we had plans, you know.  big plans.  a bus.  a roadtrip.  four little kids & us, a couple duffle bags, a backpack of books & some pencils.  we were going.  for a long time, we were going.

the plan was to sell the house, to move somewhere else.  then, after the last box was hauled in from the (choose one:  moving van.  friend’s pick-up truck.  back of the van.), after we’d unpacked the spaghetti pot & made dinner, after we’d done a load of jeans, we’d point ourselves southwest & go in a (choose one:  bus. camper. mini van.).

but that didn’t happen.
actual windshield photo.  thank you, ND.  your bug-to-car ratio is astronomical.  you didn’t need to prove it. 

our big plans included WEST:  california, legoland, the grand canyon. a big warm loop of state lines crossed, cousins visited, first-time-in-this-state pictures.  we would find new adventures, exciting places, meet new people.
but instead of California, we got north dakota. not exactly exotic, not even warm.
it seemed like a cruel recalculation on paper.
but.  & that’s where Jesus comes in, taking our teeny plans, unfolding them like a giant roadmap laid out on the kitchen table, & making them into something, well, better.

how can north Dakota in the fall possibly rival a California roadtrip?

let me show you.
my parents’ farm, where i grew up, along the canadian border.

four-wheelin’also known as “field rollin,'” if you’re new to the sport.  or 5 years old..
uncle jay, running the semi.  leif loved riding with “uh day”.

not only was it gorgeous weather for september in north dakota, but between field lunch runs, bumping along the gravel roads in papa’s pick-up, riding in the combine, & “full house” episodes in the evenings with grandma, we even managed to sneak in a blissful afternoon at the Lake, my most hallowed place, for kayaking.
it was 85 degrees.
tell me God doesn’t love me.
my mama & me, dominating the photo.

AND.  there was cousin time.  my cousin Kelly’s kids, just down the road from my mom & dad’s.  literally, cousins for neighbors.  booyah.

 & then back to the farm, an actual wonderland.  extreme climbing against gale-like winds?  who needs the grand canyon. . . .
IMG_3133throw in a gram, a papa, an uncle, & a daily buffet & really.
I may never get to california.
did I mention the rides?  both older kids learned to mow.  & LOVED it.  bam-o.
so, there it is.  ND instead of CA.  warm weather, riding around on farm equipment all week, eating, drinking, bonfires, cousins, kayaking, the Lake.

recalculating, I think we’re going to get along just fine.

(p.s. — if you subscribe & received this post with photos un-see-able, my hugest apologies.  wordpress & i were having a thing, but the kinks are worked out now.  ALSO, check out the new “about” page at the top, cleverly renamed “this is how we do it”.  if you start singing a 90’s song, it’s not my fault.)

just a minute, you are art.

IMG_2951it’s been awhile.
I’ve missed this place, this photo & song bit.
like grown-up show ‘n tell.
sit down in my circle, here next to me.

what I’m into lately is potential.  who we are, what we’re intended to be.  breaking out of who we think we should be to who we really are.  knocking down the bullhorns of culture that prescribe (for me) what a thirty-something woman should look like, literally & figuratively.

I stared this stigma squarely in the nose this morning.  I was sitting on the floor playing cards with two of my kids (which, don’t get all goosey, never happens.  truthfully.) when a vehicle drove up.  one of andy’s t-shirt customers was slated to pick up her order, & he’d just left to buy toilet paper.  i raced up, scooping up the laundry the little boys had used for a war & shoved it back in the basket, pulling it behind a wall on my way to the door.  I answered the door to a truly gorgeous woman, with the jeans & the hair & the smell.  (do you know what pretty smells like?  I do.).  I had managed out of my pajamas, but as I watched her glance into my kitchen, I saw it through visitor eyes (so different from we-live-here eyes): huge scrap bowl of apple peelings & egg shells alongside bills & houseplants, with a couple pantyliners on the side.  leif had been pulling off the sticky backs & plastering them on his tummy, saying, “owie”.  & that’s where they landed when i unstuck him.  nice.
also, I hadn’t brushed my teeth.  (it was only 12:30.  not like the middle of the day.)

after pretty woman left, I had my mini breakdown, feeling my feelings of inferiority, blah, blah, blah.  & then I got back to it:  cards & chaos & countertops housing miscellany.  this is who i am, & i’m good with it (usually).

