the little things: a flood of passion (crystal cochran).

I’m just warning you: your heart will be captured today.  Enjoy the words of an old friend of mine …who’s subsequently become one of my favorite encouragers in these here internet portals.  Crystal is a buddy from college, but her enthusiasm and her spirit and her heart will shine through her words today, and you will leave change.  Enjoy. 

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It happened all at once. A flood of passion. I was undone.

Standing in a hallway at a local high school, I was so full of emotion, it was hard to sort through which I felt most: sadness, anger, honor, privilege, pride, complete humility. All of these things were running through my veins in one intense moment. And yet, my own four kids were waiting patiently for me and I had to keep my feet moving. I had to keep the tears from flowing all at once, because I knew when I did have a moment, they would flow and not stop for a long time. Buckets of tears held back in this moment by – well, really, by my sunglasses. And perhaps by the knowledge that this wasn’t a good time to let tears, snot and emotions run freely.

Let me back track: I’ve worked with youth for most of my adult life. I spent the first two years of college trying to figure out and test God’s great love for me. And once I realized it was for real, I wanted teenagers to know his love, too. I started volunteering for an organization called Young Life, playing games and doing crazy stunts, on purpose, to hopefully steer the teens towards Truth.  It actually worked sometimes, plus, I met my amazing and handsome husband there – so clearly, it was time well spent.

Then, upon graduation I wrecked the idea I’d given to my parents that I would be a kindergarten teacher, in a jumper, with an apple embroidered on the front, by instead “asserting my independence” and telling them I was going to work for a non-profit, teaching at-risk students, not exactly using the degree that they had just spent thousands of dollars on. (Little did I know, that they had already seen my passion and knew in their hearts I probably would not be the “typical” teacher. Bless them).

When I started having my own kids I was creative with my “teen time” and became the local HS cheer coach. AND I LOVED EVERY SECOND. But their stories broke my heart and I cried for them at night, because it was good and it was hard.

They changed me and I changed them and it was beautiful.

Then we had another baby and moved to the other side of the state – and when you move and have a baby in the same year, your world gets flipped upside down and you become very focused on your own survival. And this is where I have remained …for the past three years.

Focused. On. Myself.

I forgot about students. I forgot their stories. I forgot how they change me for the better. And then a couple of months ago, Ben (the handsome husband), got hired as the head football coach at a local high school, which is a dream fulfilled for him. Our family loves football – and football has become THE TOOL to get me out of this self-focus, survival mode. I’ve been missing the students and their laughter and their stories. I’d forgotten than I missed it.

And that’s how I found myself walking into a high school hallway, seeing boys lining it, in their stinky football clothes. I had come to practice to hand out popsicles. It’s a tradition and it’s always fun to give the boys a little treat. But they left for lunch, so I had to run in to the building when I saw it. The boys, some with lunch, but, like a cold bucket of ice water thrown over my head, the boys without lunch.

Because they hadn’t left their lunch at home on the counter.  They weren’t being irresponsible.  Not them.

These boys came to two-a-day practice and didn’t have a lunch. These boys come from a high school whose free and reduced lunch rate is at nearly 79%, and when my husband did Captain Interviews, four of these eight kids were homeless or live in a home with no utilities.  Their fridge is a cooler with ice, for there is no running water.

And there, standing in that hallway, I remembered what it means to have your heart break with real lives and real stories. I was moved to tears and passion. I was motivated into action. And I had a choice that day, for many years passed since their stories stirred me into action and now I had four kids. Four kids. They too need my time and attention …but these other kids needed food. Can I give my time and attention to my own kids AND feed the homeless? In my spirit, I debated.

Can I love my own four children AND love 100 high schoolers?

How, on this earth, do I do both?

Am I really that brave?

And will my own kids suffer if my heart is now divided by not just four but 104?

All I can say, is that the journey of the past four months has been a modern-day rendition of the five loaves and two fishes. Every week we do a team meal and we feed the players, and last night, we had two at our dinner table.

