algebra and homemaking

When I was in high school, I had a long, dramatic relationship with Algebra 2. There’s too much to even relay all that goes into this spiteful correspondence, but let’s just say–my junior year (the second round of Algebra 2), it got ugly and I spent most Saturday mornings in Steak’n’Shake with a tutor, crying my way through homework. Like most high school students, I wanted to spend time doing what was familiar and easy, so I put Algebra 2 homework last–until I was nearly failing–and my parents were all, “You actually have to do this homework or you are going to work at Taco Bell for the rest of your life,” and I was all, “Well, I like Mexican food, so that’s fine.” (Dramatic story short: I eventually passed. Ish.)

More than a decade later, I have to tell you–I met domestic life with the same resistance. I laughed out loud the other day when a friend casually said that she envied my homemaking skills, because can I just tell you? I spent the first year of marriage “bragging” that I didn’t know how to cook, and I was weirdly proud of it. (Read: really prideful and just gross.) Like a teenager refusing to learn how to do a math problem, I pretended like I didn’t need domestic skills (which is just stupid)–and even worse, that I was too good for it. In my insecure quest to make it known that I was above all that, I made a fool of myself.

Homemaking and mothering have felt a bit like Algebra 2 for me. Get up in front of a room in teach? Sure. Jump in a meeting and brainstorm a new concept, or work on a project and bring it to life? Take me to your leader. But plan out meals, play a support role, and keep everything afloat in the operations of our home? Yikes. If we had tons of cash-flow, I would immediately hire a full-time cleaning person. DO NOT LOOK AT THE BASEBOARDS IN MY HOUSE. You’ll never return. It’s astounding to me how unnatural this process has been, and quite frankly I’ve felt like the new kid in class over the past year.

But just like that pesky math homework, I’m learning something holy. Somewhere in the impossible process of algebra, a breakthrough usually came sometime around 10pm. With my dad leaning over, trying to help me through the frustration, suddenly something would click and I was able to fumble my way through problems. And I didn’t know it then, but I know it now: sometimes it’s good for us when things don’t come easy, and we have a lot to learn from leaning into things that at first feel foreign or difficult.

Maybe my identity is bigger than being someone who naturally leads and awkwardly follows. Maybe I’m in a season of following because I’m a really arrogant piece of work sometimes–and for a while there, my heart was in no shape to lead. I’m starting over, here. I’m in a season of life where in almost every area, I’m painting in the background. God has something new for me in this season, and I have lots to learn from the women who have gone before me.

I’ll start with learning how to clean my baseboards.

sad and lonely walls no more

Instead of telling you all about what I’ve read over the last month, I’ll tell you about the one that had the most immediate impact: The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith. Kyle and I moved into our home almost four years ago, and I cringe when I say that I have held back so much when it came to decorating and making our house a home–mostly because I felt like we didn’t have enough money, it couldn’t be as perfect as I would hope, and frankly–I’m just not an interior designer. I know what I like when I look at a space, but other than that, I don’t bring much to the design table.

With that said, Myquillin’s book is like a “pre-house-makeover” book, more the philosophy behind decorating and why you don’t have to wait until _________ to make a house your home. I am still in the process of rearranging our entire home, one room at a time, and am finally getting up the guts to just throw a couple of nails into the wall and hang things up on our walls for the love. 

Our walls are sad and lonely around here, and mostly because I keep forgetting to print pictures and hang them like an adult. Also, we hardly have any recent ones that weren’t taken with my little iPhone camera. Ridiculous, right? I kept telling myself I’d get family pictures taken, and then summer came and I realized that we have–wait for it–four pictures of the three of us since Keegan’s birth, and most of them are selfie-style. That’s when my sweet friend Cait stepped in with her summer mini session–25 minutes and 5 digital images at a super affordable price. PERFECT. (PS-If you’ve been around toddlers, you know that “family portrait” screams NO WAY. But photo session for only 25 minutes? We can do that.)

