No one notices the pillars

No one notices the pillars.

Take a look at the White House. The facade, the grandeur, the elegance, the sweeping landscape. The protesters in front. You can feel the history. But you probably walk right past the pillars.

They cast a lovely shadow, create an ambience to be experienced, but so often we look right through them while they stand at attention in a thankless work. As we enjoy the view, we forget if these essentials supports cracked, buckled or vanished, the place would topple.

This is true for those who support our organizations, our churches, businesses, non-profits. We take great pride in our out-front leaders, the big personalities, the charismatic types who lead rallies and bring in all the fundraising.


But what about the pillars, the ones who stand behind, the last to leave, the ones with toilet brushes in hand? These are the pillars we walk right past. We don’t appreciate the pillars who stand beside us, who hold the whole place up with their relentless tenacity, who day in and day out take the sideline view to make the vision a reality.

A few days ago, our church said farewell to a family of pillars. They were rarely in front. Their names weren’t plastered on walls. Some people didn’t know them well. But they propped up our community with prayer, guidance and support. They showed up in the beginning, when there wasn’t much to show for the labor, when pieces were hardly in place. 

And they stayed. Because that’s what pillars do.

When pillars are people, sometimes we have to say goodbye when a new season comes along. But inevitably, within a healthy family of people, whether a business or organization, someone else will step in. Will become the new pillar. Will forsake notoriety and fame to build up and support something greater than themselves.

So here’s to the pillars. I see you. I am so thankful for you. May we all see the pillars in our lives, and give them the praise they are due.

Sometimes I Can’t, and That’s Good

My friends recently took on a home improvement project: a whirlwind weekend thing with painting and heavy lifting and other tiring things. I realized after it was all over they didn’t ask for help. They just did it all themselves.  

Then I thought that was kind of odd for my friends. We usually ask for help. Painting, moving, building, constructing, remodeling – we usually do it in packs, pizza for lunch, work that requires sore muscles, dirt under the fingernails, showers afterwards. 

It’s nice to get something done on your own, to have the sense of accomplishment, the “I built this”. But then there’s this even bigger “wow” you get when you invite someone else in to the process, the “we built this” effect. It’s like something that is hard gets done, but faster, and when you’re done, you have this friend you didn’t have before. A bond builds in the hammering and the arguing about paint colors and the gentle but slightly annoyed “you missed a spot” and everything that turns an individual’s pride into a community’s unity. 

It’s like letting people in on the work, letting them help you, is good for you and for them. 

The sweat builds the camaraderie, doesn’t it? [Photo cred:]

I remember after college I didn’t much like asking for help. I was a campus ministry intern that first year, and I met weekly with this incredible, cosmopolitan group of college girls. There were the sparkling, hospitable roommates: Hayet from Algeria and Vivian from China, and the beautiful Persian and Japanese girl, Fatemah, from Japan. Sometimes she would take off her hijab when it was just us girls. There was Duchess, the fiery, spunky track star from Florida.  And I can’t remember the name of the girl from Brazil – her name began with O. And then there were me, Merrill and Jackie, the Midwestern brunettes who came every week to see what would happen next. 

It was so dynamic. Our conversation led to God, the gods; with Christians and Muslims and agnostics in the bunch, it was lively to be sure. And so beautiful. One of my favorite memories from one of the most difficult, out-of-place years of my life. 

But I had an agenda. I was promoting Jesus, you know, The Way, The Truth and The Life, and he sure needed some help so I volunteered. I felt compelled to be the WalMart, the place with all the answers. So each week I baked the goodies and tried to have something for us to talk about, some kind of activity. And all the pressure was on me to arrange everything and make the food and fill up all the roles so I could show how together Jesus was helping me be. 

That spring, I attended a missions seminar, and the speaker, a local preacher, came and talked about Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4. He said Jesus did something outrageous here, besides just talking to a woman who was a social outcast. He took a big breath and asked her for a drink. 

