When It Is All Up In the Air

I realized that perhaps there was something I was trying to control when I spent two hours picking out the perfect pajamas for my girls to receive for Christmas. It was last week. Exactly 134 days before Christmas. I ordered them, and the matching dolls that go with the pictures on the front. I didn’t stop there. I emailed my sister starting a discussion for the perfect gift to give my tween niece. (I totally nailed it, by the way.) I googled the coolest toys under twenty dollars for eight-year-olds. I began adding things to my own wish list and am currently thinking about stocking stuffers the girls will actually use. Feel free to email me any suggestions. They are four and five.

I do finish all of my Christmas shopping before black friday, but I generally have our halloween costumes first.

Something else was going on. Really everything else is going on.

You can read the rest here. They have THE BEST graphic for this post today. 

Modern Day Parables: The Kingdom of God is like a Long Awaited Baby

Cara and I have met multiple times online and once in person. She wrote this beautiful piece about babies and the kingdom of God. I just love it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a Long-Awaited Baby

As soon as I hear, I throw on a soft summer dress and fasten my shoes. I plan my route in my head as I go, thinking about where to park. I have never been to this hospital before, even though Ive driven by countless times. It stands guard midway up the hill on which I live.

My heart is beating quickly as I drive, park and walk in my strappy shoes. I enter the hospital and ask after the birth center, receiving several sets of directions and taking three elevators before finding the room number Im looking for.

I knock once, quietly.

The door opens and I see a friend who has become a father since I last saw him. His whole countenance has changed. He glows with love and hope and pure joy. He holds his little girl tenderly, but close, I wonder if I will get a chance to hold her, if he will be able to let go of her for a second, just 12 hours after her birth.

I greet my new mother friend, who looks tired and relaxed. This is the woman who agreed to meet me for brunch on Superbowl Sunday, who let me hold a corner of her sorrow over hope miscarried. This is the woman who creates beauty and emotion with words. She has now conspired with God and her husband to create something entirely different.

They are not yet sure of the name. This seems right to me, since shes still so new to this world. There are so many meaning-laden names in the Bible, names that help us remember what God did. It takes time to hear from God, to bear the weight of a decision which will last a whole life.

Although I am not sure it will happen, my friend asks me if I want to hold her. I wash my hands, taking my time, working between my fingers before opening my arms.

She is asleep, light as a feather. Each feature is delicately formed, so newly exposed to light and air. The room is hushed, no signs of the great travail that has so recently occurred. No sign of the struggle which forced her out of the only home she had known.

I am filled with awe as I take her in. How can so much be hidden inside such a tiny person? How much to discover, to delight in, to wonder at? There is so much that we do not know, that we will never know.

I am looking at an answer to prayer, I know. Mine, and those of many others. I am looking at a mystery, a masterpiece carefully crafted.

I leave this family, newly enlarged, to their naming rituals, to their rest. I cant help but feel elation all the way down to my toes. Shes here at last!.The one weve been waiting for is here.
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Cara Strickland is a freelance writer and food critic based in the Pacific Northwest. She can often be found writing at carastrickland.com.

Beauty in a box and starting my e-course: What I am into August

I am trying really hard to get back into the habit of monthly what I am into link up. This is just plain fun. You should try it. As always I am linking up with Leigh.

August is always a little nuts because school starts. It is a rolling start in my house, first Juliet and I, then Christian so Priscilla gets to go to the babysitter. Plus we hosted the BBQ for church and also I hosted a Noonday Collection party. The upshot of that is my house stayed clean. It was fun, and made August go by SO QUICKLY. Here we are. September 1.

Beauty

I love a good lipstick. I am particularly fond of this coral color this month. It is light enough that I can totally wear on the daily. It is a little more fun then red, which I am sure will be my standard this fall. I have my eye on Fire and Ice. I am looking for something with some raspberry undertones. Suggestions welcome!

