Monday, September 30, 2013

Lessons from Spain (and other European countries): Ministry Happens in a Bar

I have a new friend who is sassy.  She's also brilliant, sensitive, wise, and discerning, humble and modest, and a fantastic listener.  She is British, 100%, as in, her parents are English, she was born in England, and so that makes her an Englishwoman.  Ryan kisses the back of her hand every time he sees her and addresses her as "Princess."  And she's a girl totally, madly, deeply in love with her Savior.  She is teaching me so very much.

Being from the other side of the Pond, she also likes Scotch, or Bourbon, or Gin, or one of those drinks men who are 60 or older sip in smoky wood paneled clubs with leaded glass windows where Englishmen meet amongst walls lined with leather bound books and trophy deer heads from plaid clad weekends on the hillsides of Europe.

This very statement made some readers wonder if my friend is really even a Christian...seriously, raise your hand if your remember Jesus' first miracle.

Anyway, being a SAHCMFTBIA (Stay At Home Caucasian Mom From The Burbs In America), I've never really embraced my ethnicity one way or another.  Just this morning I had to fill out a form and check the vanilla boring nondescript box labeled, "Caucasian."  Before I was married I at least told people how my maiden name means, "Bible" in German and then I'd break out into "Stille Nacht" or count to 10 in German just to show I still had a little in me.

Since meeting my new British friend, my eyes have been opened a tad more to faith in other parts of the world.  Oh, I've been on missions and studied missions and have traveled for both ministry and pleasure in several parts of the world.  And I know from both studying and travels about major world religions, as well as how Christianity differs from culture to culture, and how cultures differ due to religious influence.

But a few months ago while I sipped a glass of red and my British friend her drink of choice, pouring our hearts out to one another about everything under the sun, she told me how, from living in America for 30+ years, American Christianity and European Christianity vary greatly...

...not in the Message of God's love for mankind, but in the cultural message, which often muddles the Everlasting Message profanely.

In Europe, at least in Britain, she said the Pub on the corner is where people talk about love and life and ups and downs, you know, kind of like a "small group."  It's not demonized as a place to just get drunk, like "Spring Break '89", but rather a place to open up and share life.  It's like, oh, could we say, church.

A forbidden fruit mentality has been fostered in this nation for 100's of years, setting up bars and alcohol as something to be pursued in anything other than moderation, putting an age on it as if that makes a person mature and responsible, and slapping a party mentality on it.

The funny thing is, over the last year or so I've spent quite a bit of time with women who have reached out, seeking an ear, belly up to a bar.  Women who have been hit by their husband, others controlled "Sleeping With the Enemy" style, divorced, separated, suffocating in loveless marriages, some just crying out to be loved by their workaholic husbands, not the men they originally had fallen in love with...women pouring out their hearts over their dreams for their children, their fears, their own personal dreams and aspirations, and the brokenness of their realities.

And we cry, and stop, and pray, right there, belly up, holding hands, eyes closed, seeking God's direction and healing in every situation.

My dad asked me why I couldn't just go to Village Inn, instead...

...ummmm, gross, I just barfed a little typing "Village Inn".  

I'm not trying to fit a conventional ideal of what a woman who loves God with her whole heart and also happens to be in ministry, looks like.  And, I'm also not trying to shock anyone just for shock value.

I'm actually quite tired of the banter and pleasing and grieved to my core of all the talk ABOUT so many other THINGS within Evangelical "Christianity" rather than THE ONE THING, the only true thing, which is:

God is totally and completely in love with you.  That's all.

I don't go to Village Inn because it's gross.  I don't even think I'll choose VI when I'm 89.  If a woman asked me to meet there because she wanted to pour her heart into mine, to see if I'd be a listening ear, then of course I'd go to Village listen to her heart.

But that's not where these amazing women have asked me to meet them.  They have asked me to meet them at bars, for a drink, where we can just talk.  Can "talking" happen anywhere else?  Duh.

But if I am to embrace my heritage, then I'm guessing some of my Irish, Scotch, German, Swiss, French, and English ancestors likely had church in Pubs, way back when, across the Pond.  And I'd venture to guess their hard-working lives were more authentic and vulnerable than the facades of perfectionism Evangelical "Christianity" has set up here in the "New Country."

