Easter Bacon, 2016

"For God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus.....And bacon."

--Kurt (a.k.a. my husband.....there is a reason I do most of the spiritual teaching in the house....)

Seriously, I know it is a time for full rejoicing at the resurrection of Christ but really, bacon is so much more tangible sometimes. All that fatty, salty goodness......I sometimes wonder if God could have gotten away with just the bacon. (No offense, Jesus.....not trying to discount your sacrifice or anything.....I am pretty sure bacon was the gift of remorse God offered after kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden.....like he felt a little bad so here's a little consolation prize.....definitely softened the blow if you ask me!)

As I type this, we are thousands of feet above the ground, flying toward a land already celebrating Easter Sunday. It’s like our personal attempt to get to Easter quicker, to escape the burden of Lent and the sorrow of that pre-Easter Saturday, arriving where we left off, hopefully with renewed faith and a revival of life.

I don’t fly well; I will admit it. I do not like being so high above the illusion of the sure footedness I feel with the ground directly under my feet. Madeline noted that everything looks so small from up here. Perspective is an amazing thing. Truth be told, most things ARE so small, we just only realize it when we remove ourselves from our norm and look at it through different lenses, from a distance perhaps.

Eating took on a different tune when we stopped filling ourselves with sugar and wheat products. It was scary at first, like taking leave of solid ground, but by the end of Lent, it did not feel so unfamiliar; it had become comfortable, a new norm. Adding candied eggs and treats suddenly this morning seemed odd…..why would we fill our bodies with stuff that isn’t sustaining, that doesn't nourish us? (Ok, admittedly, the kids had no problem tearing into their Easter baskets and devouring that which had been off limits for the last few weeks....SOME even learned why we don't eat the whole darn chocolate bunny at once!)

Cracking through the other forms of wastefulness was a different sort of beast though. It did not take long for me to realize that it was just too big of a feat to conquer. There were too many conflicts, too many justifications, too many temptations.

Oh, and not to mention, I am too imperfect!

While we should have filled dozens of bags or boxes to donate and throw, we got through only a few. While I should have freed plenty of time to finish up my books and devotionals, I am still wading knee deep in the trenches, digging through the muck to recall what I already read so that I can plunge forward again. While our budget should have been rejoicing from all the saving we did, I struggled to make everything add up just right with this big trip looming and the preparations for Easter upon us. 

And the list goes on and on. 

But, Easter is here! Well, it’s Easter SOMEWHERE anyway, and the fact remains, it never disappeared to begin with. All that wandering and waiting, that fasting and pursuing, just a remembrance; a reminder; just a discipline for our spirit, one that gently guides us back into the grace that existed before we began and will continue on until we are no longer even remembered. 

So yeah, bacon is pretty darn awesome. A close second perhaps.... But it can’t free us from ourselves. Only Jesus can do that. And that is what he did between the cross and the tomb and the emptiness and the rising. Our bunnies may be hollow, but His promises are not. We may celebrate with bacon (and/or chocolate filled tummy aches!), but our Easter joy comes from the love of God, and God alone. (And we know he loves us because he gave us Jesus.....and, yeah, bacon!)


On Being Found

Kurt and I are getting ready to head to England with Madeline who was selected to go train with the Wolverhampton soccer academy for a week. We leave the day before Easter so, one day on the way to school, I was explaining to the kids that we would be celebrating Easter early (again) this year. 

"Well, how is the Easter Bunny going to know that we need him or her to come early?" Lily wanted to know. 

"I will just send the Easter Bunny a message like I did last time," I said.


"Well, I will put a note in the mail......or maybe I can tell the chickens who can tell the birds who can take the message to the Easter Bunny," I replied thoughtfully.

"Oh, I know!" she exclaimed. "We could tell the cats to tell the Easter Bunny since they go far away hunting."

"Hmmmm, I sure hope that wasn't the Easter Bunny's liver at our doorstep yesterday," I responded. 

There was a dramatic pause as it slowly registered in their now warped little minds. Then the car exploded in laughter as I said a silent 'You're Welcome' to their future therapists.