The Sally Hansen Gel polishes. It is two coats because something magic happens between the color and the clear. It is a little pricey but WAY way cheaper than the gel manicures I like. Also, my nails aren’t kinda peely at the end and I can do it myself. I have four colors already and have my eye on a matte grey. I am sporting the red this week.

Noonday collection- I had my doubts about Noonday Collection, but am now pretty  much sold. I even hosted a party this week. I thouroughly enjoyed myself and just like wearing all the jewelry I borrowed to try to sell it. Many of these will go on my birthday and Christmas list.

Le Tote- Elizabeth Esther mentioned this and had a half off code so I thought I would give it a try. The jury is still out, it is kind of fun, but not for every month and certainly not for fifty bucks. It will probably be a one and done thing for me. Unless you want to try it, then use my code for half off and see what you think. I like that I can do it multiple times in a month. I like that it comes to my house.

Food 

We have been grilling like maniacs and also very simply- chicken, burgers, keilbasa with barbeque sauce, hotdogs. It takes ten minutes and makes me happy. It makes the kids happy too. Two thumbs WAY UP on the grilling. I put Mckormicks Montreal steak seasoning or Tony’s on everything. Everything

Homemade Chex-mix. I use the Pioneer Woman’s recipe and add cheez-its. I always end up making back to back batches because you have to buy entire boxes of cereal. I also always end up eating said batches in about two days. I love homemade Chex-mix.

Alcoholic rootbeer- We especially like Not Your Father’s rootbeer. Coney Island’s wasn’t creamy enough for me. But we buy Not Your Father’s every chance we can get. It is a big hit at parties.

Teaching 

Since this is my last round of teaching, I am savoring the stories a little more than usual. I particularly love

Checkouts by Cynthia Rylant– love this one about moving to a new town and high school crushes.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber– I make the kids re-write the story from the wife’s point of view.

Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov- Then we have a heated debate about whether or not someone was murdered. Where does life begin? What is the ethical responsibility of making AI?

Early Autumn by Langston Hughes– The kids love this story, so I love it to. They love to talk about love.

Writing

I am working on a book proposal and could for sure use your prayers. I am having a serious mental block. It is about identity, being a woman at church, and miraculous healing, so yeah…sort of vulnerable and a little hard to pin down.

I started an in-town writers group and LOVE it. One of the best things I have ever done for myself. We meet at a coffe shop, use a basic protocol (because we all like each other and would chat through our time) and I really need the accountability. Also, I needed to set a time for myself to stake the claim and say “this thing that I do matters.”

I am loving the additions to the modern day parable series. So far we have discussed dinosaurs, Dr. Who, and a pick-up truck. Seriously I cannot get enough. We have another awesome one coming up Thursday! If you want in, send me an email.

E-Course

My e-course starts MONDAY and I am THRILLED. I am just really proud of the work that I did for it, and I am very excited about the people taking the class. They are in various stages of dreaming and I am excited to see the clarity that they get from exploring their passions more fully. I can’t wait to get started and there is room for you! If money is keeping you back, please let me know and we will work something out. You can sign up here.

I love this piece from Lindsey. I am way not into cars, but I have some of these folks in my life! I hope you enjoy it, and stop by her place to see what else she is up to. 

The Kingdom of God is like a Big Blue Pickup Truck

Lindsey Smallwood

My dad loves all kinds of cars.

He doesn’t just love to drive them – sedans and SUVs and trucks and go-karts and racecars – he’s a student of how they work. He has no fewer than five subscriptions to car magazines. He can explain why a particular car is making a particular sound better than the guys on Car Talk, although admittedly without their great accents.

When he goes on vacation, he plans his trips to coincide with events at racetracks so he can check out the latest and greatest racing in other parts of the country. On weekends, he and my brother take their own racecar on the road. Nine months ago, Dad sold me his old Suburban and sometimes when he calls he asks how it’s doing before he inquires about the 2 year old I named after him.

I told you, the man loves cars.