And if I'm to truly embrace what it means to lay down my life and follow Christ, to allow my life to be a source of His love poured out, in spite of me, then I also need to embrace the beauty that sometimes women's ministry happens in a bar.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

All Up in Your Crazy

"I will combat my stress and heated difficult parenting moments with trips to the toilet.

I read a really darling short story about a woman who locked herself in her master bathroom happily for the weekend.  It was her own special stay-cation, complete with Orangina and crackers.

I may have to try that.  Don’t tell my kids."
 -  Jessica Patay, author of "She Runs a Good Race"

Here's my comment:
Some thoughts: I rhymed "Orangina" with vagina when I read that...and you caught me, my kids are perfect and I do, indeed, every moment of everyday, respond in godly wisdom and oozing goodness to them, like it oozes from me, from every's like I'm angelic or something.  This post has just inspired a post in my I'm heading over to my blog to get my writing on, but in the meantime, you are better than me because instead of sitting on the pot to talk to God and find "poof" peace lately, I've been escaping to try to beat level "30" on Candy Crush.  And when I do sit in there a while I poop rainbows.  #isuckwayworsethanyou #youareonefantasticmama #iloveyougirl #youareawesome

My girlfriend Jess is an inspired writer, raw and authentic, and just posted some great wisdom for moms, a result of what she has been learning in "time-out"...not her kids' time-outs, but her own...where she puts herself to cool off and think it over.  The following post was inspired by her piece and actually started as my comment in her comment section, but I didn't want to hi-jack the post with a mega-comment, so, instead, here it is.

May I invite you into my brain, friend?  It looks a helluva lot like the 144 magazines on the library wall I'm sitting across from at this moment, all on different topics, each with a 100+ pages, plus advertising...and in that chaos, I get overwhelmed in my own head, want to throw everything away and live in an RV and just come visit you and drink a little wine overlooking the great Pacific.  Then Emily, excited, sweet, with the greatest of intentions, comes over to my shit-laden desk where I sit staring, wondering how I didn't get one friggin' thing accomplished all day, yet managed to stay busy anyway, and says, "Mom, can we look at organizational websites and draw up a plan of action and spend the whole weekend totally purging and organizing my room?"  And I should be excited about this because my kid wants to down-size and get organized but I'm folding 9 loads of laundry, laced with camouflage and safety orange and glow in the dark pajamas and odd numbered socks and I have 17 books home from the library that contain no pictures because they are for me to gain inspiration on how to live life free of the crazy because I actually don't care about stuff or things so organizing her room or any room in the house would look more like donating everything to the thrift and, of course, only having "7" of anything...and it's nearing the dinner hour and my personal Paleo chef decides we're having GF frozen pizzas and full-on grain nachos with dollops of dairy and leftover buffalo carnage.

And she doesn't mean anything by it because how could she know all the crazy that goes on in my head and heart on any given day?  And truth be told, her desire to purge, organize, and clean her room is evidence of her listening and letting it soak in all the times I've said, "Sweetie, more stuff doesn't fill the deepest part in our heart we're trying to's just more stuff and eventually it will overwhelm us. Less truly is more."

But the truth is I am a little kid, totally ego-centric, because I want to purge, organize, and clean up my crazy before I clean up her crazy.  I wanna be first!

And since I was just in the bathroom, I can't run there, she's got me cornered at my desk in the kitchen, so I sit on the toilet in my head go there in my head and talk to God, I'm not even 1/2 listening to her but instead breathing deeply, in my own time-out, and I repent for being selfish and ask God for grace in this moment, to let go of the agenda, my to-do list, my crazy, because I can't play level "30" to escape, and thanks to you, friend, I can't even eat chocolate or drink a little to escape because we are doing this flippin' accountability thingy, and it's good because I know and you know and we all know God truly is the Only One who can fill that deepest part in our heart where everything else around fades in importance and priority and somehow falls into place.

And so I pull her onto my lap, hug her huge with #intention, and tell her, "Peanut, I would totally love to help you with your room!  Let's get a plan and do it!"

Because spending the weekend with my pre-teen daughter, because she wants me to, is a blessing...I guess it's all about perspective.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

There is a Time for Everything Under the Sun

Our third child didn’t get a baby shower.  Not because historically it’s improper in the book of manners, but because I just didn’t think my heart could handle it.  The last time I had been pregnant with a boy, my friends gathered around me as we ate chocolate and vegetables and artichoke dip, all the while cooing over adorable blue polka dot blankets and all things tender and tiny.  It had been almost four years since I had first become a mom, and with that bit of experience, this time around was a bit sweeter and much more relaxing.  With almost four years of practice under my belt, this was going to be a lot easier, a piece of cake.  I more or less knew how to prepare and what to expect.