Yes, so imagine this. Here’s Jesus, the Son of God, and he’s thirsty. Because he’s human. And of course he could just speak water into existence like he did the first time it was invented, but no, he sits down at this well, and he’s like, “Hey, would you mind helping me out with a beverage? I’m parched.” 

This always seemed like a strange move for such a powerful guy. But the speaker continued. He said Jesus empowered the woman to give him something, to be the one with something to offer, before he gave her what she needed, which in her case was redemption, compassion and someone to understand without judging. 

[photo cred:]

He let her serve him first. And this was what opened the door. Her service, her provision to him of something he did not have, gave her the upper hand. She had something this man needed. And this gave her value. Wow. What a humble person Jesus is. And so creative. 

I took this to heart. The WalMart compulsion fizzled under the weight of the new revelation. Jesus let others serve him, which empowered them to see their value and skill, and they opened their hearts to him. 

So I backed off, did less, asked for help. I let Hayet and Vivian bake, and we held our group in the dorms or in the girls’ apartment, and everybody helped. I got to breathe, stop being Jesus and let him do his thing. And we all felt much better. It turned out Chinese food made by a Chinese girl is quite delicious, but I would never have known if I’d kept at it with the poorly baked goods. (I don’t even like cooking, for crying out loud.)

We can do it all on our own, the building and child-rearing, the painting and gardening, the bathroom remodel and the gutter repair, the volunteer caroling at the nursing home or managing every single program in our organization. We can all just separate and work on our little tasks and come back together and talk about it. We can try to make God proud with everything we accomplished. 

But it’s just not as fun, not as big-thinking to do your own thing. And certainly not as effective. It’s the invitation in, the “we want you and we need your help” that builds other people up, the work alongside another that forges the bond and turns acquaintances into friends. It’s the admission, “You have something I need,” that turns an angry, rocky heart into someone who wants to help, to hear and be heard. 

I’m not trying to be fuzzy. This just worked. Took the heap of pressure off me and let others see I believed in them. It was a relief then, and still is now. And the outcome is always lovely. 

The Door and The Window Theory

When I don’t get what I want, I can count on a nice church lady to fold her hands and remind me in a whispery voice, “When God closes a door, he always opens a window.” Grrr. I hate that saying. First of all, how am I supposed to walk through a window? I have to get a leg up and climb. And how many stories up is this window anyway? Sounds risky. If you’re going to close the door in my face, opening a window is not an equal substitute. Maybe it’s a sweet proverb, but it does nothing to assuage genuine disappointment. And I’m pretty sure Solomon didn’t come up with that one.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons: Library of Congress Photostream

Recently the door I was knocking on closed. Or maybe it just never opened. It was as good as open in my mind, and I made the necessary emotional accommodations to leave one career and take on another, one in Public Relations. It was going to be a big step, the kind where you hike up your knickers, plunge in some rapidly-moving, very cold water, and maybe hold your breath for a minute or two. But I was ready for it. Game face on.
Then Slam.
To be truthful, I knew the career change was a stretch. But I had a cheering section comprised of my mom, dad, and a few friends. Myers-Briggs was very encouraging; the ENFP profile said I was a perfect fit. But technically I didn’t have any experience, no real qualifications except for all the writing and smiling and talking I do on a regular basis.
But I had gotten bored in my current line of work. I was frustrated that my life was one big problem-solving session:
Line up.
Okay, what’s your problem?
Oh yes, that’s very difficult.
Okay, here’s how to fix it.
Empathy Schmempathy. I’ve been doing this since junior high. It’s time for a break, I thought to myself in a tiny cabin outside of Manhattan. Please, I need an open door. Something new. I called a friend, and then, an opportunity. In PR. A door, cracked but open, ever so slightly. As part of the application process, I received a writing assignment that felt a little like stringing Ulysses’ bow, but I wasn’t Ulysses. Nevertheless, I put the horse blinders on, slung back some extra espresso, and I pulled that bow until my little hand hurt. Ten hours later, I turned in a decent piece of writing. Now to just make it to the second interview, then they could meet my shiny face and see how charismatic I am, and then they’ll throw all their money on the pixie-haired brunette from the small town.
The dreams were big. The waiting moments were long. I wrestled, hoped, resigned, and wrestled more. I knew I needed change. This had to be it. And then the answer came. The sound of a door clicking shut. I sucked in my gut and took it like a woman, but later on, the cloud of disappointment blew over and rained on my head. I was soaked.
I don’t see a door or a window right now, God. I left my old job emotionally, and now I will still be here. Will still go to work and convince people to feel hopeful and happy when I don’t really feel that way myself.
But pain asks hard questions, and it’s in the agony that we can really answer them. The question: What do I really want to do with my life? I bravely squeaked, “Write.” Well, PR job or none, writing I can still do. I can still blog. I can still share these thinking in our writers group, The Inkwell. I can submit my best work for publication. I can still write.
After a night of tears and prayers offered up by the one who wasn’t crying – that would be Josh – I slept and woke up, made coffee and went to work. Like any other day. And I helped some sad people with messy lives and I sat on the edge of my seat, leaned in and heard them. I got involved again. But I still wanted to write. Still wanted to open a door of new.
I took a late lunch, but at least I got one. Standing by the office window for reception, I opened my email and saw this.