The community is donating food, time, money and the little (or lot) that they have gets expanded and used and the highschoolers eat. And EVERY TIME these dinners are my own kids “favorite” time of the week. Because their little hearts are also capable of big love – and they are perhaps even more brave in their kindness and unrelentless love than I.

So my heart sings – may I never grow weary of love! May WE never grow weary of love! May love motivate our actions and stir our hearts again.

IMG_5151Crystal Cochran is a stay-at-home mom who is itching to teach again. She is married to the best man on the planet, Ben, and they have four kids: a set of “SURPRISE, you are pregnant with twin boys”, a sweet, bright-shining daughter and a firecracker of a three-year old son. Life with these people is an adventure every day from which she collapses into bed after a glass of Cab Sav. They love each other, camping, Jo-Joes with milk, Jesus, the real Friday night lights and dreaming about someday traveling the world. She blogs occasionally at Simplicity With Power.  So, what can you say to encourage she who encouraged YOU today?  How does Crystal’s story move you to action?

Also, would you like to help provide a meal to these young men at Rogers High School?  You can mail your donation here:

Rogers Gridiron Group, PO BOX 6025, Spokane, WA 99217

avoiding the thank you-but (a repost).

Lately, I’ve been dishing out a whole lot of “thank you-buts.”  A friend or stranger – it doesn’t matter who – gives me a genuine, real-life compliment, and instead of chewing and swallowing their kindness as I should, I pop their words in my mouth and spit it into my napkin like a five-year-old with an aversion to green beans.  Instead of seeing and accepting Truth for what it is, I twist and pull and blend and stretch compassion into my own skewed interpretation.  So today I looked up this post I’d written exactly two years ago, right after our first son was born …because I needed to hear its message again.  And who knows?  Maybe you do as well.  Enjoy.  xo.

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A couple Sundays ago, one of my favorite little old ladies came up to me after church; she gushed and oohed and ahhed over the little one, and complimented me on how skinny I looked after having just had a child. I looked at her, and I looked down at my tummy that still done-lapped over my waist and thought about the dreamy In-n-Out vanilla shake and cheeseburger, no onions, I’d just consumed the afternoon before. I thought about how my old jeans still didn’t fit, and did she notice that I only seemed to wear stretch pants these days? So I gave her a thank you-but.

“Well, thank you but I still have a long way to go.” I took her genuine compliment, swirled it around in the messed-up blender of my own misguided perceptions and threw it out the window.

That’s when she tossed it back to me.

“Say thank you, Jackie.”

I looked at her. “Huh?”

“I said, say thank you, Jackie.”

I paused, confused. I cocked my head to the side and looked at her quizzically: What was I supposed to say in return? Oh, that’s right: “Thank you, Jackie.”

But did I believe it?

Somewhere along the way, I’ve become a thank you-butter, and I’d venture to say we’ve become a culture of thank you-but’s. Genuine compliments are dished out, only to be received and swirled around in the jumbled mess of who our minds think we’re supposed to be.

Like much of the female population, I’ve continued to hold onto the belief that I’m too fat and need to lose another 10 pounds. I remember believing that I was one size too big for the first time in the 3rd grade – I read “One fish, two fish” to my little sister, and climbed up and down the stairs of our backyard treehouse, and had dreams of becoming an astronaut someday, and I believed that I should have been a size 8 instead of a size 10. At nine years old. And thus I began to dish out the thank you-but’s.

My resolution is this: I don’t want to be a thank you-butter anymore. I want to just say thank you and receive the kind words as they were meant to be heard. I want to tuck those delicious words into my pocket and carry them around near my heart, and not worry so much about who I’m not but instead be okay with who I am. And when I then give a sweet morsel of truth to a friend, I don’t want it to be thrown back with a side of butter.

Is it just me?

