December 31, 2012

Why I'm Done Pretending to Like Christmas

It took me many years (and some challenging words from my husband) to realize that I did not, in fact, enjoy Christmas.  I know this is American blasphemy... trust me, I was as shocked as anyone by this discovery.  I love giving gifts, and I like to put Christmas lights on the tree with absolutely perfect distribution.  I like singing Christmas songs at the top of my lungs, making up all the words as I go. (*2012 discovery: the word "soiled' is not actually in any of the Christmas songs.)

As much as I have enjoyed these traditions, Tom brought it to my attention a couple Christmases ago, that I don't actually enjoy Christmas.  He said it so matter-of-factly that I was insulted.  He just said it as plainly as if it were a fact known and accepted by all, "Well, that's because you don't like Christmas."

After my initial shock and disbelief wore off, I started thinking about how I really feel during the holiday season.  In a word: sad.

I thought I was enjoying Christmas, because to a degree, I was.  I enjoyed watching my kids have the kind of Christmases I wished I could have had when I was growing up.  I love that my kids wake up with both of their parents in their home, and with all of their siblings, and with a sense that they are safe and loved and protected.

When you have experienced loss, tragedy, divorce, or trauma... the holidays are often a painful reminder of what, and often who, is missing.  The divorce of my parents and the death of my brother happened within the same year, and those experiences really boiled down all the decorations, and gifts, and traditions, leaving only this sad reminder behind: I wanted my dad, and I wanted my brother.

I still do.

I don't know how to stop missing the people you lose.

Since Tom brought to my attention the fact that I don't like Christmas, I have worked really hard to pretend to like Christmas.  It's a strange thing, not knowing that you hate something, then realizing it, then pretending to like it again.  It seems easier to have just continued falsely believing I liked it.  But, I have arrived at a place where I am done pretending to like Christmas.

I spent the month of October challenging myself to process and heal from the death of my brother in a productive way, by focusing on others and showing acts of kindness.  I think that openly grieving for Adam allowed me to release some of what was holding me back from enjoying not only Christmas, but a lot of good things in my life.

I have felt God growing me and refining me... and I am, once again, experiencing that feeling where the decorations and gifts and traditions are being boiled down.  Only this time, what remains is not just tragedy, loss, pain and grief.  Now, when everything else gets boiled down, what I can finally see is a baby in a manger who changed everything.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, we sent the kids upstairs to play and would not let them come down because the local authorities were telling people in our area to stay away from windows and doors because a crazed gunman had not yet been apprehended.  The man had set a car on fire to lure first responders to the scene where he then opened fire on the unsuspecting and heroic volunteer fire fighters.  He killed two of these brave young men, and it is believed that he also killed his sister, whose remains have not yet been officially identified from the fire.  Three other first responders were shot or inured, 7 homes were completely destroyed and 2 more homes declared unlivable.

These horrible things happened about a 30 second drive from my home, a place where my family takes walks and on the route where I go running.  This shooting just hit too close to home, literally too close to my home, but also too close to my heart.  I hated hearing the worry in my mom's voice and knowing that, for her, shootings are real and they can claim your child's life in an instant.

I used to think there was some sort of pain quota that we all have, and once this world has gotten its pound of flesh, it will leave you alone for the most part.  This theory was based on nothing, and it makes zero sense.  The more I live, the more people I know and love, and the more pain I see and experience.  The truth is that there really is no quota for tragic things that one may endure in this life.  There is no guarantee that you will not lose a child or a marriage.  Or both in the same year.

There is no quota.  We can experience unimaginable pain, and we can do it time and again in unimaginable doses.  That is why we need that baby in the manger.  That is the only thing I can possibly find hope in, because this world offers no promise of hope and no limit to our loss.  Without that first Christmas there is no Easter, and without Easter... there's really no promise.

So, I think I am all done pretending to like Christmas.  I am going to actually like it, because apart from Christmas, and Easter, and the promise of new and lasting life after this world... we ain't got nothing but a wreath and some pain.  So, I will choose to celebrate Christmas next year, with unabashed joy and reckless abandon.  And I will try to live in that same mindset day in and day out for 2013, hoping that Christ's message of hope will transform not only the holidays, but the regular days too.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from The Capuano Family.  May your year be filled with the reality that the baby God in the manger changes every day, not just one.

December 13, 2012

The Lara of Christmas Past

The other day I got a letter in the mail from my former self.

Bear with me, this actually did happen.  Tom handed me a letter and said "did you mail yourself a letter??"  I thought "No!  How ridiculous!"  I picked up the letter and then thought "Oooh, I kinda like this handwriting."  And a moment later "Oh, yeah, I definitely wrote this to myself."

A long time ago, my friend, Erica, and I had a small Bible study kind of  group that we led.  We would take turns leading, and it went a little something like this:

Lara's turn:  Talk about our deepest issues, maybe cry it out, and applaud any time somebody says something remotely intelligent.  Do lots of icebreaker questions aka cheaps and deeps... some questions are easy (cheaps) and some heavy (deeps.)

Erica's turn: write poetry by candelight, express yourself through painting pottery and inserting your name into scriptures and taping it onto your bathroom mirror.

It was a good blend of my useless jokes and her deep, symbolic thinking.  We called it "Circle" and we reunite about twice a year and do fun things like play "Project FUNway" where you have to transform a hideous bridesmaid dress into something fabulous.

So, we are coming up on our annual Christmastime reunion and I open the letter that Erica made encouraged me to write to myself as one of our exercises.  I wrote it begrudgingly at the time, but when I opened it and read it as if it was from someone other than me... I was kinda blown away at how nicely I could speak to myself.  Maybe it was because I was writing it at the beach by candelight (this is true) and because Erica had a pocketknife at my back forcing me to write it. (this part is less true.)

Anyways, the letter arrived right when I needed somebody to tell me some very specific things.  I was surprised to discover that it was younger ME that came through when I needed her!  I learned how much more productive I could be if I encouraged myself instead of being so verbally abusive.  I would absolutely, never in a million years talk to another human being on this earth the way that I talk to myself.  So, it was a much needed mercy to receive a gentle and encouraging rebuke from the one person that usually gives me a verbal backhand.

I am sharing the letter because it explains why I am a Christ follower.  I have a deep fear of being that pushy Christian everyone vomits about, so please know that I share this because I have a lot of readers who do not  understand my faith, let alone share it.  Perhaps this will help some understand what I believe and why.  If nothing else, it should explain why you should mail stuff to yourself.