Your submission.
I sent this in a month ago, before the door that just closed had opened at all. I stopped hoping for this door, small as it might be. But here it was. It’s not a book getting published, but it’s one of my pieces. And by a group of recognized, gifted writers, the Burnside Writers Collective, people who take their work seriously. And now they’re taking me seriously.
I’m not a published author yet. But this is a step in the right direction. A back pat for my faithfulness, or maybe like a bowl of ice cream after a break up. Either way, it feels good, God. So thanks. I’ll take it. Feeling a little better already.
Maybe another door will open soon, my Hope chimes hopefully. But not a window. Please don’t open a window.

History is Something

I’ve had the Lazies the past week so you’ll have to forgive me. Well, it wasn’t quite Lazies because, in another area of life, I was working in full speed ahead. Just in another direction. Took all my time. So maybe it was a case of the Distracties. Anyway, back again with this writing thing. 

Tonight I resumed a bad habit I’ve never quite been able to lay to rest: taking pictures of myself on my cell phone and sometimes, sending them to my friends. I would say “Don’t judge me”, but why bother? It’s already happened. But at least let me explain myself. I adore this activity because of the nearly endless hilarity that ensues…for me. Contorting my face into ridiculous distortions and then writing wacky captions for them is all the entertainment I need for a Friday night where the husband opted for a book. Especially when I get to imagine how much joy I’ve brought to someone’s life when my lovely mug shows up in their inbox. “You’re welcome, everybody.”

Taking pictures of myself has history though. As in, it wasn’t just my idea. Two of my very good friends have cried and nearly peed ourselves with giggles, quickly shooting digital portraits of our silly mugs, flipping the camera around to see the results, laughing hysterically, and then assigning our faces another emotion or expression and capturing that, one after the other. First it was Jen in Kansas City, and then a few years later Danielle, in Lawrence. 

Exhibit A:

Caption to Jen: “Just got my first Botox injection. Looking good but I just can’t feel my face.”

My too-much-time-on-her-hands photo shoot yielded at least a few smiles for me, but got me thinking more about the history of friendships, mine to be exact. I’ve got these incredible, deep-down cement friendships with Jazzy, since age 12, and Rachel, since 15, Jen since 17, Ica since 18, and a handful of others I’ve met or reconnected with since then: Ingrid, Danielle, Michelle, Jessica. For most of these women, we were together before boys, after boys, dreaming up husbands and then watching them materialize. {poof} They were in my wedding. I was in theirs. 

Some time in there, the huddle moved outward, south, east, far east in some cases (Ica), or a wee bit west in mine. Anyway, the proximity was less proximal and therefore, the interaction was less frequent.

