Discovering Cooper

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Nature versus Nurture, the long-debated topic as it relates to child rearing. Which is the stronger entity? How do children in the same home with the same rules and same upbringing turn out so different? These are the questions that ran through my mind before I became a mom…

Then I became a parent to three sons and I can tell you exactly how children in the same home turn out very different. I am not the same parent to each of my children. When my children were little I fully expected to raise them exactly the same way. As they grew and formed into these amazing human beings with thoughts and feelings that were independent of one another, I realized what worked for one may not work for the other two.

I believe I parent my oldest son, Connor, from fear and/or trepidation sometimes. Everything with him is a new adventure (some great adventures and some rides I would prefer hadn’t been taken). I don’t know what the outcome will be. I’m Jasmine from Aladdin singing “A Whole New World.” I’m literally winging it (just like my eyeliner). I pause, I second-guess, I make mistakes, I take some wins and praise God when things turn out ok and cry out to God when they don’t. I lay awake at night the most… worrying about Connor.

My second son, Carter, is parented from a place of pure joy! I have learned from Connor that most things in life won’t kill my children. Situations turn out ok, the worry is mostly unwarranted. Carter is this amazing human being. He’s funny, super talented in the performing arts, smart and I stress less about things with Carter because Connor has blazed the trail and things are much less scary the 2nd time around.

Meet my third son, Cooper. In full and complete honesty, sometimes  I feel that I’m a lazy parent with Cooper. I know for SURE that he will still get into college someday even if he gets a “C” on a test. Issues will friends will work out, issues with teachers will work out. It’s no biggie. I monitor screen-time less, grades less and worry less about Cooper. He’s got it! I could tell you he is the biggest sports freak I know. He requested ESPN+ for Christmas so that he could watch all the back episodes of 30 for 30. Cooper is also so funny and smart and charming. He is someone that will impact change in this world for good! Cooper tends to stay more to himself than the other two. He won’t tell me who he likes, share his hopes and dreams, or watch the 30 for 30 episodes with me (yes, this rips my heart out with a dull spoon).

Yesterday, I was speaking at Cooper’s school for Career Day! I had a BLAST! Boy was it fun getting to talk with students about being an author and sharing something I am so passionate about. When it was over, Cooper’s sweet English teacher asked if I had read any of Cooper’s work. Sheepishly, I admitted that I hadn’t. He doesn’t like to show me his work, and being the 3rd child, this isn’t a battle I need to be in. Well, she proceeded to share with me that he was a talented writer and a very bright student that shines through his writing. She kindly showed me a few samples and I was blown away. My incredible kid who only wants to ever talk about sports, breath sports, live sports, is a very gifted writer. I told him I saw his work and he was embarrassed and didn’t want to make a big deal. But on the inside, I’m so incredibly proud of him and so ashamed of myself that I didn’t know this about him.

Then, last night was Cooper’s end of the year choir concert. I was shocked as he got on stage and had the voice of an angel. Strong. Confident. Self-assured. This was his last choir performance as he told me in no uncertain terms that he was not continuing in the choral program (yes reader this pains me deeply). What a way to end though…he was amazing. Again, I’m so proud of him and the young man he is becoming.

Cooper-I love you. I am sorry if you’ve ever felt like you got my parenting left-overs. You are an amazing gift from God and you have been given so many talents. You shine in everything you do. I am so proud to be your mom and every day you bring me joy. Your role in our family is so important. You are special. You are a star. You are so very much loved. I see your future and know that you can do anything you set your mind to. My prayer is that you always love God and are in a relationship with Him. Follow him and he will make your path straight.