So thanks, Cait, for giving us family photos for our sad and lonely walls. You can check her amazingness out on Facebook or the interwebs, and if you live in the Indianapolis area, she has a few spots left for her summer mini sessions!

Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography
Photo credit Cait Morgan Photography

a tribute to my grandma peaches

A few months ago, we said goodbye to my sweet grandma, Marie, after her long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

I was her only granddaughter–or, in other words–the only grandchild who (publicly) asked for nail polish and Barbie’s at Christmas. I’m sure each of us grandkids could tell you a different story–ways that Grandma made each of us feel so unique and special, or ways that she made us laugh or laughed along with us. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I feel confident saying that we all know we were so lucky to have her as our grandma.

Somewhere along the way, we all started calling her “Grandma Peaches,” but between you and me–I never really knew where that came from, and because I wanted to be cool like my older cousins and my brother, I started calling her that, too.

I will most certainly make you hungry by telling you about her heath bar candy that was always sitting out, a bowl of fresh radishes in cold water on the kitchen table, her peanut butter fudge at Christmas, her special chicken and noodles and homemade mashed potatoes. I remember after she would lie out her homemade noodles, my mom and I would sneak in and eat them before they could finish drying… because that was really the best part, anyway.

It wasn’t just her cooking; she was hospitable through and through. The true art of hospitality is allowing someone to feel at home in your house without looking like you’re trying, and she always nailed that. Her home was wide open to us, with chips and dip usually on the table, Andes mints near the door, and a pantry full of saltine crackers and easy-spread cheese. She gave us permission to fully be ourselves while also proudly supporting who we were.

Out of everything, her jovial spirit and perpetual smile is what I will always remember. She taught me how to welcome someone into my home without reservation or cause, how to laugh loudly and cheer wildly, and that a dog really can be a man’s (or woman’s) best friend. She was soft and kind—willing to sit, listen, and play, and I am so privileged that I got to be her granddaughter. We love you, Grandma. You are whole now.

Note: My sweet friend, Jackie, is raising funds for Alzheimer’s research with the Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. Jackie and I both lost our grandmas to Alzheimer’s, and this cause was close to my heart. 

making room for two

Did I ever tell you about our full-size mattress?

Yes, that’s right. We spent the first four years of our marriage sharing a 20-year-old full-size mattress. Kyle is over 6’ tall. It was stupid, but we didn’t know you could—you know—save and buy a new mattress, so for years we tossed and turned on a little full-size mattress because it seemed good enough and we didn’t really consider doing anything different.

Then we realized (as most grown-ups do) that if we saved a bit every month, we could save long enough to buy our own mattress—and behold, a queen mattress at that! The night we bought it, we slept almost eight hours straight, and were both totally baffled that such a thing was possible.

Is it totally weird that I started this whole thing off with an illustration about our bed?

Sorry.

Now that you’re good and uncomfortable, I’ll tell you that when Kyle and I got engaged over five years ago, we were asking questions and wrestling with decisions that were a lot like fitting two grown adults (and sometimes a dog) onto a full-size mattress. Whose work should we follow? Where should we live? What was God calling us to? In the fall of 2009, we decided to move to Indianapolis—my hometown—because we believed God had given me the opportunity to do what I really loved: minister to middle and high school students and serve the local church. It was a risk for Kyle, because he moved with no job prospects or connections, but he still made a (pretty huge) sacrificial decision for me.

That first year was full of complex questions, crappy part-time jobs, and late night conversations. We wrestled a lot over calling and giftedness, questioning if we had made the wrong decision. We also prayed. A lot. Near the end of that year, Kyle was offered a full-time job that he now loves. And over the past four years, I’ve watched him completely come alive and spill over with passion. But I’d be leaving out a big part of this story if I didn’t tell you that over the last 15 months we’ve found ourselves in familiar territory … full of late night conversations about calling and work, and now there’s a beautiful, little person added in the mix.