Dear Lara,
   Jesus died on the cross for you.  He did this not for your captivity- to shame, guilt, fear - but for your freedom.  He is making something beautiful out of you.  Let yourself experience the freedom He died for.  Be as free and as beautiful as He has created you to be.
   I know that you feel like a failure; like no matter how hard you try, you will always slip back.  But, you really are pure in His sight, being made new.  You are a holy vessel.  You are set apart for His use, never to be used for unholy causes.  Do not let Satan convince you that you are unholy - he is your greatest enemy in this life.  Make him sorry he ever messed with you.
   Some day your children will rise up and call you blessed.  Just stay present.  Keep working hard.  Get up early to pray.  Accept them always.  See them.  Let them see you.  They will forgive your mistakes - if you can really be present - they can forgive anything.  Every moment with them is a gift. You will never regret plugging in.  Be truly grateful for everything. It's all from God.
   You are not your past, or your parents, or your problems.  YOU. ARE. HIS. BELOVED.
                                       I love you Lara, 
                                                          Lara


December 7, 2012

Why I'm an "Insensitive Prick" & Other FAQ's


Here, I address the top criticisms of my blog, and just my person in general.  Hopefully this will clear up how close I am operating to my maximum potential.  Enjoy the hideous freeze shot of me.  I was going to shower before I did this video... but then I remembered "Ha!  I don't shower on weekdays!"  Plus, I wanted to give the critics some fresh ammo.  Enjoy!


December 4, 2012

Why I Hope My Kids Are Never Popular


Lately, one of my daughters has been feeling a little left out at school.  I struggle with a zillion concerns and challenges as a parent of four kids.  I have endless goals and desires for all my kids, but having school-age girls is really bringing some specific challenges to light, especially as it relates to little girls.  Here they are in alphabetical order just randomly thrown on the list:

  • Preserving their innocence, without sheltering them to the point that they say things like "bowel movement" when they are in college.  
  • Allowing them to be completely their unique, individual selves... without being socially unaware.
  • Fostering an environment where they feel like they can tell me the truth about everything.
  • Fostering an environment where they also feel terrified of breaking the rules.
  • Fostering an environment that nurtures their independent thinking, creativity and free-spiritedness.
  • Establishing a balance between being free-spirited, and always losing your lunchbox.
  • Instilling a primary desire to please the Lord in everything to do.
  • Instilling a secondary desire to use dry humor effectively.
  • Training them to be godly girls.
  • Instilling humility and grace, so they serve and honor others ahead of themselves.
  • Instilling enough self-respect that boys are afraid to ask them on dates.
  • Teaching them that their inner-beauty is what matters most.
  • Also teaching them how/when to create the perfect "smokey eye."
  • Creating a home that becomes the hang out for their friends.
  • Fostering friendships with the kind of kids that won't get drunk and steal my family heirlooms.
  • Teaching them to dress in a way that will not get them the wrong kind of attention, nor cause others to question if they time-traveled from pioneer times.  
  • Empowering them to stand up for themselves, and others, when necessary.
  • Empowering them to lead when they need to, and follow when they need to.  (And to discern when to do which.)
  • Empowering them to be the first one out on the dance floor at a lame wedding.  (They need to learn that I won't always be there to get the party started for them.  Someday, down the road, probably after a double hip-replacement, I won't be there... and YMCA will be playing, and they are going to have to grow up, and dance like total fools without me.)

This, friends, is just the tip of the iceburg.  I want my kids to live counter-culturally... but, also be able to live amongst the people so that they get to enjoy full and fruitful relationships.  I want to help create the counter-intuition required to care not about being happy, but about being holy.  I want so many paradoxical things for my kids, I am afraid they will develop multiple personality disorder.  The bottom line is that I want what God wants for them, and it takes some really delicate balances, and also some pretty major extremes to live Biblically.

Perhaps I am failing desperately, and that is why the girls sometimes feel a little like they are "odd man out."  Or, perhaps, they are odd afterall... and that notion is almost comforting because I ran with "the popular crowd" for some time when I was in school and here are a few of the things I got from that experience:

  • People can hate you for no apparent reason.
  • People will do almost anything to be accepted by others.
  • People are threatened by that which they do not understand.
  • So many more people smoke pot than you might expect. (And I am not only talking about the high school kids, but their parents. And teachers. True. Story.)
  • Appearance is everything... not even physical appearance, but appearing like you have confidence, or that you don't care what others think, or that you have money, etc.
  • Believing in "God" is fine, good even.  
  • Following Christ is laughable.  Viewed as "extreme."
  • Nobody has as much money as they pretend to have.
  • Teenage girls are clinically insane.
  • Teenage boys notice this, and disregard it.  They really are as horny willing to overlook a insanity as legend holds.  Maybe more.
  • Dating in high school is not always a total joke, but, usually.
  • Kids use swear words more than they use regular words.
  • Nobody is saying "bowel movement."
  • When a teenager says to someone  "your parents are so cool!"  It really means "I don't realize this now, but later in my adult life, I will look back and judge your cool parents for being so stupidly insecure and permissive."
  • The kids that are perpetually in some spotlight of popularity are subjected to more scrutiny than is bearable for such a poorly developed brain.
  • Academic, athletic and social pressures matter more to most parents than spiritual and moral development.
  • A lot of the most popular kids are really, really sad.
  • The kids that have the most stuff, are often the saddest.
  • A lot of the popular kids are just peaking really early, and this is as cool as they will ever be.  
So, there you have it.  My last three years of high school were a pretty miserable experience.  I felt hated by most of the people I was friends with for the many years before that.  I felt like I couldn't break into the other friend groups, because I was viewed as a "popular girl" and I don't think anyone would have believed that I really didn't have more than one or two good friends.  I was "friends" with everyone, but when the weekends came... it was really just me and my best friend, Chrisann, and so much singing into hairbrushes in my bedroom.

As a mom, I want my kids to just fly under the radar of popularity so that they can be themselves without being subjected to the scrutiny of being psuedo-celebs in their schools.  I want them to sing into their hairbrushes with one or two great friends, and not feel like they failed because they lost the huge group of friends that used to come over.  I want them to be friends with everyone, but have only a few really true friends... and I want them to know that this is a success, not a failure on their part, or because they have been rejected.  And I want them to genuinely follow Christ, even if it gets them laughed at.... because I know that the only lasting joy comes from knowing that I am who God says I am, and that I am pleasing the God that created me for His glory.  I really believe that if my kids can get ahold of this truth, they will be awesome for life.

Not just in high school.

November 29, 2012

Why I Quit Being Thankful

Okay, okay... I didn't altogether quit being thankful, I just quit recording my thankfulness for a few reasons. Most of them are weak and pathetic excuses, "I have been so busy!" or "My kidney hurts so much!" But, I also have a couple reasons that are actually legitimate.  My best reason is that I have really struggled during this "season of gratitude" with a lot of guilt and (admittedly) irritation.  Most of you can identify with the feeling of being inundated with other people's really great news on Facebook.  Trust me, I could't be more thrilled that your vegan turkey tasted just like actual turkey, oh wait... yes I could be, I could be way more thrilled.