I had let my guard down and was burned.  That wasn’t going to happen this time.

My friend recently posted how she had taken almost 1000 pictures of her nephew’s birth, and prior to that, she shared pictures of the shower she hosted for her sister, a celebration of the anticipation of their third child.

I am not one to weep over regrets, but my heart sunk a little.  Why hadn’t I allowed the many who offered to host me a baby shower just do what their hearts wanted to do?  Receiving help is difficult for me.  Pride gets in the way of receiving, because I am a damn strong woman and can do a hell of a lot on my own.  However, I’ve found over time how strength is beautiful in numbers, how relying on God and others is not weakness shown but rather confidence revealed.  Real trust, to the core…an ability to recognize most great masterpieces are made up of more than one color, a brick is solely a brick on its own, and a tree will never grow if the seed isn’t ever planted.

No orchestra is made up on solely one instrument.

And only now, after just having loosely celebrated Ryan’s 3rd birthday (Em was sick, he didn’t know it was his birthday or what that meant, really, and Jason and I were just home from Spain), am I able to understand it wasn’t out of guilt or feeling sorry for me that my friends, old and new, wanted to host me a shower. 

I realize now that a shower is to celebrate the anticipation of the little life about to enter the world, an opportunity to celebrate the woman carrying that life, the waiting parents, and a space for everyone to rejoice.  

There is a time for everything under the sun.  Pregnancy and the anticipation of a child is a time of celebration.  Only when news otherwise is relayed should the celebration turn into mourning.

There is a time for everything under the sun.

We don’t skip bridal showers because we think the poor couple won’t last past the infamous 7-year itch.  We don’t forgo weddings for the same reason.  There is no guarantee, on any given day, we will all make it to the 89 year old mark, so should we all skip cake and ice cream, all the years leading up to our day?   There is no guarantee, only hope and hard work, if our marriages will, indeed, continue happily ever after.  Just because a woman is pregnant does not mean the baby inside of her is meant for this side of Heaven.

And just because my heart was raw, carrying another son in my womb, unsure of the days to come, jaded a bit from loving and losing, doesn’t mean I should have denied my family and friends the opportunity to anticipate and celebrate the life growing in me and the arrival of our newest family member.

I’m not saying it was right or wrong to deny my friends and family a chance to host a shower for me years ago.  What I am saying is, in my selfish attempt to protect my heart from further heartache and disappointment, I shut down and didn’t even allow those who loved me to show their love faithfully as they had in the past.  They had celebrated with us, and also mourned when it was time.  

Birthdays, showers, anniversaries, holidays.  All of these celebrations, though marked with loss and memories, no matter how distant, are indeed, celebrations.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this 4 years from when my friends offered to throw me a shower, but I felt strongly to share my heart.  Maybe you are fearful to celebrate the anticipation of a child on the way, perhaps you have had adoptions fall through and it's scary to let your head and heart go there again.  Maybe fear is gripping you as you allow your heart to fall deeply in love again after the loss of a spouse?  I don't know.

I do know for several months I was fearful Ryan would die, just like his big brother.  And I had really, really, really, really, really fallen in love with Noah.  But I knew Noah was dying, and at the same time, I knew he deserved all my love and I loved him with all of my mommy heart.  I don't live in fear anymore that Ryan is going to die like his brother.  He will die.  I don't know when.  God knows the number of our days.  I do know this, however...I have jumped in with both feet in loving Ryan.  The ache and grief of losing his brother does not hang over me as I flip his curls through my fingers, rub noses, snuggle in our favorite chair while reading, and play choo-choo's in the basement.  I'm in love and it feels really amazing.

Every Single Day is a celebration of the lives around us, even our very own.  Is there someone in your life who needs celebrating today?

The only loss in loving is to look back and realize we never gave it our all.

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Exercise in Writing

I've been a bratty "writer."  And by that, I mean, I love writing, I do it when I'm inspired, sometimes I'm inspired when I don't have access to a computer or even paper, so I "write" in my head, but then it gets lost in my mental cosmos.  But as far as "practicing" I've operated under a bratty opinion of, "I'm only going to write if I'm inspired...otherwise it's so contrived."

