Category Archives: embrace

Blessing the Teacher

Several months ago, I read words by Tracy Johnson on Red Tent Living. She wrote about blessing the manager in her, and I immediately thought of the teacher in me and how difficult it is to bless her.

As a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. One brother, eight years younger than me, called me teacher before he called me by my name. I vividly remember playing school using a chalkboard set up in the smallest room of our duplex, my classroom for a season. That chalkboard was the best toy, and I was always the teacher.

Having six younger siblings, five of whom were alive by the time I was ten, offered plenty of opportunities to hone my craft. Having a father who was a Christian school teacher, offered plenty of opportunities to troll around to various classrooms at the end of each school year hoarding papers and teaching supplies that were going to be thrown in the trash.

I assembled leftover classroom worksheets into booklets, stapling them together. These were used to teach and entertain siblings on long summer car rides to Michigan. Old lesson plan or grade books with used pages torn out were treasured finds. If there was still a seating chart template in the back, I would spend hours arranging and rearranging imaginary students into rows.

I drew pictures of classrooms. The items on the teacher’s desk, the assignments written on the chalkboard, the wall decorations, all were fastidiously detailed. Sometimes I wish I still had one or two of them. Then I wonder if it is better to have them in my memory. I am curious if that is why I am intent on saving samples of my children’s work.

The dream of growing up and becoming a teacher was rooted deep inside of me. There was a time when it felt hopeful and sweet. I taught a little girl to read when I was sixteen and loved planning enrichment activities for the small group of day camp students that I worked with that summer. Then something changed.

The dream and desire became a demand. I remember when the joy of teaching was replaced by duty and the expectation to teach. I remember feeling choices slip away and panic set in. I remember trying my best to push the window of other opportunities open, only to have it slam shut and lock.

I remember feeling betrayed by the teacher in me. Why did she have to be so good at what she did? Why did she always say this is what she wanted to be? What if there were other things, too?

The teacher, ever efficient, stepped up and took over, pushing the other parts aside. She took care of business and rose to the occasion. She went to school, studied, and worked hard. She loved each student that came through her room and saw to it that she cared for them in the best possible way.

I appreciate her for that. I appreciate her ability to connect with students, to care for them, and to make learning fun. I appreciate her stepping up and doing what needed to be done. Most of all, I am grateful to have grown into a place where I can truly bless her and her gifts.

The teacher is a part of me, but she is not all of me. Still, she is pretty amazing, and I have grown to love and appreciate her. Her presence is a gift of grace in my life.

Friendship Friday ~ Cousin Day

Yesterday was a special day. It had been written on a calendar block, cleared of all else. We spent all day with the Boston little boy cousins and their amazing parents.

My anxiety about having little people around for the day was alleviated quickly when this little one walked in, grabbed a recorder, and began playing while his brother accompanied him on the piano.


Uncle B patiently listened to Little Mae tell all about King’s Dominion adventures using her map of the park.

Mae and Uncle B

My baby and my sister’s baby smiled at each other a lot, which was a huge milestone for anyone who knows my baby and her thoughts about babies.

Baby B

Baby B won her over.

Mae and baby

Meanwhile, lots of creating happened. The cry of Guys, Guys! Look over here! caught my attention. I looked to see this little one with his airplane.


My much younger sister was caught wearing my perpetual mothering face in this picture. I so know the feeling.

mothering face

With everything happening at once, there were problems to solve, like the one of figuring out how to find all of the pieces and get this track to stick to the green board. Daddy to the rescue on that one! Problem solved.


It was sweet for my littles to get an opportunity to experience the life of their big siblings. Here Coco gets to feel like her big sisters when the littles were being born, holding a babe in arms.

Coco and baby

And these eyes and little chewing mouth. I could not get enough of them.

chewdalee chew

And this snuggly sleeper. I might have cried a little.

sleepy baby

Of course, a day with littles (or bigs for that matter) is not complete without some down time with a screen and a cuddly blanket.

screen time

This day was so full, pictures don’t do it justice. I finally had to put down the phone and just be in it, because everything was so much to take in.