For most of his life, the choice about which vehicle to own for his personal use has been an expedient one. There were kids who needed seatbelts so he sold the two-door coupe. There were icy roads in Alaska where we live so he got a four-wheel drive. Once he even won grand prize in a poetry context and received an SUV for his efforts. But none of these were exactly what he wanted. They were free or sturdy or useful for transporting a hockey team.

Until last year.

After agreeing to sell me the Suburban since I have my own growing brood on icy roads to consider, Dad was in the market for a car and for the first time since before he got married 37 years ago, he was free to pick any car he wanted. Up to date on all of his options due the aforementioned magazine subscriptions, Dad jumped to test drives and quickly settled on an enormous Chevy pick up. I’m sure it has a real name, like the Megatron Truck Monster 3000, but I don’t know it. Trust me when I say, it’s big.

At the car dealership, Dad was given the option to customize his own version of the giant truck, which would then be assembled at the Chevy factory. He spent a long time pouring over the details, selecting the color of the leather seats, the high quality surround speakers he’s always wanted, the tow/haul features that would make it compatible with pulling the racecar trailer he loved. No detail escaped his attention.

He was given a code by the car dealership that allowed him to track the truck’s progress at the factory. One Wednesday morning he got an update that his carefully designed truck was born in a factory in Detroit. (Cue rad Eminem song here.) For the next two weeks, Dad watched online it was loaded onto a semi, driven across country to Seattle, packed onto a boat and shipped north to Alaska. On the day his big blue truck arrived, gleaming in the Alaska sunlight, Dad took Mom on a date way out of town to enjoy it’s long-awaited appearance.

Today, Big Blue, as we call it, is as beloved as when it arrived in the port 7 months ago. Dad fills it with gas every Sunday, keeps it washed and polished. He’s carefully made a couple of needed repairs after problems arose, which he can do because he’s read the entire manual on how it works, knows it inside and out. It sits, shining in the driveway, ready to take him to work or on a park-date with his namesake two-year-old grandson who also happens to love “Big Boo.”

And as I watched my dad tinkering with it tonight, it struck me that the kingdom of God is like a giant Chevy pickup truck and you are the truck.

Yes, you.

You were dreamed about, longed for, carefully planned no matter what story you’ve been told about your conception. Each part of you was designed with intent by a maker who calls you “good” and “beloved.” You’ve got bells and whistles and they’ve all got a purpose, even if you can’t see it yet. You are known, so fully, so completely, that no part of you is a mystery to the One who loved you first. No matter what happens – what messes cloud the view or problems need repairing –  the King of this kingdom is cleaning and restoring and making you like new again, every single day.

If you need to find Him, He likes to hang out in His truck.

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Lindsey Smallwood is a former pastor and teacher who is currently working, writing and raising her babies in Boulder, Colorado. She hopes to leave a legacy of good relationships and bad dancing. Read more by Lindsey at her blog (http://www.songbirdandanerd.com/) or connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/songbirdandanerd) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/lindseysmallw).

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Why Dreamers Need a Tribe

I wrote a thing last Friday that went a little bit viral. Viral is a relative term, and for me I know something has exploded when the people in my comments are 1. not my mother, and 2. the commenters start refering to me in third person.

Y’all. This is a personal blog. Coming up in here and talking about me like “she thinks this, and she is that” is sort of like showing up in my living room and sitting on my blue wine stained couch while I am on my tan kid stained couch and talking about me like I am not there. I AM RIGHT HERE! IT IS MY BLOG!

But that is probably where it would have ended if I didn’t have my people. My friend Tanya, who voxed me to tell me that I should contact the Huffington Post, and Sarah told me where to find the information on various editors and how to contact them. (Right here.) 

Every succes I have ever managed to have as a blogger is because I had a crazy bunch of dreamers surrounding me. Last year, I got to give a TEDx talk because someone suggested I apply. I didn’t even know you could apply.