Are you a thank you-butter?  Is this a female thing or a white thing or a Christian thing …or just a me thing?  Let’s dialogue! 

the little things: wading through quicksand (christine kernaghan).

As usual, you’re in for a treat today.  Because if you’re anything like me – or like my friend, Christine, sometimes you try and Wonder Woman, Super Woman, Choose-Your-Favorite-Superhero take on the world …only to be reminded that this is the last thing you need to be doing.  So, soak up and enjoy the words of this dear friend of mine.  Enjoy, indeed.  

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As a little girl, my all-time favorite Halloween costume was Wonder Woman. Looking back, a toddler dressing up as a busty brunette in underwear and tall boots may not have been the most appropriate costume, but something about those Underoos changed me, inspired me. I was afraid of nothing, able to conquer any challenge, walk through any haunted house without batting an eye. I was invincible.

That must have been one powerful costume because to this day, there is still a broken little part of my brain that believes myself to be invincible. I forget I have limitations all the time, and when I encounter one of them, I have the incredible ability to push through, with a heroic smile on my face.

What usually happens is that I get myself into a pickle, up to my eyeballs in overcommitment until I figure out some way to make it through, or pass out trying, usually the latter.

Lately, though, I have been learning the hard lesson (and not very gracefully) of my limitations. Almost a full year of an undiagnosed illness has kept me from being able to work or care for my family, and much of my day is spent lying in bed.

As hard as it is to feel sick, one of the worst parts has been watching my hubby pick up my slack and carry my burden. Because we job share, he has not only taken on my responsibilities at work, but has also had to juggle our two toddlers when I cannot, which is often. When I see the worn out look on his face and hear the emptiness that can creep into his voice after a long day of tantrums and to-do lists, I start to panic, trying to find a way to muscle through and make this work.

Oftentimes, it feels like wading through quicksand – the more I struggle, the further I sink. I push through my symptoms to catch up on something that feels important, or get him out of the house to catch a baseball game with friends …and end up in bed for the rest of the day. For a Wonder Woman who’s spent her life taking on the world’s problems (not always well, and rarely neatly), lying in bed and watching things pile up can be torture.

Earlier this week, I had a particularly bad day. I had tried to take on too much, and ended up keeping my hubby from work for half the day while I recovered. And on top of that, I found a tiny bald spot on the back of my head where my once-thick-and-lovely hair was revealing the toll that my mysterious illness has taken.

Lying in bed, I replayed in my mind the worn out look on my hubby’s face as I left him with the kids, and tried desperately to think of something that I could do to fix it. Reaching over to my night stand, I picked up my journal, flipping through at random in the hopes of finding something – anything – useful.

And on June 5th, without elaboration, was this verse:

“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul– not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory strength that God gives. It is the strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” (Colossians 1)

I felt anything but strong and a long way from joy. What hurt in that moment was the feeling that life was happening without me, and that the more I tried, the less I was able to participate in it. But that prayer: to be able to take part in everything bright and beautiful that my Creator has for me.

Clicking on my phone, I began scrolling through my pictures from the last several months. I’m not quite sure why I did it, except that I needed to be reminded of the things I had participated in – what was under my belt, so to speak.

There was a selfie, requested by my four year old, with both of my boys squeezed in, making goofy faces at the camera; a video of my oldest, reciting facts about “noc-turtle” dinosaurs; pictures from the first day of preschool; a rare dinner out to celebrate my hubby’s birthday; and a perfect day at Balboa Island, sharing an ice cream bar with my boys from the very same ice cream shop I visited as a little girl.

And there it was: joy – deep, rich, and strong. All those bright and beautiful things I had been able to take part in, they were right there: simple, everyday occurrences that make life Life. As little as it was, that small act of scrolling through my photo reel caused something to settle inside. There was no sudden discovery of newfound strength – I simply didn’t need to grit my teeth and push through.

