Happy Valentine’s Day. Have Some Music.

Okay, I’ll confess. No matter how often I remind myself that I am complete in my identity in Christ, at least part of my identity is still wrapped up in social affirmation. Call me a fallen human. Go ahead. I can take it.

Anyway, regardless of how happy and content I am on any given day (which is pretty happy and content these days) thanks to the joy and peace of the Lord, His nearness, His speaking into my life, and His filling my life to overflowing with abundant blessings in the form of a husband – who makes me laugh, works his tail off without complaining, lovingly supports my whims, and shares my life goals – three beautiful daughters who are growing up to be more and more fun by the minute, my mom and sisters and aunts and female family through DNA or marriage who are my BFFs, a lifetime of memories with a dad who is so worth the pain of missing until we meet him again in heaven, a community full of weirdos who complete me in so many unique and irreplaceable ways, a community of classmates and teachers who challenge and expand my thinking (some of which may or may not also be in my community of weirdos), and so much more… I still feel lonely when I come here and find nothing other than half a dozen spam comments. *sigh* Oh, the empty promises of social media. (Never mind that I haven’t posted anything new in a while to comment on…)

But wait! Hold the phone! Does that mean if I feel lonely for a minute, maybe I’m not reaching out to all the people I love!?

Well then, if that’s the case, you all need to know that I love you.

Have some Valentine’s Day songs of my choosing, which may or may not be flavored by my semi-reformed-former-boy-band-fangirl musical inclinations.

(If you don’t listen to any of the others, listen to the last one. I will gladly take credit for your increased endorphin flow.)

1. Because “Ross Lynch Radio” is still my go-to Pandora station (and because this video is so adorable)…

(In case there was any confusion – I am too old and my kids are too young to have any excuse for watching this show.) But here’s the whole song, if you want it…

2. Because it doesn’t always have to be a love song (It’s not a love song, but you guys know I love you, right?)…

3. Because you guys have no idea how beautiful you are…

4. And, my gift of love to you…

I really hope you cranked up the volume, listened to some of those songs, and had a little fun too. Just to make it clear, I am not taking credit for any of these videos, they are all shared from other sites, so credit goes to their creators.

Also, just assume I’m still dancing like a gangly white girl when you read this. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#youcompleteme

 

For Dad

A eulogy, as delivered (more or less) on December 27, 2016.

I had to write down what I wanted to say today. I knew there was no chance that I would be able think clearly enough, standing up here, to adequately cover the 32 years I’ve known Leonard Francis Jenkins.

It remains to be seen whether I will be able to read.

There is never enough that can be said to feel like I’ve said enough about Dad. To celebrate his life and his legacy. But to borrow a thought from something I recently read, I’ll offer this.

In his memoir, The Making of an Ordinary Saint, author Nathan Foster proposes that upon his own passing, he would like his epitaph to simply read, “He loved well.” We are created by a God who is love in every depth of its meaning, so this is perhaps the greatest legacy any of us can hope to leave. Nathan Foster shares in his story what that legacy should look like in his own life, but I think it’s more than sufficient to reflect on what it looked like, from my vantage, in Dad’s life.

Dad loved by simply loving. He loved by telling us he loved us. He loved by protecting and providing. He loved by showing patience beyond ordinary patience – far beyond the patience I have often demonstrated for my own children, it would seem. He loved by spending time with us and talking with us. By never passing up an opportunity for a hug and a kiss, or to make a silly face at his grandkids, or to teach one of them how to give herself a wet willy from a thousand miles away. But maybe most lastingly, Dad loved by teaching.

He taught us the lessons we have carried, and will carry, through life. He never stopped teaching, leading, guiding. Not only his children, but anyone whose life he had an opportunity to improve by sharing the things he had learned in his years. He never failed to seize a teaching moment – to whoever was nearby to benefit from it at the time. I have been fortunate to benefit from Dad’s teaching moments consistently, over the course of an entire lifetime.

Dad taught me, as a good dad does, how to live. He taught me what it means to be loved, secure, protected, provided for. He taught me how to make good choices – starting with how to hold a pencil, when I asked him which hand I was supposed to use – and he taught me how to live with the consequences of the bad choices I would inevitably make from time to time. Dad taught me how to be an optimist, how to swing a hammer, and how to drive a car, even if my husband may say that last one is debatable. He taught me how to fold a paper wallet, and how to make myself absolutely no fun at all to pick on. In doing so, he taught me how to protect myself because he knew one day he would have to resign from his position as my protector.

Dad taught me that it was okay to by shy and sensitive – just like he was, and he taught me how to overcome the challenges that would arise. Not just today, but every day. Every challenge. He taught this by example.

He also taught me how to spell his name L-E-O-N-D-A-D.

