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Available March 24th – “Facing the Blitz” by Jeff Kemp

It was a joy and a privilege for me to serve as developmental editor with Jeff Kemp (Family Life Vice President and former NFL Quarterback) in the writing of his book, Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs, which will be released March 24th by Bethany House Publishers. It is available at your local bookstore, bethanyhouse.com or by calling 1-800-877-2665. Click the link below the book image to go to my InspiraLit site to read more!

Facing the Blitz by Jeff Kemp

Available March 24th – “Facing the Blitz” by Jeff Kemp.

What’s Happening in My Garden – February

GardeningBooks

I’m pretty excited that, despite what’s going on in the rest of country weather-wise, spring is already in the air in the NW and I can think about my garden. We are in a new house this year with a little over an acre to start filling with color and nummy edibles.

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed … this property is pretty much a blank canvas and there are SO MANY blackberry bushes to contend with! Basically the previous owner sculpted out a lawn (thank you very much on that part at least), but did very little in the way of thinning out the perimeter bushes and brambles or planting anything with color.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pouring over gardening books, making plans, thinking about what plants and flowers I want, where to put the veggies, where to put the roses, etc. That’s a great way to pass the final grey, rainy, dreary days of NW winter and hurry on the arrival of spring. But the past several days of sunny weather (hooray!) have enabled me to get out there and get my hands dirty and really start figuring out what I want to do. My regular daily work often tends to be kind of cerebral and I’m behind a computer a lot, so gardening is my therapy … it gets me into the fresh air, working with my hands, and thinking about color and flower and plants instead of words and ideas and books. I really need that.

I think if I create a series of small gardens instead of thinking about the whole yard at once, it will be less overwhelming. So at this point I’m going to focus on three areas and go from there. Below is a BEFORE pic of the one I’m starting on first; it will be exciting to see how it looks come summer!

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Oh, and here’s something cool (at least I thought it was). I just learned you can test your soil ph with a simple home test.  Scoop out soil from several spots around the yard and put a few tablespoons of it in bowls (test one section at a time because you may have different ph levels in different parts of your yard). To one bowl of dirt, add 1/2 cup of vinegar.  If it foams, your soil is alkaline. If nothing happens, add a little water to the second bowl, then add 1/2 cup of baking soda.  If it foams, your soil is acidic.  If nothing happens to either, your soil is neutral!  Of course this doesn’t give you a specific number, but for my purposes this was good enough to tell me what I need to add to the soil or what plants will do well in that spot (or not).

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Here’s the promise of things to come … really looking forward to spring. I am thankful the previous owners at least planted one daffodil and some pink hyacinths to greet me this month! 🙂

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After a Summer of Launching, a Long Overdue Vacation

If I said it’s been a busy summer, that would be the understatement of the year.  We’ve been “launching” pretty much non-stop since May, starting with a graduation …

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Hayley’s Graduation from WSU with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education

(L-R: Darian (Tim’s girlfriend), Tim, Hillary, Spencer (Hayley’s then-fiancee), Doug, Me, Tyler, and Lexi (Tyler’s wife)

Followed by a wedding …

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Hayley and Spencer, July 5th, 2014

And then a move to a new house just a week later!

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Moving Day, July 12th, 2014.  Yes, we must be crazy.

Then we sent Hillary off to the Bahamas on a Mission Trip with our church youth group:

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Leaving Seattle, August 4th, 2014

L-R: Nikki, Hillary, Dani Rose

And no sooner did we welcome Hillary home then it was time to launch Tim off, back to WSU for his sophomore year:

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Family Night to celebrate Hillary’s homecoming and Tim’s departure with BBQ and croquet, August 16th

     As the parents of five kids (very busy kids, I might add!), Doug and I think one the best things we can do for them is to not only prepare them for the launch, but also to provide a “landing pad.” They come and go, off to school and back, around the world and back, getting married and still coming home often for encouragement (or babysitting, or a home cooked meal from Mom!).