Super bratty, but I'm hungry for, and willing to, change.

Except I've been thinking about such a mentality for the last year or so and realized something.  When you practice something, you often get better at it.  Take, for example, swimming.  I started out as a toddler on the side of the pool, only dipping my toes, telling my mom I didn't want to go in the water. We moved to Arizona when I was 6 and were enrolled in swim lessons right away since a pool is mostly standard issue in every backyard, and if not, for sure in every neighborhood.  My first swim class was for "Minnows", aka, little swimmers...beginners getting comfortable with the water.  I know at some point I became a "Shark" and then in time I was on a team, gathering 5th and 6th place ribbons, then 4th and 3rd, then years later State Titles with teammates in High School.

We practiced every day after school from mid-August to the end of November, from 2:30 to 5:00.

A lot of hours, a lot of practice.  Some of it redundant, but building strength and endurance, perseverance, and in some races, excellence.

So, I'm trying to apply the same mentality to writing.  Because I really like writing.  Mucho.  So, recently when I saw on Twitter a post by Lisa-Jo Baker about a writing exercise group link she does on Friday's with readers, I was intrigued.  It's called, "Five Minute Friday," and she gives a prompt, you set your timer, and then write.  And write.  And write until the timer goes off, and then, you stop.  So, I've never done it before, but I'm starting it now.  Like, right now.  And the prompt is:  She.



She is your mom.  She is your sister.  She is your daughter.  She is your aunt, cousin, grandmother, friend.  Her strength is astounding.  Her smile strengthening, lighting up a room, filling hearts, bringing life and love wherever it's revealed.

There are days when her smile is hidden.  She doesn't realize the power behind its revelation, she is unaware of the life it offers, she doesn't know because it has been darkened, the lines diminished from years of sorrow.  Life unraveling.

We look at her and long for the smile to return to her face.  She has aged, but the lines in her face aren't from laughter but longing.  Worry, wonder, despair, a broken heart.  The lines are deep and they draw her smile, the beauty that was once alive on her face, the lines draw them down.

Look up!  Look around you!  See the sea of faces looking back at you.  These are the faces of family and friends, and we love you.  We are so sorry for the hurts in your heart, the aches you've hidden deep, the memories fresh even though ancient.  We love you and want you to know your sheer existence, the fact that you are here, now, in this space, brings love and hope to us.

Let those lines run deep, not from sorrow, but because of laughter, laughter of days to come, joy in the unknown


Wow.  That was a cool exercise.  I practiced writing.  It was kind of crazy to see what came to mind.  I think I'll practice this exercise every Friday.  It only takes 5 minutes, so it's not like I can say I don't have time to write.

If you care to join in the practice, here's the information.  You may leave your writing in the comments section or link your blog post in the linky section (I've never done a "linky" so hopefully it's easy and I can figure it out...), then head to the blogger's site who posted prior to you and read their piece and encourage them.

Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More "Lessons from Spain"

I tell you what…if finding out I was pregnant after a trip to Spain was a way to learn things such as, the sky is the limit, throw caution to the wind, live life to the fullest, OR, say, the opposite, like, be careful, look both ways when crossing the street, always bring an umbrella, well, then the last week has been good for me, in a hellish sort of way.
The age I would be at time of delivery. (Graffiti in Barcelona)

And by “good for me” I mean, “Holy Ship My Pants, Batman!”  Please know, I don’t mean this disrespectfully.  I know, KNOW, know many women who have longed to be mama’s in their life time’s…some never experiencing it, others having only gotten to treasure it for a short time, some never getting to hear their sweet babies cry, or meeting their child face to face.  I, too, have had 2 miscarriages and lost a yummy sweet boy sooner than I ever imagined possible.  I am not discounting these longings, whatsoever.
Translation:  Do not let your dog ship its pants here in this public space.

But I won’t lie when I tell you that for the last few days I have had irregular breathing patterns thinking about the “what if’s” if I were, indeed, pregnant.  And I won’t lie.  Those days were dark in my head and heart. 

Last night as I fell into bed I told my husband I didn’t even need to lower myself down, I simply collapsed under my own body weight.  Still not having shed all my “Viva Espana” weight, then getting PMS like nobody’s business (I NEVER have it, NEVER, no cramps, no tenderness, nada), I was sure we were in for a surprise, and not like, “Ooooh, awesome!”, but more like, “Holy Ship My Pants-ness, Ryan’s going to be a big brother?! #$%^&*.”