But my daddy didn’t just teach me how to get by in life. He taught me how to embrace life – the good and the bad. Dad taught me to smile – a lesson he taught without ever needing to say it.

This is what he lived:

Smile every day. Smile at everyone. Smile when you’re happy. Smile when you’re sad. Smile to cheer someone up, and wear your smile until you can barely be recognized without it. Share your smile with everyone you meet.

I’ve been told once or twice that Dad even gave me his smile to share with everyone I meet.

Dad spent a lifetime preparing his kids to go out into the world and live, even when that meant letting go – giving away his baby girl to a young man who happens to be an awful lot like him, or excitedly and wholeheartedly supporting God’s call on our life to move to a tiny college town out in the middle of rural Kansas.

Now it is Dad’s turn to rest, to stop fighting and overcoming, to be held and comforted, and to live not with choosing joy every day, but with joy unshakable. The brave teacher, smiler, protector, supporter, optimist, and overcomer. It is his turn to rest in the arms of the One who overcame death so that Leonard Francis Jenkins could enter into His eternal paradise. While I selfishly don’t want to accept that my daddy can no longer be found on this earth to welcome a hug and kiss, to smile at me, or to make a silly pun. While I hope and pray that I won’t ever lose the sound of his voice in my head saying, “okay, Laino,” or still calling me his baby girl, I can’t help but imagine our Heavenly Father during this whole earthly ordeal.

I imagine Him having excitedly counted down every one of the 22,526 days since He put Leonard Francis Jenkins into his earthly body. I imagine the thrill of a loving Father, as December 21, 2016 drew near, that He could, at long last, hold His baby boy in His arms again.

While this day, this season, is by far the hardest of my life to date, it is immeasurably the greatest, the most worthy to be celebrated, for the man who gave me this life. As we celebrate his life and his legacy, we remember to celebrate Dad’s saying goodbye to his broken and dying earthly body, the broken earthly life that Dad chose to live with joy, and we celebrate his new life of smiling and hugging and loving face-to-face with Jesus.

So today we say goodbye to the first man I ever loved. Leonard Francis Jenkins. Len, Lenny, Uncle Lenny, Mr. Jenkins – and sometimes Mr. Pokey, Friend, brother, Grandpa, Daddy. Dad.

Goodbye for now, Dad.

You loved well.

June 1981 – Dad in his first year as “Dad”

July 2016 – Dad in Kansas 🙂

Give Me Back My Classes, and Nobody Gets Hurt

I had to clean the vacuum filter today.

I don’t want to talk about it.

My last online class ended early last month, and my next class won’t start until the New Year, leaving me plenty of time to go completely nuts inside my head without a productive outlet for my mental energy. (Sorry guys, you know I love you all – even my quiet friends who may actually be reading my posts, but don’t feel like commenting – but the jury is still out as to whether my blog counts as a productive outlet without Facebook to help elicit readers and responses.)

(BTW, Mom and Auntie N, I would be lost without you two and your willingness to validate my writing by responding in the comments even though we all know that I could share my thoughts and hopes and dreams with you directly through email or text.)

(God sure knew what He was doing when He created family.)

(Especially ones that like to read.)

Anyway…I didn’t intend to have this break from school, but it’s okay because God knew what He was doing again when He carved out an eight-week chunk of time in my class schedule. Life and recent events have proven such that the risk of getting behind in a class and the possibility of not performing to the absolute best of my ability as a student might have thrown me over a figurative cliff of hopelessness and despair. This, for once, is not an exaggeration, as the few brave souls who have seen this dark place and lived to question the decision not to shove me off the cliff themselves just shouted “Amen.”

But things have slowed down a bit now, for me anyway. So now I’m going a little stir-crazy. I could use some prayer for that, especially with the kids’ Christmas break coming up. I’m excited about Christmas and all, but the kids have eight and a half days off of school. Do you have any idea how boring it is to spend eight and a half days with me? We might all go nuts if the fun parent doesn’t decide to take some time off work and rescue us.

Second, I love being a student. It can be stressful, sure, but it’s a productive stress. It’s a challenge that I can work through and usually come out successful, instead of coming out discouraged and frustrated by trying to do things that I will never be good at and/or will have to redo within the hour. School is life-giving stress. That being said, I am still itching to push through it quickly, shave off some time, and see what the Lord has in store for me in the form of a life-giving career. Lord, please forgive me for my perpetual impatience.

Anyway, I find myself tempted to add a traditional class along with my online classes to keep things moving along. This is probably completely crazy and asking for trouble, but it seems less crazy and trouble-asking than trying to double up on online classes. (Crunching a semester’s worth of learning into a six-week class…times two…have mercy!). Adding an on-campus class might be a (hopefully) manageable way to move things along and fit in another one of the three classes I need that are all offered online in the same six weeks – which also happens to be after the kids’ school will be out for summer vacation. I would be completely insane to try to double up then. Besides, I am a suh-loooooow reader, and obsessive proofreader (and I still end up with errors in my work), so I cannot – CAN. NOT. – overload myself to the point of doing work that does not meet my own standards.