     The other important thing we realize we need to do as the parents of five busy kids is to take time for US!  Which is why, after a crazy busy summer of much launching and landing, we are doing a little launch of our own.  Mom and Dad are taking a vacation.  All by themselves.  Now fancy that. 🙂

SEE YA!

Time for a Time Out

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When my kids were little, when I felt overwhelmed and pressured I would go into the bathroom and lock the door, just to be alone. As they pounded on the door, demanding to know why I was taking SO LONG, I would offer the excuse, “Mommy just has an upset tummy …” (small totally understandable white lie, right?).

It’s been a lot of years since then but the need to be alone once in a while persists. But the bathroom as a location for a personal retreat just doesn’t cut it anymore. 🙂

Even though I am legitimately a people person, “alone” is where I do my best thinking, praying, reflecting, producing, and reprogramming. And boy, did I need it this month! So earlier this week I took myself on a little personal retreat (thank you to my husband and daughter who were so gracious to get along just fine without me for a few days!).

We have access to a condo at Mt. Hood, Oregon, a three-hour drive from our home. It was me, my computer, a few books and magazines, and a knitting project for my soon-to-be-born granddaughter. Long walks in the woods. A trip to the snow. Three days with no appointments with anyone other than God. It was glorious.

This was the path to the river, right outside my doorstep:

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I sure don’t have these moments on a daily basis! The refreshment to the soul is priceless. I took smooth stones from the river, wrote my kids’ names on them with Sharpie marker, and brought them home to keep in a dish on my desk for little prayer reminders and a memento of my retreat.

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I drove a half-hour to the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood where I parked myself at what was obviously an anointed desk near the window (See top picture above; I can’t believe I caught this image with just my phone!) to work and look out at the snow. I took work with me because part of my purpose was to FOCUS … and to get some traction on a few editing projects I was struggling to stay on top of at home. It was SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT in this inspiring environment!

 

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It was surprising to me, how productive I was, and yet how refreshed and re-invigorated, on my little “working personal retreat.” I did the things “I” wanted to do. Not having the TV on (as it often is in my house when the family is around) was peace to my nerves. Spending some time in prayer, talking with God about my family, my work, and some friends who are going through hard times. Listening to classical music and working on a knitting project or perusing cooking magazines and planning my holiday baking and menus. Swimming laps in the cold air at the end of each day, in a heated pool with steam rising into the dark autumn sky. Wow, I actually liked spending time with … me!

The last day of my retreat I received an email in my inbox from a friend whose blog that day just happened to be why we need personal retreats from time to time!  It’s well-worth a read. And, if prayer is what you want to focus on, on your own retreat, my friend Cynthia Bezek has written a book called Come Away with Me that will help you do it. She has certainly been an inspiration to me in that department.

I am home again and back to reality, feeling on top of things and much refreshed. I think I’m much better for my little “time out,” and I hope my family agrees!

 

 

 

 

A Jaunt in Jane Austen Country

Peter and Caroline have lent us their car, so today we drove to Winchester to visit our friends Tim and Pippa. We’ve known them nearly eight years now and, although we’re separated by both an ocean and a continent–and only see each other about once at year (if we’re lucky)–they are among our dearest friends. We always seem to pick up right where we left off.

We all traipsed into into town from their house, dodging raindrops, and Tim suggested we go into the Winchester Cathedral to `’have a pray`’ and get out of the rain.  A choir of school children was singing as we entered,  their lovely voices ringing through the centuries-old cathedral. We found ourselves a side chapel in which to sit and pray for one another—specifically for our kids, as we often do when we’re together. It’s such a poignant feeling to be praying in a place believers have looked for and experienced God for centuries, and so easy to feel connected to history here.

Speaking of history, this place is full of it. Jane Austen (who wrote Pride and Predjudice and is my favorite author) was buried below the cathedral. She lived most of her life in Hampshire, and died right here in Winchester. Her gravestone is set in the floor and reads:

In memory of Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev. George Austen, formerly Rector of Steventon in this county, who departed this life on the 18th of July, 1817, aged 41, after a long illness, supported by the patience and the hopes of a Christian. The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temperament, the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.