So much time goes by between face to face these days, weeks, months, even years. There are hundreds of ways to connect – phone, text, Skype, email, facebook – but none of them come close to heads together, hugs, and hysterical laughing fits around coffee or martinis. Those moments, once so frequent, are few but so precious now. 

And when we’re together, we can’t help but remember those days, those nights, the slumber parties, the roommate tales, the stories that I tell one way but she tells another. The night none of us slept when the three of us, Rachel, Ica and I, slept width-wise on the bed and I woke up whining and groaning because I was so frustrated and miserable. They still mock me for this one. And rightfully so – I was just so pathetic.

Or the time Danielle and I tested out how “done” the muffins were by throwing them against the wall like noodles to see if they would stick. 

Or the time Jen and I were on vacation in Colorado and we took pictures of ourselves in front of a mountain scene but when we developed the pictures, the scene behind us was black and we were just sitting there smiling like idiots in front of blackness. We couldn’t handle how hilarious this was, cry-laughing in the grocery store one-hour photo lobby. 

Or when Jazzy and Trotta and I were barely driving legal, only 17, and we went to St. Louis in the middle of the night and had only 9 hours to get there and back and we got a terrible speeding ticket and almost died when one of us feel asleep at the wheel and we had to take all our pictures at 4am in the dark. And then we all had to tell our parents about it when my conscience caved and everybody got in trouble.

And there’s so much more – it’s all just so good. All this history. All this time.

It makes the big long space between the hugs and martinis and side-hurting laughter a little easier. It’s like a giant fast-forward button for the times when we are together again, like we can somehow just press un-pause and start right where we stopped. We use the words and faces on screens and phone calls to fill in the details, but the good stuff happens in real time, although for these girls, I will take what I can get. 

It was really hard for a long time to even think about making new friends, to imagine that there might be any room left over for more deep love and crazy laughter and sleepovers. That the days with new friends would once again add up to months and years, and that these wild stories that were once only about me, would now involve my kids and theirs. But out here in this little college town, I was more alone than I wanted to be, and I had to let the guard back down. And now I have new friends who I take pictures with, and our kids give each other kisses and hugs, learn to walk and talk together, and one of those toddlers might even call me “Mom”, in addition to his own mother. (And he’s not John.) It’s been wild, learning that my heart does in fact expand, and that love is one of those things we don’t run out of, that it does this exponential growth thing instead.

But either way, I’m only 30 years into life so for the women who were girls with me way back then, who have been around for over half of these years, there’s no way to replace this history. The deepness of knowing exactly where she’s coming from, that I know her old address and she knows my mother’s maiden name, and we were both grounded for smoking or speeding or whatever but at least it was together. And she knows what the boys called me when I was 13… to have someone understand what you want to say just because you’ve been here before, a few years ago, to be so known and so loved – I’ll never trade this good-good stuff. And I’m glad I don’t have to, that love adds and doesn’t subtract. Maybe that’s the best stuff. 

A few of the “old” friends through the (recent) ages:

One of those times when I traveled a few hours south to get some face to face with Jen.

Danielle and I will probably always have bad boundaries with noses.

At my before-baby party. Minus but thinking of Ica and missing her badly.

Ica, Rachel and I like hiding behind things. It’s a long-standing tradition. Foliage is our favorite.

Ings and I, looking fab, rocking LBDs and babies in wombs.

Ica’s Bachelorette party with the IRS.

And somehow, the husbands came along too. One by one by one. Which is good, since polygamy is outlawed in the United States.

Husbands who know how to dance.

Husbands who know how to humor their wives with dry wit and – even – getting along with each other.
And Jazzy, on her happy day last year. What a good day. (Also happened to be the day before I went pixie hair.)

I love you all, new friends and old ones. May the years keep adding up for us all.


Life Together

Teaming up to think out loud on Community with the Gypsy Mama for Five-Minute Friday. Confession: It took longer than five minutes to get all this down, but it was worth it. And my special note: For all the friends and family who shared our couches and carpet and dishes and milk with, I still love you all. No matter where in the world you are. No matter how long it’s been since we talked.