You get the point though, right?  We all read other people's comments about themselves and their own lives and we think "WHO CARES!"  And then I sit down to write my blog, and I think "Who cares!?"  It doesn't make me feel bad, honestly it doesn't.  I barely care what I am making for dinner, I know that you people don't!  So, I felt a little sick about writing all the things that I am thankful for, when they are really just silly little things that only I could care about.  Additionally, I have grappled with the concept of  the "humblebrag" which is just a way of bragging under the guise of gratitude.  "So thankful for my precious son who can already write in complete sentences at age 2!" which really just means "So thankful my baby isn't as dumb as your baby!  Clearly I am a sensational parent!  Happy Thanksgiving, my kids are so smart."  Or maybe it doesn't mean that.  I don't even know what it means... but, I know that it sometimes makes people feel bad about having a child that cannot speak, let alone write, or not having a child at all.  So, I struggle to report in on the things in my life that I am genuinely thankful for, because I know that nobody really cares about the superficial details of my life, and sadly, I am just shallow enough to be really thankful for some very self-serving conveniences.  Plus, my kidney actually has been acting up.

But, alas... I have promised to share the things I am thankful for, and I shall do so below.  Please know that when I brag, I will do so in an outright and disgusting manner, I have zero interest in the humbebrag.  When I am a jerk, you'll know it.  So, please trust that anything I write is not intended to be braggy or competitive, unless I am blatantly trash talking.  Then, well... I am just a jerk sometimes, and it is usually meant for comedic value.  Or because my vegan tofurky was actually golden browner than yours.
Soo...

Day 17: Road trips.  I love road trips.  Road tripping has been a huge shaping factor in my life.  They have given me (and my kids) a sense of adventure and have been the #1 healthiest outlet for my wanderlust.
Day 18: Invisible Children.  This organization has done some amazing things and I was so blessed to be a part of their MOVE:DC event.  If you don't know about KONY 2012, you should google it before it is 2013.
Day 19: Great nail polish.  (See, I told you I am shallow!)  I don't care what ANYONE says, unless I hear differently from Jesus Christ himself, I will continue to believe that God created nail polish for me personally to enjoy.  I like to think that there is a special little corner of heaven especially for mani/pedis... chip-free, y'all.
Day 20:  Lisps.  If I could go back in time and record one thing, it would be Marlie at age 3 saying "cookieth, caketh, candieth."
Day 21:  Bins.  Without bins, I would look like I lived inside an episode of Hoarders.  I have 1,060 bins in my basement that hold clothing for boys, girls, neutral, newborns, toddlers, etc.  Sorting out sizes and seasons is a miserable and time-consuming job... only made tolerable because of my deep adoration for a solid bin.
Day 22:  Consignment/thrift shops.  Anything that I cannot buy with a Marshall's gift card comes from a thrift store.  I love items that richer people have rejected.
Day 23:  Squinting.  I love to squint at things because you see things in a completely different way.  I know that this sounds stupid, but trust me... I do this all the time and as stupid as it sounds, it LOOKS even stupider.  Seriously though, you squint at your Christmas tree one time, and you will not be able to stop.  It is really the only way to look at Christmas lights.  (See?  I know you just squinted, and then sang "A Whole New World" from the Aladdin soundtrack.)
Day 24:  Ethnic food.  Cooking with only American spices would be like being in taste prison.
Day 25:  Songs that I know all the words to.  As it turns out, there are only, like, five songs that I know by heart.  I loooove knowing the words to songs, and I will make words up just so I can sing along.  
Day 26:  My kids' schools.  I am one of those horrible Christians that actually sent my kids to public school.  Honestly, I haven't regretted it.  They have had awesome teachers, made great friends, and been exposed to some really important life experiences.  Sure, there are some draw backs... but, so far, we have had a wonderful schooling experience with our kids.  After parent/teacher conferences today, I am feeling particularly thankful for how caring and nurturing their teachers are.
Day 27: Makeovers.  I am in the business of making gals look fabulous, and I really love it.  I love making accessories, and I love showing people how to "pull it off."  I love making people feel fabulous, and I love when I get to know someone well enough to say "burn those shoes immediately."  If somebody approached me at any given moment and offered me a million dollars to use for making over ten people... I already know the ladies I would die to get my hands on, because I have fantasized about overseeing their makeovers for years.  I am thankful for fresh starts, changes and the freedom to try something new.
Day 28:  Conditioner.
Day 29: My marriage.  Today, I have been married for nine years.  I am thankful that we are still married, and that we still laugh together every day.

This is all a little anti-climactic I am certain.  But there you have it, some things that I genuinely appreciate.  As for my challenge to you... the month is coming to a close, so I would encourage you to stop the humblebrag, and to share only things that you are truly thankful for.  Don't praise the Lord on facebook before you take the time to thank Him privately.  And since God isn't on facebook anyways, I challenge you to stop posting your prayers there altogether.  I challenge you to view life less competitively and don't be afraid to be honest about who you are, what you struggle with, and what you really love.

Even if it just just a lisp and some nail polish.

November 16, 2012

Work, Wounds, Christ and Candy.

Day 14, I am thankful for my little business.  I am behind on my blog posts because I have been busy making items for a new account with a gift shop outside Boston, as well as a  holiday sale at MOPS, and then restocking some inventory and my first and favorite shop, Thread.  The short story behind starting Piccadilly Rose is that I pretended to have a business, and business was great, so I decided to have a real business.  Between these accounts at shops/salons, craft fairs, and a lot of loyal customers and custom orders... real business is even better than fake business!  I really enjoy having a way to contribute financially, that rarely takes away time from my family.  The girls enjoy trying out all my new accessories... and they love coming to see my table at art fairs.

Day 15, I am thankful for when I am challenged by other people to be better than I am.  I am thankful for when someone calls me out for being selfish (I can be shamefully self-preserving, self-protective, self-indulgent, self-hating, self-younameit).  I am also a punisher.  By nature or nurture, I am not certain... but the bottom line is that when I get hurt, I punish.  I withdraw and have a hard time letting go of the wound, and I feel sorry for myself.  Perhaps it is out of fear of rejection, but my first instinct when I get hurt is to say, "Well, there goes that friendship."  I am kind of a relational quitter, more by instinct and feeling, than by action.  It embarrasses me to admit that because it takes one prideful person to hold a grudge.  I am thankful for the people who call me out when I am doing this, and who don't write me off even when I deserve it.  Feeling particularly thankful that "wounds from a friend can be trusted." (Proverbs 27:6)

Day 16, in a nutshell I am thankful for Jesus and candy.  It's an odd combination I know... but, here you will get an in-depth picture of my long history with both the lover of my soul, and my heart's secondary desire... treats.  