No elaborate prayers of thanksgiving were prayed, no Hallelujah choruses broke out. To be honest, all I did was turn out the light and go to sleep. But I knew that something inside me was entering back into Life, alongside its author.

photo 1Christine and her husband work for a non-profit that helps college students find spirituality in everyday life. She has the privilege of raising two fantastic little boys in a city that she loves, surrounded by people that they love.  She writes occasionally at
On the Wings of a Pig – follow her today!  Otherwise, how did Christine’s words encourage you today?  How were you reminded that the little things really are the big things?  Leave a comment today!

Lessons from a Stranger.

Remember when I told you about that frazzled time I had at Target a month or two ago?  Well, that piece morphed into an article on leadership featured yesterday at She Loves magazine.  Enjoy!  

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She didn’t have to do it. But she saw the tears in my eyes and she saw the reddening frustration in my face and she saw the screaming toddler slumped over my protruding, bloated belly.

She saw me, and that was all it took. And in that moment, receiving her gift of kindness was the only thing I could do in return.

Because it was just one of those days: Thomas the Train wasn’t enough today, and Mama ran out of more “Berries! Berries!” All I wanted to do was lay on the couch and hibernate for another nine months, and all my son wanted to do was run and catch and throw, repeat—run and catch and throw, repeat.

By the time we arrived at Target, he wasn’t having the cart and I wasn’t having his tantrums, but what’s a girl to do when you’re already splitting the one remaining square of toilet paper in two, and all the baby-in-womb seems to crave is a bowl of Quaker Oats?

Although I could have—and perhaps should have—left the store the minute we walked inside, I remained determined to win. I’ll beat him at his own game, I thought to myself. But there’s no beating the stubborn will of a 25-month old—and by the time we met that Stranger-of-a-Saint in line, we’d both fought the good fight … and lost.

So somehow, perhaps because she saw me, she just knew. She knew we needed to not wait in line a minute longer than necessary: she began clearing her items from the conveyer belt, putting them back into her cart, motioning her young daughter to help. In broken English, she said, “Go ahead of us, please.” She waved and she motioned at me—and she, the giver of kindness—tacked on a please, to me, the recipient.

All I could do was receive.

All I could do was hope she saw the thank you, thank you, thank you of my teary eyes, and the bless you, bless you, bless you emanating from choked-up throat.

Now, a week later, I think and reflect on this little two-minute gift of selflessness, and I can’t help but muse that she is a woman who knows how to lead.

And it makes me realize that leadership looks different from my own original definitions of it, when I toted a leader as the one with wit and charm and good looks, to boot. A gregarious, up-front, hilarious attitude was naturally a part of the package, as was—at least in the Evangelical circles of my youth—the one who preached the best sermon, who loved Jesus the most, who emanated holiness the best.

Click here to read the rest of the article – otherwise, how have everyday experiences taught you life’s bigger lessons?  

the little things: the unanswered skype call (rachel zupke).

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Today’s writer is the lovely Rachel, who captures what it means to make the choice to live positively in the moment …even when a two-year-old seems to dictate every brain thought and reaction-filled emotion.  So revel in what our friend has to say today, and – of course, as usual – enjoy.

The Unanswered Skype CallShe didn’t answer. But that was okay, at least to me (initially). To my toddler, though, having Auntie not answer our Skype call was devastating. I think we tried to call her at least 12 more times, that mechanical ring sounding ever louder each time we’d attempt a connection. At the time, it was quite annoying but my daughter was insistent that we talk to Auntie.

I will admit I got a bit frustrated. Frustrated because I knew she wouldn’t answer if she didn’t answer right away. Frustrated because I was exhausted but we were out of milk which meant I couldn’t have an iced chai. Frustrated because there was a pile of diapers left to assemble from last night’s cleaning cycle and I simply didn’t have the energy to do them. And frustrated because my daughter just wouldn’t let it go. Auntie was not going to answer.

Of course, she was chirping on and on about “Auntie no answer” and “Auntie not there” and even “Auntie call us?”.