I was thinking about it recently: There is a strange sort of beauty in being lost. You see, if you are never lost, then you don't get to experience the supreme exhilaration of being found again. You don't get to experience the joy that accompanies finding your way back home, being welcomed with open arms, rejoicing in reunion. Traveling can do this for loved ones. ("Let there be space in your togetherness," said Kahlil Gibran, reminding us that in that space, in that time apart, we recall fondly those we love and we miss them....something not allowed by continual togetherness.....which is why I send my kids to opposing corners over and over and over again.....)

And while the Easter Bunny is probably very happy not being found (you know, that whole avoiding organ removal and full limb dismantling thing), the rest of us, well, sometimes being found, coming home again, is all it takes to renew our spirits and lift us toward joy. 

Dawson left the safety of the run to find Bingo.....

Lily brought them both home again.
And we rejoice.
(Even if I am still plotting to find them a new home!) 


Who We Are

The night of the Subway adventure, I was awakened a little before 2:00 a.m. by a screaming Madeline:

"Moooooom! Lily is puking all over our room.....ALL OVER MY BED!"

I resisted the urge to pull the sheets over my head and ignore her panic and instead leapt up and grabbed my stash of cleaning supplies that, let's be honest, I think I keep just for this occasion. 

When I arrived, I questioned why I had not gone with my first instinct and I dearly wished I still had on my blinders from the sub shop. My mind raced: didn't we JUST go through this a month or so ago? Doesn't that fulfill our quota for the year?

For the love of......!

Lily, top-bunk sleeping Lily, had sure enough become what might be described as violently ill.....if by violent we are referring to a sudden, torrential attack of projectile vomiting. From the looks of the crime scene, she had been assaulted by the sudden onset of whatever tummy bug Solomon should have picked up from Subway's bathroom floor (again, EWWWW!). Pink, regurgitated berry smoothie was dripping from the top bunk, down onto Madeline's lower bunk, somehow hitting every step of the ladder as well and covering EVERY. LAST. THING. ON. THEIR. OFF-WHITE-CARPET! (Kurt might claim it is a light beige carpet but trust me, from the Contrast Art perspective of that moment, it was definitely closer to white!)

I was furious. How many times had I told them to go clean their room in the last week?! How many times had I failed to follow up and make sure they had actually done it?!

Madeline curled up outside her bedroom door, exhausted; Lily, a pale heap on the bathroom mat next to the sludge covered toilet, quietly shivered. 

It took me a full hour to calm myself down clean up the disaster zone: half a bottle of Lysol, a full roll of paper towels, two full garbage bags of unrecoverable, drenched books, art work, notebooks, pens, pencils (and whatever else I angrily threw in there just because) and eight loads of laundry carefully rolled inward and piled up in front of the over worked machines.....why, oh why had they decided to leave all that clutter all over their floor? (And seriously, why couldn't it have been Solly, sleeping two feet from the bathroom door on the floor of his room? And finally, what's with my kids puking on each other?!)

At one point, after sticking in another load of soiled stuffed animals and sheets, I went into the guest bathroom to wash my hands and was met with this: 

Not only was their room a ridiculous disaster, but they had infiltrated the guest bathroom which was now oozing creativity in the form of ONE. GIGANTIC. MESS! (I refrained from taking a picture of the paint-stained sink and overflowing trash......)

But then something caught my eye. Four simple words.

Oh dear Lord! Why can't I just be mad for one moment before you throw something back in my face?! For, if they are the sheep.....who is their shepherd? And if that is my call in this moment, for this season, how will I tend my flock? With anger? Resentment? Irritation? 

Or will I follow The Way set before me, tending to them with love, compassion, and forgiveness?

(Honestly, Jesus didn't have kids that we know of and I can't recall any stories of him having to clean up the bodily fluids of anyone in the middle of the night while he really needed sleep and as far as I can tell, when he needed a break, he just climbed a mountain or entered a garden and told people to back off and they listened......I can't even use the toilet without interruption for crying out loud! But somehow, his example is supposed to apply here......so onward we push.) 

It is a funny balancing act being both a shepherd and a sheep; hoping to be found while also doing the searching.....praying for forgiveness while also doing the forgiving.....receiving grace in the midst of the dispensing.