Here I go:
“Do you mind if I bring my snake?” David asked Josh, maybe in a text message two Mays ago. I didn’t mind, as long as she stayed where snakes stay, in glass cages. David moved in a short while later, snake and opinions in tow, along with Derek, the post-military intelligence, twenty-something, who lived almost two lives in his short years. And Rachel unloaded the truck into the room across the hall, two steps from Josh and me. These were our first roommates.


We argued the nutritional value of bacon in the kitchen and if boys were better than girls in the living room. Ah-ha moments about God and the Holy Spirit mixed themselves in. Prank wars were threatened but only barely acted upon. There was some tickling and tackling and so much laughing. There were always dishes in the sink. There were many late, tired nights. There was a baby in a belly growing arms and legs. And often there was Rachel sitting on my bed, whispering to me that I should rest, listening to the Baby Blessings CD and wishing we could hear God say these things to us.

Rachel when we met at the camping trip. We were friends in minutes.

Then summer ended and the basement boys moved out. And so did Rachel. And in came Jeff and Joe. Joe the guitar player with wild curly hair and a laugh that took up all the room. Jeff fresh from a paid trip to the desert, a little sunburnt and full of some revelation about himself. He and his dark green gear and shaved head took Derek’s old room and Joe moved in to the room without a snake. And then we were mostly just a house of boys. It was me against Bear and Josh and Jeff and Joe, and the tiny in my belly, John, who was mostly on my side, but maybe not by choice. Christy saved the day across the hall some time in September with girly clothes and some late nights talking about boys. And just before a baby came she found her big-girl apartment and off she went exploring.

Jeff, Joe, Josh and John in a bundle, all being exactly like themselves. 
Then the John we’d all been waiting for came after so much time, and nearly all the world came to see him when I’d not slept for nearly three entire days. And we came back home and that was when John and I cried, and I don’t think Jeff or Joe saw any more crying from any two people than they did that November.

He was really that small, I promise you.

Then in January Jeff married Emma, and they had been moved out for only just a breath and then back in across the hall from us, the room for guests but for Christy before them, right next to the baby. And Jeff and Emma became Auntie Ems and Unky Jeff, and all was right like that for two months or so. They learned how to put on a diaper at least. 

Mawwage looks nice on you two. 

The Wheatley wedding reception was a family affair.

They they sold the truck and bought a hippie car and found their own space in the world, which was good but we missed them. And Joe made his first guitar and it looked so nice and sounded even better. And everyone was proud. Then Joe graduated and moved to his space too.

Joe plays guitar and swings a bat. Here he’s just singing his heart out.

And then we were an empty house. For just a minute. Long enough to walk around and feel all the quiet and think something might be wrong and enjoy it all the same.
Soon came Allie, sort of. She needed a place to sleep only for thirty days or so because she was a busy blonde fiancée planning to marry her dashing Ryan who lived only a few blocks away. And so we saw that she stayed the night by the rumpled clothes on her bed, but rarely saw her until after she walked down the aisle in ivory.

Allie and her man, who looks like a sock monkey, but he’s really a guy named Ryan. 

And then the music came back to the house, with Megan and Kelley, two missionaries on the sojourn to Ireland, needing a landing spot for a while. And this time it was someone else’s turn to grow a baby – theirs. And Rachel came back because we liked her and she liked us, and we thought how much fun we all had last summer and maybe we should just do it again. She was brought her keyboard and more music. So the married people moved into the room Jeff and Derek and Allie had slept in, and Rachel took David and Joe’s room. And both rooms got a nice makeover, one yellow and one purple. And there was more laughing and late nights and belly watching and baby planning. And Christy came back again, in the middle of it all, just to stay for a week or a month. 

Megan and Kelley, in barn and Irish red

But then Rachel moved home and so Christy went downstairs into a room that once housed a snake and two boys and a girl before her. And she gave it another makeover, this time with Pier1 warms – and made it feels so homey. And Christy just never quite left.

