Story Unfolding, Part Two

(Part One is here, in case you missed it and you're a linear thinker.)

I didn’t post this yesterday, as originally promised, which isn’t even worth mentioning except it makes my point.

Because the baby only napped 20 minutes yesterday, and all of those 20 minutes were spent picking up from lunch and stirring a pot of peach jelly on the stove, I didn’t get to do any daytime writing. Being a stay-at-home mom to three young kids means my schedule is always in flex mode. My life is not my own.

Heck, even my potty breaks are not my own.

Which is why I sometimes wonder how I can have a voice if I can’t even have time to make it heard. I think and write and create all day – in my head. But if you look back through my archives, you’ll see that I don’t consistently get those ideas out into the public eye. (Nor do I get them out into a journal. My blog is my journal these days, for better or worse. I simply don’t have time to do both.)

To be clear, I don’t think my struggle is unique. I know millions of us feel the insignificance of being just a head in the crowd. Our Western culture says that to be significant, we need to do something big, something outstanding. If we aren’t aiming for the top – and getting there – we deserve to be a drone ant on the bottom on the hill, doing mindless work without meaning for the rest of our days.

But. Wait. Stop.

Do you see all the lies in that paragraph?

That is not God’s truth.

Perhaps you know the story of Henri Nouwen. A prominent psychologist and theologian in his native Holland, Nouwen spent the first part of his life achieving. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, wrote prolifically, was a sought-after speaker.

But he came to believe that his success – his bigness – was choking his own spiritual life. For years, he sought a quieter path. Eventually, he settled on L’Arche, a community of homes for the seriously disabled. There, Nouwen lived out the rest of his life, caring for the day-in, day-out needs of people who were barely cognizant of him, much less appreciative.

Philip Yancey, in his book “Soul Survivor,” talks about the time he visited Nouwen at L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto.
I once visited Nouwen, sharing lunch with him in his small room. It had a single bed, one bookshelf, and a few pieces of Shaker-style furniture. The walls were unadorned except for a print of a Van Gogh painting and a few religious symbols. A Daybreak staff person served us a bowl of Caesar salad and a loaf of bread. No fax machine, no computer, no Daytimer calendar posted on the wall—in this room, at least, Nouwen had found serenity. The church "industry" seemed very far away.

After lunch we celebrated a special Eucharist for Adam, the young man Nouwen looked after. With solemnity, but also a twinkle in his eye, Nouwen led the liturgy in honor of Adam's twenty-sixth birthday. Unable to talk, walk, or dress himself, profoundly retarded, Adam gave no sign of comprehension. He seemed to recognize, at least, that his family had come. He drooled throughout the ceremony and grunted loudly a few times.

Later Nouwen told me it took him nearly two hours to prepare Adam each day. Bathing and shaving him, brushing his teeth, combing his hair, guiding his hand as he tried to eat breakfast-these simple, repetitive acts had become for him almost like an hour of meditation.

I must admit I had a fleeting doubt as to whether this was the best use of the busy priest's time. Could not someone else take over the manual chores? When I cautiously broached the subject with Nouwen himself, he informed me that I had completely misinterpreted him. "I am not giving up anything," he insisted. "It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship."

All day Nouwen kept circling back to my question, bringing up various ways he had benefitted from his relationship with Adam. It had been difficult for him at first, he said. Physical touch, affection, and the messiness of caring for an uncoordinated person did not come easily. But he had learned to love Adam, truly to love him. In the process he had learned what it must be like for God to love us—spiritually uncoordinated, retarded, able to respond with what must seem to God like inarticulate grunts and groans. Indeed, working with Adam had taught him the humility and "emptiness" achieved by desert monks only after much discipline.
I have been profoundly impacted by Nouwen’s viewpoint. Here was a man who had a voice and who spoke loudly enough to influence the culture. But he chose to lay it down and live a life similar to that of a stay-at-home mom.

In doing so, he felt he touched God, and he was satisfied. He learned to love well.

I remind myself of this truth whenever I get discouraged by what seems to be my insignificance. The world measures significance by what we do. God measures significance by who we are.

And when I’m learning to rest in what God has called me to today, when I’m learning to love my children and my husband the way Jesus did, when I’m joyfully content to trust that God sees me even when no one else does, I find my voice. My true voice, the one that speaks wisdom and humility and healing and love.

Maybe someday I will have a megaphone for that voice. Maybe my voice will echo loudly through the canyons of culture. Maybe God will infuse it with his power so that people’s lives will be changed.

