shared experience.

So I'm praying very directly for a few certain people, these "Nestlers" who are drawing closer and walking alongside our Father. It struck me today as I was praying that I'm not quite sure how to pray for them. I'm not praying for an end result. My prayers are not, "Dear Lord, please make them love You and it'll be all good. Amen." My prayers are not for a "fix" in their lives, not an end destination. I feel like my prayers are that their journeys will finally coincide with His. That their life walks will no longer be taken alone and they will feel their burden being shared. Notice I didn't say their burdens should be lifted, because we're not talking about a one-time event in their lives. I am praying that these Nestlers will feel the heavy burdens aren't theirs alone to carry.

I'm praying for a process in these people's lives, not a finish line.

My faith life so far has felt like a dance. Sometimes it's a slow dance, with very little movement and just a gentle swaying. Sometimes it's been a gut-wrenching, feverish convulsion full of upheaval, sweat and tears. Sometimes, it's just a good spin around the dance floor. Nothing too fast, nothing too slow. And, yes, there have been times in my life where I refused to dance at all. I got tired of dancing alone and trying to keep up with the pace all by myself. I stepped away from the hardwood dance floor onto the carpet, and watched from the sidelines. I didn't really feel like I needed to dance anyway. But last year I realized I didn't want to be a bystander to the dance anymore. I saw the other dancers and felt compelled to have what they had. I wanted to join in, but didn't really have a Partner that I was committed to. And that's when I finally looked to see that Jesus had been holding out His hand to me all along. I guess I always thought I was a better dancer on my own. At my church's baptism party last June, this was one of the signs beside the baptismal lake:

"I'm taking Christ's hand and finishing the dance with Him." I wrote that in my application for baptism because I felt like it was time to Dance. That photo is posted on my bathroom mirror. Each morning as I'm getting ready for the day, I look at that photo and ask Jesus to dance with me. I envision Him holding out His hand, pulling me to Him, and showing me the dance steps for that day. Sometimes I get off step because I'm not so good at following His lead (like if the kids frustrate me and I yell at them), so I have to mentally re-center myself and re-envision Him starting a new song and showing me a different step. I even have a song that plays in my head for this: "Skin" by Rascal Flatts. "They go dancing around and around without any cares and her very first true love is holding her close. For a moment she isn't scared."

Jesus has made me love Dancing again. I hope the Nestlers are enjoying their new Dance too.


A little less than a year ago, I wrote here about what hawks mean to me. They are a physical reminder of my father's presence in my life, even though he is dead and gone.

I still see hawks almost every single day. Maybe because I live in the Midwestern suburbs, not in the deep city? I like to think that it doesn't matter where I live; hawks would find me regardless.

One thing I really wanted to do is capture a hawk with my camera. I've had that little wish in my heart for a while, but every time I would see a hawk, I'd be camera-less. I started taking my camera with me on days when I'd have time to stop and capture a hawk if our paths crossed (i.e., not when the kids were with me). All of a sudden, I wasn't seeing them as often! Aaargh.

On Christmas Eve, Dan and I were running last minute errands before going to his parents' house for the family festivities. I had my camera with me in preparation for the family event, and we saw a hawk! It was a drizzly day, but I asked Dan to pull over and let me try to capture the hawk. I went tromping through a muddy field and got this shot:

That poor, wet, cold hawk! I couldn't get him to move no matter how many shrieks and noises I made, so I didn't get my wish of a great shot of him with his wings spread wide.

And then this past Wednesday, I got another chance. I saw a hawk in a field, then did a u-turn to go back to him. I only got a few shots before he spooked and flew away.

As a wanna-be photographer, I have a compulsion to want to record things, events and people. I want to capture the moments before they slip away. Capturing the moment makes it feel more real to me, as if giving my poor memory proof that something truly did exist. At face value, my quest for a hawk on film seems straightforward. But what is the underlying drive? Am I trying to capture my dad again, however fleeting he may be? Maybe.

In my quest, I have realized there are some things in life that just can't be captured, and some things that were never meant to be anyway.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


This weekend's message at church was about money. Personal finances. How humans love money and use it to measure our worth. 1 Timothy 6:10 says: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Greg, our pastor, was quick to point out that MONEY isn't the root of all evil, the LOVE of it is.