I want to remember the moments of sweetness like a two-and-a-half-year-old cousin wandering into the TV room with his bowl of shredded cheese and climbing up next to Kirk and asking questions about Minecraft. My thirteen-year-old’s patient response and offer of letting him play reminded me of how Caleb treated his little brother, and my heart swelled.

I want to remember the conversations with my brother and sister that felt natural and relaxed and made us forget that we live hundreds of miles apart and that this doesn’t happen every day. Moments of falling asleep on the couch or walking out into the yard or playing UNO Attack (thanks, B!!!!) felt like they happen every day.

And dinner time. Oh, the dinner table.

I want to remember shopping with my sister and planning our meal like it’s the most normal thing in the world, all while talking about everything. I want to remember cooking and being together and living life.

I want to remember what it was like to have a full dinner table and the littles getting to be the bigs and experiencing the noise and cries and trauma of food touching other food or too much ketchup coming out of the bottle or corn on the cob rolling onto the wrong place on the plate. Our table was full and loud and fun.

Our day was full and loud and fun.

My body, mind, and soul felt full and tired and happy and sad and grateful, so very grateful.

sister selfie

At the end of the day when, Sister Selfie! was called, here is what we got. Sister selfie, plus one. I am old enough to be this girl’s mom, so I could technically be a grandma. Technically. Not yet.

For now I relish being auntie to this precious little one and his brothers and will hold so many special memories close to my heart.

It was a very good day.

This Cup

She arrives home from school with a sunny face. I accept her offer of tea brought to my room where I have been holed-up sick today. Lemongrass green tea has just enough caffeine to take the edge off of a headache and just enough lemongrass to soothe angry intestines.

She is growing up. Tonight is her first middle school musical, and she is on stage crew. I am proud of her initiative and drive. She grasped this opportunity on her own. Her wings are growing at breakneck speed, and she eagerly strains to try them out at every opportunity.

I’m grateful for big brothers to send to the opening performance for support. I am grateful that Roo got to see the show on Tuesday as part of a school trip. I am grateful that her dad can go tomorrow night, and I can go on Saturday.

I am grateful that her face lit up when I mentioned going along for pizza afterwards with the cast for Saturday’s cast party. Her face doesn’t always light up at the idea of having me close, but sometimes it does.

I am grateful for the cute outfits her dad helped her to find earlier this week. She looks grown-up in the best of ways as she changes into dark patterned leggings and a black shirt and comes to hug me goodbye.

I love her. Today I can actually feel the love. It’s big. I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the words and music of Sara Groves and Ellie Holcomb from the song This Cup on Sara’s latest album, Floodplain.

What if my whole world falls apart?
What if my life could be different?
What if I sat right here and took you in without the fear
and loved you whole
without the flight and didn’t try to pass
this cup?

I often struggle with my cup. Struggle to take it and embrace it and delight in it. Struggle to love and be present in the hard. That’s no secret. But in this moment with tea at the right temperature and a heart full of gratefulness for a girl growing up, I lift this chipped, imperfect, coffee cup filled with tea and love.


Glorious Light

Even in darkness, there’s glorious light, found in the standing with, pouring out, stepping into, coming alongside.

In places of pain, redemption is close, found in the welcoming of heartache and tears and embracing the task of bringing together the blessed ones. The mourners.

So don’t hide your light or keep yourself small. Call attention to the wick and beckon the flame.


Shine your light and embrace your glory in the darkest of times.

Death will not have the final say.

Double-Digit-Day’s End

The end of this day finds me in an unexpected place.

I wrote about single-digit days here, and tried to savor the moments before this time that I knew was coming. Double digits are here and rolled in with a bang.

First, coffee with a friend. That part was relaxing as we sat in my corner and processed life.

Next, beginning the school enrollment process. That part was stressful. Enrollment started at 1, and I hit up the middle school first, only to find that we are districted for the other middle school. Even though my son managed to get enrolled at, and spent a year attending, this wrong school last year.

So. . .

I circled back to the elementary school to get another child all set up. Bingo. It worked.

Still. . .

There was much anxiety from the child who thought she would be at a certain middle school only to find that she wouldn’t.

And. . .

What to do about the child who just spent a year at the school he wasn’t supposed to attend?