November 13, 2012

Golden Girls.

I am seriously behind on my thankfuls because of the long weekend.  So, here you will get Day 10, 11, 12 and 13 all in one.

Over the past couple of years, I have found myself exceedingly grateful for my friendships.  Recent years have come with plenty of ups and downs and my friends have been there to support me, especially during some of  the worst times.  So, all of today's post is about my different types of friends.

Day 10:  Friends of embarrassments past. These are my friends who I do not really keep in touch with in any significant way, but they are woman that I am so thankful for because they were a huge part of my life at one point or another.  A lot of these people loved me during some very unlovable seasons of my life, and they probably hate me for it now... but, I still consider them friends because they shaped me, tolerated me, refined me, or yelled at me when I needed it.  These are childhood friends, or college roommates that had to know me during some rough stuff, and while I was the ugliest, most broken version of myself.  These are people who I think about all the time (usually with total shame and embarrassment) but also with deep gratitude.

Day 11:  Friends from a distance.  These are friends who live anywhere but Rochester, NY.  Some of them are in Philly, some in Michigan, and others in Arizona, Kansas City, Boston, and Portland.  How much we keep in touch is usually determined by some wave of influence, like an impending visit, or need for advice, or some announcement about a major life change... or spontaneity and/or desperation to talk with someone who loves you, understands you, and has for a long time.  If I say that I am behind on laundry, most people think "yeah, sure... that makes sense, you have a lot of kids."  Only my long-distance friend, Heather, knows and understands what laundry failure really means for me.  Even though these women are far away, most of them know me better than the friends I see on a regular basis.  Some things, you can only learn through laundry freshman year.

Day 12:  Friends that are family.  I am lucky to say that some of my best friends are family first.  My sisters are also my best friends... all my sisters (biological, step, in-law) are some my closest and dearest friends.  There is something comforting about being loved by people who really don't have any other choice.

Day 13:  Friends who do life with me. These are women who I discuss books with, who I study the Bible with, who I cry with, and cry for.  These are women who have heard me sing (which I do loudly and constantly, despite having once been told by a college roommate that "even Jesus does not like my voice.")  Some have seen a baby come out of me, some have seen me throw up, some have seen my house (and my person) in a deplorable and unsanitary state, and they have all seen me cry.  (And dance.  If you haven't seen me dance, we really can't be that close.) They have forgiven me for a world of shortcomings, and still do life with me, pretending that people like me are normal.

It is a beautiful thing to have friends that have seen me at my worst and at my best.  They are one of the purest and most tangible ways that I can trust and believe that God exists.  He is the God that sees, and He has given me a slew of crazy friends throughout the years... all who have seen me, for better or worse, and have loved me in spite of an absurd amount of flaws, with a grace that only a merciful and very forgiving God could give.

*My challenge is for you to call one friend from each category and thank them for seeing you at your worst, and loving you anyways.  

November 9, 2012

The Gospel According to Harper

Day 9, I get a little back up from Harper who takes the opportunity to share his thoughts on faith... Ha!

Plus, a bonus almost-sighting of Tom sans shirt.


November 8, 2012

Please Excuse the Mess...

I have a sign hanging in my family that says this:

Please excuse the mess.  The children are making memories.

It doesn't make much sense when people come over, because when I have company, I pretend that we are tidy people.  In reality, we live in squalor... which is why my friend, Sam, thought of me when she saw this sign.  It was the sweetest, most offensive gift I ever got.

You see, for about three years now, Sam and I have met almost every Friday morning at the world's worst diner to do our Bible study together.  It is a time where we ask for accountability, we give unsolicited advice, we verbally abuse challenge each to grow in areas where we are struggling, and we confess how poorly we keep house.  Okay, she keeps her house pretty tidy... but, in my defense, I have twice as many walkers making a mess, so I blame the tiny toddling disaster-people.  Soon, my kids will be older and more responsible and her non-walking baby will start walking, and will make the place an absolute pig sty.  I look forward to the day I can smugly pass that sign back to her.

But, for now... it really belongs where it's at.

Day 8: I am thankful for my home.

I want to say that I am thankful for my home because I am a domestic goddess that keeps it sparkling at all time, after all I have a magic eraser in a holster alongside a toothbrush meant just for scrubbing.  Sadly, this would not be an accurate picture of me, or my home.  I won't say that it is a dump or anything, it is just so constantly lived in, that I can't stay on top of it.  I once took the time to figure out how much money I would make if I was actually being paid to do all of the things I do as a mom.  I could definitely afford a cabana boy housekeeper if I made just a little something for each monotonous task.

Well, until that happens, I am in charge of my home... so it isn't perfect.  So, instead of feeling thankful for my home just when every surface is completely free of calendars, art projects, yearbook order forms, and grocery lists... I am going to focus on being thankful for my house, just as it is.

I mean, deep down, don't we all want to be loved for who we are, just the way we are??  My house is old and lovely and she has kept us warm and safe for six full years now!  Doesn't she deserve a little unconditional love??  So, I am thankful for my home.  Clean or messy, quiet or chaotic... I am just thankful for it.

I love that our old heaters tick and bang.  I love that our house is very tall.  I love that we have brought two of our babies home to this house.  I absolutely love my bedroom.  I love it.  It is a cross between a rugged cabin and a bed and breakfast... and it makes me happy.

More than anything though, it is just the venue in which much of my life takes place.  So, I could honestly take it or leave it.  It's just the shell.  I am thankful for it, but I am not the type of person who gets really attached to objects.  I would love to move, again and again, and never stay in one place.  I am thankful that we have a home, but I am mostly thankful that it is filled with kids and noise and so many memories... and I am even thankful for the mess.

Okay, now I am just lying.


*note: the actual mess featured below the sign!




Here is what I am hoping you will do... have someone over to your home without cleaning up first.  Let them see the squalor in which you live, and let them love you in spite of it.  (They will judge you silently, and buy you a sign if it's really that bad.)  If your house is impeccable, then be thankful that you do not live within a stone's throw of me... because I would constantly be throwing stones at your and your stupid cleanliness.


November 7, 2012

Day 7: My Husband: A Close Second to a Good Breakfast

Okay, this time I really am thankful for my husband.  Our wedding anniversary is at the end of this month, so I was going to try to wait until then... but, after dissing him in this video yesterday, I felt like I should extend a peace offering.

First of all, I should clarify that Tom was not really enraged about my cinnamon halo.  When he opens the microwave at 6:30pm to heat something up, and he sees my ice cold coffee just sitting in there from the last time I did a reheat and forgot about it... his "enraged" response is that he blinks a little slower than usual.