striking, how quickly the bullhorns scramble to shout me down.

so, usually “just a minute’s” are succinct tidbits, but today had more.  & while i’m pacing back into myself, I want you to know who you are, too.  you may not be Revlon in skinny jeans, or you might be.  you might be home with your kids, or you might be busting your bum in the ER on weekends because that’s what makes you tick.  maybe you won’t leave the house with lipstick.  maybe you’re good with a solid tube of chappy.

one thing i do know about us is art is who we are.  I am art, you are.  what we do is art, or can be.
I used to think being an artist meant that I could draw.  which i abslute cannot, except at pictionary.  (I rock pictionary.)  but the farther I walk this road, the more I understand all of life is art because it was created.  we have a Creator who formed us out of some pretty funky stuff, & then knit into us an individual artistry that the world needs.  it needs you, because if you look around when you stroll wal-mart for chicken broth, there ain’t a whole lot of happy going down.

we could use a little more happy.
take a look at the little ones.  ever notice how little kids go deep into their creating, going slow (because they have not learned “better” yet) & putting their whole selves into it?  & then when they run up to you, sticky paint hands & a wonder-filled page upheld, they are glowing? they have done what they were meant to do.  they have created.

I can do that, too.  create, I mean. how I made that chili last night with two kinds of (canned) tomatos?
cornbread to go along, hot butter sliding off?
absolute artistry.
my four kids + huz gathered around our small wooden table on mismatched chairs beside the picture window?
call the Guggenheim, my friends.
it’s getting lovely in here.

& this idea of art everywhere, in you, around you, comes down to noticing.  I spend a lot of time reigning myself in to go slow enough to see.  we’ve talked about this before.  but if you’re going too fast, cruising down the interstate of your life, if you don’t slow down a bit, take ten minutes off in the afternoon on tuesday before you take the kids to karate, you’re not going to see the art. you have to go sloooooow.  or at least a little bit slower than the culturally-appropriate warp speed.
if you don’t notice it, you can’t enjoy it.  & if you can’t enjoy it, you can’t realize that you have the opportunity to create art every day.  in all the tiny & small things.  (ha,ha.  shameless plug.)  because you were intended to be amazing.  & you are. 
so, go be an artist today.  pour cereal in a pretty bowl.  take an extra minute to make coffee just how you like it, & drink it from your favorite mug.  take the time to unearth it from the back of the cupboard.  don’t have a favorite mug?
we can’t be friends.

& if you need a little inspo, listen:
(you’ve heard the song if you’ve been alive recently, but have you seen the video?  it’s on repeat ’round here.  you’re welcome.)

happy creating, my friends.  you are art.
(“just a minute” is a once-in-a-blue-moon post on fridays, in which I offer up a photo & a song (two of my most favorite things) that hit me between the eyes recently.  if you’d like to leave a scrap of what strikes you, please do, either in the comments or on facebook.  love love.)

the paper cow (on being an individual.)

I didn’t recognize him when I walked in, which is remarkable.  he’s been in costume since he was 4:  pirates, mario brothers, ghostbusters; it’s a long list.  but when I came up the wooden steps to the barn’s loft & came around the corner, I couldn’t place his shiny squares & hat.  which is funny.  I usually have a feel for his flare.

it didn’t matter.  he was in one of his all-time favorite places doing what he loves: costuming & setting scenes.

that’s my boy.  (who is so obviously an archer, once he picked up his bow.  duh.)every summer, our kids spend a day or two at the paper cow theatre, a magnificent wonderland in a refurbished barn, just a few miles south of town.  the kids love it there, we love hanging out there to watch their “show” after a day of hard imagining, & the atmosphere — two claps for kris, the heart behind the barn.  clap, clap.
thalia, the yellow faerie on a mission with her pally, (wait for it. . .) the green faerie. 

while we sat in the front row on refurbished church pews, I studied kris, the director.  she owned us, all of us, from the second we stepped into her costumed world, a giant dragon hanging in the rafters & the innards of a piano wallpapering the sound booth.  as I watched her, my heart rose.  she so passionately loves what she’s doing: guiding the sleuths, fusing drama goodness in to their tiny hearts, encircling them for a day in somewhere else.  not only is kris in her absolute element, she’s handcrafted every square inch of it with a palm sander. she bought a dairy barn & turned it into a children’s theatre for crying out loud.