Their grief is in proportion to their affections. They know their loss to be irreparable but in their deepest affliction they are comforted by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her Redeemer.

(On past visits to Hampshire I’ve dragged Doug around to every Jane Austen memorial in the county. He’s such a good sport.)


On our way out the door we stopped and asked a posh-looking older gentleman to take our picture together. We lined up and as he raised the camera to snap the photo, he quipped in his upper crust British accent, “Think about sex!” Of course it was the last thing we expected to hear from him so we all nearly died laughing, which is why you see us all cracking up like a bunch of teenagers  🙂

Travel Advisory

Okay, this trip I am NOT going to forget anything.

The last THREE trips I’ve taken I have forgotten something significant and had to turn around and go home to get it.  That was especially a pain last week when I was HALF WAY TO CANADA and realized I’d forgotten my alien card. And I can’t get back into the U.S.A. without it.

(Yes, I’m an alien. Don’t get distracted. Stay with me here.)

So I had to turn around, come home, spend the night (I was too tired to drive another four hours after that), and start all over again the next morning.

That will be a little difficult if I’m half way to England next week and realize I’ve forgotten something!

So here’s my plan and I’m told by reliable sources that it’s a good one and should work. Barring operator error. 🙂

My (Hopefully) Helpful Travel Checklist

–       PRAYER.  “ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). Always the best place to start. I definitely need wisdom.

–       LIST.  You’d think this would be a no-brainer, as much as I travel, but not necessarily. Make it several days in advance so I have time to think about all the things I might need. Double check it and cross things off as I put them into my suitcase. Save list on computer for next trip.

–       TRAVEL DOCS. Make sure I have my passport, alien card (never leave the planet without it–or the country, anyway), and driver’s license. Also a copy of my travel itinerary and flight confirmation numbers. Check in online the night before.

–       CARDS.  My debit card, and the credit card that DOESN’T charge foreign exchange fees (Banks can be tricky; gotta watch ‘em). Also my Oyster Card (for the “tube”) if I’m going to the U.K. because I always seem to come home with a credit balance left on it, so I may as well use it up…

–       PHOTOCOPIES of passport and credit/debit cards. Bring one set with me and leave one at home, in case my passport and/or cards get lost or stolen. With my track record this is always a distinct possibility.

–      ELECTRONICS. I definitely can’t forget my computer; I always work on the plane. And I usually have speaking notes and slides on it when it’s a work trip. Don’t forget power cord. Also bring Ipod, charger, headphones, and camera.

–       BOOKS AND CONFERENCE MATERIALS. I always have these when I’m on a work or ministry trip. Pack them a few days in advance, NOT the night before. Weigh extra boxes to make sure they’re under the allowed weight.

–       BUCKY. This is my soft neck pillow that helps me be so comfy on planes that I can sleep sitting up.

–       “NO JET LAG” PILLS. I buy these at the Super Supplement store in Tacoma. Homeopathic remedy for jet lag. I used these in combination with a thyroid support supplement last time I went to the U.K. and seriously, NO JET LAG!

–       PACK A COUPLE OF DAYS IN ADVANCE, not the night before (except last minute toiletries). Weigh suitcase now, NOT morning of.

Weirdly, about a month ago and a half ago I had a dream that it was the morning of my departure to England and I was frantically trying to throw things into my suitcase. I hadn’t made a list, hadn’t planned ahead, and here it was the morning of the trip and I was late for the airport and I realized, horrified …

… that my passport (which I’d sent in for renewal a couple of months earlier) hadn’t arrived!

But of course, that was just a dream, right? (Although the part about having submitted my passport for renewal was true.)

Oddly enough, I do leave in six days, have had TWO crises with Passport Canada in the renewal process, and my passport STILL hasn’t arrived. It’s supposedly en route from Quebec as we speak.

Please tell me that wasn’t a prophetic dream.