I left the art room, silently finished the sanitizing and making of beds, gave Lily fresh clothes and covered her with a clean blanket. Then, I went back to the girls' closet, where I had angrily thrown Madeline's clean stuffed animals, and one by one I gently placed each animal back where it belonged so that they could be bearers of comfort to the one who loves them most. 

I am a sheep. YOU are a sheep. 

Let us also be good shepherds. 


When Blindness is a Virtue

We were in Subway on Sunday buying gluten-filled sub sandwiches for our gluten-starved children. (We stopped bringing gluten into the house at the beginning of Lent.....some kids have taken it better than others.) As we were walking out the door, Solomon told me he had to go potty and ran to the women's bathroom. When he came out, I asked if he had washed his hands.

"Yes, I did," he said, flippantly waving his slightly wet hands in the air. "Oh, but....." He stopped short and ran back to the bathroom. When he came back out, he was holding his mostly eaten sub sandwich which I assume he had put down [insert anywhere in the bathroom as it really doesn't matter because EWWWWWW!] in order to wash his hands. He took a big chomp out of it before I could manage any words. (And then I think we all just threw up a little in our mouths because again, EWWWWWW!)

After suggesting that maybe he did not need to finish the sandwich, I turned a blind eye.....because really, when your kid eats food off of a fast food restaurant's bathroom floor, sometimes it is best to simply put the blinders back on.

Subsequently, I went from begging for this:

To saying, um, scratch that and instead praying for this:

I think that is called surrender, right? 

It's amazing what perspective a little trip to Subway can bring!


That Moment When.....

For as long as I could
My intentions were good.
I assumed my affairs would be fine.

But I know very well
There's a long road to hell
That's been paved with intentions like mine.

--Billy Joel, All My Life

This is that moment. THAT moment.

This is that moment where I realize perhaps I descend not from the womb of Eve but from the bowels of the serpent.

The one where I stop short because, holy smokes, I just convinced my kids that breaking their Lenten fast was okay because it was their father's birthday, a special day, and after all, one break from the fast will not make or break their salvation.....God loves them; God won't mind; God understands .....we cannot, after all, be made perfect by the Law.....we cannot be good enough.....we cannot.....

Grace has us covered.

And they believe it. I believe it!

But then there's this: Jesus did not waiver in his fast, did not cave to temptation and certainly did not convince his flock to do so!

"Follow Jesus!" we are told....."What would Jesus do?" we are asked....."Pick up your cross, and follow me," we are lovingly beckoned.

Then realize how low your head will hang on that cross.

We wander and wander.....

So blind, we do not even know we are lost.....

         As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
        "Neither this man, nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." - John 9:1-3

Oh thank God! For I am blind.....so blind I often cannot even see my own blindness!

And so I wander......and walk in circles.....and the cock crows in the face of my denial.....for I am so, so blind.

Waiting to be found.

Yet, somehow, already covered.



Sunrise in the mirror
Lightens that invisible load
Riding on a nameless quest
Haunting that wilderness road.
--Neil Peart, Rush (Ghost Rider)

My intentions never included writing every day during Lent. While that seems like a worthwhile goal, I knew it would set me up for failure. And unlike Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird who said "[Real courage is] when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what" sometimes I think there is value in realism above courage; in knowing when to attempt the impossible and when to refrain.

That said, I was hoping by now that the stillness and silence would allow me time to muster up more Lenten writings but all I could come up with was how sometimes this journey feels more like a nameless quest that haunts me.

I want to tell you of all my successes: the extra time I have been able to spend with the bunnies (did I mention our bunnies Morgan and Messi? They may have babies soon so I am CERTAIN you will hear more then!), the time with my chickens, playing the piano, cleaning the house, working with the dog.....those things I ought to have been doing anyway but winter got in my way! But then I remembered, the journey is NOT about me......and so I was stumped.

Then, early this morning, I went out to kill catch a rooster who would not shut up and I was met by this:

And I thought how funny it is that sometimes even those things that cause us the most irritation can be beautiful displays of creation. And, with the sunrise behind me as I began my day, my load was lightened. (And because of grace, the life of Sunrise, aptly named, was spared once again.)

This is one lucky Roo.....he better hope his good looks last him a long, long time as he is certainly NOT surviving on charm or personality!!

No really, we should have babies VERY soon......



