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I write novels, eat dark chocolate, raise three children, love my husband, scrub toilets, ignore the laundry, and love a good story, but hardly ever in that order.



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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hannah Mae The Courageous

Last weekend we traveled north to attend the best birthday party ever. It was for Hannah.
I, for one, am so glad I get to write this story instead of speak it as I can't seem to talk about Hannah without going into the snort-cry. We are long-time friends of Hannah's parents, Sandi and Dave. Sandi and I used to teach together, back when we were young, spry, and one of us was sporting an unfortunately short haircut. I taught with my butch cut Sandi while she was pregnant with Hannah, and I was forever scarred with envy when she was a billion weeks pregnant and still able to fit into her jeans with merely the help of a rubber band to close her zipper. I love Sandi, even though she's skinny, beautiful, tall, and organized. This is true friendship.
We met Hannah during her very first days on this earth. I have a photo in a safe somewhere of me with the butch cut, holding baby Hannah. This photo shows the cuter half of that moment.
When Hannah was about four months old, she started having seizures, and after a very long road with gut-wrenching hospital stays, doctors appointments, long nights, and scary moments, Hannah was diagnosed with a very rare seizure disorder that typically takes the fragile life of a baby by age two. This month, Hannah turned thirteen.

Oh, how we love her. How I love watching her parents nurture her with grace and patience and the ferocious love of people who truly know Jesus and His bone-deep joy.

How I love watching her siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents embrace Hannah, reminding her in every single moment how much she is loved and prayed for and admired.
How I love learning from the McDills how to imitate God and His stubborn caretaking of our hearts, there always to hold our hands, pick us up, cradle us, wait for our wholeness.

How I love it that Hannah cried with joy when her baby sister, our goddaughter, Faith, was born.
How we watched, prayed, and waited with full and heavy hearts as Hannah's dad, Dave, served in Afghanistan. Sandi served her children faithfully as she waited for his homecoming. (Apparently, hyperventilation into a paper bag, my coping mechanism of choice, did not appeal to Sandi. Did I mention she is also tall and thin?) For the record, Dave's send-off ceremony was one of the most wrenching and beautiful experiences of my life. I had to be taken out on a stretcher due to my uncontrollable sobbing, but it was worth it, particularly when Dave returned safely 15 months later.

How I love seeing Hannah communicate with blinks and and facial expressions in a way no doctor predicted she could. I love it that Hannah proves everybody wrong.
Dang it all, I'm deep into the snort-cry again. 
Happy birthday, sweet Hannah Mae. You are a tangible, real-life expression of the beauty, creativity, and fierce love of God, right here among us. We love you so much, it hurts. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pool Time and Other Dangers

I really do love me some pool time. Am I wrong to say such a thing, in this day of skin cancer awareness and limited sun hours? Well, I do. I'm not saying I bake out there until my epidermis flakes off and  my hair catches on fire, but I do love to feel the sun on my pale Midwestern bod and to remember again that God loves me. 

This is in sharp contrast to a certain Norwegian who lives among us and who has been known to marvel at his BLUE skin. Skin so white, it's BLUE. Marc runs to the shade (sprints) after fifteen minutes, but I just slather on some more 50 SPF and count it good. In a not-so-distant future, people might start asking me if I'm Marc's mother, but at least I will be fully fortified with Vitamin D and happy summertime memories. That must count for something.
Which is good, because my recent pool visits have me counting lots of other ways I'm losing. First, I'm not sixteen. That, my friend, is very, very noticeable at the pool. Lots of people at the pool ARE sixteen, and they have the abs to prove it. And long, luscious hair which requires more than a quick shampoo every three days. Ahem. And they paint all their toenails in one sitting, which has a startlingly beautiful effect on one's feet. And they have perk in perky places and lift in lifty places. 

They are something to behold. 

I feel shocked, really, when I remember I passed that mile marker over two decades ago. The perk has parked, the lift has lowered. And now I wear a skirt when I'm swimming. 

Seriously. This is a blow to any woman's ego, is it not? I wear a skirt. Sure, it's short and cute and in a cute paisley print, but it is absolutely, undeniably a skirt. One short stop up from this.
Skirts are awesome for dipping, throwing, and rescuing young children in the water. They prevent innocent sun bathers from seeing middle-aged groceries and other dangerous possibilities. And they are very practical for women who spend an inordinate amount of time failing to understand how to tighten and loosen goggles. (Am I alone in this? Do your children's goggles make you feel stupid? Are they secretly some Mensa test that I continue to fail?) 

So swim skirts have their merits. But they sag when wet. And cling in odd ways. And they are SKIRTS.

But here's the deal: When I was sixteen and didn't know perk and lift were temporary situations, I thought my thighs were too muscular. (HA!) And that my calves were too manly. (HEE!) And that my feet were fat. (WHO IN GOD'S GREEN EARTH CARES?!) So today may I be fully grateful for the healthy body I've been given, may I make peace with the skirt, and may I embrace my voluptuous feet. Heck, with this sunny perspective, I just might paint all those toes the same day AND take a webinar on goggle adjustments. Watch out, world!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

8 Things I Need to Say To Single Moms

1. I don't know how you do it. Really. I suspect you rely heavily on caffeine, liquor, and/or steroids, but perhaps I'm projecting here with what kind of medicinal support _I_ would need.
2. Your kids might not say it every day or even once a year, but you're doing right by loving them and fighting for them. Without a partner in the house to force them to say compliments, they might forget. Please remember: You're doing good work at a very tough job.