I need people. I need a tribe. I am a pack animal and I don’t function very well without a pack. I used to feel bad about that, to think perhaps I was an inferior dreamer, or writer, or creative. But now I know it is simply how I am built. I need a pack. I need a like-minded pack.

I think that is the thing I am most excited about in my Room for Dreaming e-course. I know enough about all of the people who have signed up to know how amazing they all are. I don’t know if you will all be BFF or if you will just learn a lot from each other for four weeks. But I do know that being in a space with each other will spur you all on. Dreaming is addictive, and doing someting about those dreams has a lot to do with peer pressure.

Are you ready to join us? Click the button below. For the full details click here

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What I Hope She Remembers: Priscilla’s First Communion

Priscilla took communion today. We went to one service for the summer and now everyone over the age of two comes trotting out of the side door and rushes into their parent’s pews sometime between offering and communion. When we pass the peace, the kids come rushing in, ready to tell us what they learned in Sunday school. I’m not sure about peace. They sure do bring enthusiasm.

Priscilla has been thinking about communion all summer. While Juliet inherited my leap before you look mentality for life, Priscilla got the, let’s wait and see temperament from her dad. She just has  not been quite sure. We take communion one at a time. We stand in line and wait our turn to take our bread and drink the cup. We receive communion in front of the rest of the congregation. Priscilla isn’t so sure of that part either.

Early this summer, Priscilla told me she didn’t want to do it. She just wasn’t sure. She would wait in the pew for us to return, or get in line with me but then offer a polite no thank you. But yesterday after checking things out for a while, she thought she might be ready to give it a try.

But then she got up to the front and wasn’t quite sure. She decided she didn’t want to accept the body of Christ. As I took my bread and dipped into the cup, she began crying. First because she really did want to take it, but just wasn’t quite ready, and then because she had missed her chance. Finally I think she was crying in church because she was crying.

With my baby on my hip we took a u-turn, got to the end of the line and received the bread that represent our savior. Then, a woman who had just put the cup on the table, went back to get it so that Priscilla could dip her bread in. We messed it up, the rhythm that you are supposed to follow as you participate in the church rituals. We took too long, we were too loud, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do, and we were sort of nuisance to the people who were offering it. We were tired. We haven’t done a great job adjusting to the school year schedule, even at the end of week two.

But all of that was okay, and that is the part I hope Priscilla remembers. I hope she remembers that she was given the body of Christ by name. “Priscilla, this is Christ’s body broken for you.” I hope she remembers that it didn’t put anybody out to go by her own timing and even if it did they wanted to. I hope she remembers the kindness of a woman walking back up the stairs to get the cup so it could be offered to her tiny body. I hope she remembers the way that woman looked her in the eyes and said “this is reminder, of how much Jesus loves you.” I hope she remembers just how very loved she is.

I  hope I remember too, that sometimes coming to my faith like a child means coming in my own time. I hope I remember that it is okay to show up sometimes a little late and a little confused. I hope I remember that God wants me to make space for me, even when I am tired and crying and not quite sure about how exactly this whole thing works.

I hope I am always ready to offer a reminder, to anyone wanting to receive it of just how much Jesus loves them. I hope I am willing to ask when I need a reminder too.

What Teacher’s Lounge? Some information for Governor Kasich

Yesterday, Governor Kasich of the great state of Ohio (Toledo proud right here! Born and raised.) opened his misinformed mouth and let the world know that if HE were king HE wouldn’t allow teacher’s lounges anymore. Apparently we teachers use teacher’s lounges to “sit together and worry about, ‘Woe is us.'”

BAHAHAHAHAHA! I saw this and almost peed I was laughing so hard. Seriously. In what world do the teacher’s lounges get used at all? While I am at it, I will stop using the mimeograph to make worksheets and stop using my laser disc player to show video. I seriously think the last time the teacher’s lounge was regularly used at any school in the United States of America was in 1973 when you could light up a camel light and drink your Tab in peace.