I named off two friends I’d consider giving our baby to, since they are looking to adopt.  My heart was heaving and not thrilled at the thought…at all. 

What can I say?  Yes, I celebrate and love children, but these are the real thoughts that went through my head and heart.  I’m sure you’ve never thought this.  Clearly, I suck more than you.

Before I drifted off, however, I told Jason, “If it’s a girl, I’m naming her Georgie.”

This morning I looked at my calendar, counted days, tried to remember what I was thinking or if I had been thinking and, HOLY SHIP MY PANTS, were we even thinking?  I rolled out of bed, pulled up my bootstraps, and actually smiled at the new found peace that had settled into my heart over night. 

“Georgie…totally.  We’ll name her Georgie, and maybe her middle name will be Madrid or Barcelona.” 

I headed into what is usually one of my favorite days of the week:  LAAAAAAA!  Thursday.  My day.  A day where Ryan hangs with our fabulous babysitter and I head to the library, word-nerd heaven, where I sit amongst books and thoughts and dreams to read and write and enjoy the quiet.
First stop, the coffee shop for something with almond milk, “to-go”.  Second stop before setting up my portable office at the library:  the ladies room.

(The following is a text conversation)

A:  “You’re lucky…”
J:  “That made me laugh.”
A:  “I’m glad my bleeding uterus is funny to you. I almost shipped my pants with worry!”
A:  “But, the name Georgie for a little girl IS fabulous!”
A:  “Maybe it’ll be my pen name…hmmm, yes!”
J:  “Your pen name should be Georgie or Bleeding Uterus?”
A:  “Probably Bleeding Uterus.  It’s raw, catchy, authentic…”

I’m not sure I’ll use “Georgie” or “Bleeding Uterus” or something else entirely as a pen name, but I do know this:  I will always write vulnerably and with authenticity, because this particular lesson from Spain is:  life doesn’t always turn out as we plan, but I already know from experience, it can be more beautiful than we ever imagined.

*And, a couple bonus “Lessons from Spain:” menses symptoms are greatly affected by how clean one eats.  It was a reminder, and a heck of a way to re-learn this, but my body tells me things and I need to listen.  Moderation.  And, make that appointment...

Foods that contribute to monthly bloating, mood swings, and cramps: amazing churros from Barcelona

A picture my husband said I'd never post since it's not flattering...I don't know what's not flattering about eating an entire crab by yourself, soaked in butter, but arrrrrr, I love crab!  Living it up, eating without regrets/symptoms in Espana.

Laguardia, Espana, aka, Wine Country, being kissed by my prince on top of a castle...*alcohol, another contributor to monthly swings.

More on the food tour: constipation and bloating,  I mean ice cream and molten chocolate cake with some sort of awesomeness on the side... 

Reminder, Adrienne:  you feel healthy when you eat healthily
So, no.  There is no Georgie Madrid Graves on the way.  The only baby we brought home from Spain is this Spanish Mater.  #vivaespana

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Lessons from Spain: Beauty is Freedom

...and Freedom is Beautiful.

When I recommend articles on Facebook or Twitter or here on my blog, due to the nature of life and the Internet, I don't always know the author personally, may not know their tone of voice in writing or if I'd even invite them to dinner...but a nugget here or truth there stands out to me, I take the good, throw out the bad, and move on with's the middle-child peacemaker in me, likely.  I've never agreed with someone totally and completely on everything.  Have you?

But, all that to say, writer's write, myself included, to start conversations, therefore I'm glad for the opportunity to discuss, regardless of whether we agree or not.

So, last week, when a mom I'd never heard of wrote an article and a friend on FB posted it, I read it, took away a few nuggets like: what a great idea to share social media time as a family and we all should discern what we share/post, whether we're teenage girls or grown men or SAHM's or singles or marrieds, for self-respect sake.

Did she specifically say this?  No.  She had a different agenda which I did not take away.  She directed her post to teenage girls, and I'm not one, nor do I have one yet, and so I read it, got the overall gist of what I wanted to take away, re posted it, and then went back to folding laundry and randomly spray painting things around the these...


A friend was concerned about the post I re posted, so we dialogued a bit, I headed back to the post, re-read it, headed to the comments section of the blog, saw it had gone sour and that she was being eaten alive, some of it valid, other points out in left field, and wished I had posted what I had learned in Spain about all this two weeks ago when I got back.