my soul sits up & takes notes on that brand of intention.
church pews.  brilliant, recycled happiness.
I wanted to take the edible mermaid home.

the barn is one of the most wonder-filled places I’ve ever been.  wandering around in it, after the last kid takes off his gloves & hangs up his fox ears, gets me thinking about meeting, greeting, & owning my own purpose on this lovely planet.  any chance I get to redirect my life, to point it purposefully from the helm, I take.  I have one go-’round here.  ’twill not be wasting.

being in the barn reminds me just how much is possible, what a wonder-filled place this life, my life, is.
& after every performance, there’s milk & cookies.


for when you’re failing at everything

this morning, before I was actually awake, I scrubbed the bathroom floor where all the mouse poo was. we have a cat, a stupendous hunter, usually.  I don’t know if she’s on break or what, but I had to clean up after she let this little guy slide.  i’m taking it out of her pay.  thank you, cat.  you have failed this city.

then, before the tile was dry, I turned around to witness the fallout of not one but both of the refrigerator door railings coming off, sending all but a couple stoic salad dressing bottles left standing when the 5-year-old went in search of milk.  minutes before, I made the in-house toddler shut the fridge;  no, I didn’t want to unwrap butter or chase his heft of bowling ball cabbages for the forty-seventh time.  it was a little early in the day.  when you are two & mama tells you “no”, you have two choices.  ambivalence or rage.  you can guess which set up the entire contents of the refrigerator door for their bold leap to catastrophe.  by the grace of God (you think i’m joking but I assure I am most certainly not), only the pickle jar met its end.  pickle blood all over the ranch, the milk, the ketchup, the cod liver oil.  gallons of ungodly yellow-green pickle blood.

this was after the mouse poo, remember.
all before breakfast.

as I knelt barking orders at my soldiers children, I thought about how I really had two choices at that point.  (one of them was not vacation.)  I could either carry on as sergeant, or I could draw them in (kids, not pickles) & actually connect with them over this current ridiculousness.  because it truly was ridiculous.  this can’t be what normal people do.  i’d like to tell you I put down my orange bath towel & all the glass shards, pulled someone into my lap, & we all lived happily ever after.

i’ll not start lying to you now.

I managed us through the pickle fiasco, we went on with our day, & at the end of it, we’d wedged in brownies & icecream.  my kids would call this a win.  I, on the other hand, sat at the piano (where I’ve always done honest thinking) tinkering around & dragging myself yet again through the triggered landmines of our day.

most days are like that.  good, bad, ridiculous.  but at least some part of every day, i’m muddling around in my own, well-cooked vat of failure.  like tonight, after the brownies were brushed off teeth & the toddler was asleep (halle-freaking-lujah.), the five-year-old asked if he could fall asleep in my bed.  baahhhh.  I was just. so. tired.  so I told him he could lay with his big brother, that really mommy’s bed was just too crowded.  he lobbied.  I resisted.  because, please honey.

after he was tucked in beside big brother, both of them little burritos under their turquoise checkered comforter, & he’d actually forgotten about falling asleep beside me, I duked it out with yet another failure:  I could’ve just let him.  what’s the big deal?  why can’t I make it past 9 pm?  how long have I been doing this mothering gig?  you’d think by this stage in the game i’d have come up with some better methods of bedtime, of conserving a little energy, & not being a train wreck at the end of every day.

see?  it doesn’t really matter what it is.
failure’s waiting to drag me under.  mouse poo, pickle juice, barking, bedtime.
it doesn’t matter.
& these are just the minor ones.

so what’s left, then?  well, some days I get dragged down & I stay down.  some days I eat all the popcorn in the bowl.  some days i just do more things:  work harder, push down the failure into the laundry basket or the dirty dishes or the crumb trail leading under the couch.  sometimes I go to bed early & cry for awhile.

but some days, I let Jesus get a word in edgewise, tell me how it actually is.  that i’m not meant for perfection, not yet.
that He gets my failure, & He’ll raise me a whole boatload of joy anyway.
that we’re in this together, this crazy, messed-up, ridiculous set of days.
that there’s an end in sight, even if I can’t see it myself.
We’re in this together, & it’s okay, whatever it is.  He doesn’t care.