Or maybe not. Maybe I will live my days covered in peanut butter and Play-Dough and my voice will echo only in the lives of my family and my friends and in the few words I have time to write on the page.

I am content with either option. (And that’s something I couldn’t have said 10 years ago.) My primary concern is that my voice is changing each day to sound more and more like Jesus.

This is my story, unfolding.

Story Unfolding, Part One

I have a weakness for ideas.

Nothing jazzes me more than a good philosophical discussion, one where the parties need to define terms and stretch their minds and take tried-and-true beliefs and dissect them to keep them fresh and authentic.

It’s the reason why 90% of the books I read are nonfiction, why I listen to podcasts that challenge me intellectually, why I read blogs that probe the profound.

So it was natural for me to tune in to the discussion on Story Unfolding last week. Picture a round-table conversation between some of the most thoughtful Christian artists of our day (Margaret Becker, Anne Jackson, Natalie Grant, Shaun Groves, Pete Wilson and more), and you’ll get a feel for what went on.

As you might expect, this group didn’t stay in the shallow end. They dove right into the deep. What does it mean to be a story-teller today? How was the church not done a good job of empowering the story-tellers? What does relevant mean? How are you refining your story-telling skills?

Heady concepts. It was fascinating to listen to the exchange of ideas and opinions. They weren’t dealing with details. They were dreaming big, trying to see outside of the frame.

And honestly, it left me feeling a little marginalized.

In my pre-kid life, I used to swim in a creative environment, where ideas were exchanged and discussed and sometimes even battled. I also used to dream big. It’s the reason I was producing a newscast for NBC when I was 26. I wanted to have influence. To be excellent. To be relevant. To have a voice – preferably, a powerful one – that was heard in our decibel-breaking culture.

But these days? The exchange of ideas looks more like, “I don’t care that you want to eat marshmallows for breakfast. It’s Cheerios or eggs and that’s final.” And dreaming big might mean that I hope to get an hour by myself in the afternoon to write or read or think without interruption.

It can be discouraging. Being a stay-at-home mom to three young kids leaves me little time to do anything outside of change diapers, make meals and plan activities to keep these little bodies active and engaged.

Watching the discussion on Story Unfolding made me feel like I have no voice, no impact, no story to tell. (Unless you want to talk about babies who eat Polly Pocket shoes.)

(To be continued tomorrow ... or maybe later today, if that hour to myself materializes.)

(Continued ... umm ... two days later. You can read part two here.)


On the way home from an impromptu play date yesterday afternoon, I was feeling particularly grateful. Grateful for the sun that was finally breaking through the stronghold of clouds. Grateful for the grass that was shining so vibrantly after two days of constant rain. Grateful for the three little people and the one big man who share everyday life with me. Grateful for a God who richly supplies grace and makes life an adventure.

To celebrate the mood, I decided to key up a few songs on my Blackberry. We needed some fun music, some music that did justice to the attitude swelling in my heart.

I first entertained the kids with U2’s “Get On Your Boots” (which is one of my favorite songs right now, just because of how it sounds). Then the shuffle feature took over and pulled up “Everything” by Michael Buble, one of my favorite Buble songs, which is saying something.

We moved on to “See the Glory” by SCC (awesome), then hit a major snag when a lullaby by Go Fish came on. (“Mom, this music makes me go to sleep! Do something!” Natalie pleaded.) I hit fast-forward. A jazzy little bossa nova popped up. I hit fast forward again. Another lullaby.

Clearly, this required manual control.

I surfed for a few seconds then hit upon perfection. The Bangles. “Walk like an Egyptian.”

I pulled into the gas station just as the tambourines started. By the time we got to the chorus, I was belting out the lyrics. (Which isn’t to imply I wasn’t singing before, because if you know me, you know I was singing out loud and with gusto to each of the previous ditties.) I turned to the kids and said, “Do you know how to walk like an Egyptian? Like this.” And I did the hand movements as I sang, “Walk like an Egyptian ... Walk like an Egyp-tian.”

The kids stared back at me, equal parts amused and skeptical.

“How come I don’t see anyone walking like an Egyptian?” I hollered back at the silent crowd.

“Well, you are Mom,” Natalie said with raised eyebrows.

I think the tween years have begun.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 8)

My brain! It is stuffed as full as the Scarecrow's. And it needs to be unstuffed so I can enjoy the weekend. Ergo, I'm participating in Conversion Diary's 7 Quick Takes Friday, one of my favorite carnivals in the blogosphere.
I didn't find my muse at Target.

