The Stuff of Life


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10 Things I Hope for My Boys as They Enter High School

Boys high school copyEvery time I drive past the high school building looming by the cornfields on the outskirts of town, my palms start sweating. Maybe because my high school friends scarred me for life by making me watch Children of the Corn in the 90s.

More likely it’s because the sweet six pound baby, whose chest movement I observed closely on a nightly basis to be sure he was not dead, will soon be navigating the gauntlet of secondary education.

It freaks me out a little. And it’s gotten me thinking about the things I hope for all three of my boys as they traverse those formative four years between childhood and adulthood.

I hope they don’t unnecessarily stress out about grades.

Sure, they may get a bit more in college scholarships if they hang onto that 4.0 for 4 straight years, but I’ve seen what the stress of that can do to people, and I’m not sure it’s worth it. I want my boys to work hard of course, but I don’t want them to lose their minds striving for perfection.

In real life a 4.0 just doesn’t matter much. A fulfilling, successful career and a perfect GPA have very little to do with each other.

I hope they have a teacher like Professor Haws.

Professor Haws gave me the biggest boost of encouragement a professor could bestow upon an insecure 20-year-old. He could have easily let me slide through his journalism course at ISU, accept my grade and move on. But instead, he pulled me into his office, told me I was a good writer and suggested I change my journalism minor to a journalism major.

I didn’t take his advice, but his words are still with me. And those words gave me the courage to pursue my first reporting position after college. I moved on from newspaper writing to magazine writing, and now I’m working on my first book. A few words of encouragement from the right person can be immeasurably valuable.

I hope that each of my boys will have a high school teacher like my college professor who sees their potential and then takes the time to pull them aside and say, “I see a talent here, and I encourage you to pursue it.”

I hope they don’t focus so much on the now that they forget to plan for tomorrow.

High school kids are insanely busy. Some of them walk through the school doors before seven a.m. and return home in time to eat, sleep and start all over again. It’s not hard to understand how kids who live in such a harried atmosphere can get stuck in the now. When do they even have time to think about tomorrow if they are always charging full-speed ahead in today?

Though I know my boys will be busy in high school, my hope is that they don’t lose sight of planning for the future. That they will find the balance between being involved in what they love and being overcommitted.

I hope that they don’t focus so much on tomorrow that they forget to live in the now.

On the flip side, I hope my boys don’t get so concerned about growing up that they forget to have fun now. High school is the time to toilet paper friends’ houses in the middle of the night. It’s the time to drink cases of soda and have Lord of the Rings marathons. It’s the time to play basketball in the driveway, and football in the backyard. I hope they enjoy those four years and treasure the fun and friendships that will surely change after graduation.

I hope they learn to enjoy showering.

What a glorious day it will be when my kids happily hop in the shower to wash their sweaty boy smell down the drain. I hope for a day when hygiene is a welcome thing and not a dreaded task that takes precious time away from basketball and video games. (This hope came to fruition shortly after I wrote this. And it was in fact, a glorious day 🙂 )

I hope they appreciate their high rate of metabolism.

Seriously. My boys can drink two cans of Mountain Dew and eat a family-sized bag of Doritos and, as far as I can tell, all it does is make their feet grow. This will not always be the case. One day those washboard abs will decide they need proper nutrition to be maintained.

I hope they don’t outgrow a back scratch from their mama.

We aren’t all that touchy-feely at our house, but every night at bedtime I scratch those ever-growing boy backs. And the scratching motion seems to be directly connected to a mechanism that opens their mouths to give me a glimpse into their thought world. It’s one of those guaranteed moments of connection between me and my boys, and I will miss it dearly when it’s gone.

I hope each pair of crazy expensive sports shoes we purchase last a full season.

I believe their feet are the most expensive part of their bodies. So. Many. Shoes. Remember those unbreakable spray-on shoes Flint Lockwood invented in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs? He had something going there. Seriously. Million dollar idea.

I hope they don’t have zits on picture day.

Oh wait. Photoshop. Forget this one. Zits only exist in real life.

I hope they take the Proverbs to heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-7 New Living Translation) So many people will be vying for their attention and allegiance through their teen years. My hope is that my boys keep their Savior at the top of the pile.