Honestly, that is about as angry as he gets.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I have only heard Tom raise his voice on extremely rare occasions, and on those occasions there was either imminent danger, or we were sleeping in a thuderstorm.  Or someone poured cold water on him during a shower.  He does not love that.  He is a very gentle man, not in a weak way, but in a warm and comforting way.  My kids will likely never understand how lucky they are to have him as their daddy.

This past Sunday, our pastor gave a really great sermon about serving others.  One thing he said that stood out to me was when he addressed dads, saying that "nobody in the home should outserve" them.  For most guys listening to that, my guess would be that they were either ashamed, offended, convicted or guilty.  I can say though, that this is absolutely, 100% already true of Tom.  Hands down, he outserves us all.

I feel like I should try to give him a run for his money at least... but, there is no chance.  He is an invested, involved and interested dad... so he reads, he helps with homework, he wrestles and plays and is Mr. Napkin-head.  He is a good provider, and he sacrifices all the time, putting everyone else in front of himself.  He makes decisions based on what he believes he should do, never what he wants to do.

Granted, that last one can be taken a little too far... at a restaurant, 100 times out of 100, my husband wants a chicken finger basket.  Never in my life have I wanted a chicken finger basket, but he always wants one.  If you woke him up at 3:30 in the morning and asked him if he'd fancy a chicken finger basket, he would probably weep, because the dream he was in the middle of having, just came true.  Still, he "feels" like he should probably "try something different," so he orders some spinach wrap that never tastes like a chicken finger basket.  Even in ordering, he tries to do the right thing.  He is just a really good guy.  (Horrible orderer, but great guy.)

I am thankful for how Tom treats me.  You can't even begin to imagine what it is like to live with me.  Just a taste of life with me would send weaker men running in the other direction.  I would totally run in the other direction if it were an option, so it perpetually shocks and blesses me to know that Tom could fake his own death to get out of living with me, but he chooses not to.  I'm a handful y'all, and he doesn't just tolerate me... he seems to enjoy me most of the time!

Tom works from home.  Men with regular wives might find this to be a challenge, but in our house it is absolutely ridiculous.  I want to tell him things all day.  He calmly and patiently listens to my crazy ideas every five minutes, and he even survived The Great Video Chat Obsession of 2011, wherein I would video chat him constantly.  From downstairs.

We laugh together all the time, and when we disagree, we do so amicably.  That is 100% because of Tom.  Trust me when I tell you that I am not being humble about this... I AM A FIGHTER.  I don't like being told what to do, I don't like being wrong, (although that almost never happens), and I don't like pretending things are okay if they are not.  I have never loved these things about myself, but I can clearly see how God has used Tom to soften me.  I am still pretty feisty, but in all reality, I do not need to be a fighter.  I don't need to defend myself, and protect myself, and I don't need to look out for myself all the time... I have the kind of guy who wants to fight for me, defend me, protect me and put my best interest ahead of his own.  I mean... how can you fight with that kinda guy??

He really made me lose my edge.  What a jerk.

So, this is it.  I married a pretty phenomenal man, and I am thankful that the Lord has paired us together to refine, encourage and playfully insult one another.






November 6, 2012

Thankful for my Husband, I Mean Breakfast Foods

Today I am thankful for my sweet wonderful husband breakfast foods.

Here is what I want YOU to do... watch this, and cook breakfast for dinner for someone sweet!



November 5, 2012

Three Thankfuls for the Price of One.

I am sorely behind on my month of gratitude.  I think that not blogging on the weekends may happen more often than not, so... let's all just start being fine with that, shall we?

So, Day 3: I am thankful for lightheartedness.  I know that sounds cheesy, but I have had a pretty heavy life (if you read my blog last month, then you know what I mean... that was just ONE month of all my baggage people!  Can you imagine 12 of those!?!?)  Anyways, life is hard.  We are all faced with adversity, challenges and the limitless shortcomings of people around us.  Okay, okay... it is possible that my own shortcomings also make life a little touch and go at times.  That being said, I am deeply thankful for any moment that is not just "easy," but truly joy-filled.

I am most thankful for the playful moments... jokes, laughter, affection, friendly banter that may seem a little like verbal abuse, but are really just fun jabs at the expense of your loved ones.  These are the moments that I treasure.  I am so thankful that I can honestly say that the people I am related to, are people that I would actually choose to be friends with.  This is miraculous.  My life is so filled with heartache at times, that I can't help but rejoice in every drop of dry humor, sarcasm and hilarity that each day offers up.

My challenge to you:  Make somebody feel lighthearted.  Give a really specific and genuine compliment to cheer someone up, be more affectionate than normal (not like heavy petting, just a non-pervy hug or maybe just a high five if you can't control yourself.) Or make somebody laugh really hard.  Just email somebody with a word or phrase that will trigger a hilarious memory or inside joke.  I just sent a heytell message to my step-sister that only she would understand, and it will surely make her laugh until she pees a little.  And isn't that the point??

Day 4: I am thankful for pain.  Weird right?  But, try and follow... I once saw an episode of Oprah, where a little girl could not physically feel any pain.  She was constantly injuring herself, because she never really learned to not run directly into the corner of a coffee table.  Without pain, our brain never receives the signal to avoid danger.  Pain is a really important part of survival.  It is also the place where we become so aware of our uselessness and weakness, that we are forced to look for something bigger than ourselves.  If I hadn't had a heavy dose of pain at a very young age, I believe that I would have been susceptible to believing that life is good, people are good, and I am pretty good.  Instead, pain has taught me that actually, life is hard, all people are capable of heinous sins, and I am as sin-sick as any of us.  Pain has taught me that God is the only source of good.  Pain is where I first met Christ, and through His pain on my behalf, I am freed from my sin-sickness and will actually be equipped to do or be something good.  Without pain, we would all need to wear helmets, and we would think we could handle this life on our own, and we might even feel like we could escape this life unscathed.  What a preposterous and ridiculous perspective.

So, I am thankful for pain.  It keeps my kids from touching fire, and it keeps me from buying shoes too small, and it keeps my heart desperately seeking the only One who offers any relief.

My challenge to you:  Thank someone who taught you a painful lesson that you needed to learn.  That, or punch someone really hard and make them thank you.  (Only kidding.)