 

 

The Gospel according to Lipstick

“May the God of hope fill you with all Joy and Peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy  Spirit.” Romans 15:13

One of my favorite things is hanging out with my mom! In a post Mother’s Day Celebration we met up yesterday for a “treat yo’ self” day. We hit up Jo Malone, Anthropologie, Free People and worked our way over to Nordstrom to have lunch in their cafe. Even though the Nordstrom Cafe has done away with our favorite sandwich (gruyere and prosciutto) we were determined to find a new favorite (goat cheese and turkey….YUM) and their famous fries with olive kalamata aioli. Don’t we sound fancy?!? After our delicious lunch, we headed to our favorite place, the Nordstrom shoe department. We were NOT disappointed! As you can imagine our “treat yo’ self” wore us out and we decided to head home. On our way out we took a spin through the cosmetics area. We are both absolute, without a doubt, unashamed makeup junkies!!! I’m always on the lookout for the world’s best lipstick and have tried every lipstick on the market (drugstore to high end). Ever since taking medication for autoimmune disease nothing stays on my lips anymore (I am also no longer attractive to mosquitoes…weird right?) After looking for my tried and true La Prairie lipstick and finding the counter no longer at Nordstrom in Indy, we sadly left without a single makeup or skin care product between us and started the walk back through the mall. We had parked on the other side at Saks (trying to burn the maximum number of calories while we shopped and had our day of fun). Again, we made our way through the cosmetics area and I found a microscopic area of La Prairie…yay! I would get the only lipstick that stays on my lips! The choices and joy!!! BUT I was then sadly informed that La Prairie was no longer making makeup and was focusing on super expensive skin care. My dry unpainted lips and I slowly started making our way out of the store when the kind associate asked if she could show us anything in another brand. I told her that I was on the hunt for my “white whale” a lipstick that didn’t come off until I was good and ready!

My mom and I were introduced to Chloe, she was the manager at the Saks Nars counter. I have never seen so many lipstick options. Matte, gloss, stain, you name it and they had it. I was a skeptic because I have been lured down this path before only to be completely disappointed as I watched my lipstick attach itself to my coffee cup, napkin, mug, husband…etc. Anywhere except my lips as the day wore on. Chloe, mom and I began talking about lipstick and it’s staying power. The challenges are talking, drinking, chewing your lips and food. Chloe had something that would take care of all of that. She began pulling out colors and testers and soon there was a rainbow of long-lasting color swatches up her arm that would have impressed the most serious lipstick connoisseur. I eagerly found a color and prayed to the Lipstick God’s that this would be my holy grail of lipstick. Despite my skepticism, I was still hopeful that something could be done to give me the color and staying power I so desperately wanted.

Last night as I was thinking about my new Nars lipstick and the hope and promise contained in that new tube, I felt that it was very similar to want I want and hope from God. I face challenges in life as we all do. AND what I really pray for is that God is there through it all! The good, the bad and the ugly, God will remain budge-proof and offer shine and longevity that gets me through my day!

I recently had the privilege of serving on a great Banquet team. This is a three-day spiritual retreat and it’s awesome!! 15 talks by amazing women, the never-ending, unfailing love of God…it’s the best way I can think of to spend 72 hours! I love everything about the Banquet. I often reflect on the time spent there and was recently thinking about one of the talks called “Staying Power.” It’s about the struggle that one may encounter after leaving the Banquet and being out in the real world again and how to stay connected to God in our day to day living. As I apply my new lipstick today and hope that is has the staying power I’m looking for I am reminded of the sweet women I had the opportunity to serve with and the women who attended their Great Banquet for the first time. I’m praying that they feel a connection to God that has a greater staying power than any lipstick formula in the history of the world! I love my sisters in Christ and know that the staying power we are searching for is more than skin deep…it’s eternal.

Welcome to my Circus

“Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there” (Isaiah 43:18b-19).

Last night I was at a HomeGroup study with some of my favorite church ladies! It was time to go around and take prayer requests. When it was my turn, my sweet friends turned to me and asked how they could be praying for me this week…and cue the crickets. “Bueller?  Bueller?  Bueller?” My mind went completely and utterly blank. Is there really nothing in my life that requires prayer right now? That’s a dangerous way to think and let’s be completely honest, maybe I’m in a place where if I started listing my prayer requests I wouldn’t be able to stop. God has woken me up very early the past two days to pray about a lot of different things going on (praising him for the good and definitely asking for his help regarding things that would cause me to worry).