*This post was actually written a couple years ago when my two oldest were in middle school. I found it buried in my files of written-but-unpublished-stuff and decided it was worth sharing 🙂


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6 Things Every Dad Should Know About His Daughter @ Inspire a Fire

June 2017 copy

Dear Dads, I don’t have a daughter, but I am one. And this list of 6 Things Every Dad Should Know About His Daughter is inspired by my experience.

1. She is paying close attention to you.

By the time I was four, I’d seen my dad build and fix a lot of stuff, so I was utterly disappointed when after I had a serious mishap involving a trampoline and a metal tractor toy, he wasn’t able to put my broken arm back together. Sometime over the course of two surgeries, a week in the hospital and four months in a cast, I realized that though my dad wanted to solve my problems, he couldn’t fix everything. If you show your daughter you are making an effort, she will notice.

2. Your presence matters.

Like a lot of dads, my dad wasn’t big on showing affection when I was growing up, but he was always there. Always. Every activity I took part in, no matter how boring or how long the drive, he was there. And his presence not only made me feel important, it made me try harder. So when you are physically able, just be there. Even if it means slipping into the back of an auditorium with your work clothes on.

3. She sometimes chooses activities based on how she thinks you will respond. Take notice.

Sure I had a crush on a guy on the wrestling team, but the real reason I took stats throughout high school is so I’d have a common interest with my dad who wrestled at Mankato State. It gave us something to talk about. Dad even took me to the NCAA Wrestling Championships and let his friend, who happened to be the Athletic Director at the University of Iowa, sneak me mat side to meet my favorite Division I wrestlers. That was a big deal for a 17-year-old girl.

To read the other three pieces of advice, head over to Inspire a Fire.

 


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When I Was Scared by Lewis Harms

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I go through all the boys notebooks at the end of each school year and keep a sampling of what they’ve done. Lewis’ stories often inspire laughter. But this rare gem brought tears.

I was scared too, Mr. Lewis.  And what I wanted most in the world was to protect you from the fear I was feeling. I wanted to kick that fear and the cancer right out of our house. But I don’t have that kind of power, and the best I could do was to let you see me take my fear and put it in the hands of the one who can take fear away. I placed it on that alter every morning, and at least a hundred times each sleepless night. And I know that you saw God at work in me as I wavered and struggled to land on the side of trust.

In hindsight, I can see that it was a good thing that God had us all work through the fear instead of immediately and miraculously removing the source of it the first time we asked.  Because through it, we gained a true raw story of God’s faithfulness right here under our own roof. A story we can remind ourselves of the next time something scary walks through our door.

God is good. God is faithful. And perhaps he is closest when we are scared.


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The Evolution of Motherhood @ Inspire a Fire

May 17

My monthly post is up at Inspire a Fire.  Talking about motherhood today.

The Evolution of a Mother’s Role

“It was sorta okay.”

That may not sound like much of a sentence, but when as a mother you hear those four words exit the mouth of a child who has been in the midst of a struggle, they are good words. Good words indeed.

From a Tired Body to an Aching Heart

My boys used to be babies. You know, the kind that needed fed all the time and changed all the time. The kind that continually spit up on their clothes and in my hair. The kind that couldn’t verbalize what they wanted so they cried, or screamed or rocked back and forth with a vengeance (Rocking was the go-to stress reliever for a couple of my babies.)

That phase of life was physically exhausting. It kind of felt like I was living the movie Ground Hog Day sometimes. Every day a slight variation of the same thing. An unending cycle of the fatiguing madness of mothering babies and young children.

But those boys are not babies anymore. And mothering them is no longer physically exhausting. They can feed themselves. They can read. They remember to flush the toilet, and I don’t have to fight them to get into the shower. They can set the table, load the dishwasher, empty the garbage and mow the lawn. Two of them can even drive a car. Yikes!

Somewhere between the helpless baby stage and the responsible human stage, there was a definite shift in the type of exhaustion I experienced…

Follow this link to the rest of the story  Inspire a Fire


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This is What it’s Like When Home is Your Office

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When your house looks like this and you need to get some writing done, but you are too much of a hermit to pack up and find a different location from which to work, you move a chair in front of a window and pretend that because you can’t see the mess, it doesn’t exist.