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The last time on record a teacher used the lounge.

Since recess doesn’t exist anymore, and never has for high school students, and since lunch has shrunk in the hopes that tacking on three extra minutes to every academic period will sky rocket us past the Chinese in test taking abilities and we can once again prove American exceptionalism in a way that matters actually very little to the future of our country, no one uses the teachers lounge anymore.

Ain’t no teacher got time for that! 

Seriously, the teacher’s lounge? Has this man even stepped foot into a school since he was not allowed in the teacher’s lounge because he was a student? In an official poll (i.e. I asked all my teacher friends on Facebook.) I discovered that NO TEACHER ON THE PLANET has more than thirty minutes for lunch. Most have between 22 and 27 minutes to execute all lunch time activities.

Abby, what do you mean all lunch time activities? What else could a teacher need to do during their luxurious 27 minute lunch where they sit in the teacher’s lounge and use dated phrases like woe is me?

Well, for starters, pee. Turns out, you can’t just leave 35 ninth graders in a room by themselves for three minutes while you sprint to the nearest restroom, relieve yourself at record setting pace (thank you two older sisters and one bathroom for giving me the neccesary skills to teach in the public schools) and sprint back to your room. Turns out, they may not quietly do their work, they may start arm wrestling, or throwing paper, or smacking each other because freshmen boys are at a special age when, like pit-bull puppies, they don’t always remember the lessons you have taught them about sitting and staying, and they severely underestimate their own strength. They are also perpetually hungry and sometimes smell bad, but God designed them to be so adorable you will love them anyway. But I digress.

Freshmen boys, pit bull puppies, they are the same. Now STOP WRESTLING IN MY CLASS!

There are a lot of things that need done during lunch that have nothing to do with eating. Sometimes you have to make ten extra copies during lunch because ten kids lost their paper, or give a kid a make-up quiz, or give the kid the extra time they need on an assignment, or give a kid some extra tutoring, or give a kid the being a teenager is really hard but it gets better pep talk you have perfected. Sometimes, during research paper season, you eat with your left hand while furiously grading with your right because 35 kids times 5 periods means you have approximately 70 million hours worth of grading to complete and your own children have stopped recognizing you without a red pen in your hand and a crazed look in your eye. Sometimes, during lunch you answer emails, because, if you are lucky, all 35 kids have a parent who wants to occasionally check-up on them and the best time to answer emails is during lunch. It is hard to answer emails during class because SURPRISE! you are actually teaching.

Most often, during the beginning of the year, you will find a teacher during lunch running reconnaissance on her students. This kid has a poor grasp of English, better go check with the ESOL teachers. This student seems angry or distant, better go check with the social worker. This student may not be on track for graduation, better go check with the counselors.

I have worked at three different schools, with very different populations and I can tell you, with absolute certainty that the only place that is consistently not being used by the teachers, is the teacher’s lounge. Go ahead good sir! Get rid of the teacher’s lounge. We probably won’t even notice, we are too busy doing our job.

Governor Kasich thinks the problem with teachers is the teacher’s lounge. The problem with teachers is this: we are having to deal with laws that are being passed by people who have not one single clue as to what our job entails or how we do it. 

But if you want to get rid of what you clearly think is copious amounts of complaining, and a sense of dread when it comes to the state of education, may I suggest actually understanding what teachers do, listening to us when we say something isn’t working, and having half an understanding how a child’s brain works before you pass some ridiculous law that holds ME accountable for the brain function of a fifteen year old boy? No one knows what is going on in there. No one. But thanks to legislation, I am responsible for it.

So, good Governor of the great state of Ohio, if you would like to hear about teaching, and why the teachers in this country are nervous about the state of their jobs, I would be happy to schedule a lunch meeting with you. In May, when the kids are gone and I have time to eat lunch like a person again. We can even meet in the teacher’s lounge. I am sure no one else is using it.