Instead of reveling in her sing song voice that will mature into a true little girl at any moment, instead of making a game out of the repeat attempts to reach her beloved Auntie, instead of acknowledging her disappointment and demonstrating empathy with her difficulty…I got frustrated. By the littlest thing.

I had a choice that morning. Enjoy the hopeful search for Auntie through cyberspace and join in my daughter’s anticipation of a potential conversation with this woman she and I both love or get frustrated by what I, in that moment, deemed annoying.

In my journey through motherhood, I’ve been more than disappointed in myself. I am a recovering perfectionist and control freak, two conditions I am sure I will never be completely free of. But in the last two years, I’ve learned more about myself as well as of God.

How many times has He patiently waited through my repeated pleas for what to Him could seem incredibly small? Because of His great love for us, He never once cast off my request as frustrating or as lacking His attention. Sure, I didn’t get an answer right away but then again maybe I did, seeing as unanswered prayers are also a form of answer (to channel a famous country music singer).

A Skype call, or unanswered one, rather, brought out the worst in me. Upon recollection, though, I think it also illuminated where I need to work the most. On patience, on remembering and comprehending just how much patience my Heavenly Father has for me, and on the incredible opportunity I’m given each day I get to spend with a child who will be little for not much longer.

In case you’re still wondering, Auntie did call back. The ear to ear grin my newly turned two year old was something I’ll never forget. Yes, her smile was technically small in size and in brevity, but giant in its ability to imprint on my mind. It’s something I’ll go back to every time I get frustrated over something small.

IMG_7134cropRachel is a stay at home mom to a toddler. Her husband brings home the big bucks as a high school science teacher, and she helps out financially by coaching (cross country, basketball, and rowing) and substitute teaching at her hubby’s high school (where she taught HS science, pre-baby). She writes about living with perseverance, passion, and purpose (or, what she deems Mason Jar Values) over at rachelzupke.com. Because life for Rachel = faith and family, homemaking, real food and natural living, outdoor adventures with their Siberian Husky, and local happenings.  You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.  So, your thoughts?  (This coming from someone who just posted “PSA to the whole wide world: don’t ever try and reason with a two-year-old”…).  What have you learned about yourself and about the world in one small moment?  Encourage Rachel today!

the little things: saying good-bye (ginger lobdell).

Friends, I want you to meet one of my favorite internet-friends, Ginger.  She is a storyteller, and for today’s guest post spot, she catches that moment of saying good-bye just perfectly.  So enter in to what she has to say today …and be sure to cheer her on afterwards.  Love to all!

Nothing is small, in fact...

It was the time that every divorced parent fears – the moment when your heart is ripped from your body as you say goodbye to your precious little ones. His Friday evening had rolled around again, and it was time for hugs and farewells as my boys left to spend the scheduled every other weekend with their father. These are the times that I dreaded the most.

“Bye, Mom! See you Monday! Love you!”

Our middle son jumped down the last three stairs and gave me a high-five as he started toward the door. I caught him and planted a smooch on his freckled cheek. “Blech,” he giggled as he wiped the back of his hand over the place where I had kissed him. He’s not a fan of showing affection through physical touch, so I’m used to him brushing it off.

He turned around and smiled up at me as I gave him a quick hug. “I’ll miss you, Mom! Tell Daddy Joe HI for me and that I miss him, too!” 

“I’ll do that, Buddy. I love you so much!”

Our youngest son grabbed my hand, wrapping my arm around him and his backpack filled with his favorite stuffed animals. I can’t believe my baby is getting so big.

“Bye-bye, Momma! I yuv you!”

“I love you, too, Honey. I’ll miss you so much while you’re gone!”

I nuzzled my cheek against our oldest son’s black hair as he threw his arms in a bear hug around me. When did he grow to be so strong?

“Love you, Mom! I’ll miss you!”

“I love you so much, Dude! Have a great weekend!”