I looked out the window today to find one of our nice outdoor furniture cushions torn, stuffing strewn about.

I could hardly be too mad as it was I who left the cushions out for the winter and it was I who forgot the dog was outside for far too long which meant mischief was highly likely. Yet, I was ticked. Those cost money to replace. What wastefulness! In order to make good on our wastefulness fast, I will now have to figure out how to fix it myself which means, sigh, pulling out my sewing machine and remembering how to use it!


But really, my kids are not much better. Just yesterday Solly had his little buddy over again. As we were getting ready to leave I heard a familiar crinkling sound, the sound of something being opened upstairs. I sternly called the boys down.

"What are you eating?" I asked.

"We aren't eating anything," said the cutest, most innocent looking friend ever. Truly, I wanted to believe him.

"AJ, last time you were here, you and Solomon went into the girls' room, stole their candy bag and ate their candy," I said. "That is not okay. You are not allowed to steal candy."

"Ok, we won't do it again," he said resolutely.

"You are not allowed to eat upstairs either," I told him.

"Ok, I won't."

Later that day, I went up to see what they had been doing and found this:

Apparently by "We won't do it again" he meant "We just did it again but we won't do it again after that!"

After much thought though, I realize that when left to our own devices, we adults are often no better than our kids or our puppies: the most creative creatures at tearing into that which we ought not. We know better but we do it anyway. The temptations are great. The promise of pleasure, reward, instant gratification....it's all so difficult to pass up. The problem with this whole free will thing is that it often becomes a gigantic stumbling block for us. Whether we are five and finding candy to sneak into our tummies, or decades older dealing with temptations of far greater consequence, our free will is tested again and again. And I am not talking just about big things: those that get us fired, or divorced, or stuck in jail. No, for most of us, the stormy moments are made of the thousands of daily decisions that can go awfully wrong or fantastically right.

It's like we have been blessed with this wonderful, horrible gift. A wonderful, horrible, God-given gift. (And you just have to know, upon the giving, God also said: "Oh and Humans, good luck with that!" And I am certain he snickers daily: "Hey Angels.....look what that tiny human life form is up to this time! Wait for it, wait for it.....MESS UP! Ha ha ha ha ha! They are such predictable little beings.")

This Lent has been full of those delicious moments where life seems rich for the taking but our decision to refrain from waste has reeled me back in, mostly keeping me on the straight and narrow. 

I have taken dozens of pictures of things I would like to buy but haven't; I have put stuff in my cart, only to pull it right back out again; I have begun to use my time in unproductive ways, only to stop and do the prudent thing.....and to be totally honest, I have also often chosen to continue on with the nonessentials because the activity is just too good to pass up. I have fallen behind on my Lenten studies and have done more than one marathon reading session to try to catch up. I have yelled at my kids (isn't that a waste of breath?), been short with my husband (I have short genes Kurt, what can I say!), wasted valuable time on a whole lot of nothingness.....I have failed, and started over, and failed again (my own version of "I just did that again but I won't do it again after that!"). Every day I remind myself that showing up is the first step towards transformation, but then I forget: it is not the only step. 

Showing up gets us started.

Grace transforms. 

But here is a truly wonderful thing: Grace is not of our making. Grace is not of our doing. No matter how good, or bad (or in between) we behave, we can't control Grace. Grace came before us and goes ahead of us. Our job is in the decision making: deciding whether or not to accept it, latch on to it, believe in its power to redeem us. And in doing so, we are transformed so that we can become dispensers of a grace we all so desperately crave. We may create our own storms. But then there is Grace.  We might still have to clean up our own messes, fix our own mistakes, and stare at our failings time and again. But Grace shatters through all of that and leads us onward.....past the storm. 

(And then we will forget and create a new storm......God does a lot of sighing I think....but still there is grace.)


The Coach, Part 2

Now that I have written my required Tolkien-like description setting up the swim meet scenario, let's get down to the actual point: the coach.

After all that sitting and waiting, it was during Aidan's second swim that I noticed the coaches pacing up and down the side of the pool, encouraging (i.e. screaming at) their swimmer. I know they do this during shorter races too but it is especially apparent in the 500 Free because for 20 full lengths of the swimming pool, those coaches pace back and forth like caged animals, using hand motions and all sorts of grunts and growls and whatever else to get their swimmers to go just a little faster, kick a little harder or at least keep a certain pace.