The good news is Joel is on board for whatever I decide, but still, prayers for the right course of action would be appreciated, since this is going to rattle around in my brain for possibly the rest of my life if I think I’ve made the wrong decision.

So, what’s a girl to do? And don’t say scrub the microwave, ‘cause I already did that.

Oh yeah, this post is no more than a glorified request for prayer and sage advice. Did I forget to mention that before you spent the last four minutes of your life reading it? Oops. But since you did, please pipe in with…whatever in the whole wide world makes your heart happy. Just talk to me. Did I mention the part about the stir-crazy?

 

Caution, the Blogger is Feeling Vulnerable: A Reflection on Love and Friendship

I’ve been thinking about friendship lately. I think about friendship a lot, actually, and I’m probably obsessed with love. Of all things with which I am or have been obsessed, I think love is a good one. God is love, and that’s the love I’m talking about, not Valentine’s Day love or Sweetest Day love (which I’m not sure either Joel or I have ever remembered to celebrate in almost 15 years together). That love (obviously) means very little to me.

It seems like love is most often linked to romance, but I think the love that really matters has more to do with friendship than with romance. My favorite and truest thing I have ever heard about love was preached in a sermon by the same pastor who married Joel and me. “Love is a decision and love is work.” That statement can be backed by 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, in my proverbial book, and it wholly applies to marriage too.

It was easier as a teenager – to have friends, that is, but probably harder to love. Maybe I had more confidence then. Or, at least, I had less to lose. It was easier to trust and to open up to someone when we could spend our weekends and our mad money together catching chick flicks and drinking virgin strawberry daiquiris at Ground Round. That’s a little harder to do with kids in tow. A decade of worrying what everyone thought of me – which pretty well describes my twenties – probably threw a few wrenches into making brand-new, real-life, grown up friends, too. Honestly, I don’t think I really knew how to love a friend back then anyway. I was never going to be okay with other people if I couldn’t be at least mostly okay with myself.

I couldn’t tell you why it changed. Maybe it’s this town – something in the water. It’s freeing, though, and can really only be credited to God, to look back and realize how much more okay I am with myself – glaring weaknesses, flaws, shortcomings, and all – than I was ten years ago, when, I might add, I had significantly fewer gray hairs, wrinkles, and battle wounds. And to be so much more capable of loving, the more I learn to accept His love and perfect orchestration of all creation – His peace really does surpass all understanding.

All I want anymore is the perfectly numbered and measured life God has handmade for me, whatever that will look like in ten years, or ten days, or ten minutes. Seeing other people also living the lives that God handmade for them, and getting to be a part of those lives, increases my joy in ways I had never imagined possible. That joy has changed friendship for me, and friendship has changed the way I love – my husband, my family, the strangers I meet in Wal-Mart. But still, I struggle.

I struggle when I have to remember that I’m not everyone’s “cup of tea.” It follows naturally that I struggle with judgement and with hypocrisy as I remember there are those – though few and far between – that I don’t relate to very well either. I think more than anything, though, I struggle with wanting to be chosen.

All that in spite of the fact that I am chosen – by God and by my amazing life partner, for better or worse, till death do us part. The blessing that any of us should both have and know such favor is beyond comprehension.

But humans want to be chosen by other humans too. Not always to be chosen first, above all others – each of us can only choose one person in that way, so I think it’s fair if we are only chosen that way by one person in return – but to be chosen above most others. To be regarded as special and irreplaceable in the lives of a few special and irreplaceable people. To be loved and treasured above the masses just because we are somehow irresistible to the precious handful of people we are meant to share life with.

I think we’re lucky if we find a few people in life with whom we really “click” – those few people that really get us, or at least some part of us, in ways that no one else does. With logic-defying quickness, someone who was just a really cool person yesterday becomes a part of you (sometimes whether they like it or not). These are the ones that you don’t have to know very long, or very well, to know that you’ve met someone you’re still going to care about even after they’ve hurt your feelings, even after awkward or difficult conversations. They are the ones that you don’t have to see, talk to, or even text for weeks or months to still feel like they are the closest to your heart, even though you can’t quite put your finger on why. I think we’re even luckier if we find people who feel the same way about us. Love first, get acquainted later is probably how it should be. But the most important thing is to keep loving, even when it’s messy.