You see, Europeans wear whatever they want.  300 lb women wear bikinis.  Hairy men wear Speedos.  65 year old women only wear bikini bottoms.  Little kids don't match and at the beach, clothing is totally optional when you are pint-sized.  On the streets, in the cafes, strolling through plazas and parks, European women wear clothes they think are pretty, regardless of size or coverage.

Seriously, there's only one sized bikini in Europe, and every sized woman wears it....

And guess what?  They all were beautiful!  I speak Spanish fluently and never once overheard a discussion on whether another person's beach attire was modest or immodest, whether they were causing another to stumble, if the exclusive, judgmental opinions of American Evangelicals mattered to them as they enjoyed a day at the beach with their family and friends on the other side of the world with their tops off.

Instead, I witnessed freedom and beauty and laughter and living.

People were not humping in the streets just because some epidermis was visual.  On the beach, every third woman had her bikini top off, and looking around, as men, women, and children were soaking in the sun, playing volleyball, reading books, swimming and chatting, some smooching under their umbrellas, I didn't see one erection.

Can you even believe it?


That's right.  I looked around for erections...because being a SAHWMFTB (Stay At Home White Mom From The Burbs) and a Christian one at that, I just was curious, because from all the talk in Evangelical culture, every man on that beach should have had a hard-on, but they didn't.

Nope.  Europeans just seem a heck of a lot more comfortable in their bodies...and with everyone else's bodies, too.  Men and women.  Kids, too.

All shapes.  All sizes.  All beautiful.  So very beautiful!

My British girlfriend told me that when Jason and I went to Spain I needed to go to a nude beach.  She said I needed to experience the freedom in all my glory, the "outfit" God made me originally.  It's funny how in America, "nude beaches" are destinations.  In Europe, they are just beaches...where you get tan...and have a picnic...and take a nap.

We never did find the "nude" beach, but all the same, Europeans don't delineate which grain of sand is which and where they can take off their tops or bottoms.  They just sunbathe.  In their the bodies God placed their hearts and souls and minds in to carry them through the life He breathed into them when He made them and thought they'd be an awesome addition to life on Earth, here and now, a display of His creativity, to commune and have relationships with all the other skin-covered people.

Tonight another friend posted this on my FB page.  I loved it!  Loved the message, the response, thought it was well thought out and well written.  Would I have coffee with her?  Totally, because she gets me...I mean, Ryan rubs his boogers on our couch, DAILY, so her sticky furniture would feel like home to me. In particular, I loved this paragraph:

"We see you, sweetheart. We do. We see what you’re writing. We see what you’re posting. 
We see more of you than you think we do. We see sometimes down to the very center of your soul. 
And what you need to know is this: You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are worthy
You are your physical body, and you are so very much moreAnd you, baby girl, 
have infinite chances for grace and redemption and relationship and community 
and wholeness and LOVE. 
Always. Always and forever. Amen." - Beth Woolsey at

Anyway, IMO, Americans are being unnaturally influenced and inundated by hyper-sensitive "Christians" who are speaking on "every one's" behalf without my permission on the topic of beauty and sex and modesty and so much more.  This is maddening and I have some opinions on this...

But for now, until we understand, honor, and cherish the part that we are all totally freaking awesomeness embodied in all shapes and sizes, we've missed it.  Here's an awesome article on that...

Modesty isn't a uniform and "modesty" itself doesn't make you beautiful.  But that's what much of the "discussion" is asserting.

I've spent some time on the foreign mission field.  I've spent years mentoring women.  Recently I've spent a bit of time with very broken and bruised women over drinks in bars.  In those times when heart to heart conversations were taking place, I can honestly say I don't remember what they were wearing or if it was modest or not, just that I was there to listen and they felt safe to pour their heart into mine.

Nope.  Freedom in knowing we are loved by God is what makes us all beautiful.  And how can "blocking" people from our lives be an avenue to demonstrate God's love?

Yeah, I thought I was just going to Spain to celebrate 20 years of marriage with the love of my life.  In addition to that expectation, I learned more in 2 weeks than I have in 41 years about loving myself.  I learned a lot about beauty and sexuality and freedom and comfort with my own body and even how to love you better.

...I learned that beauty is freedom and freedom is beautiful.