The very beautiful and radiant Christy

We try to forget, but some time in there, the bathroom had terrible problems of flooding and the couple with growing belly were moving graciously in and out of their room. And I couldn’t believe all the grace, all the kindness they gave to us as we tried so hard to fix the thing. And we finally did. And the bathroom got a fix-up, with a bathtub and tiles and some other niceties. 

And then, another baby. A Liam.
And then Emma was here for a moment or two, waiting for Jeff to get back. And she sat on our couch and searched her inside eye for perfect lighting on her portrait subjects and scoured her Mac and the Scriptures for perfect understanding on the biggest, longest paper she will ever write. A sign she is almost done with college. And then Jeff came back and everyone was happy. I am sad now because the only pictures of that moment are the ones in my mind. And right away, they went home together, though she arrived alone.

Two years from the day when the snake and two boys and a girl moved in, this house on the east side expanded with our hearts. And now we are seven, five adults and two babies. (Well, one is a toddler, but I’m still hanging on.) And Megan and Kelley are still going across the ocean some day, with a little redhead and his baby luggage. And Christy with her gigantic laugh, is finding out her passion and what she looks like as a blond. 

The Liam grows…more and more like Dad every day. 🙂

And Josh and John and I are living here in this big, huge-small space with a wide, open door that swings in and out, with arms stretched to try to take in all the love that is poured out and squishing the little ones we’re growing up; with faces lifted to breathe in the aromas of Kelley’s coffee and Henry’s cooking. And ears straining to hear the singing and strumming from the basement. The sounds of worship.

We live like this, a community, a small family at the end of a block, learning to wash each other’s dishes, struggling to discover what honor looks like to our neighbors, this family. We’re doing this the best we can, which is a mess most days, but the closeness is so warm and worth it. And on the worst weeks when things are going badly, and the dishes are still dirty, and it feels that everyone else is selfish and navelgazing, we look around and know, we can’t have life any other way. 

Living (and Dreaming) in Community

Our family snapshot at the moment.

As of today, we have 8 people living in our house: two parent students, one paraeducator, one student-photographer, one social worker and one pastor. And two little babies loving life. It’s busy but I can’t really imagine life any other way at this point. Really, I can’t.

So here they are:
The Bowkers Three: Kelley, Megan and Wee Wittle Wiam

 Megan and Kelley serve on our core staff of leaders at church. So yes, we not only work with them, we also live with them. And we still like each other. Incredible, I know.
The fabulously squishy and charming, Liam Kohen Bowker. What a doll baby.

Emma (L) and Christy (R) are apparently about to get eaten by a snake at Hobby Lobby, of all places.
Our beloved photographer and pal, Emma, has been with us for the month while her hubby’s been away for military training. We love Emma and an excuse to live with her is easy to make up. We’re so glad she’s been here this month and we will miss her when she leaves, even though she’ll be 10 minutes away.
Christy has been with us since last year, September I think, and her short stay turned into weeks and then we all broke down and decided that she was going to be our roommate…again. 🙂 (She lived with us right before John was born too.) She’s working with some adorable littles at a local school, finding her calling involves some form of intense advocacy for women and kids – it’s all taking shape before our eyes.

And of course, us. The Siders, Josh, John and the little Bear/Monkey/Puppy/Baby. Depends on the day.
Thing I’ve been obsessing over lately:
History and future of Manhattan
Babies and Mommies 
The connections of all these – there are many!

I’ve been so fortunate to meet some amazing women in Manhattan, to feel for the first time in years that I am living alongside some incredible peers who love me, support me and can read my mind too, as an extra mind-blowing perk. Because of them, and perhaps because of some of the maturity one is bestowed by turning 30, I feel able to dream bigger. I am in a season of thinking of things and doing them. I spent many years coming up with ideas and berating myself into inaction because I never thought I could actually succeed and follow through on anything great. I felt I had a great calling, but was stumped by my fear of failure. Well, I’ve taken on a heap of huge projects recently, and stopped early in the process of most of them: bought a website, started planning to write a book, and I don’t know what else. But practicing failure was just what I needed, and when we hit 2012, it was clear: Manhattan needed 24/7 prayer and worship to accomplish all that God has for this city. So that’s been my primary focus, with adoption right in the wings, just waiting and hoping for God to open the doors so we can take the plunge. Of course at the moment, with every room in our house full, that won’t work. But I feel it will be soon. Or I hope.