It’s like I’m one of the featured acts in a circus. I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment. I have several friends that desperately need me to be there to support and listen to them right now because they are going through some things (welcome to the exciting lion attraction)! I’m a mom and a wife and I’ve got a high maintenance family, to say the least, but I’m crazy about them (it’s now time to see the acrobats). We are coming off of Holy week, which is an incredible time and if you work in ministry, you know that it’s also a wild time (Ohhhhh, the strong man). I have this incredible opportunity to write a book series that I couldn’t be happier about (send in the clowns)! I’m in this fun group of women (wow…flaming batons) and we are studying the book “The Best Yes” which is super ironic because I don’t know if I’m even capable of my best yes right now…that’s not true. I do know what things make my best yes. It’s a matter of actually carrying those things out and being ok with telling people “no” because as Lysa Terkeurts points out most of us have a “disease to please.”

Sometimes I’m afraid that if I’m too focused on making everything fit that I’ll miss the new things that God has for me and the opportunity to give my Best Yes! I can’t think of anything worse than the “Ostrich Syndrome” sticking my head in the sand and missing all the goodness God has got for me. God is alive and well and moving in my life in profound ways. AND he is making his presence known. I know he wants me to “watch for the new thing” and not get stuck at the circus mastering my juggling act. This verse from Isaiah is about hope and opportunity and God working for my best future and that of my family. I want to rest in that because that is TRUTH!  This is the verse I’m going to meditate on this week because it helps me prioritize what’s important. Through that discernment, I’m able to choose a life that gives me peace, contentment and most of all an obedience to Him. Forget the cotton candy and popcorn I’ve got more important things to focus on. Kingdom things…and that is MY best yes.

Peace out Ringling Bros.

 

Searching for Joy​

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19

There is a wonderful children’s picture book called Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Today…I am Alexander. I have had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Parenting has been a DRAG today (Teenagers…can I get a witness?) and when it rains it pours. I’m sitting here marinating in my pity party for one and have decided to force joy and gratitude into my day. I repeat that I am NOT feeling it but I am going to choose joy and be grateful anyway.

My Top Ten things that I am joyful about today:

  1. God is CRAZY about me! I rest comfortably in this knowledge.
  2. My sister is moving home after being in Oklahoma for 18 years! She is here this week looking for a house and a job. Pray she gets both! I am grateful for family.
  3. My husband is the best ride or die ever and I am so grateful for him and our marriage!
  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job! I am grateful for the opportunity to do something that brings me absolute joy and challenges me to be my very best!
  5. One Smooth Stone, Book 1 in my 12 Book series, will be out in June!!! I love my Literary Agent and my Publishing company. I am so grateful to them!
  6. My infusions are working and I feel pretty good health wise! AND 3 cheers to the nurses who administer my Rituxin. They are kind, competent, and caring. I am grateful for them. #Autoimmuneawareness
  7. I have the very best friends a girl could ever ask for! Grateful isn’t a big enough word to describe my tribe.
  8. I have time to pursue my passion and hobbies. I am grateful that God has given me these gifts.
  9. I got a massage today! I am grateful that I was able to practice self-care and reduce my stress level.
  10. My new glasses are pink and have a hint of glitter in them (sometimes it is the small things and I am grateful for them).

Ok, that was easier than I thought it would be. I still think today was a difficult day to be a parent. As I think about the list and especially the wonderful relationships God has placed in my life in the last few months with my agent, publisher, editor, etc. I am excited about this next chapter (book pun intended). I am choosing joy because when I look around there is so much of it! I am grateful!

I feel better and maybe I won’t move to Australia.

 

No Smoking in the Bathroom

If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:3

Last week was Spring Break in Indiana and my oldest son Connor and I set off for the deep south on a road trip with my parents. Road trips have long been a part of my family. Growing up in Indiana, with my whole family still in Chicago, meant frequent trips back to the Windy City for visits. I am the oldest of three siblings. My brother and sister fought, so that meant that I had to sit in the middle, on the hump (you remember the hump, don’t you?), for three long hours back to Chicago every time we visited my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. My sister sat behind my dad who was at the wheel and would systematically kick under his seat until he “had enough” and would reach back to give her a pinch. She was agile and with cat-like reflexes would dart out-of-the-way and I would get the pinch. Ouch!