Nor did I find the two additional glue sticks that I need. The Elmer's brand has been sold out for the past month, which is both understandable -- at 22 cents for two, it's a hard price to beat -- and unfortunate -- since our school stipulates the glue sticks MUST be Elmer's and MUST NOT be the weird gel paste.

But I did find my muse last night at Cafe Latte.

Or wait. Maybe that was just great blogging friends.

Those lovely ladies would be Heidi of Minnesota Mom and Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary. We met for dinner, conversation and lemon turd cart lemon curd tart (seriously, you try saying it the right way) and had ourselves a ball.

Can I even tell you how much I enjoy the blogging community?


OK. But I do. And Heidi and Heather are at the top of my list.

Earlier this week, I realized I never finished the Connor's-getting-his-kindergarten-shots melodrama.

To sum up: I didn't tell him about the impending needle sticks until 2 minutes before they happened -- and that ended up being the perfect solution for my five-year-old boy. He wasn't terribly excited about the news, but he didn't throw a huge fit. I think the suddenness of the announcement didn't leave him time to work himself up.

The nurse was fast -- the whole thing was over in 20 seconds -- and while he cried for a while after the last shot, he was fine by the time we left the doctor's office and headed for Target to buy some new Legos. (Although he did limp a bit the next few days, and I believe he also said, "I'm never going to the doctor's again!")

I had new appreciation for Connor when I went to my annual OB check-up a couple of weeks ago, and she insisted I get a tetanus booster that includes the whooping cough vaccine. Seems whooping cough has been running quite wild the past few years through the schools, so the CDC is asking all adults who haven't had a tetanus booster within the last 24 months to get the new DTaP as soon as possible.

And dang -- that puppy hurt. The shot didn't hurt that badly, but my arm ached for days. Ow.


I'm not sure I've ever confessed this publicly, but hi, my name is Kelly, and I'm a children's book addict. The room Natalie and Connor share contains exactly two beds, one nightstand, one chair and one HUGE bookcase that houses hundreds upon hundreds of books.

So it wasn't a surprise, really, when Thomas Nelson sent me a copy "I Believe Bunny" to review. (The word about my addiction must be out on the streets. Maybe Corey is planning an intervention.)

Written by Tish Rabe, the "I Believe Bunny" is the first a new series of books designed to help young kids learn about believing, sharing and putting their faith into action. This particular books follows Bunny as he helps his friend Little Mouse who has fallen into a rain-swollen river. Bunny is overwhelmed with the problem and isn't sure what to do to mount a rescue. But he learns that prayer to a God who can overcome the impossible is always the place to start.

In all honesty, this book was a little too simplistic for Connor and Natalie (ages 5 and 8). But it will be perfect for Teyla as she gets a little older. The book is written in rhyming verse, which I love, and the illustrations are sumptuous. I would buy it for the pictures alone.
And of course, the message is Biblically strong and easy to understand, which makes it a win-win.

Speaking of books, the summer of Alexander Dumas continues. I just finished "The Three Musketeers," and I loved it. I rank it as my second favorite Dumas book, right under "The Count of Monte Cristo."

My husband, who is delighted that I'm following his recommended reading plan, says I should tackle Rafael Sabatini next, since his style and period are so similar to Dumas. I read Sabatini's "Scaramouche," a number of years ago when Corey said it was one of his all-time favorite books. But it was complicated, and I don't remember much, so I think I'm going to read it again.

Have I mentioned that I have a new niece?

Madison was born on July 23. She is the little sister of the star of
this video.

Isn't she too sweet for words? Lord, you do all things well.

My parents are halfway through their move to Colorado. They are currently residing in a furnished condo in Colorado Springs while they wait for their under-construction house to be finished.

And next week, we get to visit them. (And my sister and her family, since they are planning a visit to Colorado at the same time.) I'm beyond excited. I haven't seen my family since Christmas.

So to those of you who live in Colorado or those of you who have visited, what family-friendly tips do you have for the Springs area?

Too Much Blog Reading = No Time to Blog

It's a gray, cool, drizzly morning here in the Northern Midwest. Mornings like this demand that I take a giant mug of coffee, spiked with toffee nut cream, directly to my computer so I can catch up on my blog reading. (While in my pajamas, naturally.)