Day 5:  I am thankful for the country I live in.  I am thankful that I have freedom to say whatever absurd things I want.  I am thankful that I have a voice, and that I have enough guts to speak up, even when it is scary.  I am going to use my voice and my freedom later this month, to speak out against the atrocities that are happening at the hands of LRA leader, Joseph Kony.  While many have found Invisible Children and their efforts somewhat controversial, some friends and I have decided to take the opportunity to join them at the global summit in Washington D.C.  Whether you agree with the organization's methods in stopping war crimes, child sex-slavery, and children forced to become soldiers or not... this is a way to bring this issue before important law-makers without giving to Invisible Children as a cause.  In my opinion, it is the perfect opportunity to use our small voices to collectively speak up for those who have suffered at the hands of Kony and the LRA.

Here is My challenge to you: consider the country we live in and how blessed we are to have the freedoms we have, and consider speaking up and DOING something on behalf of those with no voice.  This is just one opportunity.





November 2, 2012

The Easiest Thing for me to Write About

I am thankful for my kids.  I know this seems like a cop out, but seriously, if you met my kids... you would probably report my poor housekeeping skills to CPS to try to get custody of them. That's how awesome my kids are.  I am so tired, and have such a headache... so, i am going to default to list mode.

Day 2:

  • Even when my kids make me nuts, they are hilarious and adorable.
  • They mispronounce things in such awesome ways, I can't correct them because I never want it to change.  (Who would want to correct Meglical Joidan back to Michael Jordan or say lasagna once you know alabazunia is an option??  How could we ever go back to "family movie nights" when "fanny noonie nights" are so much fun!?)
  • They give the worst compliments, that are really the best.  Like "Thank you, Mama, for these yucky eggs!"
  • They are so honest. ("I don't like your air smell." aka breath.)
  • They have given me the chance to have my dream job.
  • They still want me to come to their school and eat lunch with them and read books to their class.
  • They all sleep in a specific position, but there are no repeats.  
  • Awake or asleep, they are completely unique individuals, which I feel like is rare for a large family.
  • When London wakes up, she has one flap of hair on top of her head that sort of stands up and waves back and forth slowly like it is under water.  It is a gravity-defying miracle on top of a child's head.
  • Harper tells me I am beautiful pretty much every day, even if I haven't showered in decades.
  • Annalee has a scroll the width of our block with detailed illustrations of tiny vegetable people.
  • Marlie can identify most of the seasonings and spices in a dish, using only her sense of smell.
  • Harper can dribble better than most junior high basketball coaches.
  • I don't know if her clock is ticking or what, but London cannot pass a baby on the street without petting him and gently shooshing him, then asking if we can keep him.
  • If it isn't a school night, the girls sleep together on the top bunk and stay up late having "quiet sister talk."  If you press for details all you can get outta them is that they talk about "their feelings."
  • They have inspired me to say and do things I never thought I would say or do.
I could seriously go on and on about them forever.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while already know that.  :)  I am thankful for them and I will never understand how in the world I am the one who gets to be their mother.  

All of us either have kids, work with kids, know kids, or know somebody else who has kids.  It is a big responsibility to have influence in a child's life.  I am going to work on encouraging parents more, and I am going to work on the way I speak to my kids.  I want to eliminate all harsh or critical talk and only speak nurturing, life-giving words to them.  Here goes nothing!  What child could you influence??

November 1, 2012

1st Month Free, 2nd Month... I Put You to Work

I just finished one of the crazier months I have had in a long time.  Kindnesses were randomly splattered across Rochester by my friends and I, then across the country by so many of you who got on board and joined in!  I was inspired by how many people are really eager to DO something.  We also had an unsuccessful adoption, and are back to square one, just waiting... but, now we wait with this whole new fear and fragility that we hadn't had before.  I am ready for this month to bring new things, new life, and who knows... maybe the baby that God has selected to be in our family forever will finally make his or her way home.   

For the month of November, I have gone back and forth, counted votes and suggestions through emails, facebook comments, texts and calls.  Here is what I have decided... I have no idea what to do for the month of November.  I wanted to choose something that would keep everyone super involved and excited and inspired... but, the bottom line is that I am not that interesting.  I am a story-teller, yes, and I am passionate about sharing my life and struggles with other people, but it is really all pointless if there is no bigger purpose behind it.  I don't have any interest in telling all my deep, dark secrets in such a public way... if it does not inspire transformation.  So, I am going to spend the next 30 days reflecting on the things I am most thankful for, but I don't want to stop there... I want to MOVE in some sort of responsive ACTION.  Here's the thing though, I want you to come with me this time.

First I am going to tell you what I am going to do, and then I want you to think about what you are going to do.  Our generation has been accused of being major slackers.  Let's be honest, we are a shortcuttin' people are we not???  So, there is a part of that accusation that is true.  When we actually try to stand up for something, people have called it "slacktivism."  (It is such a clever insult, I can't even hate on it.)  But, I would like us to try and prove this to be untrue.

I will continue to pour out my heart, openly share my struggles, and take comedic jabs at my poor husband... but, only if you guys join me.  Well, leave the Tom-jabbing to me, but other than that... this is an "all-skate" as my pastor would say.  It is audience participation time!!  Get. on. board.

So, Day 1.  I am overwhelmingly thankful for my mother today.  I cannot bear to spend more than a few moments at a time thinking of how she felt 20 years ago today, when she had to come home and tell us that Adam was gone.  I remember each slow-motion moment, and I hope that I never have to dream of being as strong as she has been.  

As I shared before, I was dressed as my brother for Halloween the year that he was killed, and I came home and took off his warm-ups and sat down in his wrestling singlet and ate candy until I was about to vomit.  The next morning, when my mom and sister (Kristin) and her, then, fiancee (Joe) came home from the hospital, Adam's warm-ups were still on the floor.  As clearly as if it happened this morning, I can remember my mother seeing that little pile of Adam's clothes, crumpled from when his baby sister stepped out of them the night before, and asking Joe (with her sad eyes and one small movement of her hand) to take them away.

In a moment that a mother's pain could so easily have drifted her away to another world... she stayed there in the most painful moment of her life, so she could try to protect my sister (BethAnn) and I.  Nothing could have softened that moment that we learned that Adam would never come home, but the fact that my mom tried, makes her the most amazing woman on planet earth.  

I am so proud of who my mom is, and how she has faithfully served God and ministered to the souls of other woman who have lost their children.  She is funny and ridiculous and she taught me that it is better to stand out for being yourself than to blend in by pretending you are somebody that you're not.  She was the primary influence in me becoming who I am.  The original Hurricane Sandi, my mother and friend, and also my hero.  

(Besides Norm Green.)

So, here is what I am going to do.  I am going to publicly declare that my mother was always right.  There is truly nothing else that I could do that would make her happier.  You, Mom, were right about everything.  I will also call her to say thank you for every dime she spent on me, and every prayer she prayed over me, and every tournament she drove me to.  I will thank her for the surprise outings she took us on (except for that one time where she was like "surprise, it's a horrible musical!")  I will thank her for letting me check out as many audio casette/books in those huge ziplock bags from the library as I wanted.  I will thank her for being her, and for letting me be me.  