As we got older and the five-passenger car wasn’t big enough, we would rent minivans for trips that we would take. We called these “Happy Van trips.” As an avid reader, I always got to sit in the way back so I could have my nose in a book and no need to converse with anyone else in the car. I missed a lot of scenery including all of the Pacific Coast Highway, the Smoky Mountains and various other landmarks in America’s heartland.

I adore my parents and I missed out on growing up with grandparents in the same state (remember the trips to Chicago?) and I wished so desperately to have grandparents that were close to home. As an adult, I had a say in that with my own children. My neighborhood connects to my parents neighborhood so that my kids would be able to interact with them as part of their daily lives. I consider us extremely fortunate that proximity allows us to plan lunches, dinners, school plays, random coffee dates, and vacations together. Last week, with my husband working and my other two boys with their dad, my parents and I got Connor to ourselves for a week of fun-ish. I remember the first road trip my parents took with Connor and me when he was very young. Connor and my dad came out of a rest stop area and had decided that there were “rules” to road trips. Rule #1 was “No smoking in the bathrooms.” None of us smoke, I don’t know why this is Rule #1…but it is. Any of my children could tell you Rule #1. As we set off on our journey last week, my dad got in the car and asked Connor what the first rule of a road trip was…and sure enough, Connor told my dad “No smoking in the bathroom.” Despite a rocky trip (see Being Bratty post) there were several highlights and lots of laughing and memory making. As we all get older and time marches on, I’m so grateful for an opportunity for us to all get-together. I realize that it’s a precious gift and I am thankful.

Being Bratty

Cursed is anyone who dishonors their father or mother.”  Deuteronomy 27:16

“You’re on thin ice,” I heard this come out of my dad’s mouth and directed at me today!!! I don’t think I had heard these words since I was a teenager. I was horrified that at 43 years old my dad would even think to say that to me or raise his voice at me (yes, I was in trouble). I’m an adult and way past the age of admonishment.

We had been talking about spring break. Last week, my parents graciously took my oldest son, Connor, and I on a wonderful vacation to Memphis (to see Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum), Mississippi (Historic Vicksburg and Natchez) and ended at Space Camp in Alabama. Well…it would have been wonderful but in full disclosure, Connor was a total brat. He sulked, he moped and was basically a wet blanket for the first half of this trip. He didn’t want to be on vacation. He didn’t want to leave his friends. How dare we take him to the deep south when we know he is against racism (for the record, we too, are against racism). I thought he was going to have a nervous breakdown when we stayed at a Plantation turned Bed and Breakfast in Vickburg, MS (the Plantation had been occupied by the Union during the Civil War and served as a hosptial for soldiers). We stayed in the Jefferson Davis room…this did NOT go over well depsite the Plantation being preserved due to the owner’s ties with General Sherman and the Northern states, Connor did not want to sleep in a room named for the President of the Confederacy. I could go on and on with the painstaking adventures of a grumpy teenage boy but frankly, I don’t want to recount it becuase it annoys me all over again.

Recalling the events of the “vacation” today and the money spent and bad attitudes created the perfect storm. I haven’t felt well today and have some big things on my mind and maybe I was ready to poke the bear and have a fight…I don’t know. I do know that I turned into the brat! Here I was complaining about my ungrateful son and all of a sudden I turned into that ungrateful daughter. Yuck!!! Maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because I was definitely showing my ugly side and that was indicative of my week with Connor. I usually think about parenting from my tiny fishbowl perspective and what it’s like to parent my kids. I don’t often think of what it’s like for my parents to still parent me. Today, at 43 years old, I deserved to get checked! I was being ungrateful, moping, complaining and NO ONE likes to be the turd in the punch bowl but there I was, floating around ruining it for everybody else!