Even from the beginning love was messy. Even between God and Adam and Eve. Even between us and God. But we can’t stop. We can’t put up protective walls and harden our hearts. Everything in me believes that God our creator – who is three in relationship as one, the God who created mankind to walk with Him, who created woman to be in relationship with man, who assures us that all we can take from this life into His kingdom are other people, who wants us to choose Him, and who created us to be like Him – is a God of relationship. Does anything else even matter?

I guess what I’m saying is this – I am blessed to have had a few of those hard and fast connections in 32 years, whether they are still active in my life or mostly lost to me (which has possibly not ever been by my choosing). I am blessed to have a few of those friends – some related by blood – who have changed, grown, loved, and built with me for years and decades, and have chosen me again and again no matter how ugly and judgmental I’ve sometimes been.

Maybe take a little time to think about those people in your life. It’s good for the soul. Maybe tell some of them what they mean to you. If they happen to thrive on words of affirmation, it might just change their whole outlook on life today. Friendship is, and people are, not something that should ever be taken lightly (bold words from a recovering hermit). I think maybe go ahead and go into it lightly, though. Go into it and love blindly, but never go out of it lightly.

But seriously, what do I know? I know that I am thankful for my friends, for all of you, in whatever capacity you have been my friends. Thank you for allowing God to use you in my life. Thank you for pushing me, testing me, and expanding my capacity to love in new ways. Be certain that you have no idea how thrilling it is to me, and be confident that my heart wants more of your heart. (That sounds creepy.)

I wish my stream of consciousness was making more sense to convey what I wish everyone would experience – what I wish I had experienced years ago by taking the risk to love more fully even though doing so guarantees I will be hurt more fully, and what I wish I could trust myself to continue in without faltering. But to finish on a Word that cannot be wrong and cannot be shaken, let me share one of my current favorite scriptures on love. It is one I am so grateful to know, because while I will often fail in unwavering kindness and patience, and abound in rudeness, selfishness, envy, wrong thinking, conceit, and all things imperfect – while I will often be a terrible friend – this scripture tenderly threatens of the stubbornness and ferocity of God’s love for me. That gives me hope that I might just be doing alright when it’s all I can say for the way I love the people in my life:

[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

-1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV (brackets added)

or

Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].

-1 Corinthians 13:7 (Amplified Bible)

I like to call it ugly love. When I’m a jerk, and maybe you’re a jerk too, but I know I still love you because I said so, and if God says you’re too good to stop loving, then I should probably do the same because He’s usually (always) right.

I love you, my friends (and family/friends). Stubbornly. Ferociously.

…Creepily? 🙂

 

So that’s my point, I guess.

Marshmallow on My Face

Okay guys, that’s it. I’m skipping the intro. No intro. I’m throwing in the towel, scrapping it, crumpling it up and tossing it into the trash can while muttering, “she shoots, she scores, and the crowd goes wild…” I am washing my hands of my introduction. It is dead to me. I now regard it as no more than 1300 words on a page to take up space on my hard drive and my backup jump drive, and my backup backup jump drive. It’s over. You guys are getting Chapter One. 

Some of you have already read this. There’s a very good chance that I’ve changed at least something since you’ve last read it, but it will probably still be very familiar. So, to those, I apologize for the redundancy. I also thank you. Any improvements in my writing over the last few years can all be rightfully attributed to the handful of people who have read my work and offered both encouragement and constructive criticism (which, I should clarify, includes my writing professor – in case that inadvertently came off as backhanded or offensive). That being said, I still welcome both positive feedback and constructive criticism. (I am including a feedback form on this post, with the hopes of remembering to do the same for future chapters, for the sake of constructive criticism that does not need to be posted to the comments section.) But please do share your honest thoughts. Without these, I am lost and flailing in a universe of writerly doubt and indecision without an anchor or tether to the essence of community and forward motion which is, in fact, the real world.

See what I mean? Don’t leave me floating in space writing things like “the essence of community and forward motion which is, in fact, the real world.”

Besides, I’m stalling. Back to the book. I have a new title. If it’s stupid, you have to tell me. Or maybe don’t. But really, you have to. But you have to do it nicely and be prepared to offer useful suggestions. The new title is Marshmallow on My Face. It’s the title of this post (anti-climactic?). It probably doesn’t make sense yet. Which is why I tried to write an introduction. But since my introduction hates me, I’m severing all ties.

I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

Anyway, there’s a tagline too, but I don’t know it yet. Something about being caught needing more Jesus. Is that hokey? If you come up with something fitting that’s not hokey, please share. It could be a contest. There’s no prize, other than my undying love and affection, but some (most?) of you already have that.

Stalling again.

Without further ado (or further trading of one ill-fated book introduction for a bloggish introduction that doesn’t even  make sense), see Chapter One below.

Marshmallow on My Face, Chapter One:

When Did I Trade the Backstreet Boys for Burp Rags?