Now, it's your turn... time to call yo mama... or someone who plays a motherly role in your life, and tell her why you are thankful for her.  Then, share your story in the comment thread below.  Take it from me... we are all in this together, and when you think you are telling your own story, you are probably telling someone else's too.  So, let's spend this month giving thanks together and sharing our stories with each other, and for each other.
 


 

Helping the Ho Ho Homeless

For Day 31, the final day of my 31 Random Acts of Kindness, I put together a bag of stuff to deliver to a homeless man... Warm coat, warm socks, gum, snacks, meal replacement bars, candy, soap, cocoa, tea, etc.  I hit a few of the spots where there are some "regulars" but nobody was there.  We had dinner plans and trick-or-treating with friends, so we bagged the hunt for the homeless, and decided to try again on our way home.  We pretty much just drove through the worst parts of the city looking for a homeless person who might want tea.


This led to a totally ridiculous dialogue between Tom and I. Here are some highlights...

L: I don't know, everyone looks homeless.
T: No, he is walking too fast.  The homeless don't have to rush around like that.
L: Just because he is carrying so many plastic bags doesn't mean he is homeless.
T:  Have you ever seen anyone who isn't homeless carry that many bags?
L: Let's just see if that guys needs anything.
T: I'm not just going to assume that someone is homeless, I am not stopping until I am sure.  I need to see someone actually lying on cardboard before I approach them.
L: There are never any homeless people when you need one.
T: I don't know... maybe they cured homelessness.

We ended up bringing our care package to a local mission.  We are hoping that one of the extremely well-hidden homeless men in Rochester will come to the mission tonight, looking for a bed, and will discover a warm coat and some snack foods.  This felt a little like a fail, which is not how I wanted to go out... but, I also think that the idea here is that we are trying.  The intentionality of the kindnesses are the point.  It becoming a way of life is the point.  Glorifying God by seeing past ourselves, is the point.  I think that we accomplished those things this month.  

By the end of the night, spectacles were mangled, all the givers were "thank you ma'am"-ed, the candy was sorted and bartered, and we had a good time with friends and family.  There are only a few minutes left in the month of October, and while that is usually a good thing, I have to admit that I am feeling like I have to say goodbye to a dear friend I don't want to let go.  Partly because this is the most connected I have felt to Adam since he died.  And partly because this is the closest I have felt to the community of people who knew and loved him during his short life.  And also because of the amazing stories many of you have shared with me, of kindnesses that you passed on and ways that you creatively served others.

I believe that I will make this a yearly tradition for my family because I can't imagine a better way to celebrate the memory of Adam's life, instead of focusing just on his death.  

As promised, I took lots of pictures of my four little Santas.  I was Mrs. Clause and Tom was an elf.  You may have to look close on Tom's but he has pointy felt ears, and a curl on his shoes.  ***Important Advisory!!! If you have a heart condition, or are easily nauseated, do not look at the following pictures.  I made myself into a future version of myself.  I was saddened by how disturbed Tom was with Elderly Me.  It ain't pretty y'all, I'm not gonna lie.  (But, Tom probably should have.)




























October 30, 2012

Man Cannot Live on Potatoes Alone

Tomorrow is Halloween.  This is usually the day that I am dreading.  I never know how I am going to feel or what I will want to do, so I dread making plans that I will feel I have to keep.  I spend the week (or two) before Halloween pouring myself into making homemade costumes, like these:

Jesse from Toy Story 2

Daniel Son and Capatin Awesomehook 

Two Cupcakes and a Candle 

A Chick hatching out of an egg, Jesse, Al from Al's Toy Barn and Lebron James

Prince Moustachio


This is how I spend shameless amounts of time, distracting myself from the pain of the anniversary of my brother's death, and focusing on the fun and silliness of the day instead.  This year, all four kids are going to be Santa Claus.  How about that for all your pagan rituals knocked out in one??  Take that legalism.

Anyways, I asked Harper what I should do for my act of kindness when I was sitting knee deep in Santa Fur and red felt... and he said "I don't know, maybe you could make four Santa costumes for us?"  

So, let us count that as kindness #1: handmade Santa costumes for the children... complete with beards, spectacles (thanks Aunt Carlie for making those!), and fur-trimmed toy sacks which double as candy bags.  I might count this as a kindness to all of mankind again tomorrow when I post the picture.  Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing better than four Santas of varying sizes, genders and skin tones.  

Kindness #2: I agreed to start driving a little girl to and from ballet twice a week.  Her mother has work conflicts and would no longer be able to do ballet if someone couldn't take her back and forth.  This might be one of the most challenging and sacrificial Acts of Kindness I have done so far.  It is a mad scramble to get to ballet on time as it is... 

My original Kindness #3 will be postponed until tomorrow because Tom feared for my safety and forbid me from this late-night kindness and instead forced me to commit...

Kindness #4: delivering Indian food to a bachelor down the street who had only eaten potatoes for dinner.


Okay, Tom didn't force me.  I tried to force him, and he wouldn't cave so I delivered some of the dinner that I made, plus a refreshing beverage.  The neighbor seemed very excited and said I was awesome.  Tom coulda been a part of all that... but, he just hates kindness, and bachelors, and he wishes all-potato dinners on everyone he sees.

As for me, I am finding myself dreading Halloween a little less than normal.  It has been a totally different experience using the whole month to really think about Adam in a positive way.  I think that October will start to feel less and less about the anniversary of my brother's death, and more about the month where I serve others intentionally because that is who my brother was, and that is who God requires me to be.  


October 29, 2012

I Hope Sandy's Hungry

Today was a potpourri of kindnesses.  

Kindness #1: I left my purse at church on Sunday and it was rescued by the children's ministry director and his wife, so I thanked him when I went to church to retrieve my purse by bringing him a thermos full of hot, spiced cider.  

Problem #1: His wife was really the heroin of the purse, so I probably cider-gifted the wrong person.
Problem #2: When the kids discovered that I had given the rest of the spiced cider to Mr. Matt, they made it clear that they were ready to be done giving our treats away to other people to be kind.  

Kindness #2: I bought a few extra stamps to leave with the cashier at the post office for other customers who need stamps.

Kindness #3: I bought a snickers for the checkout lady at the grocery store.

Problem #3:  All my little extras have started adding up... I should have budgeted for a kindness expense account so that we can stop hovering just above the poverty line.

Kindness #4:  I gathered and returned people's grocery carts for them so they could get out of the rain as soon as they loaded their groceries into their cars.

Problem #4:  People were bulking up on staples in preparation for power outages, so that meant a lot of standing in the rain waiting for their carts.  This made them slightly uncomfortable, and put me at moderate risk of hypothermia.  

