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“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say —is there a right thing to say?—but I call her back from a gas station in Oregon and the tears come flooding out when she answers. This little fleeting baby, tinier than any fruit or nut, has the power to crush us both. I am considering the could-have-beens, and mourning the moments we won’t have. I wanted this baby so badly for her. I wanted her baby so badly for me.

That night, curled up on her brown leather couches with toddler board books scattered at our feet, we cry together. She makes me promise not to feel guilty, and I make her promise to tell me if I say anything insensitive. As we navigate new territory in our friendship, I wonder how this night will be marked. Is this when we draw closer or farther from one another?”

—from when your friend miscarries and you don’t, my own submission to Coffee + Crumbs this month

“Our schools do amazing things with our children. And they are, in a way, teaching moral standards when they ask students to treat one another humanely and to do their schoolwork with academic integrity. But at the same time, the curriculum sets our children up for doublethink. They are told that there are no moral facts in one breath even as the next tells them how they ought to behave.” from Why our children don’t think there are moral facts in the New York Times

“For a show that encourages 14-person dates and the temporary negotiation of a lifestyle that could be best described as G-rated swinging, the whole shebang is awfully precious when it comes to the fact that sometimes, some of these people have sex with each other.” —Sex and the Single Churl: Another Bachelorette Finale Gets Weird from NPR

“Choose, instead, to read it as the story of a hero we’ve known since her childhood, a fellow sojourner learning what it means to swipe away the tin gods of her youth and to find a voice brave enough to speak up for equality and courageous enough to keep loving those who disagree. If ever there was one I’d want next to me on this wobbly path, it surely would be Miss Jean Louise Finch.” from Why you should still read “Go Set a Watchman

“Briggs said the nursing home residents did a “complete transformation in the presence of the children.” She told ABC, “moments before the kids came in, sometimes the people seemed half alive, sometimes asleep. It was a depressing scene. As soon as the kids walked in for art or music or making sandwiches for the homeless or whatever the project that day was, the residents came alive.” —This is what happens when you put a preschool in a nursing home (BRILLIANT, right?)

“We decided to re-create our own swimsuit photo shoot on the beach in Malibu. We each chose a model and then tried to re-create her pose. We think it’s very important for women of all different shapes, sizes, and colors to rock these bathing suits and give an accurate depiction of what a beach body really is. So that’s what we did.” —We tried on Victoria’s Secret Bathing Suits and This is What Happened

Happy (almost) weekend! We are madly packing today for a week long vacation to celebrate our 10 year anniversary, without our kids! I can hardly believe it. Talk to you when I get back.

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Formerly known as Magnolia Lane

by Lesley on July 24, 2015 · 3 comments

in growing up

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We’re moving again this weekend. Did I tell you already? I’m not sure I have—partially out of denial and partially because I didn’t really feel like talking about it—but now that I’m in the thick of packing I will do anything to avoid responsibility. Packing. Ugh. I very much dislike packing, especially when it’s not my idea.

We knew from the beginning that our current house wasn’t a particularly stable choice, and yet, when one lives in a town like Santa Barbara (where vacancy rates are currently less than 1%) you take what you can get. In fact, we rented the house without ever walking through the interior because it was the  only choice which made it the best choice. When we signed the lease our landlord casually mentioned the house would be sold when his father passed away. “I’m not telling you this to concern you, but I do think it’s only fair to mention. You’re a young family, after all, and moving is a hassle.” But we loved the neighborhood, the cul-de-sac, the mountain views and the backyard and figured that God would provide something different when and if we needed it. We settled fully into this house, hanging curtains and putting lots and lots (and LOTS) of nails in the walls, while ignoring the ugly carpet, 1956 kitchen and popcorn ceiling.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, people die and houses get sold. So we’re moving on again. This change is inconvenient more than anything else— something that happens all the time to lots of people—but I’m experiencing a surprising sadness as the boxes get packed. We’ve only lived here for 16 months but it’s been such a good 16 months. 

Our family left Sacramento in somewhat of a whirlwind, during a season that felt unpredictable and exhausting, and God gave us a peaceful street to call home. This quiet little house, where foggy mountains and big black crows welcome us each morning, and chirping crickets sing us to sleep, felt like a respite for me. We spent many afternoons barefoot in the backyard, picking avocados and bouncing on the trampoline, or meeting “the neighbor boys” for scooter races in the street. Our yellow swing found a perfect home in the huge front yard magnolia tree, and we nestled a little playhouse under the orange tree for Anna. Jonathan and I talked about how maybe someday we could buy this house and give it the proper kitchen it deserved, and send our kids to school with their neighborhood friends—kind people who’ve embraced us with open hearts and passed along many a generous hand-me-down.