My Dream Job:
I think I found my dream job. And Tracie Loux, is pretty much doing it. I didn’t know I had a dream job until I found her. Tracie and her husband John have three birth kiddos and four adopted.  Tracie works for an adoption agency called Hannah’s Dream. And Tracie’s sister-in-law, Renee, is also an adoptive parent, and works with the Orphan Justice Center, who is sponsoring a local program called Safe Families for Children. Safe Families works with churches and families to provide a network of homes for children whose families are temporarily unable to care for them. In a way, it’s a preventative measure to keep kids out of foster care or provide care for a family who doesn’t have local support and needs a place for children to go while getting medical care, deploying, etc. I love this program! They don’t have one in KS yet, but they’re in the early stages of talking about how this could work within our child welfare system. I’m hoping to stay in the conversation on this program and it’s movement west into Kansas. (I’m sure Sam Brownback would be excited to see the churches working to support families, as churches are meant to do, rather than the government trying to manage this deeply intimate and personal role.)

I’m just dreaming now. But if I could do anything, I would quit my job and run an adoption agency and pregnancy resource center, like Life Choice, who I volunteer with now. And I would run the Safe Families network for our region. And I would adopt. Adopt kiddos from the states and across the world. I would spend time fundraising through creative ways to support these organizations and our adoptions, and I would love on our adopted kiddos and help their little hearts get healed. This is what I would do if I could do anything. 

Dreaming is wonderful. Dreaming when you know that anything (with God) is possible is far better. I love knowing that God and I can come up with a great idea and actually make it happen. The people and the resources and the education and training and funding and everything we need to do whatever we think of is all right there. We just pray and agree with God for what He already wants to do and watch the thing materialize. 
[Much thanks to the men and women who sowed into this city and our lives in prayer and who, in their lifetimes, never saw the breakthrough. But we get to live in it now.  Thank you to you all.]


November was hard.  There were celebrations, the birth of our friend’s baby, Florence, and the celebration of our guy’s first year of life.  But there was community conflict, misunderstanding and heartbreak rampant in our tiny church family.  It was painful, a heart-stinging kind of ouch, the kind where you look at your own words and thoughts and actions and wonder how things could have turned out differently.  But November is over, and I’m glad to have all that in the history, not living it out, wondering on the outcome.  I want to look back with fondness, and remember the stuff that turned out well, the happy moments.  And that’s the stuff I have pictures of, thankfully.
For the record, last November, this was me.  Whoa!
Then on November 15, along came the most adorable 7 pound teenie I’d ever seen.  And wasn’t I just the most adorable post-birth mother you’ve ever seen?  Don’t answer that.
This November was a different kind of celebration. One that required almost as much recuperation time, but thankfully, did not require 9 months preparation.  We threw our John a party, a big, huge, too-big-for-the-house party with guests all over the place – in chairs and couches, on the floor, in the bedrooms.  We had a blast.  And so did he.
Cake on his face.  This was only the beginning.

Maybe next year he will open his own presents.

Going for a cruise in the Cozy Coup from Grams and Gramps, with his larger than life Teddy Bear, who is still nameless from Aunt Steph and Uncle Aaron.

Growing up with John has been an adventure.  I’m more patient than I was a year ago, not as well-slept, but kinder, more aware of love.  I can sense this pleasure I have with my son at the smallest, tiniest things he does.  And I can transfer that onto God, that if I can love my son that way, look at his silly antics with such affection, enjoy him so immensely, overlook messes large and small, that God can enjoy me that way too.  It’s the right way to live because it’s true.