I lean over the counter holding my head in my hands.  Maybe if I hold it tightly enough, it won’t explode.  My elbows grind into the unwelcome mess of old junk mail, receipts and appointment reminders that have engulfed my entire workspace, but still I can’t remember what I came in here to do.

I’m in the kitchen, where I might as well set up camp, because it’s not like I’m going to be allowed to leave here any time soon.  Someone has to sort through this clutter; someone has to make lunch; and I’m not even going to turn around to face the mess that has devoured my kitchen table.  If I don’t look at it, maybe it’s not really there.

Why did I come over here?

I plunge my fingers into the hair at my temples, clench my fists around the disheveled locks, and give a good steady pull.  What was I just going to do?

Why is it so noisy?  I can’t think.   “Just a minute, sweetie.”  I can’t answer another question right now.  “Not right now, honey.” I can’t meet another demand.  “Be nice, please!”  I can’t break up another fight!  I can’t even remember why I’m standing here!  

I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids.  I think I might scream.

They’re just kids.  They don’t understand.  I’m so tired.  I just need two seconds of quiet so I can remember what   I   came   over   here   to   do!!!

What am I doing?

Look at me.  I’m a raving lunatic right now.

How did I even get like this?

WHY DID I COME OVER HERE!?!?

Just yesterday I was fifteen years old, still going by the name Elaina Jenkins.

 I was just “hanging out” in my room with my BFF, listening to my imported Backstreet Boys CD, and pulling pin-ups out of my latest Tiger Beat magazine to add to my homemade Backstreet Boys wallpaper.  We were just deciding which movie to see this weekend and who to invite, and at some point…I must have blinked.

It’s Elaina Halverstadt now; and now I’m a stay at home mom in rural Kansas changing cloth diapers and washing endless loads of pee-soaked sheets for my potty-training preschoolers.  Sure, I remember a few things that happened in that blink, like meeting and marrying a totally hot guy with lean, sinewy muscles and a distinct jawline covered with rugged blondish scruff perfectly suited to his youthful masculinity.  As if I’m going to forget that.

I remember moving a few times, and talking about having kids, but I’m having a bit of trouble with how it all actually happened, and so quickly.  I’m struggling with how it all seemed so sudden, yet so planned; and how I agreed to all of this without really knowing what I was getting myself into.

It did happen, and I’m a wife; and I’m a mom of three.  Hannah, Hailey and Heidi – three beautiful, healthy, rambunctious girls whom I love with every fiber of my being; without whom my life would be empty and meaningless, and with whom I want to pull out my own perfectly good, long hair.

But there’s no need for that sort of blatant masochism here; I have a delightfully irresistible eight-month-old Heidi who will happily rip it from my scalp for me, handful by tiny handful, with a vigor that is nothing short of spectacular. As painful as it is, the hair-pulling is fairly inconsequential on the list of ways I didn’t know my life could be more difficult.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Though I can’t possibly imagine being fonder of my children – three of the most amazing people on the face of this earth – I also can’t imagine what absence actually feels like.

I can’t remember what it’s like to shower without asking permission or making arrangements.  I can’t remember what it’s like to leave the house without a second thought, or eat something without sharing.

These magnificent little people don’t just live with me and follow me around.  They sit on me, walk on the backs of my shoes, and barge through the bathroom door just as soon as I close it behind me…

“Why did you follow me into the bathroom?” (Why do I even ask anymore?)

 “Because I have to go potty.”

“Well, that’s just rude!  Now you need to wait ‘til I’m done!”

(wince) That might’ve been a little bit harsh.

Even on my best day, I can’t begin to imagine why the loving and all-knowing God of all creation saw fit to give me not one, but three of His absolute most priceless and precious treasures; and I’m still trying to figure out what ever possessed me to think that I could handle this gig.  But I have an ace in the hole.  His name is Joel.

Joel is my husband, and he may very well be the only reason I ever thought I could live up to this challenging life.  Surely, if I could snag him, I could do anything.  Most importantly, with him as my partner, I could definitely do anything.

Joel is calm, collected, confident, talented, athletic, and resourceful. In whatever community we find ourselves, people really love Joel, and rightly so.  He’s friendly, respectful and capable; and he’s very good at hard work.  He does the heavy labor that others cannot do for themselves, or by themselves, and for that, they adore him.  Because of Joel, people love me before they’ve met me.  They thank me for giving up his time so that he can repair their roofs, fix their leaky sinks, or remove fallen trees from their yards.  They tell me I’ve got a really great guy and therefore I must be taking great care of him.  That is what you call “cool by association.”

But, none of this happened overnight.  Just as perplexing as the trade-offs that I don’t actively remember making is the blinding speed with which the years have passed.  I have noticed with little uncertainty that each year of life has passed more quickly than the last.  Forty-five minutes spent sitting behind a desk in history class at the end of a school year seems like a life sentence; but sitting behind the computer while my children briefly nap, forty-five minutes is but a fleeting moment. All the pressing issues of the moment that I thought might define my life forever are now no more than memories.