If you know me personally, it won’t be a surprise to hear that of the two of us, my personality can be a little on the—what’s the word—commanding side. Up until recently, one of my top five strengths in Strengths Finder was “command.” (I retook it this past fall and all but one and changed. Apparently I am very affected by circumstances.) I push, hustle, and strive. I jump first and think later. I say “yes” without considering the implications on our family life and often find myself with ten too many things on one plate. And it usually lands us in a place of burnout and exhaustion.

So when we had our son and our priorities started shifting and shuffling, we found ourselves a little tangled up in logistics. I was striving again, trying to push forward and do everything and then some, because—you know—that’s what I do! I thought because I was “only” working 20 hours a week that I needed to “fill in” all the other hours with more, more, and more. More accomplishing! More doing! More pushing! We can make this work. I can raise a baby, take care of a house, love a family, work, cook meals, volunteer everywhere, lead a small group, be friends with everyone, get to know all my neighbors, read every book in sight, speak in hyperbole and save the world, yeah?

No. 

I’m trying to say that word out loud a little more, just as practice. Can you hear me hesitantly whispering it? “No… okay maybe! No… no, I can’t, wait, yes I can! No, I so wish I could, but I can’t right now.”

My intentions are good. Almost always. I mean well, of course, and say yes for the right reasons. But I often fail to see that making room for two callings means both people have to say no sometimes when they would otherwise say yes. How many times did Kyle say no to what he wanted or needed in our early days of ministry together? So many. The weeks he went to middle school camp with me, sacrificing time to research, prepare, or rest … the weekends he spent helping me prepare sermons, or came early to help me set up or tear down … the nights he opened our home to people when he was–frankly–exhausted. There are too many to count, and he did it gladly. We both did. Student ministry was hard, to be sure, but it was also so rewarding and so much fun.

(Here’s proof, by the way, that we rocked out the lanyards and backpacks together.)

MS Camp 2011

Before we found out I was pregnant, we were both starting to feel the tension of two callings in one house. And when I’m completely honest, a lot of it had to do with me—overextending myself with a sinfully large view of my own capabilities. I failed to see that God was divinely preparing me for this time… to slow down, to be a mother, to make a house a home, work a little more behind the scenes, and to learn how to be a more present wife.

I’m not saying I’m giving up or bowing out. I believe motherhood and calling can go together, that positions of influence aren’t just reserved for those without logistical challenges, and that there is space for passion and child-rearing. I don’t know what it all looks like yet, but that’s for another day. I just can’t shake it, though–right now, for us personally, it’s time to make room for two callings. And up until the past year, it’s been a little crowded.

It’s been a huge identity shift, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that. But I really believe God has me here and that I have something to learn that otherwise I wouldn’t. I can see now–with a little breathing room–that the incredible gift of motherhood is preparing me for ministry in ways I never dreamed. I’m learning how to love people more deeply because I now know everyone is someone else’s child. Every person has a story, a background, a family, a mother. I knew that before, of course, but now I feel it in my bones. And I have this extraordinary little boy, and I couldn’t love him more. I get a front row seat to his growth and development, and I get to help shape and mold this tiny, fascinating person. But that has also meant I need to slow down and say no to some people and opportunities where I would otherwise say yes. Because if I say yes now, I will sacrifice too much and spend my energy in ways I can’t regenerate for the places I actually need to be.

So we’re in brand new territory again—and what’s in front of me now is huge: a home I get to make a place of respite and joy, a son I get to raise, and a husband I get to support and love. And I’m so grateful for Jesus—who in every season so patiently unearths the prideful parts of me that seek status over His kingdom. I’m thankful for a God who graciously calls me to surrender my will and my pride, and now it’s time to make room for two.

what i’m listening to, watching, and reading | march & april

Spring took a really long time to emerge this year, and I will be the first to say that wow, I was struggling. If I saw snow one more day, the suitcases were coming out. I have always loved cold weather and seasonal change, except this year when the snow held on for dear life, I wondered if my flesh was actually going to leave an imprint on our living room walls. (I clearly do not exaggerate.) And since having a tiny person makes it harder to leave your house in the winter months, we may or may not have made a “game” out of bath time. Twice a day. But actually, we have a pass to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and our church has an unbelievable indoor park, so we took serious advantage of those things the past couple months.