But we’re moving on, to a new house on a new street in a neighboring town. After a lot of unnecessary worrying, God provided a perfect place for our family just as He always has before. I’m excited about our community swimming pool and several great families who live nearby.  I can’t wait to have my own walk-in closet and a proper, working oven. But I’m sad too. I’m going to really miss our yard and our neighbors and Saturday morning walks to Jeannine’s and Spudnuts. And I’m going to miss the quiet peacefulness, and a home that felt like our own little sanctuary amidst a busy world. Our new rental is a condo, and our master bedroom window looks into a construction zone and the huge UCSB dormitories. Crickets are being replaced with cranes. This change may take some getting used to.

And yet, I’ve done this enough times to know that when I let God lead, He always surprises me. In the past I used to say things like, “I would never move there or I would never take that job,” and God always seemed to always respond with “Oh really?” Over the last few years my prayers have shifted a a lot. Now, in time of transition I pray, “God, we will go wherever you want. We are open to anything. We are up for adventure. We are up for settling down. You know how many rooms we need or don’t need. You know what’s best for our family. Let our vision match your vision.”

Onward! It’s time to see what’s next. I know it’s going to be good.

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Long live summer, long live family

by Lesley on July 1, 2015 · 4 comments

in family

Summer is officially here. Long days. Permanent sand in our toes. Open windows every night. And plenty to celebrate.

My sweet grandpa, “Do-daddy”, turned 90 a few weeks ago, and to mark the occasion he treated the entire family to a weekend away in Avalon. If you’ve never been to Catalina before, this should be your next family trip, especially if you have young kids. Avalon is 65 miles off the coast of Southern California, and it’s only about an hour boat ride. With few cars on the island, we could leave our carseats at home and walk (or scooter!) everywhere. So easy. We ate lots of ice cream, fish and chips, shaved ice and saltwater taffy. Anna took her first official ocean swim—”all by myself”—with the beautiful Avalon Casino as her witness, and we enjoyed the peaceful waters without the worry of waves knocking Owen over.

My grandpa, still sharp as ever, has experienced debilitating pain for the last year. Many days, he can’t leave the house. All of us were worried he wouldn’t make his own birthday party, and yet, look! Here he is. Not a day over 75, if you ask me.

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This is my mom’s entire family— aunts, uncles, cousins and grandchildren. I love the reminder that from two people’s love, and 67+ years of marriage, this legacy exists! Two brothers. Three sisters. Eight grandchildren. Seven great-grandchildren including two sets of twins. And as only a dentist’s family would have…some incredible smiles. 

Thanks Casey Figlewicz Photography!

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help the homeless with kids

Helping the homeless when you have kids in the backseat is actually very easy, but I think it requires some forethought. It’s so important for our children to watch us model compassion to people on the streets, and after writing last week’s post I finally decided to sit down and share more about my thoughts on this topic.

Whenever I talk to other women about our role in helping people on the streets, I find most people have a desire to help but don’t know how to safely do so. Many people choose to not engage with people on the streets and instead give donations of money or food to their church and/or a local homeless shelter. I think this is a great plan for many families. Our churches and shelters are often better equipped than we are to deal with people who have mental illnesses, and sometimes they can find ways to end the cycle of homelessness by giving people job training, stable housing and education while they get back on their feet.

While I am in no way opposed to giving money directly to organizations, I’m also an advocate for finding ways to love and encourage the people God puts in our path on a (sometimes) daily basis. Before I share my thoughts, I first want to say that I’m not an expert in how to care for people on the streets. I’m not a social worker and I haven’t been on staff at a homeless shelter—but—I care deeply about who the bible refers to as the least of these. And after many, many years of ignoring people on freeway corners (and not feeling good about my response) I decided to put thought and research into how I wanted to react differently. Here’s what I do now:

1. I always smile and make eye contact with every person asking for money. Asking for money is humbling, and I’d imagine that most drivers offer scowls or averted eyes. It is not my job to judge people who ask for money, nor do I assume they’re lazy. It’s my job to show them Jesus, who has full power to change their lives. Since I often have less than a minute to show them Jesus, a smile is my first and best bet to safely say, “You are precious and loved.” 

2. If it’s daylight and there are plenty of people/cars around, I will roll down my window and give them a paper bag we’ve prepared ahead of time with a bottle of water, granola bar, pack of gum and fruit. There a many inexpensive items you can put in these “sunshine bags” and I’ve included more ideas and a tutorial here. (This is such a fun project to do with your kids!) I love handing out a pre-made bag because it helps our children be intentionally involved in a hands-on manner. Additionally, if you don’t like giving money to strangers because you fear they may use the money in a harmful way, these bags are a very tangible way to help without offering cash.