The problem with reading so many great blog posts at once is I'm simultaneously inspired and silenced. I find reading expressive, witty, authentic prose makes me fall in love with writing -- and fellow writers -- all over again. Yet it leaves me with no voice of my own.

Luckily, I have a piece up at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. (Which was written last night, before the blog feast.) If you have a house full of children right now, I bet you can relate to it.

In the meantime, I'm off to Target to shop for school supplies. Maybe I can find my inner muse between the glue sticks and the folders.

up north

waves rise and fall
spill on the shore
where a cascade of stones
polished and honed

sharp edges soften
rocks become velvet

each one shines
yet together
they whisper holiness

God made me
and He sees

shades of blue and green calm the mind
the horizon beckons

the fog hovers over the water
it hugs the coast
then pulls back like a curtain
to reveal what’s real

hidden before
now exposed
the eye see pine and rock and those
flowers that hide in clefts of stone
gentle beauty in stillness grows

my soul exhales, expands
and then
finds right perspective in the end

Busier than a Bee

I believe I could give a few bees a run for their honey these days.

It's self-inflicted busy and fun busy, but still. BUSY. Days at the beach, mornings at the park. Trips to see friends. Trips up north. Shopping at the farmer's market. Eating at the fair. T-Ball. Soccer. The zoo.

This is the stuff that summer is made of.

I'm hoping to stop long enough this weekend to share some of the highlights of our adventures, for all three of you still out there.

But in the meantime, I'm forced to neglect the online world for the big, bright, beautiful world outside my window.

As Amanda's mom says, "You can't write about life unless you're living it."

OH! And we still have four weeks until school starts. FOUR WEEKS! I'm a little giddy about the late Labor Day this year. I'm wallowing in summer. It's my favorite season. Hands down. What's your favorite?

Multiple Channels

There are days when I wonder what it would be like to parent an only child.

Oddly enough, the thought isn't entertained on the days when my three children turn into heathen monkeys.

(Read the rest at 5 Minutes for Parenting....)

Summer Church

I'm going to say something here that's borderline sacrilegious for a second-generation pastor's daughter, but here goes.

I don't like going to church in the summer.

Specifically, I don't like going to church in the summer at this stage of my life. Because it feels like I get up early every Sunday morning and dress three monkeys in nicer-than-normal clothes and then take them to a torture chamber where I whisper "Shhh!" and "Quiet!" and "Don't hit your sister!" and "Stand up while we're singing!" and "No, you can't have candy now" and other threats and directives until I seethe with annoyance.

And then the pastor says, "See you next week!" and we get up, collect our belongings and go home, where everyone immediately wants to change back into normal clothes and eat lunch and go outside and take a nap, and oh, did I mention that the beautiful sunny morning is now a cloudy afternoon and we missed the best chance we had all day to be outside?

This is all because our church, like many others, I suspect, gives our child-care workers the summer off -- which I wholeheartedly agree with. I respect and adore the Sunday school teachers who willingly love and teach my kids each Sunday morning during the school year, and I'm happy to support them while they take a much-deserved rest.

But it also makes me very conflicted about going to church on Sundays during the summer months, because now, the kids have no choice but to attend "big church" with Corey and me. And when I spend more time on crowd control than I do singing songs or listening to the sermon, I wonder why I even bother to show up.

It's left me with a sour taste in my mouth the last couple of years. It's not that every Sunday is a nightmare. But enough are that I wonder why we don't just ditch it and have church at home instead of making everyone grumpy and irritated before lunch.

But. (And it's a big but.) I know that's not the right answer. I know the Bible says, "Let us not give up meeting together." I know God doesn't ask for obedience capriciously. I know church has a purpose -- even summer church.

And my kids are watching.

So the past few weeks, I've begged God to help me with my attitude, if not my outward circumstances. I don't want to see church as a chore. I want to find meaning in my Sunday mornings, even the Sunday mornings that find me doing crowd control.

I can't say that Sundays have gotten easier. But God is working on my perspective. Instead of looking forward to Sunday mornings as a time to renew and recharge my own soul, I look at it as a way to ignite some fire in my 8- and 5-year-old. I try to get them to sing the songs. I ask them if they understand the words. We point out funny things during the videos. I talk to Natalie about the baptism service coming up in a few weeks. I show them the verses being referenced by the pastor.

And yes, I dispense gum, pick up crayons and settle disputes with nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

If Sunday mornings used to be like going to a spa, summer Sundays mornings are like going to the gym.

But -- funny thing -- I'm starting to see how both kinds of Sundays can be an encouragement.