As I look back on the past couple of months, I feel all kinds of grateful. While they have certainly been long and dreary, they have also been full of growth and (necessary) change. And most of it has come from what I’m listening to and reading, so I’m excited to share some of those things with you, as well. Here’s what I’ve been into the past couple of months…

Listening… The podcast rage has continued, so first up, N.T. Wright. One of his fans collected a bunch of his (free) talks/sermons and put them in podcast form. Thank you, fan, I am loving it. Also, The Art of Simple with Tsh Oxenreider. She’s taken a little break from podcasting this month, but since I recently discovered this podcast, I’ve been digging through the archives. There are lots of others I could pass along, but the simpler the better, so we’ll start there.

Watching… Only two shows are happening around these parts, Parenthood and Mad Men. It’s true, I live-tweet my heart out during Parenthood and ruin the show for people with DVR or Hulu+. Apologies all around. The season finale was this past week, which means you are now set free of my Twitter feed. (Although, I won’t be offended if you unfollow me. If it was possible, I would unfollow myself.) And to my fellow Mad Men friends, what did you think about the first episode of Season 7? I have so many thoughts but I want to wait for the next few episodes to flesh them out. I will say this: if the series ends with Don jumping off a building, I will spontaneously combust. (As a side-note: being married to a history teacher and watching Mad Men is the greatest combination. Right when the opening scene started this past week, Kyle casually whispered, “Oh okay, this is right before Nixon’s inauguration.” I’m sorry, what? He just knows everything.)

Reading… Our life group has been going through the gospel of Matthew this month, so that’s been at the top of my list and where my heart is really resting. But the reading challenge continues, and Kyle is winning by a long shot. I’m in the middle of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and he is… almost finished with my list. His self-discipline and fast-reading skills are unmatchable, so I should have known. I’m also reading Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller, Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggeman, and On Writing by Stephen King. And I should also mention here one of my new favorite cookbooks, The Kinfolk Table by Nathan Williams, which is full of unfussy, understated recipes from people all over the world.

Eating… We’ve established that I go in phases, right? Okay, so now I’m in a homemade biscuit, blueberry crisp, and sparkling water phase. All three of those things, all day every day.

Needing… Since I’ve mentioned laundry almost every time here, I will say instead that I clearly need a laundry system. Help, friends. HELP. I am open to all suggestions and will consider throwing out most of our clothes.

Feeling… Grateful for spring, the fresh air, our life group, our church family, and our back porch.

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On Parenthood and #Joelia

parenthood

By now, you surely know of my unabashed love for the television show, Parenthood and the Braverman family. It’s a little sad, really, that I continually fall into this cycle with fictional characters—they become my people and pretty soon I start praying for them (on accident) at night.

I digress.

So no one should be surprised that when one of the show’s most stable couples (Joel and Julia) started having marriage trouble, I went a little off the deep end and started live-tweeting like I was watching a basketball game. Tweeting Joel and Julia’s every move, I set off on a mission to interact with the characters because WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

And as much as I truly hate this story—the narrative here is a little more realistic than I care to admit. In my fantasy world, couples discuss every issue and no stone is left unturned. But because we are broken people, the real stories are different. In our everyday marriages and relationships, we ignore and shoot past the things that actually grieve us and keep us up for hours at night.