Today, this blog is my own admittance that I can have a bratty kid and I can be a bratty kid. I am not comfortable acknowledging my shortcomings but I hope that awareness of them and being genuinely sorry will help me grow as a mom, daughter, wife, friend and Christ follower.

Dad- I am so so sorry for how I acted today. I love you and mom more than anything and I am beyond grateful for everything you do for me and the boys. I couldn’t ask for better parents!

Connor- I wish that you had been kinder, gentler and more understanding and appreciative of the trip and our time together. It’s no longer years until you’re gone, it’s months…weeks…hours…minutes.  I love you so much and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by and you’re almost an adult (Father Time, you are a cruel beast). I feel the pressure to create as many memories as possible for you so that you will want to come home, visit and still need me. My grandparents are gone and I would give anything for one more trip with them…one more day with them. I tried to give that to you. I know it’s not what you wanted but I hope someday you can look back and know that I tried.

 

Bridge for Beginners

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

I grew up in a card playing family. One of my first memories of my Great-Grandma Fran is her teaching me to play Gin Rummy on a tiny table in their compact kitchen. She and my Great-Grandpa Stew had an apartment in the Chicago suburbs and when I was visiting my grandparents, my Grandma Nancy would always take me to visit her parents. For hours we would play. I learned the tricks of the trade and heard stories of my Great- Grandpa’s gambling days when he was a card shark and actually won someone’s car once!  Was I ever impressed with these escapades and I wanted nothing more than to be good enough at cards to play at the adult table someday. This is also where I learned to shuffle the deck with a killer waterfall. I believe this is an inherited trait as my Great-Grandmother and Grandma could both shuffle like no one’s business. I was in great company! In addition to Gin, I learned King’s Corners and solitaire. However, there was one game that did and continues to elude me. My great white whale…Bridge.

I come from generations of Bridge players. My parents were in Bridge groups growing up and it looked like so much fun! My beloved Playgroup was going to learn but somehow we got sidetracked raising kids and that past time fell by the wayside. I would like to learn with my husband so that we can go on the pro-circuit and be card sharks too, just like my Great-Grandpa Stew. There is only one problem…for the life of me, I can’t figure this card game out! The suits, the bidding, scoring, trump, no trump, slams…it’s all Greek to me. In an effort to once again try and figure this game out, I’ve been acquainting myself with was is allegedly the “best Bridge book for beginners of all time.” (quote from my mom) Charles H. Goren’s Contract Bridge for Beginners. Its copyright is from 1949 and opens with Preliminaries in Chapter 1 “For the purpose of this chapter, I am proceeding upon the assumption that the reader is totally unfamiliar with the deck of playing cards. If in your case I have made an incorrect assumption, please do not, out of a sense of courtesy, linger over these pages. Simply skip this chapter on Preliminaries.” In full disclosure, I am familiar with the deck of playing cards but I’m so impressed by the politeness and tone of this book, I will continue to read the Preliminaries!

This task of acquainting myself with Bridge made me start thinking about the Bible. Because I’m in ministry, I get asked all the time where I would recommend people start when trying to read the Bible. I forget that it can be a daunting task. I want to tell people that they too, can skip the Preliminaries. Some days, I start with a particular book of the Bible. Right now, I’m studying the book of Ruth so I’ve been hanging out there quite a bit. Other days, I close my eyes and open to a completely random area to see what God wants to say to me on a particular day. Usually, it is very relevant and something I need to hear. I don’t believe in coincidence so I know I better pay attention. If I feel like praising God, I go to the Psalms. Life of Jesus? I head to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Present day church? Acts. History? First five books of the Bible. I guess my point here is that in order to know God, you have to start somewhere. And he wants you to know him. Don’t treat God like he’s your white whale. Start today, whether it’s with the Preliminaries or somewhere in the middle, he’s waiting for you.

“Written by the leading authority, the foremost teacher, and the most successful bridge player in the world, it will prove a boon to the novice and bridge player alike.”