He also talked about our current economic climate, and how some people are barely making ends meet. I think our tendency is to tenaciously hold on to money when it starts getting tight, and that makes it feel even tighter.

Greg said there is one word that will release you from those material ties: gratitude. In a sermon from November 2008, he said it best: "Gratitude is the antidote to discontentment." Yes, times are tough. Yes, we as a nation are scared and worried. But feeling gratitude for your situation - no matter how dire it is - keeps you from being a "plaything of your circumstances." Even if you are unemployed or facing a terminal diagnosis or a divorce or loss, there are still things you can be grateful for. Greg said, "Notice what God has already given you. Be around people who aren't afraid to laugh with you but will also cry."

And: "When you notice the gifts and are grateful it leads you to the kind of worship that calibrates your soul." I think that quote right there explains my outlook on life. I want to notice and be grateful - even for the pain - because it is part of the experience God has chosen for me. And when I can be grateful for the good AND bad, it brings me to my knees. It silences me with awe and amazement as I realize how overwhelmingly good and great God is.

You do understand that I can say that, even with incredibly large and painful holes missing from my heart? There's a loss I live with every day, an ache that is sometimes sharp and other times just a tremor. It's a loss that has seeped into the rest of my life and forever changed me. And, yes, I am actually grateful to God for that loss. My gratitude certainly doesn't mean I would choose this same outcome if I had a second chance, but my gratitude has come from hindsight and faith - looking back to my past and seeing how God never once stepped away from me.

At the end of the sermon, Greg talked about a pastor from Texas who was killed on October 30, 2005 during a baptism. Kyle Lake was electrocuted while standing in the baptistery of his church. A few days later, someone found notes from the sermon he was planning to preach that day. Greg read these words to us:

Kyle Lake's last sermon "Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now. On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE. Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.
If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well. At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift."

So, what are the gifts in your life? Here are a few of mine:

I am grateful for darkness because it means light is coming.
I am grateful for stretch marks because they are the proof of my babies' entry into the world.
I am grateful for friends who have moved on, because they have taught me how to live and let live.
I am grateful for clutter, because it means I have abundance.
I am grateful for snow that chills me and sun that warms me.
I am grateful for sleep and rest so that I have the energy to appreciate my blessings.
I am grateful for laundry, because I have a family who gets those clothes dirty.
I am grateful for sweat, because it means I'm exerting my strength.
I am grateful for my son's runny nose because it means his immune system is working.
I am grateful for weakness because it lets others be strong.
I am grateful for pain because it means I'm alive.
I am grateful for tears, because they evaporate and never last.
I am grateful for hope and breath and joy and today.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Who Was Right?

Thanks to my six blog readers for making me feel loved and leaving me a comment last week. I asked you to take a guess as to how many emails I purged before we transferred Outlook over to Frank (my laptop).

The sad thing is that none of you were close. My neighbor/friend Sheryl was the closest with her guess of 5,000. Oh, that would have been so nice. But, no! I actually ended up deleting about 7,900 emails. A decade's worth. Ugh! (Sheryl, I'll be bringing you a "happy" in the next few days. Stay tuned!)

Charity asked how long it took to purge and whether I read the emails before I purged them. It took me about a week to purge, and it took me that long because, yes, I did read a lot of them before I deleted them. I have to admit that I didn't delete ANY of my mom's, dad's or sister's emails. I couldn't bear to part with the first two, and didn't want to go through the 619 that I still have from my sister. The day I went through Mom and Dad's emails, I was an emotional wreck. I read through some very tender and tumultuous emails from them both, and it made me very happy that I saved those emails for so long.

I spent a long time reading the emails from my two high school best friends, and realized how much we have grown up in the past decade. I became a mom in the last ten years, and also became an orphan. Looking at the emails from 2000, it felt like I was reading a letter from a long-lost friend: me. I wistfully remember those days when my biggest anxiety was being fired and trying to decide whether to sue the company that fired me. I miss those days, and yet I don't! I am so thankful that God had other things in mind for me, even though it didn't make sense at the time. (Isn't that my life story?!)

I have succeeded this week in exercising my delete button lots more often. It feels good!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


My blog has been relatively quiet this past week, after my DAILY posting during the Christmas Countdown. I didn't realize how time consuming daily blogging could be when it was on my To Do List every day. So I'm a little relieved to blog just whenever I feel like it now, not on a schedule.