Because I love a good (slow) story, I went back and watched a few episodes from Season 1. (This is the precise moment you back away slowly as you realize I’m a little insane.) And dang it, these problems we see billowing over now have been there since the beginning. Quiet and subservient Joel has been pretending to be content and supportive for years, but the whole story is he hasn’t actually been telling the truth. He continued silently supporting his family while letting Julia unknowingly live a selfish tale. He failed to lovingly tell her the hard truth about herself, and ignored the things that made him feel disrespected and betrayed until it was too late.

But now he’s too tired to fight, and that’s what we’re seeing. If anything, this story is a bit too true, which is what I’ve loved about Parenthood since the beginning. The characters move slowly, like all of us do. We all have things that sluggishly grow beneath the surface, and Joel’s bitterness has been expanding like mold.

So I love this story for being honest, but I hate it, too. I wish Joel would stay at the table and say something. I wish Julia would look within instead of blame others. I wish they would both apologize and sit across from one another in the cold counseling office and cry until there’s nothing but forgiveness left. So bravo once again, Parenthood, you’ve created a heartbreaking, gradual story about the way people actually lose each other. It’s an alarm for all of us—even the Joels and Julias of the world.

I hope to write a different narrative in my journey. I pray that I’m willing to do the hard, slow, painful, and beautiful work of redeeming what’s been broken and putting back together what’s been lost.

Also, I really need to stop getting so involved in fictional characters’ lives.

a letter to graduating seniors

barely have the experience to speak with any sort of authority here, let’s get that out of the way now. Think of me as a slightly older sister, sitting across the table, listening and nodding along, and then pulling out a few pieces of advice that I’ve received from much wiser people than myself.

Can we start there?

After graduating from college in ’09 (I know, I know, it was hardly five years ago), I immediately went into my first full-time ministry position. Well, actually, I should back up. A month before graduating, I got married and moved two hours away from my college with my new husband. For the last three weeks of school, I commuted to class and studied for finals at Skyline Chili between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. It was a logistical nightmare, and then I don’t think I even thought twice about it.

And see, that’s the thing. Looking back, of course I wouldn’t do it like that, because it was pretty stupid. But I didn’t care because I didn’t know any better.

(Here’s proof. Just look at that awful haircut.)

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I think that’s kind of the beauty of where you’re at now, too, if you’re honest. You might take the first opportunity you’re offered because… what else is there? You don’t know quite yet, and neither did I, and that’s okay.

There are all kinds of ways to approach your early twenties, and I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. We’re all from different places with a variety of family backgrounds and the church needs more of that. So I’m not going to tell you a bunch of steps on how to do your twenties just right, or how to pick the perfect relationship, but I am going to tell you this:

Don’t close up shop on the learning and growing thing; this is only the beginning.

Shauna Niequist says it this way, “There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.”

This may look like a million different things: going to graduate school, moving across the country, getting married, breaking up, starting over, staying put, acquiring lots of roommates, applying for scary jobs, and some just working and paying the bills with crappy jobs.

But hear this, friend: now is the season to hunt down a mentor, invite friends to speak honestly into your life, and start building relationships that will last. Now is most certainly the time to learn the hard truth about yourself, work hard, get counseling if you need it, read lots, and discover.

Now is the time to fail. And you know what’s really, really scary about failure? Failure doesn’t happen without risk. And risk doesn’t happen without putting yourself out there. So if you don’t get your dream job out of college, that’s all right. Not many people do. But invest yourself in your job, anyway … learn, anyway.

Here’s what’s really great: if you start developing those habits now, they will truly become second-nature to you as you keep growing. The most fascinating people I know are the ones whose kids are grown and out on their own and are still continuing in adventure. They’re still learning, reading, growing, changing, and evolving.

I hope when I’m nearing seventy, I can look back and say, “I never stopped growing.” I hope I learn something new about Jesus every year, and continue to change and adapt along the way. And for you, I hope and pray the same. I hope this journey is hard and beautiful for you. I hope you take great risks and learn the art of an apology. I pray you learn that humility is really the only characteristic that precedes growth, and that you can’t have one without the other. And most of all, I pray you that learn, anyway.