 I should go to Spain more often...seriously.
The beach in Barcelona where I found freedom.

*I'd love to continue the conversation if the focus of modesty lies not with what we wear or don't wear, but rather valuing every single person with whom we come in contact.  Once we begin to cherish and honor tangible people as awesome hand-crafted pieces of art shaped by the hand of God, then I think we'll be onto something...however, if one-piece bathing suits and a 3-inch wide tank top on our daughters shoulders is your idea of a "teaching" on modesty, count me out.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Lessons from Spain: Life is a Celebration

One might think all the planning which may go into a two week, second honeymoon, 20th wedding anniversary vacation would solely entail where to eat, play, and relax.  And truly, one would be correct in such thinking.  Sure, "What should I wear?" directed some of the planning, a little more than necessary and looking back I would have taken the smaller suitcase, but, I didn't, and thus had plenty to wear.  But as far as the eating, playing, and relaxing, Trip Advisor was our BFF, as well as just wandering the streets, figuring it out on our own.

But now that I've gone to Spain, played hard for 2 weeks, which I liken to the Israelites feasting and celebrating certain ceremonies, then needing to get back to life and reality, pulling in the belt a bit, there are many lessons I learned looking back on our time.  All this to say, I never really expected our time in Spain, our getaway, our escape from reality and celebration of friendship and true love, to teach me anything.

I was wrong.

Who knew it would be educational?

And it would be tragic if I did not share these lessons with you, whomever may care to read, especially because I had intended to blog from Spain but never did, though in my head I blogged quite a bit, and so, whether you read and learn and take away nuggets or not, I must write these here for myself to look at again and remind myself of what living a life of intention looks like, 8 hours east of here on another continent.

This lesson of freedom will likely turn into many posts as the Spaniards are a free-spirited people.  It's a theme which carries into much of life, however, keep in mind, my perspective is only from a woman on vacation free from all responsibilities at home, so you must read through my rose-tinted glasses.

We arrived in Barcelona at 7:30 am after a stellar layover in Toronto where my husband introduced me to the schmancy United Club.  SAHM had never been in a United Club, eh-ver.

Back up a sec.  As I entered the plane to Barceleona, I was SO excited, likely from sleep deprivation since we left Denver at the crack of dawn before Jesus and the sun, as I entered, I couldn't contain myself and I squealed to the flight attendant, "WE'RE GOING TO SPAIN!!!!  It's our 20th wedding anniversary and we're going to Spain!  I can't believe it!"  (Clearly at this moment I didn't care if she thought I was a freak!  Remember, I'm a SAHM and don't get to Spain often...)  3 minutes later after finding our seats (thankfully in a 2-3-2 plane, we were in a 2 situation...), two glasses of champagne showed up.


Back to the United Club:  for those of you who do not know, it's all you can eat hummus and veggies and all the Bailey's your coffee can hold...all. day. long.  Plus free wi-fi and free, FREE, totally gratis magazines.  Like, good ones.  Some were in French so I didn't read those, and one said something on the cover about watching for 5 up and coming Canadian writers, so I flipped through the pages fully expecting to see Sarah Bessey and Emily Wierenga's names, but they were referencing five other Canadians ;)  All I know is, as I chowed on tons of veggies, hummus, and pesto, all the while Facetiming my kids, I wasn't sure how our trip could get better.  *Wink, wink...hello, let's not forget the destination...

And we're off!

Hi Emily Wierenga, Sarah Bessey, and, of course, let us not forget, David and Hilary!
(*None of these people endorse me or "know" me, really, but I'd totally want to hang with any of them, and who wouldn't want Hilary to redo their house, hello?!)

My new creation:  pesto ON TOP of hummus.  Yeah, I'm a SAHM who thinks outside the box.  You're welcome...(yes, I like to line veggies on my plate so they look pretty, and that's okay.)

SAHM needs to get out more, is all I gotta say...

The short train trip from the airport into the heart of Barcelona was lined with purple Morning Glories. Seriously?  Just growing, wild and free, as if they were weeds or something?  I purposefully bought Morning Glory seeds and planted them in my yard and smile their way as they greet me each morning, and here they are, just growing, literally everywhere.  Good start, Barcelona, you're beautiful!

This one is in our backyard, but just so you have a visual of what is growing all over in Barcelona, vine after vine after vine.  And, yes, the centers "glow" like that...