Sighing, I watched them climb into the car. Every other weekend… You’d think I would be used to these goodbyes by now, but the part where I watch them drive away never gets easier, even after all these years.

I almost turned away from the window. I didn’t want to watch them leave again…but something held me there. Our middle son looked up to see me waving at the window. He waved back, and then he blew me a kiss.

I yearned to run after my boys, and wrap them up in the safety of my arms for just a moment longer, but I knew that I had to let them go.

My eyes welled up with all of the emotion that I had been holding back. That little moment in time, and those little fingers blowing me a kiss, was greater than any gift that I could have ever wished for myself. A peace trickled over me as the taillights faded into the night.

Everything is going to be okay. I promise.

As long as I live, I will cherish the gift I was given that day. I know that it was just a small thing, but to this Mommy’s heart, she was given the whole world.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart…” ~ Luke 2:19

Ginger ~ Justoneoftheboys.comGinger is an Air Force wife to her Beloved, mommy to her three growing boys, and a Kansas girl. Her Yellow Brick Road has led her through deep valleys of loneliness, betrayal, heartache, divorce, illness, and searching. She has also encountered the glorious paths of motherhood, friendship, rapture, butterflies – oh the butterflies, promise, hope, healing, new beginnings, and a love that she had never known possible. She would love to connect with you on her blog – Just One of the Boys, and on Facebook!  So, what did you think of Ginger’s moment?  How did her words touch you?

 

love made tangible.

I posted this picture on Instagram last night, with the following caption:

Let’s be honest: besides the little human who now resides outside of the womb, my favorite post-pregnancy thing is the FOOD.  To me, meal trains are love personified …shown through taqueria burritos and wine bearing family names.  Thank you to those who have loved us and will love us in this way.  It matters.

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And it does.  It does matter.  Because too often in our social media-saturated culture, we forget about each other, even though we see each other all the time.  We observe each other’s worlds (or at least the worlds we choose to portray) on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, and we read about each other on our blogs – and it makes us think that we’re connecting with each other.  But we’re not.  We are like ships passing in the night, perhaps even lifting a hand or blowing a kiss in our friend’s general direction – though altogether failing to actually make human contact.  Oftentimes, we entirely miss the point of connection, hoping that those we love know we’re thinking of them as pictures of their lives scroll through our news feeds, as a story they’ve told makes us giggle and laugh and think.

But we forget to call.

And we don’t always take the time to shoot a thinking of you text.

Letters and packages become virtually obsolete, and stopping by “because I was in the neighborhood” becomes a thing of yesterday.

Truthfully, I’ve had countless conversations with people about the simultaneous blessing and curse that comes with living in a technology-sodden cosmos, because, really, I’m just as guilty as the next person.  But it brings us full-circle back to Point A: that’s why I love the meals that come post-pregnancy.  Because, whether it’s made from scratch or picked up from the local taqueria or delivered via Munchery from 800 miles away, it’s love made tangible.

It reminds me that I am remembered …and not just another one of your 1000 friends.

It lets me know that I am loved and cared for and thought of …and not just another pixel-filled image taking up brain space.

And it nudges me to do the same, because this is what and who we’re supposed to be for each other, whether on the end of giver or receiver.

So, go.  Do it.  Make love – or Love, however you see it – tangible.

In this with you, c.

Some thoughts: Do you have a friend who just had a baby or lost a loved one?  Is a buddy of yours sick or seeming overwhelmed?  Reach out to him or her.  Don’t just hope your psychic good vibes make the subliminal journey from one city to the next, but make love tangible.  And if, for instance, you want to jump on providing a friend a meal, even though you live a state or two away, check out websites like Munchery or Caviar, which deliver chef-made meals right to your door.  Pick up a restaurant gift card at Safeway and pop it in the mail.  Enter their zip code into Yelp, and see what local businesses potentially deliver right to their door.  Just do something. What about you?  When you’ve need a helping hand, how have you been shown love?  What other websites or ideas would you recommend to the rest of us?