This is my writing strategy for the day. 🙂

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Sometimes You’ve Gotta Take Care of Some Crap to Get to Where You Want to Be

Sometimes our house smells like crap. Literally. (Not figuratively-literally. Literally-literally.)

And I love it. (Not the smell, the house.)

It’s been two months since we moved in, and I still have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude every IMG_20170330_103945088time I turn onto my cracked, narrow driveway.  God gave us this house. I mean, we bought it and everything, but there are some things in life that are clearly gifts from God. This house, with all of its quirks, is one of those things.

And it definitely has some quirks.

Like the crap.

Our basement seriously smells like a poop bomb on occasion. One night I plugged in my Scentsy warmer to mask the stink, and I thought I’d done a pretty good job.

 When Carter walked in the house from youth group, I asked him what he smelled.

“Sweet farts,” he said.

Yep. That’s about right. Sweet farts. Is that better than sour farts? I don’t even know…

When that unpleasant smell wafts up the stairs, my first thought is, “Oh gross, here we go again.” And my second thought is. “God gave us this place, so if he wants us to deal with crap, we’ll deal with crap.” (And we are by the way. The plumber is scheduled to come soon 🙂 )

I’ve lived in some nice new houses.

I’ve had granite countertops, hardwood floors, gorgeous 5-panel solid wood doors, cavernous tiled showers, huge mudrooms, stone fireplaces and even a theater room encased in concrete underneath our garage floor (known to us as the zombie apocalypse room.)

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Zombie Apocalypse Room

Those houses were beautiful.

But here’s the deal. Since we never intended to stay in those homes and chose some design elements for the purpose of making them more appealing to a buyer (stainless steel – oh how I strongly dislike you…), sometimes I felt like I was borrowing the house from a future owner. And because I grew up in a century old house in which my dad was always in the middle of a remodeling project, maybe I felt slightly out of place in the new. I think I’ve been longing for this different kind of housing adventure and didn’t even realize it.

So now I live in this 20-year-old house (which I realize is not very old) that needs some Harms TLC. And I love it. Even though – 

  •  Some crazy person painted all the grout. (Seriously. How many hours did that take? What in the world?)17125634_627051914170579_1753522107712536576_n  IMG_20170330_095855850
  • A flower garden exploded on the guest bath walls. (I could only stomache that for about 3 weeks before scraping it all off and painting.)
  • Light switches were installed on the wrong side of the doors.
  • Every single interior door has a keyed lock.
  • The laundry room is accessed through a bathroom. (Kudos to me for living here for two months without dropping a sock in the toilet.)
  • The mudroom is, oh wait, we don’t have one. 😦
  • The kitchen has this crazy big oddly placed island.
  • And the master bath was designed by someone who has never had to pee in the middle of the night.

But this place is still a gift. It’s just a little rough around the edges.

I’m excited to reimagine all the awkward spaces with Corey. I love that I’m married to a guy who gets an idea and then just goes for it.

He can see beyond what is visible and it doesn’t bother him when people give him weird looks or when his brilliant ideas end up acting like second full-time jobs for a season.

He has the end goal in sight from the beginning, and he sacrifices to get to that place. He just does the thing that will get him to where he wants to be. And he doesn’t let the crap stop him. (Though sometimes he lovingly waits patiently while I take my sweet time warming up to his brilliance.)

And I fully expect to see some of that brilliance here at 804 Timberlane…

…after we take care of the crap.


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Talking Breast Cancer and Marriage at Christianity Today Women

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When I started writing my article that went live today at Christianity Today Women, my intentions weren’t to share the story with the world. I was writing for myself. Therapy on paper.

But in the midst of it, the call out came for marriage articles, and I knew (if Corey would give me his blessing) I needed to submit a query.

We are in this marriage thing together, Corey and I.

Last year we met in sickness head on. (Dang you breast cancer.)

As we walked with in sickness, we also met up with for worse.

We fought them both and won. But it wasn’t a cake walk. Thinking of it still makes my heart hurt. And probably always will. It is a hard hard thing to find yourself in a gridlock with the person you love most in the world. But God is good. And he not only got us through it, but made our marriage stronger for it.

I have been learning this year, and have mentioned before, that sometimes the good gifts come through the hard things.

I hope that’s what you see as you read my words at CT Women.

How Breast Cancer Marred My Picture Perfect Marriage