I remember my money being spent on movies with friends, and Bop magazines.  My main concerns were having fun and plastering my walls with pictures of the Backstreet Boys.  Life was carefree and exciting.

Obtaining my parents’ permission to get out of the house and do something fun was not nearly as impossible as getting my kids’ “permission” to leave the house now.  But at some point in life, without really realizing what was happening and without regret, I did make the trade.

I traded Backstreet Boys posters and concerts for burp rags and cloth diapers.  I traded a Trapper Keeper for a family binder, movie nights for budget meetings, sports bras for nursing bras, magazine pin-ups for wedding and baby pictures, an assignment book for a bill calendar, and Tiger Beat for Clean Eating – my pin-ups of black bean-edamame salads conspicuously failing to inspire giggles and swooning.

My favorite memories are no longer of concerts, festivals, and proms, but of nights spent in the hospital after the birth of a brand-new baby, crushed under the weight of a love that only just began to exist, and rescued by an elusive understanding that she’s mine, for now.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, life is no longer the carefree life that I wasn’t wise enough to recognize as such; it’s a different life, it’s heavy and burdened.  My life, my priorities, and even my personality are barely recognizable anymore from that of ten or fifteen years ago; and I haven’t fully decided which version of me I like better.  Though I sometimes miss that free and easy life and often wish I ‘knew then what I know now,’ I wouldn’t be who I am now without the story that I’ve lived.

I’ve picked up a few valuable items along the way – a family, a little bit of wisdom, plenty of experience in changing bed sheets; and more than a few lessons in diligence, humility, intentionality, and grace. When it comes down to it, I don’t think I would trade any of that back for my young and inexperienced, boy-band-loving self.

While ‘the moment’ seems to have arrived without warning, I know it didn’t really happen that way.  There has been far too much good in the past to gloss over it like it never happened; and there is far too much good in ‘the moment’ to spend it bewailing the passage of time.  All that’s left to do is to live in ‘the moment,’ anticipate the future, enjoy the children before they are grown and gone, and just breathe.

Because I still can’t remember what I came into the kitchen to do.

(Don’t forget to send your feedback or leave comments below!)

(since I received one legitimate feedback message and approximately 100 (not exaggerating) spam messages, I have removed the feedback form from this post. 🙂 – E)

 

“Please Hold. Your Call Will Be Answered by the Next Available Brain Function.”

Hey friends. You might remember more than a month ago when I, or someone claiming to be me, wrote a blog post implying that I might maybe possibly think about almost wanting to potentially have the guts to tentatively consider posting parts of my book to my blog? At the risk of stating the obvious, I still haven’t done that. Seriously, really, I mean it – I want to start posting pieces of my book to my blog. I just can’t.

Since there are those of you (I think) who take the time to check periodically whether I’ve delivered on my intentions, just because you care, I feel I owe some explanation. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good one. I even have a break from online classes through the new year. I have lots of (outdated) material to work with. A new potential title. And I won’t begin bore you with the details of how long my book’s introduction has been open on my desk top and how many times I’ve read it, stared at it, talked to it, changed it, re-read it, and stared at it again, only to decide I have nothing worthwhile to say, and walk away from it to read someone else’s book. Someone published. Someone with stuff to say. Good stuff to say. And well said, at that.

I can claim the excuse that life has delivered more pressing issues to occupy my mind-space, which is way true, but I’m pretty sure this is mostly stage fright. It’s writerly drama, but it’s a real thing nonetheless – one that’s amazingly difficult to process on my own. (Do actual writers have teams to help them process through this stuff? It seems like they should.) Anyway, boohoo. You are all cordially invited to my pity party. But seriously, feel free to tell me I’m a genius and everything I write is worthwhile. I might not believe you.

So I don’t know when my revised-but-never-going-to-be-good-enough book introduction will make it to the blog, but I haven’t forgotten.

Just chickened out.

A lot.

Don’t give up on me!

To Think, or Not to Be, Therefore…or Whatever

Hey friends. It’s been a while. Taking online classes has me pretty busy these days. My current class is Introduction to Sociology, and Rene Descartes has me radically doubting…well, nothing really, because I think Rene Descartes was completely off his onion, but anyway, that’s not very nice. The class is great, actually, but it does have most of my spare time and the sane parts of my brain occupied, and I’m approaching my own brand of delusional when I keep checking for hits on my blog even though I’m not posting anything, so I had an idea.