3. Each time we see a person holding a sign, I use it as an opportunity to tell my children about the gospel. Anna is old enough that she’s noticing the homeless, and she’s asking questions. Sometimes I wait for her to ask, and sometimes I just start talking. It’s a little different each time, but I try to quickly cover the basics in a way she can understand:

“That person is asking us to help him. He probably doesn’t have a job and he may not have a home like we do. He might even be really hungry. We don’t know why he’s asking for help but in the bible Jesus shows us to love people in need. We can do this by praying, and maybe should we also give him one of the bags we made together?”

Over time, I expect this conversation to evolve. I expect my kids will ask more questions and I also plan to have more conversations about when it’s safe to roll down your window, and when it’s not. But for now, we keep it very simple and then we pray for the person we encountered.

4. I try to pay special attention to women on the streets, and I try to allow the Holy Spirit to have a part in how I respond. I’ve had several incidents over the last three years where I felt women were being trafficked. Two of these incidents took place when my children were not with me but the third time, last year, I was at a park with a group of moms and our kids when a teenage girl asked if she could borrow my cell phone. After talking with her for a long time I became suspicious of her circumstances. I ended up bringing her to my house, making her lunch, allowing her to shower, and calling a trafficking center who came and picked her up. I only did this because I felt God leading me to do so, because she was a woman (and young! and very vulnerable!) and because I had a friend who could come home with us for extra safety measures.

The example I’m sharing is rare, and I’m not suggesting it is the norm for our family or should become the norm for yours. But with human trafficking on the rise in many American cities, I’m choosing to tell this story because I think sometimes God asks us to do uncomfortable things like invite a stranger into your home. (And I want to make sure to say, do not confuse uncomfortable with unsafe.)  I’d encourage you, if God is tugging on your heart about a certain area such as trafficking, then read about the topic, learn how to identify people being trafficked, and who you can call when you think it’s happening. This is the number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888. Additionally, because of the incidents I’ve witnessed, and how unprepared I felt in the moment, I began carrying a list of all local shelters and nonprofits. A few times I’ve been able to ask women if they have shelter for that night, and if they don’t, I was at least able to give them a phone number or address they could try. (Sadly, they often don’t want to use these resources.) As I’m writing this, I’m realizing I need to create a list for my current city!

Before I wrap this post up, I just want to say (again!) that I’m still learning how to help people I come across while I’m running errands or playing at the park. This is a complicated topic with many different opinions so I hope if you remember one thing, it’s this: we don’t have to be experts on the homeless or human trafficking to be used by God to love His people. Sometimes, it’s actually a lot more simple than we think!

I’d love to hear from you. Any ideas you’d like to add to my list?

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Stuff to love in May 2015

by Lesley on June 5, 2015 · 2 comments

in stuff to know about

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Books: I finished What Alice Forgot in April (loved it!) and read Glitter & Glue in May, which was a tad slow in the beginning but I love the author and some of her observations on mom/daughter relationships. For an encouraging, quick book you should try My Practices of Mothering by Sarah Bessey.

Food: I have 13 Pinterest boards dedicated to food, and yet, I didn’t really try any new recipes this month. I’ve been all about simplicity and can’t really tell you what we’ve eaten. Tell me a recipe I need to make in June.

Podcast: You must listen to This American Life’s Birds & Bees episode which covers talking to kids and teens about sex, racism and death. I gotta say, this one left me with a lot to think about.

TV/Movies: I gave up on Scandal this month because it got too dramatic and far fetched for my taste. (That’s weird…a drama becoming too dramatic…) Also, my mom and I took Anna to the movies for the first time to see Cinderella, which was really cute. I definitely liked it more than Anna did.

Wearing: My “new” polka dot romper and blazer, both of which I “won” at the MOPS clothing swap.

A few of my favorite purchases in May: 

Things I loved in May:

  • I finally followed this tutorial and made engineering prints for our living room. So easy! So cheap! So cute!
  • Celebrating my mom’s graduation from her Master’s program with a big surprise party
  • Traveling (SOLO!) to Sacramento for two nights. I stayed with Tammy and was able to see a few friends. Also, Bacon + Butter.

What I love on the web:

If you need a good cry, read this post about friendship and cancer. But really, I warned you.

If you’re a mom juggling too many things, read this post by my friend Anna. It’s one of the best motherhood essays I’ve read in a long time.

My feelings about the word BRAVE are very complicated, and this essay sums them up.

The doll I really want to buy Anna.

A post about teaching our kids to say what they mean, especially when it comes to their bodies.

A beautiful essay on faith.

And finally, this essay by two sisters about their opposite views on gay marriage. So good.

Anticipating:

  • My grandpa’s 90th birthday party on Catalina Island
  • My dad’s 60th birthday party the following weekend
  • No school! No plans! Beach days! Culdesac happy hours! Summer!
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