& that’s the Voice I have to scrabble to hear.  every day.  because failure is loud.  & insistent.  there will always be thirty seven thousands ways in which I’ve come up short yet again.

but Jesus, He’s quiet.  persistent.  calming.
He’ll love me, give me a hand with my messes, turn them into something better than pickle juice all over the kitchen floor.
& that, I need a whole lot of that these days.

6 things i’ve learned by 38.

tomorrow (well, technically today now) is my birthday, & i’m really looking forward to it. i’m not even exactly sure why.  we’re not doing anything particularly remarkable, taking a weekend away & or buying me a big something.  no, my birthday will be a much gentler affair.  we’ve got church in the afternoon followed by a bonfire, so the day has it’s own activity.  but honestly, the older i get, the more each day i get to be here seems pretty remarkable.  anyone?

in the morning, we’ll take the kids to the farmer’s market first thing, like we do every saturday, for raised donuts from the kind amish lady. one of leif’s new words?  “new-nuh”.  donut.  welcome to the family, little buddy.  we’re really learning now!  then i’ll pick up some carrots & cilantro from Chia, the gentle-spirited young man who sells vegetables at his parents’ stand & always gives me an extra eggplant or some ground cherries.  we’ll walk by the banjo player & the gallons of maple syrup on our way back to the car.  then we’ll wander off into the day & see what it brings.

for the most part, as is our culled tradition of recent years, between andy & I at least, we celebrate small, monetarily speaking.  this isn’t shorthand for “not at all”.  on the contrary.  my kids gleam with anticipation & wonder on birthdays (theirs or ours), & andy is a master at making me feel loved.  we like taking time to go slow & to enjoy whatever there is, whatever we find in front of us, which will certainly include much homemadeness & plenty of attention.  turns out, it’s usually better than expecting a whole heap & withering under the weight of it.  for me, anyway. I like small.  (think blog title.)  andy & I haven’t actually bought each other birthday gifts (other than a few edible treats) in years.  because what do i want?  more things?  not likely.  not anymore.  my birthday wishlist reads like this:  a nap.  a cup of decaf with cream.  time to read awhile in the quiet, that elusive foreigner in this house.  & celebrating with a sweet treat to share with my sweet little ones & the huz.  because all of us together in happy mode is a day-maker.

so, sitting in the quiet of birthday eve, with all but me asleep (can I get an “amen”?) & pandora playing a mix of rend collective & the fray, I wanted to tell you what I’ve gleaned in the last little while.  seems like much has been brewing, with all the waiting we’ve been doing.  seems like the gleaned bits ought to be shared, yes?

1.  perspective is everything.  when I was in college, I walked by the student government office every day on my way from my (usually empty) p.o. box to the cafeteria.  every day I was paying attention, I read the quote pitched up on the door frame:  “I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”  (charles swindoll).  that math sure puts the odds for happiness heavily in my favor, if I choose it.  circumstances be darned, I get to adjust my vision however I want.  every dang day.

2.  rich is relative.  I have a quote on my fridge (okay, i’m one of those people.  collecting quotes.  it’s a thing.) that says, “there is a gigantic difference between having a great deal of money & being rich.”  I know (& you do, too.  look at any people magazine) plenty of people with hoards of money who aren’t happy.  & I know that money isn’t necessary (after our basic needs are met) to be happy.  I can increase my wealth in five minutes by taking a grateful look around me & tallying my goodnesses.  & they are many.  i don’t need cash to be rich.  (only to pay for parking.)
3.  there’s very little that music can’t cure.  for me, anyway.  for you it might be nature.  or people.  or solitude.  but for me (& my kids now, turns out.  apple, tree.), flip on a little rend collective or something kid-friendly from walk off the earth & we’ve got a whole new ballgame.  I just have to remember I can apply balm to my own soul & then take the initiative to do it.  kind of goes along with the attitude choosing.  we’re kind of powerful, we people.