First, I really want to say thank you to the handful of people who read my blog. Thank you to those of you who are subscribed, even if you’re not all that interested in reading it. Double thank you to those who do read what I post, and triple thank you to those of you who read my posts AND leave comments – either on the blog, by email, or by text – so I’m not over here talking to myself. I appreciate all of you. Just having a handful of people subscribed means a whole lot, and shows me you care. And since I’m still at the point where I recognize most (maybe all) of the email addresses that are subscribed to my blog, your caring enough to subscribe does not go unnoticed (welcome to my creepy cyber world, in case I wasn’t creepy enough as it was).

Back to my idea.

See, I have this book that I wrote, but – let’s be honest – is never going to be published because I couldn’t convince a publisher to read it even if it was written on Zac Efron’s six-pack. Besides, it’s outdated now, since I wrote it when Heidi was eight months old and she’s 30 now. I realize she’s only three, but still. I’m not even sure I still know the people I wrote about in that book. But I’m getting off track here.

The point is, I am thinking about starting to dissect my book, tweak bits and pieces of it, and post them here. I’m pretty sure this is backwards, since most people write a blog, become wildly successful, and then turn the blog into a New York Times Bestseller. In other words, I’m regressing (except without the Bestseller). It’s a little depressing, really, but it’s okay because Jesus loves me and half the time backwards is how I do things anyway.

Logic would argue that the four, maybe five, of you who read my blog are the same four, maybe five, who would want to read my book anyway, so I hope if I have the guts to go through with it, you all will enjoy the dissected version.

I might be reaching here, but you know, whatever. I get restless.

Because Super-Crazy-Making is Happening Here

Summertime has reached fever pitch in the Halverstadt house!

Barclay campus students are soon to return to Haviland, which is wonderful! This also means that my husband is (and I’m sure many other BC employees are) operating on overdrive. My girls are so over being at home and, you know, together…and I am so over pretending to be good at this mom thing. So it’s getting exhausting (and I apparently get headaches now too), and in searching for the silver lining today, here’s what I came up with: The summer cold we all caught – I’m the only one still trying to kick it two weeks later (which, in mom world, is a good thing).

Let’s not discuss the fact that Joel did eventually catch the cold that had me doped up on NyQuil for a week and a half – and had it for like 10 seconds. (It’s for the best, really.)

The point is we could use some prayer in the Halvey house. Mostly that I don’t flip my lid and make the decision to send my babies off to boarding school just 12 days before the grade school is back in session, but also for health and peace and encouragement in what I desperately hope is just a short season of craziness.

I hope you all are having a great summer and looking forward with joy and excitement to the start of a new school year! And to my friends who are also counting down to the minute until school starts…#youcompleteme

Made for Each Other (Encouragement, Part 2)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Anyone with a basic understanding of biology knows that the human heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body – all the way out to the tips of our fingers and toes. But once it delivers its load of fresh nutrients and oxygen to the body, how does the now-depleted blood make it back to the heart to be replenished and recirculated? There is no official “pump” in the human body to make this happen. In order for the heart to perform its function to continually pump nutrient-rich blood throughout the body, it must rely on the squeezing actions of other muscles to encourage the used and depleted blood back in for refilling and redistribution.

In other words, without the powerful movement of the muscles in your calves to help push it through the one-way valves of the veins, the blood that has been forcefully pumped into your legs and feet would have great difficulty making its way back to the heart against the pull of gravity. Similarly, the human spirit functions better with the ongoing support of other humans. Without this regular, intentional action it can quickly become difficult for an individual to operate successfully in joy and positivity against the negative pull of stress, insecurities, and unkind words.

While our true value and worth always comes from God alone, and not the perceived approval of man, we also have a responsibility to uplift and encourage one another in ways that are pleasing to our Heavenly Father. God created us with emotions, and He created us to love one another and to need one another. He created us to function as one body, made up of different parts, as the Apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12. In the same way that our physical hearts function better with the support of our lungs; and our bones function only with the encouragement of our muscles, we as individuals in the body and community of Christ function better with the support and encouragement of those around us.

Ultimately, we are responsible for our own attitudes, our actions, and our responses to the emotions that are hard-wired within us, but let’s not forget our responsibility to support one another and promote the better function, the joy, and the peace of each person we have the privilege to impact. Let’s not forget our role in helping one another make it back to the heart of the Father. Today, let’s be the encouragement that someone needs to refresh and replenish the working of the Spirit within.

 

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)

 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12 (NKJV)

 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Corinthians 12:23-26 (NKJV)

 The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

 

Lord,

Thank you for creating us to function as a beautiful community, and not to spend our days going it alone. May we honor the love and plans you have for each of us, and operate with the heart of Christ toward one another. When we find ourselves lacking the encouragement our spirits so strongly desire, let that be a reminder of our duty to supply the encouragement needs of those around us.