I've been quiet for the past week because I've been busy purging. I told you about Frank, our new laptop that we bought for Christmas. The sad thing is that I haven't bonded too well with Frank because I haven't been able to transfer a lot of stuff to him yet. First thing to transfer is my Outlook, and it turns out that I have saved WAY TOO MUCH for it to transfer over. Yes, I confess that I save MANY emails. After I really started looking into it, I realized I have emails from ten years ago. Yes, ten. And, no, they are not life-impacting emails either! They are just static from my life in 2000 and since.

I've spent the last week purging all those non-essential emails. Guess how many I deleted? Go ahead, guess. How about you leave a comment with your guess? Then I'll send you a little happy. (And I better not get a guess ONLY from Gina. C'mon, lurkers! Now's your chance to show your face!)

Anyway, I finally finished my purge last night. Now I feel so free and relieved! That leads me to my first New Year's resolution: I resolve to STOP saving every email. Just let it go, baby.

Aren't you proud of me?

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Scripture

This is the fifth year in a row that I have started the new year with by choosing a specific Bible verse to focus on all year long.

I started in 2005. That year, I used my brother's Bible that Mom inherited after he died - which I then inherited after she died. It was the same Bible that she and I read from when he was newly diagnosed with cancer, and he was at rock bottom after his first chemo treatments. Mom was there nursing him, and around bedtime she invited me to his room to read their nightly Scripture. It was Isaiah 40, specifically verse 31: "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." I didn't make it through the Scripture without stopping and crying. Mom gave me "the eye" from across the bed, silently telling me to buck up and be strong for Jackson. I will never hear that verse without having flashbacks of my brother.

So... back to my story. In 2005, I started the new year knowing that my father would probably die in the coming year. Mom had just died four months earlier, so I was bracing myself for yet another shoe to drop. I sat down on New Year's Day with my brother's Bible, and said a prayer. I asked God to direct me to some of His words that would speak to me in the coming year. And, then I just flipped my Bible open and blindly pointed to a verse on a page. It was Job (of course!), chapter 33, verses 29-30: "God does all these things to a man - twice, even three times - to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him." If that wasn't directly aimed at me, I don't know what else it could be! I felt God speaking to me, acknowledging the fact that the third major loss of my life was about to happen ("twice, even three times") and He was promising me that His light would shine on me and warm me, even in the depths of my grief. I focused on that verse throughout the year, and meditated on it often.

In 2006, I did the "blindly pointing" thing again, since it worked so well in 2005. This time, God directed me to Luke 21:33: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." He was telling me that He is faithful, ever present, and the physical world that I focus my energies on is fleeting.

In 2007, I decided to focus on verses that I liked for no other reason than because I liked them. They were Job 19:25-27: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, I myself will see him with my own eyes - I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" Say that last sentence out loud. You can't help but say it with conviction and hope.

In 2008, I again chose a verse for myself. It was Psalm 23, but not the usual translation. This was from the Good News Translation, which starts "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need (emphasis mine)." I really liked that version because it helped me focus on what I have instead of what I don't have. It helped me focus throughout the year, especially when I was diagnosed with lupus that September.

In 2009, I really can't recall how I chose my verse for the year. I think it was one of the little Bible verses on a card that sits in my kitchen window, but I can't be certain. It was the Good News Translation of Lamentations 3:22-23: "The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue. Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise." I also loved the NIV version: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." I posted this verse so I could see it every morning while I showered. It took half the year for it to sink in to my brain. I remember one day I was showering and thinking about how the kids were smothering me with responsibilities and I literally felt like I was being consumed. I looked at the verse, and, of course, the word "consumed" jumped out at me. I knew God was telling me that no matter how exhausted I felt, I wouldn't be consumed. It was so reassuring to me.

So, here we are in 2010. A few months ago, I was looking through my Bible and read Psalm 100. I have a parallel Bible with the NIV and Message translations side by side. Verses 1 and 2 in The Message spoke straight to my heart: "On your feet now - applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence." I felt like it was such a jubilant way to approach God. I wrote the verses down on a Post-It note and stuck them on my bathroom mirror. I liked it so much that I chose it for this year's Scripture.

Are there any verses that speak to you? Which will you focus on this year?


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