Kindness #5: I brought a meal and a few basics (well, carrot cake isn't technically a basic, unless you have taste buds...) to a man who recently lost his wife.  He is living alone and his daughter is very near and dear to my heart, but she lives out of state.  So, a little extra love and care from me, is like a little love and care from her.  So, I think he was blessed by my delivery.



Problem #5:  This man was not at home, so I had to leave the items on his porch.  Normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal, if it weren't for...

Problem #6: Hurricane Sandy.

I know people always say that it is the thought that counts, but sometimes it is actually eating the dinner that counts.  "What!? You're dinner blew away entirely!?  Oh... well, it's the thought that counts."  Nobody would ever say that because it's so stupid.  So, I am hoping that his dinner survived.

I quintupled up on Acts of Kindness partly because I am nearing the end of this month, and I want to get in as much as I can while I am this focused and intentional about doing it... but also because it has become a habit.  I don't know if I can ever go through the grocery check-out and chose to not spring for the extra 70 cents to make someone's day.  It is just becoming a way of life... which is really bad news for my kids who think that in a few days I will stop giving away all our candy.


Okay, readers, followers, friends... I have a favor to ask.  I am in a blogging groove with my daily posts, and many of you have asked me what I am going to do in November. The answer... surprise! I have no idea.  So, tell me this... what would YOU like to see me do for the month of November?  Place your votes in a comment below or on facebook or through an email or private message.  Send me a telegram if you must... but I need input!  I want to keep going because I have so enjoyed sharing this journey with so many of you, it's about time you people helped me carry all this baggage! ;)  

October 28, 2012

A Face-Off With Injustice

One time, I threatened to beat the crap out of a tween.  

True story, and it actually wasn't that long ago.  There were a couple of tweens who were babysitting for one of the girl's nephews and they were terrorizing the poor kid at a playground.  The girl was about 12-13 years old and the little boy was probably 2 1/2 or 3.  (Just about the age of my little London...)



The girls were using horrific language, include racial slurs, and were forcing the poor baby down a big slide... one of those tall, dark, corkscrewing tube slides, and he was terrified.  He was gripping the top of the slide like his life depended on it, screaming and crying, and the girls were just laughing at him and they were using their feet to try to push him down the slide.  Something in me absolutely snapped. 

I am not saying that this is how I should have handled it, but I walked over there and let 'er rip.  I told this girl that she had absolutely no business spending time with her nephew if she is going to treat him like that.  I asked them if they felt pretty big and bad because they could make a toddler cry.  I called them miserable bullies and then I said that if I was that boy's mother that I would tear their faces off, and if I hear them use the N-word one more time in front of my children, that I actually will tear their faces off.

I can't say with 100% certainty, but I am about 95% sure that I committed a crime during all the threatening and the flailing.  (Oh, did you not picture flailing?  Trust me, these gangly arms went buck nutty.  I don't think it helped my street cred, but I think I was subconsciously implementing a strategy I learned from camping in bear country... if you stumble upon a dangerous beast, make yourself appear as large as possible.  So, when threatened, I flail a little.)  

I don't know if the girls were scared or embarrassed or if they were just plain stunned by this interaction with a total wild woman, but they left pretty quickly after that and waited until they were a half mile away, before they started yelling their comebacks at me.   By that time I had already returned to my also-stunned family eating dinner, and tried to explain why Mommy was "talking a little rough and rudely to the strangers."

I sort of think this is a metaphor for my whole life.  I am not a person to sit on the sidelines, or to watch something go down that I don't think is right.  I am just one of those people who is going to speak up or speak out.  Trust me when I tell you that I am not bragging... clearly I don't handle situations correctly all the time!!  But, I can't not try.  There is just something inside of me that longs for justice and for peace.

I was reminded today from an old friend of my brother's how his death left so many young people with the devastating realization that in this world, there is rarely justice.  This led to a huge march and a petition with thousands of signatures, all calling out for justice.  We wore t-shirts and carried a banner donning the slogan "No Justice, No Peace."  These words lit a fire in me then, and now, when things like this happen, and there is a victim who cannot speak for himself, I simply cannot help but speak from him.  

Though I do not speak as politely as I should - I am working on that, I truly am.  I wish that I could have gone to those girls calmly, with my arms staying down at my sides, and said to them "Ladies, I know that you probably lack parental guidance and maybe you were treated like this when you were little... but, what you are doing to this little boy is not right, and it wasn't right when people treated you like that either.  Come now, let us hug it out and I shall retrain you on all the ways of behaving nicely at the playground."  I want to be cool and calm and have superb control over my limbs at all times. But, even if I blow it sometimes, this thing in me, this mama-bear alarm that erupts in me at the sight of the helpless, is one of the few qualities about myself that I love.

The reality is that I am a work in progress and that I blow it, yes, but I have never regretted standing up for what I believe in.  I have never regretted helping the underdog, trying to break up a fight, or to protect someone who is defenseless.  I don't always handle it the right way, in fact I am sure I handle it poorly most of the time, but the actual drive inside of me to respond at all in a world that is sometimes so silent, is a gift from the God who created me for a purpose.  

I spent a few hours on the phone with Adam's best friend earlier this month.  He walked me through moment by moment the night that Adam was killed.  He answered a lot of questions that I didn't even realize that I had.  It was a painful conversation, but it was also a relief in a way.  I could stop wondering about what happened to my brother that night, because every time I did... my victim alarm would sound so loudly it was deafening.  My desire for justice will never be satisfied in the case of my brother's death, but I can honestly say that I think maybe we were wrong about our slogan.  I think that peace doesn't come from justice at all... perhaps peace can only come from grace.

I might be wrong, but I have found that in this past month of extending kindness in the memory of my brother, and living in light of all of the beautiful graces God has shown me... I have had more peace than if I were still in the fight for justice.  In my opinion, the man who killed my brother could have gone to jail for the rest of his life, and he would have gotten what he deserved.  Justice would have been served, but I don't think that would bring my parents anymore peace in the loss of their only son.

I am finding that true and lasting peace only comes from living in light of and in response to the Greatest Act of Kindness that a very just and gracious God extended to me, through the loss of His only Son.




Day 28: We returned our library books with this attached to it.  Sometimes speaking up for the underdog means threatening to tear the face off of a bully, and sometimes it means encouraging a librarian.  But, no matter what speaking up ends up looking like... I think that I will modify our old slogan when I am bringing up my kids in this very unjust world.  Perhaps instead of teaching them that there will be no peace unless there is justice, I will introduce them to the Prince of Peace, who is in charge of justice.  No Jesus, No Peace... That has a pretty redemptive ring to it.