It’s in Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen

Half-Baked Book Review

I’m reading this book, Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle, which my mother-in-law was kind enough to let me borrow approximately fifteen months ago, and it’s so good and sweet and funny that I just have to talk about it. I’m not quite finished reading it yet because I don’t really have that much time to read these days, and I can sometimes be easily distracted when I do sit down on the toilet and attempt to read. I catch myself fifteen minutes later contemplating bizarre and irrational scenarios, like if I died today and Joel buried me in the Haviland cemetery we’d only be transitioning from roommates to neighbors. But anyway, discussing a book on my blog before I’ve finished reading it probably makes my book review completely unreliable, but nobody’s paying me to do this so I can be a zero-credibility book reviewer if I want to. (Hey, should I start a book review segment on my blog? I’m thinking maybe “the girl with the schizophrenic blog” could be my niche.)

Sparkly Green Earrings is about motherhood and I can’t help but appreciate that there are other moms in the world who seem to think that motherhood is amazing but has maybe become a little over the top. (Because I don’t care how much you “treasure every moment” of raising children, you did not seriously enjoy that moment when your toddler just peed on the kitchen floor while you were trying to cook dinner, and nothing you say can make me believe that you did.)

I realize that a statement about what motherhood has “become” is kind of bold from someone who doesn’t particularly remember all that many details of her childhood and her parents’ parenting other than that it was good (which is happy, but also peculiar since my parents had to force me on any given day to come up with something (or three things) positive about my situation or life in general).

The fact that I’m not the only mother who thinks motherhood is crazy hard and crazy exhausting and crazy crazy (and cares to write about it), and the fact that she feels that way with one child makes me feel pretty good about the fact that I felt that way with one child. (And then went ahead and had another. And another. It’s a bit masochistic, but it’s generally a sanctioned masochism.) She also makes me feel not so bad for flip-flopping from a helicopter mama who didn’t allow Hannah to climb stairs by herself until she was like ten, and a hands-off mama who sometimes lets her two-year-old change her own diapers and doesn’t know whether to laugh or call the paramedics when the kids accidentally pop a wheely in their Barbie Jeep that Joel souped up with an actual car battery.

We were recently at a wedding reception at which I found my life enriched by an unreasonably tall man dancing with a remarkably short woman. They both looked like they were old enough to know better than to drink so much alcohol, and they probably thought they looked pretty smooth swaying wildly across the dance floor while onlookers wondered whether he’d ever be able to stand up straight again and whether she’d still be alive and kicking when he finished dragging her across the room by her head while smothering her in his belly button. (It’s possible that that is not actually what was happening, but I’m pretty sure it is.)

Sparkly Green Earrings is kind of like that. It’s mostly sweet, unashamedly real, and delivers just as much life-enriching laughter as the hold-me-closer-tiny-dancer couple without me even having to put on pants and makeup and leave the house. Her writing and her stories are easy and comfortable and funny like that, and she’s like a kindred spirit who understands that you can love Jesus and life can still be funny at the same time. I think if I knew her, she might even appreciate my belief that God enjoys a good practical joke as much as the next person because he sees fit to put together two people with a two-and-a-half foot height difference.

Or to create me with the inherent urge to dance in public. (Because gangly white girls are notoriously amazing dancers.)

Or to put someone waaaay at the end of that almost empty high school social studies hallway back in 2001 to witness that one (supposedly) smart girl face-surfing across the tile in the fifteen feet between her classroom and the drinking fountain. (That was me, by the way, and unfortunately there are very few career opportunities in face-surfing.)

Or to give moms only two hands and give children at least seventeen. (Most of them are invisible.)

I just imagine our loving God up there giggling with delight while He adoringly watches a third trimester pregnant woman try to clip her toenails.

The point I’m trying to make, and soaring wildly past – before I step away from my desperately needed revisions to do cartwheels and handstands in my dining room and jam to my go-to Pandora station (which is “Ross Lynch Radio” and there’s no explanation for that that can make me seem cool or stable) – is you should read the book. It is fantastic – and even on those days when my mind is obsessing over the thousand things I wish I could do or say or have or, or what I should have done or said differently, or what the future has in store, or what that person must be thinking, or how long I have before the kids find me hiding in the bathroom with a book – this one is enjoyable and easy to read and makes me giggle, which I think is my favorite thing to do, so when it happens life feels pretty good.

(I realize that this whole post was only like three sentences, but I’m not really feeling grammar today, so I’m sure you all will manage.)

It’s a good book. The end.

 

Update: (I haven’t even posted this yet, so I’m technically updating myself.) I finished the book. It was amazing. I cried. I laughed and cried at the same time. I’m also retiring from writing. Melanie Shankle has said everything I will ever have to say, and better than I would have said it. I’ll see you all again after I reinvent myself as a travelling paper-mâché architect.