4.  people really are the biggest deal.  a few years ago, I remember bob merritt saying the most important aspect of our lives is the people around us & the relationships we have with them.  at the time, that was not good news to me.  (I can feel you freaking out.)  I wasn’t very good at relationships.  i didn’t really like people much (not for very long or very often.  true.).  I was good at getting my kids to & from storytime.  I was good at getting my house clean. i was good at organizing the bins of toddler clothes in my basement.  I wasn’t good at digging deep into relationships.  but i’m learning.  i’ve got the most amazing people around me who load me up with grace & kindness.  i’m a slow study, but heaven help me, i’ll get there.  people are where the fullest life is (this includes Jesus for me. totally a Person.).

5.  living with less is actually living with more.  i don’t know how that math works, either, but the more i dig into this, the more it proves itself true.  we’ve given away more than 7000 things to date (more on this later, hopefully), & my life keeps expanding.  i have more room to think, more time to create, more space for all of us to play.  & the creativity & cooperation my kids glean from less!  oh, my.  that alone is worth the recommendation.  give it whirl.  I promise you won’t miss your stuff.

6.  taking care of myself is taking care of everyone else.  ahhh, this is complex!  i used to be good at self-care tactics, like showering (i’m beginning to get nervous about your impression of me. . . .what’s that you say?  way too late?  oh.), but four kids later, most days by 4pm i’m a train wreck.  it’s easier for me to wait until everything is done (what?) or I’ve met all the kids’ needs to take care of myself.  but it’s like the airplane crash analogy:  if i don’t put on my own oxygen mask, how can i help anyone else?  so i’m trying to do that more these days.  sometimes it amounts to reading a page of fiction leaning against the kitchen counter before i head into the dirty dishwater.  sometimes (like today) it’s kicking the kids outside so i can have a little quiet.  sometimes it’s a literal shower.  it’s always a bit of scripture in the morning & a word to the heavens.  but whatever it is, i’m communicating to myself that i in fact matter, too.  which somehow is easy to forget.

so there it is, my birthday montage.  i’m off to sleep now.
I’ve got a birthday to wake up to.
38 is going to rock.
& I know a slew of little kids who’ll be ready to party.

our dream home

so.  if you’ve been around tiny and small awhile, you know we’ve been waiting to move for some time now.  & waiting, & waiting, &, really, just sitting around waiting.  for, like, the better part of four years.  after much adieu, we finally have a solid, one hundred percent direction to tell you about:

we are moving nowhere.

not at all.  we are staying right here, in the house we live in, on the land the house lies on.  we have prayed, wrestled, listed, cleaned, decluttered, sold, sorted, boxed, & bagged.  we have met with realtors.  we (meaning andy) have scoured craigslist & zillow for places to go.  & after all this energy spent, after retiling the fireplace & painting the bedrooms a faceless, neutral color, after giving away over half our stuff & selling our furniture & giving away most of our books because we just didn’t want to move. so. much., we are moving back into our own lives in the place we are in.

bet you never saw that comin’, huh?  yeah, us either.

this all came down about a week ago, one night late after watching “once,” as andy & I stood in the kitchen in dim light, backs against opposite counters & played “what if”.  we had the “what if’s” lobbing back & forth like championship badminton.  it got later, I hopped up onto the countertop to get serious, & as we dug down into the bottom of who we both are, we realized we’d never actually given “here” a fighting chance. we dug out & lobbed up every single item on our dreams list, looking at it differently in that dim light.  we actually truly love where we live.  we had been thinking so linearly that we’d never given Jesus the opportunity to put his slant on just what we had already.  we thought to be logical, responsible, smart, we needed to sell & downsize, buy more land.  but what the Lord has been whispering to us in these last many days since we’ve opened up to the possibility of staying is that there’s a whole world inside this splendid acre we have here in our pockets.  we just hadn’t been looking at it quite right.  our sight has been skewed by sensible, when Christ has got a bead on spectacular.

well, then.  i’ll take two.

the day after I wrote my last post, I had all four kids in the van with me, running errands, windows cracked, sunflower seeds flying (I love sunflower seeds when I drive.  it’s a thing.).  I was mulling over my frustrations, my inability to just let myself, my life, be within its current limbo, when the song “open up the heavens” came on by Meredith Andrews.

it was an arrow right through me:

open up the heavens, we want to see you
open up the floodgates, a mighty river
flowing from Your heart

filling every part of our praise

i’m not one to get all mystical about music (okay, I totally am), but this was a throw down for me.  an “if You’ve really got good things planned for me, for my little ones, for andy & I together, I wanna see it”.  my soul said (a little too brazenly for my own scandinavian taste, i’d say), “okay!  i’m asking for it.  blow us wide open.  we want all You have for us. now & always.  no more pansying around.  we want the real deal.  all of it.  every. single. bit.”