I am still me though, chock full of grand ideas that haven’t seem to come to fruition.  I came up with this really great idea called “Get to know your neighbor November”.  I was going to bake some kind of bread – that’s where everything went wrong, I think, at the baking part – and take it to a neighbor three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I would allow an hour to chat, although I knew some wouldn’t have time to do that, and I was going to stand on the porch or sit in the living room, drink tea and learn their names.  I still hate that I don’t know my neighbors, all these wonderful people with stories and lives and we’re just tied up in our homes for fear of cold and closeness.  Someone has to break the ice.  Well, it was a great idea, but Josh said I had too much going on.  And he was right, so it didn’t happen.  But maybe there will be a “Get to know your neighbor December”.  And maybe I will blog about it.  You never know.

Happy Singles Awareness Day

My friend, Alison, told me she got a Happy Singles Awareness Day wish from her friend today, and I thought I would pass on the good tidings.  Today is also Valentine’s Day, if you’re of that persuasion.  Or Anna Howard Shaw Day if you watch 30 Rock and listened to Liz Lemon’s tirade about the true meaning of February 14th.

I have a new Valentine this year so I thought I would celebrate with a couple photos of us hanging out.

He’s wonderfully squishy.

John’s been quite the socialite lately, especially with his young lady friends.  Don’t worry; his visits have all been closely chaperoned.  There was some hand-holding, but that’s all.  And I’m pretty sure that wasn’t even intentional.

John and Charleigh get cozy at their first play date.  John is slightly unsure of what to make of the situation.
Grace and John had a great time together.  Well, he enjoyed himself.  She was harder to convince.

Perhaps because it is not a tiny, human female, John felt quite comfortable giving this monkey a big hug.  I think it’s the start of a lifelong friendship.

In other news, I’m finally getting around to keeping that commitment I made a few weeks ago.  What?  You already forgot the commitment?  It would seem I had also.  In case it’s completely slipped your mind, I joined a six-week fitness program at work, complete with a team of equally out-of-shape but motivated individuals, willing to confess to each other how many fruits and veggies they ate a week, as well as how much time they spent in exercise.   The worst reminders of my less-than-convincing commitment to the program were when I had to turn in my piddly fitness points at the end of the week.  I was the weakest link to be sure.  After three weeks of single digit fitness numbers, I decided a change would do me good.  And I couldn’t let my team down any longer.  It was going to be bad for my reputation and would certainly decrease my invites to co-worker events.  And so, a-running I did go.

To prove that I did in fact don running attire – you will have to take my word for it that I actually left the house wearing it – here is a photo.

Yup, here I am, baby, shoes and all.  I left him at home for the run.  Wasn’t really sure how to carry him while I “ran” .

Am I going to train for a serious race, like a marathon, you ask?  Ha ha ha ha ha ha!  I can’t stop laughing.  (Serious face.)  Right now, I’m just proud I still know how to tie my running shoes.

Before I lose myself in self-deprecation, I’ll have you know that I had a fairly successful first day back on the sidewalks.  After carefully plotting out an approximately 3 mile course, I decided to run 30 minutes, hoping to make the 3 miles in that time.  About 5 minutes into the run, I realized that this was far too ambitious for my semi-blobular body.  (Yes, blobular is a word, most often used to describe women who recently had a child and chose not to make fitness a priority anywhere in the past 18 months.  May not apply to all women who fit this criteria.)  At that moment, I decided 20 minutes was a plenty good start.  And so I schlepped on, my feet feeling heavier than they had all year.  Or all of last year for that matter.  I stopped at 10 minutes to rest, I mean, stretch, and finished the last half of the run tired but proud.  The run yielded close to 2 miles of sidewalk conquered.  Whenever I take running up after a hiatus, I try to start at 2 miles.  Since I accomplished that, I will call it good.  I do enjoy running for running’s sake, but I will probably train for a 10k or some other race just so to keep myself motivated.  Let’s hope graduating back into some of my pre-progeny clothing is also part of my reward.