So. . .

I took the anxious child to check out the new middle school without committing. We walked around and asked questions and had wonderful people help us.

We came home to day’s end with me feeling no further ahead than I was this morning.

But. . .

It will all work out and be as it is supposed to be this year.

Even if. . .

I have five children in five different schools.

This is our family, and I will embrace its uniqueness.

Heart of Worship

This Sunday was an unexpected worship team week. My decision to attend community worship on Wednesday led to being asked if I was available, and I was.

Due to the unpredictability of August and the ending of stay-home summer days and transition into back to work and school, I didn’t schedule a Sunday this month. It worked out anyway.

Singing today felt like a gift. I always believe that God assembles just the right team for each Sunday, and this week was no exception. It was just what God ordained in his being worthy of worship just because and in spite of ourselves.

I have been in a hard place this summer. There was a Sunday a few weeks ago that was just rough. I sat through the singing scribbling away in my journal with tears streaming down my cheeks. What I was writing isn’t what you might think had you witnessed the moment.

Here is a glimpse into my heart that Sunday. It was not a heart of worship. It was one of cold stone.

These tears are not sad or repentant. They are angry and trapped and very stuck as we sit in a row in church as a messed-up, dysfunctional family. I am bumped into, banged, touched, annoyed. So as singing of depths of mercy goes on around me, my heart hardens further as I drift away from the very thing that is supposed to anchor me.

Have you really forgotten, Father? Because I remember every day my sins and shortcomings and pain. I am so very tired. I feel crushed. Very tired. Lost.

Poured out completely.

These are just motions that I am going through, and not very good ones at that. Please help my unbelief that you are with me. Show me that you are close.

You don’t always give us an easy path, but you give us exactly what we need. I hear the pastor pray these words and add them to the page.

What are you doing, God? I am uncomfortable and can’t feel my arms, yet, you are at work, and I need to let you just work it out.

Please work it out, Father.

God came close, reached down, and pulled me up from the mire. Not because of but because.

Because he loves me, he gives me exactly what I need. Even the very hard.

He met me in the very hard, breathed life into my heart, and nudged me onward.

This Sunday I was able to receive the gift of leading worship with the team, knowing that it was all about the one who is worthy and the freedom I have to embrace the gift that is music. I was able to lead with a heart of worship.

And it was glorious.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. Psalm 30:2

Breakfast Tray

Thursday dawned a surprise snow day

And with it came a breakfast tray

And littles who promised it wasn’t a bribe

From the second half of my native tribe

For extra media or episodes

But just because they loved me so

And the food prepared was rather good

It tasted just as breakfast should

And this mom felt lots of love

For her precious treasures from above.


Embracing the Introvert

It’s my final embrace of 2014. Embracing the introvert that is me.

I have known this since the mid-nineties when I first took the Myers Briggs Test using a pencil and paper and found out that I was an INTJ.

Really?! You are the same thing as (insert mutual friend/acquaintance/church leader here who I don’t seem much like at all)? That’s interesting!

The above response came from my worship pastor as we spent several hours together traveling with two others to visit and encourage church members.

Well, I took the test in my early to mid twenties which was twenty or so years ago.

Ok. No. I just wouldn’t have thought those letters for you.

He didn’t know early twenties me.

Steve took the test while finishing his undergraduate degree at EMU and was an ENTJ.

There’s a great website that gives a fairly accurate response called 16 personalities. You could try taking it again to see what you get.

Interesting. I made a mental note about this as conversation surrounding personality types continued.

Later that evening, I did just that. I located the website and took the computerized test and found that my results were INFP, a change from thinking and judging to feeling and perceiving. Encouraging Steve to take it again, he, too, changed to ENFP.

That’s not surprising. I would have guessed those personality types for both of you.

This was my pastor’s response to the updated letters I messaged him. He knows the me, the us, of the last seven or so years.

Twenty years and much work later, our hearts and feelings and skills have changed. We have grown.

We are still introvert and extrovert, though.

Are you surprised?

What are YOU?

It was helpful to read over the basic profiles given for the different aspects of the personality types and to name what can feel ambiguous. Like the need for recovery after being around people. Because I am always around people. Lots of them.