& then, bodda-bing, bodda-boom.  
Jesus cracked open a tiny window in our perspective & then gently nudged it open.  we had done everything in our power, had done all we knew to do, & still nothing.  no buyers, no new direction.  a whole heap of nothing.  it finally occurred to us:  what if that meant something?  could God be saying something through all the nothing happening? 

(side note:  do you know how many times I’ve heard “open up the heavens” since?  absolute magic.  wink, wink.)

so, game-changer, then.  there’ll be no bus in the immediate future, & the hobby farming we’d envisioned will look a little different.  but already i feel like a new woman in a new place.  the minute I let out the breath i’d been holding for the last four years, preparing-always-preparing this house for someone else, I think I grew 3 inches.  like the Grinch, when his heart was two sizes too small, but I digress. . . .  & the really fun part?  i’m fairly certain this is only the tippy top of something really, really good.

because this:  trust in the Lord with all your heart.  lean not on your own understanding.  in all your ways, acknowledge Him, & He will make your paths straight.  proverbs 3:5-6.  I truly don’t understand how this has happened, but I know the intricacies leave me impressed with how powerful God is, how much He loves us in the details.  & our path?  well.  straight back to where we started. 

so, here is where we our, no packing required:  the dream view from my living room. 
who knew we were right where we were supposed to be all along?

for when you don’t really believe God

i don’t even know where to begin.  we just got house showing number four thousand & eighty six lined up (it feels like.).  friday morning at 11:30.  i’m not excited;  i’m not not excited.  i’m not even tired of this yet.  there are such heaping benefits to this insane-o system we’ve got going here:  it seems like every time i make the kids sweep the bathroom floor, every time i organize the chaos on top of the fridge, every time i straighten the towels in the hall closet (someone may look.  it’s possible.), some shard of possession sloughs off & we are more ready than the last time.  more ready rocks.  (as does the kids doing housework.  huzzah.)

& at the very same time, i am tired of this.  

not the showing part but the waiting part.  & not just this time but all the other times we’ve had a house listed & have been moving.  do you know how much of our marriage we’ve spent moving?  yeah, me neither.  a lot.  more than most.  the ministry can do that to you.  it’s like the army.  only more churchy.  (wink wink.)

i do know, actually.  i did the simple math the other day, sitting in my sister-in-law’s backyard eating potato salad.  6 years.  in 6 days, we’ll have been married 14 years. we’ve spent nearly half of our life together going some place else.  putting our hopes & dreams in the basket of someday.

so much for living in the present.

so, it’s not this move that’s got me strung out.  no, it’s more the collective pace.  like a marathon runner who doesn’t know to pace herself.  i keep sprinting around when i should be stopping for water.  i have blisters on my soul.  (sorry.  it’s late & i just ate chocolate.) & i can’t help wondering why God is so slow.  which is such sacrelig.  i know that He isn’t, that everything is pacing with or without me, but i keep running ahead to make sure He’s doing it right.
& the nut i cracked open the other day, in the middle of a sunny afternoon mixing up chocolate chip cookies?  i trust God, but i don’t really.  i don’t honestly believe deep down in the most tender part of my belly that what He’s got going on for us is what i most need.  i figure He’s got a good plan, but i’m not really gonna like it.  it’s going to somehow be terrible, as if He doesn’t know me or truly love me in the way i say i believe.  how’s that for a game changer? & where did it come from?  oy, vey.  

it’s not like my core faith is shaken, but i’m tangled up in a whole of mess of not-my-business.  i’m not in charge here, but i’m acting like it.  rearranging, micromanaging, second- & third- & fourth-guessing.  that’s what’s got me worn out.  (that & the toddler.  who is POTTY-TRAINED.  just had to throw that in there.  woot woot.)

so tonight, i’ve got this on repeat.  because i need a little balm for ye ol’ soul.

& if i have to play this until my ears fall off, until i can dig down into that hollowed out place just beneath the bottom crust of my faith, i will.  because now i know we’ve got work to do.

& i don’t just mean cleaning the bathrooms.
come on, my soul.  it’s time to let go.