But what stood out to me was that Aidan, the slowest of the group, was swimming right next to a teammate who was, at least for a little bit, vying for the win. And their coach was following along this teammate yelling and signaling and doing what swim coaches apparently do (this is not a preferred coaching style in soccer mind you, but I dare not judge as they are very different sports). But even when he took a break for this other teammate to make turns, he never once gave a notice to Aidan swimming right in front of him. There was never once a motion or encouraging yell toward Aidan, even when it would have been really easy and convenient to do so. Aidan was on his own.

I turned to Kurt, all that pent up energy turning into fury. Why was the coach not giving Aidan the same attention as the teammate? What....does he think only the better kids are worth coaching? Is Aidan somehow less important because he isn't quite matching his teammates speed? Has it ever occured to him that perhaps Aidan would speed up with just a little support, that his potential is not being achieved and it is, in part, due to a lack of attention? I mean, this is Coaching 101......

Kurt, having already experienced the broad spectrum of human emotions for the day, shrugged it off. Aidan will not be going to the high school that this coach coaches at so therefore, he simply does not get the same kind of attention from the coach as the other kids. That's just the way it is.

I took the righteous anger approach, like Jesus overturning the temple tables, or more accurately, like what I learned as a child watching Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing:

Nobody puts Baby in the corner! Nobody!

(Because, you know, those two scenes are very closely related in their philosophical principles......)

"Should I go say something?" I asked Kurt, my inside Tasmanian Devil about to let loose. "I mean seriously. We pay the same fees as that kid. Aidan should be supported by his coach just the same, even if he isn't going to win. Maybe he would reach his potential if his coached showed he cared!"

I calmed down when I saw the new assistant coach talking to Aidan after the meet. While he had not been nearly as frantic in his pacing, I had seen him standing there so perhaps he was Aidan's "coach" for that race and just wasn't as obvious or passionate or, um, inspiring.

Later, I asked Aidan about it. He said the other coach had been there during his race, although you'd never have known it.

On my way home, I was left thinking about this whole Jesus character. It's uncanny what a good example he gives us of coaching. Hear me out.

Certainly, he challenged the people at the top, made them stop in their paths and think, then pushed them to be better, showed them the err in their self-righteousness and pointed them to a better way, whether they bought in or not. But what's more telling, he consistently pulled people up from the bottom. He saw potential where others saw failure and disgrace. He saw need over flaws. He encouraged, supported, applauded and loved those whom others would have just as easily thrown out with the dogs. And from the depths of his passion, and flowing with compassion, progress was made. Lives were changed, were transformed.

From a coaching philosophy that rests on a developmental perspective, this makes sense. We cannot just focus on the top. We must at the same time be striving to bring up those who are at the bottom, help them reach their potential, wherever that may be. After all, transformation is at stake.

And that is why, as a coach, I am just like Jesus.

Hee hee, just kidding, just kidding.

Truly, we all fall short, whether coaches or not, and as I drove home that evening, I reflected back on my own coaching, the successes and failures with different players who have passed through my teams, and I realized that I, too, have sometimes made the mistake of failing my weaker players. I, too, have encouraged the cream of the crop while offering little to the bottom. The principles I hold near and dear to my heart and to my personal mission as a coach, are indeed like those of Jesus, but in practice, I am nowhere near perfect. It is easy to get caught up in the grandiosity of success that those naturally gifted athletes bring to a team. It is easy to fall prey to a culture who wants to weed out too early in order to secure wins at the sake of true development.

But we were never called to stick with the easy way, the way of the culture. Not as coaches, nor as people. The hope is that people of integrity find their way into coaching our youth. The hope is that those coaches remember that each and every child is worth their support, correction and encouragement. The hope is that our kids' coaches take their responsibility seriously and recognize that it is in their power to help the kids who are ready to go from 99-100 while also helping those who are still working to get from 1-2. The job description requires that we do both, pushing all our athletes toward their potential, not just the ones at the top.

The job description of being a person transformed by grace is that we dispense that grace to everyone as well. Even our kids' coaches.