A two-block walk from the train stop and we walked into the lobby of our hotel where we were greeted by 2 of the nicest guys in Espana.  Jason asked if they had a room with a king-sized bed.  I could see the guys squirm a little, exchanging side glances as they told us they had already upgraded us to a certain room.  I gave him a little knowing look and toe kick and we received the keys and headed upstairs... the nicest room in the hotel.  They learned it was our 20th and gave us the only room in the place with a rooftop terrace, plus a bottle of Cava and uh. maze. ing. dark chocolate truffles, to boot!

We were about a 1/2 mile away from La Sagrada Familia, which we could see from the terrace.  Of course, along with the spires were cranes which are almost always a part of the landscape.  (*One of two times my hair was straight in Spain...the rest of the trip I embraced the way God made me...lessons on that in another post...)

Dark truffles for my first breakfast in Espana?  Si, gracias!  

(*We didn't drink the Cava for breakfast, when we got back from hours of exploring they had left a note which said it was a free gift from them and "Happy Anniversary", thinking we didn't think it was free, though we did...anyway, along with another row of chocolates!  Love these guys!  Viva Barcelona!)

SAHM just upgraded from the Toronto airport United Club, BIG TIME, you know what I'm sayin'!?

So, anyway, since this is long, and since you couldn't see it all on the screen at once, you have already moved on.  In that case, the lesson here is:  Don't be afraid to tell people why you are celebrating life, not because you may get a free upgrade, but because... is a celebration and other people enjoy celebrating with you!

More lessons to come.  Heck, this post only lets off at 10:30 on the first morning...

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Spain was mucho awesome.  (I will share more later...)

I learned many things there and am inspired upon returning home to make some changes, finish some projects, write about some stuff, throw stuff away, and at the same time, I'm overwhelmed at the thought of any of it.

There's this major crash which happens after a stellar time away from reality.  It's the collision of re-entry and I've hit it hard this time.

I'm not complaining that I had time away, nor am I disappointed about being home, back in my life.

Part of the crash comes when you realize your two weeks of other people preparing you meals has come to a halt.  #sangriaatnoon

Maybe it's more disenchantment...and not that I don't siesta on a regular basis or drink sangria for lunch, truly, but more so because ever since Noah died, I've been disenchanted with the "American Dream" and get overwhelmed easily when I feel the margins shrinking in on me.

And I'm the only one who can change the margin width of this life document.

So, I'm not sure what this margin expansion will look like, but I know it will involve a lot of purging because my head and heart always feel better with less clutter.  The creative juices were also recharged in Spain, so designing and writing will be major contributors to creating more margin, too.

It was fitting this morning when the pastor shared his thoughts on God as Creator.  As a creative person I am often stifled by feeling boxed in, pigeon-holed, feeling stuck and then either staying in the stuck moment growing stagnant, or lifting my eyes to the One, the Ultimate Creative, and trusting Him to lead me as I live this life with intention, purposefully being creative for His glory, ugly mistakes and all.

Anyway, here are some random thoughts I wrote down today.  I hope they encourage and inspire you, as well:

  • Regarding 40 years in the wilderness, sometimes in order to move into a new season in our lives, something has to die (a dream, behavior, former way of thinking or living...) 
  • For 40 years in the wilderness the manna was new and fresh every morning, trusting God as the Supplier and Source of each day.  This time gathering and eating the daily bread was what gave strength for the day's journey.
  • Before moving into a new season, take time to celebrate and remember God's faithfulness and steady love in the former season.  Stop.  Celebrate.  Give thanks.  He doesn't change but the seasons do.  
  • Restlessness can create change in our hearts.  Be attune to your restlessness and lay it before God for what's next...
  • "Sometimes we have to say goodbye to a good season in our lives in order to move into a great season," said the guy who was substitute speaking today.  (Cliche, yet often true...)
God is my Creative Director.  Though His love hasn't changed in all of time, He is Creative and brings a new day with new beginnings, life outside the box kind of living, stuff we've never seen, each and every day, if we seek Him.  

If you've measured God by the standards of men all your life, there is no wonder why you continue to be disappointed in Him.

Don't box Him in and just see what He will do.  

*Do you have a story to share of how you boxed God in and He showed up to show you just how Big He really is?  How do you create margin in your life?  Are you on the edge of a new season in your life?  If so, looking back, how can you show thankfulness, even in difficult times, in order to move forward with a new perspective?