3. Alone time is awesome. Get you some.

4. I see you. I've been thinking about you a lot lately and have been saddened to realize how invisible you can become, particularly at church. Sunday school classes are built for couples. I suppose you could sneak into the youth group but I feel that would be awkward. We've all done acne and prom once, and that was enough. But I want you to know I see you. I want to know you. Be pushy in case I haven't introduced myself. And then I can take over with enough pushiness for the two of us.

5. In case you need to ask and your six-year-old isn't much help in the minutes before rushing out the door in the morning: No, your butt does not look big in those jeans.

6. I'll bet you're tired. Can I take your kids for an afternoon every now and then so you can recharge? They might only eat junk food and watch Disney princess movies, but I'll treat your children like my own. Ahem. Proceed at your own risk.

7.If I try to set you up on a date with my single guy friend, please don't take offense. I'm not trying to run your life and I'm not saying you're not doing a great job on your own. I just want you to laugh more and to share a heavy burden with another set of hands and shoulders. Plus, he has a cute rear and can dance. Is one night so bad?
8. God knows where you are. He has not turned His face from you. You can shout and snarl and whine to Him and He can take it. Trust me because I've tried all those things and more. His love for you is bottomless, wide, tall, and stubborn. Trust me because I've had to learn those adjectives in real time, real life. He knows your name and He likes you.

I'm sorry that I'm so late in telling you all this. I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to put to words what I think about you. You are fighting a noble battle, sister. Press on and know I think you rock it. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Book List

And so it begins! Summer va-cay, people! Lemonade, sunshine, sunburns, aloe treatments, sibling bickering, heatstroke...whoops. Sorry. Nobody likes a realist.

So let's pretend instead, shall we? Let's pretend that you are actually going to have hours and hours to devote to your favorite hobbies. Basket weaving, macrame, gnome whittling.
And, for those of you who are blessed by God to know better, reading. 

I have now watched my blinking cursor for three full minutes in an effort to find a hobby more glorious than reading, but I'm coming up empty. Eating one's way across Italy comes very close, but today I feel reading gets the spotlight.

I have a few humble suggestions for you in terms of reading love this summer. But before we start talking turkey, let's lay some groundwork. You will not find here any recommendations for business books. Or science. Or math. Or quantum physics. Or (shudder) financial planning. I'm sure there are lots of good people making lists of such groaners titles somewhere. In fact, I live with one of them.
He's cute, but he reads super boring books.

Here are my recommendations, to be taken with a glass of wine and the knowledge that even though I write Christian fiction and love Jesus, I do read and enjoy books with imperfect protagonists who cuss and act immorally and commit crimes and complain and don't wear pantyhose to church. You've been warned. 

Click on any of the covers below to go shopping.

1. Historical fiction: The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom

I loved this book so much, I thought about it all day before I could shove the kids in bed with nary a kiss and get back to reading until the wee hours. Set in the 1700s on a Southern plantation, this book is a sweeping story of family and all the beauty and tragedy that goes along with being mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers,. That's all you're getting. Remember, I don't even read the backs of books. Just buy The Kitchen House and start reading.

2. Contemporary fiction: Return to Me, by Marisa de los Santos

Oh, Marisa de los Santos. How I adore your storytelling. Will you please write my next book and we'll pretend I did and put my name on it but I'll send you the check and we'll just hope no one goes to prison? Great! Let's meet for lunch to hammer out details and so I can quote your writing to you and make you feel awkward but really loved. Return to Me is the sequel to one of my all-time favorites, Love Walked In. Humor, grace, beautiful storytelling, characters you want to live next door to...That's all. Buy it. And I dare you not to develop a crush on Theo. And Claire. And Cornelia. And...

3. Mystery: The Inspector Gamache series, Louise Penney

I don't typically read mysteries, but I do enjoy me some Ms. Louise. Inspector Gamache reminds me of Poirot from Masterpiece Mystery. All great mysteries should involve a quirky Frenchman with impeccable manners. Mustache optional.
4. General awesomeness: Love Does, by Bob Goff

I'm breaking the cardinal rule of book recs by recommending one I haven't yet finished. But I was upstairs crying while I read this right before I sat down to write to you, and I can't keep this book to myself. Laughing, crying, more laughing, all in the first three chapters. Please remember me weeping when Ryan comes bounding up the walk like a yellow lab, and all he wants is to woo his sweetheart, and you realize God loves you like crazy. Trust me. It will all make sense. Buy it.

5. Parenting: Cleaning House, by Kay Wills Wyma

For those of you non-fiction readers who weren't completely offended by my dismissal of Marc's reading preferences, thank you for hanging on. You just might like this dandy by Kay Wills Wyma. I loved it. The author takes a year to work on specific areas in which her kids are driving her nuts and re-teaching them the world and its many people do not exist to serve them. Think laundry, cooking, throwing a party, lawn work, cleaning house...If your children already participate fully in the running of your home and are interning at the Pentagon this summer, you can skip this book. Otherwise, I would recommend reading it and then watching your children crumple blossom into the people you hope they become.

That's my short list. What books are your book shelf? Any recommendations to share?