I have jokingly said Introverts shouldn’t have eight children.

I know I have exactly the right family for me.

But it’s really 2014

It’s also really fun to see what is emerging from this messy family mix of introverts and extroverts who have learned to feel more and judge less.

And now I need a nap.

It’s Rolling In

I am fighting for this time to write. By fighting for, I mean refusing to cry and become paralyzed with frustration over whatever issue is going on with my own computer and booting up my husband’s, which he generously offered.

Your battery is dangerously low, the screen reads as I wrench around from a semi-settled position propped by pillows on the bed to find the power cord that I’m hoping is close by. There it is on the floor.

How does it know? How is a computer able to tell me how depleted I feel? How I wish it were as simple as plugging into a power source and plugging away. I’m sure some analogy to a power source could be made here, but, honestly, I am too tired to think of one.

Earlier I grabbed a few minutes to write, sort, think, process while vegetable soup simmered on the stove and Steve had little girls at the library. Instead I took a facebook quiz. It was mindlessly easier than engaging my overwhelmed heart, and much more ego-stroking to have my superior logic skills affirmed by an eight-question quiz than to face a blank page waiting for words.

Who knew I was so logical?

Not like that Frozen quiz where I discovered that I am Pabbie the Troll.

I’m still trying to let that one go!

The year ends in two days, and unlike last year’s word which came to me suddenly, this year’s has been nudging me slowly, backing me into a corner, leaving me feeling restless, unsettled, slightly panicked.

Which is exactly why I need to choose it.

When I reveal this word on January 1, it will make sense. Until then, I continue to grow increasingly reflective, introspective, contemplative. I remarked on this the other night as Steve and I walked downtown to meet the clan, assembled from near and far just because we could this year, for a family dinner.


I took a deep breath when he asked how I was doing.

I’m struggling. There is so much going on, and it’s difficult, because I usually become reflective and introspective the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I don’t feel the space for that this year with all of the activity happening.

I was being serious and riskily sharing feelings, and he laughed. He laughed!

You mean like the way you are every day?

Fair enough.

But the end of the year brings on so much more. It feels big and cumbersome and ready to birth out the new one. Heavy with hope, pregnant with potential, terrified of transition, my heart wrestles with what is to come and what is gone never to come again.

Like this moment of togetherness. Just because we could.


For two more days I long for space to reflect, regroup, and review what I learned to embrace in 2014. This space may or may not take place, and 2015 will roll in anyway, and that will need to be okay.

Like Sheep in a Pen

Some day, O Israel, I will gather you;
I will gather the remnant who are left.
I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen
Like a flock in its pasture.
Yes, your land will again be filled with noisy crowds.
Micah 2:12

The sheep pen is one of my favorite Christmas decorations, and this year it held a place of honor among my favorite things.

Steve got this for me over ten years ago at a local Christmas and collectible store that, at the time, was going out of business.

There are 2 sheep, a ram, a lamb, a goat, and two fence pieces that latch together to create a pen. I like to leave it open so that you can peek in at the animals inside. And maybe so that the animals don’t feel trapped and penned in. Exit strategies and ways of escape are important to me.

Little Mae latches it shut so that none of them will get out every time she passes by and notices it open. I have given up leaving it open as it is for the picture. Looking now from my vantage point in the corner, I see that it’s latched tightly shut.  She appreciates them being cozy and safe.

sheep pen

This Christmas I have felt the gathering like sheep in a pen. Not only are my children home, but all of my siblings and their spouses and children are home, as well.

It makes for some pretty noisy crowds.

I struggle with noisy crowds. I always have, and as 2014 comes to a close with all that I have chosen to embrace, one of those things is my introverted self. I hope to process that further in a future post.

This season, I am grateful for increasing self-awareness and for a husband who gets me well enough to drive me home when I have had enough of the sheep in the pen before the tipping point sends me into a bad place.

I am still learning to embrace who I am, who God created me to be, and the beauty within my broken. I am also learning to embrace the beauty within the parts that are NOT broken but just uniquely me.

I am grateful for a husband who opens the pen and drives me home to the comfort of my quiet, away from the noisy crowds.