That’s why I’m making a list. Checking it twice. And praying for smooth travels …

 

Relationship Status: Married and Dating

The night before last I babysat my brand-new granddaughter for the first time. What a treat. A whole evening to snuggle her, all to myself.

Just last week my daughter rolled her eyes at me and said, “Mom, why are you so into her?”

Oh please. (People warned me it would be love at first sight, but you really don’t know till you experience it just how hard and how quickly a grandchild can grab your heart.)

But I digress.

Speaking of heart-grabbing, though, the REASON I got to babysit Willa was that Heather and Jacob were going out on their FIRST DATE. Well, obviously, not their FIRST first date.  What I mean is, their first date post-baby (three weeks).  I joked with them on their way out the door, “You’re probably going to sit across the table from each other and wonder what you talked about before you had a baby.”

I was so glad they did that, though. Hats off to them. I’m glad they’ve picked up on the important truth that DATING YOUR SPOUSE IS SO IMPORTANT, whether your kids are newborns, teenagers, or adults.

Where do we find time?  We MAKE time. My life is as crazy as yours is. Really, most people’s lives are, aren’t they? A whirlwind of work, appointments, kids and their activities, household chores and responsibilities—not to mention church and community volunteering, time with friends and extended family,  and more!

But come on, folks, there are NO EXCUSES.

Romance (and all intimacy, really) starts with simply connecting relationally. It’s something that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. It won’t just happen (or stay hot) on its own. You’ve got to work at it.

I totally agree with what I recently read from relationship expert Michelle Weiner-Davis, who cites kids as being a major reason for romantic disconnect in a marriage. “As a culture, we have become very child-focused and parents feel like they need to spend all their free time with their kids,” she explains, “but parents should spend time with one another for their kids. If they don’t spend time with one another, they’re not bonding or building [on their] friendship.”

Michelle says that, as a practicing marriage counselor, she is often able to cut to the root of the problem in the couples she counsels by asking one simple question: “When was the last time you went on a date?”

Now, let me point out that a “date” is not going to your kids’ soccer game together, attending church together, doing your yard work at the same time, or lying in bed watching TV. A date is doing something you both enjoy together, without any distractions, that allows you the opportunity to reconnect with each other and re-affirm what drew you together in the first place.

Doug and I are coming up on our 29th wedding anniversary this summer. When I tell people that (for example, it came up at the doctor’s office just yesterday), I always get comments. “Wow, you don’t hear that much these days.” Or “Good for you; that’s amazing.”

I don’t know that it’s so amazing; I wish it were the status quo! But while Doug and I certainly haven’t done everything right along the way, there is one thing we’ve prioritized that I think has been a consistent source of relational “glue” in our relationship. (I call it glue because it helps us stick together. 🙂 )

We have always made time to get out by ourselves, even when our five kids were small and we were struggling to make ends meet on a single income. They may have been cheap dates during some of those years, but we figured out how to make it work. And at least once a year, we’ve gone away together, just the two of us. We leaned on Grandma and Grandpa. We traded babysitting with friends. And when the older kids were old enough to watch the younger kids, we left them alone and prayed they wouldn’t kill each other. (Just kidding.)

Do you need creative ideas?  Go get an ice cream cone and go for a walk on the waterfront (we can do that in our town). Dinner and a movie (you should definitely include the dinner part because if it’s just a movie you won’t talk). A hike. A ball game. A concert. A museum or art gallery. A car race or sports event.  You know yourselves and what you like (and what each other likes).

Doug and me at a baseball game last weekend

The activity is not as important as the time spent together alone, applying a little relational glue.  It will help you maintain your identity as a couple, not two individuals living in the same house and rushing madly through life at the same time, with the same scenery, but never connecting in a meaningful way.

I think our families, our communities, and the next generation as a whole would be a whole lot better off if more of us paid attention to our coupleness.  I can’t fix the world, but I can work on me, and so can you.

So, when’s the last time YOU dated YOUR spouse?  If it’s been a while, will you schedule it into your calendar and make it happen? And if you and your spouse are regular daters, please share your best ideas with the rest of us.

What’s your favorite date with your spouse?