Category: family

This week’s guest post is from my friend, Kris Camealy, and I’m thrilled to be hosting her words because they are honest and real. I hope that you, like me, see an echo of yourself in these paragraphs, and are encouraged.

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I sat down on the front stoop the other evening and watched a flock of Canadian geese fly overhead, while my kids scattered themselves down the street, making new friends with the neighbors. They’d been recruited for an impromptu soccer game happening up the street, in the common area between a couple of houses, an invitation unlike any we’ve ever had. This kind of living is completely new to us.

Before we moved here in March, for nearly twelve years, we lived on a noisy, unfriendly street that over the years, became more and more transient with the shifting tides of the economy. Our neighbors changed frequently as houses changed hands, suffered foreclosures, became rentals and so on. The neighbors who did remain we rarely saw, on account of a number of factors.

But it wasn’t all their fault. We could have made more of an effort.
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When my husband and I first moved to the old house, we had one toddler and one baby on the way. After walking through a number of nasty houses, we stumbled into a house that was clean, tidy, and move-in ready. We didn’t deliberate long before signing on the dotted line. We made our home there, and for a while, tolerated the openness of our large backyard. But as the boys grew into preschoolers, and we added yet another baby to the mix, the lack of fencing around the perimeter of our yard gave me pause. Our backyard became a regular cut-through for teens making their way to the bus stop, or to the main road. People regularly walked through our yard as if it were a public thoroughfare, and honestly? I hated this. The regular foot-traffic of strangers across our property made me feel unsafe, and caused me great angst when the children wanted to play in the yard. This, coupled with the fact that our home sat only one house into the neighborhood, off of a busy road, made me long for a fence to keep the kids in, and the wanderers out.

As soon as we were able, we had a 6 foot privacy fence installed all the way around the backyard. I would no longer have to deal with the neighbors dogs pooping where my kids played, or the teenagers behind our home traipsing past my living room window on their way to wherever. My kids could play freely without my worrying that they’d somehow make their way to the busy street out front. This was exactly what we wanted.

But now? I would no longer see my neighbors.

Before the fence, we’d greet each other while returning our trash cans to the backs of our homes, or while raking the yard or letting the dogs out. Before the fence, we could wave hello as they sat on their back deck, or grilled burgers across the lawn.

Before the fence, interaction with our neighbors happened naturally, without much effort, without any pretense.

The fence gave us exactly what we wanted. I still think we needed the fence for all of the reasons I mentioned, but at the same time, we lost something too. When we locked the door on that house for the last time, after 11 years in the only neighborhood my children had ever known, we didn’t say goodbye to anyone. We had no relationships there to grieve or miss. We’d been rooted there alone, and partly by our own doing.
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After nearly 12 years in what felt like a social dessert, we’ve miraculously landed here, on what is arguably the most social street in the state. Six months ago, I didn’t know places like this actually existed, outside of Hollywood sound stages and sitcoms. We are living in a place “where everybody knows your name”. For real. It’s crazy-amazing.

Almost no one has a fence.

Our current backyard is a wide open space that bleeds indistinguishable into our two neighbors yards. Our children play between the houses, and in the common area situated smack out my kitchen back door. On any given afternoon, half of the neighborhood can be seen wandering between each others homes, sitting in each others driveways, and wandering in and out of each other’s garages. Here, you can’t help but see each other.
I’ve thought a lot about fences since we settled here. I’ve thought a lot about the ways we build them in real life, and relationally. If I am honest, I liked living behind a fence. It made me feel safe. The 6-foot privacy fence erected behind my old house is not the first fence I’ve lived behind. Or hidden behind. It’s only in the last couple of years that God has revealed to me, what a master architect I have been at building fences.

Last year, God called me to launch GraceTable, a hospitality themed website where writers share stories of what it is to love their neighbors, to live in community and wrestle out what Jesus meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. GraceTable is a virtual space, but through it God is teaching us what it means to make actual space for people. As we have been coming around to the idea of practicing intentional hospitality, it’s not lost on me that God planted us here, in a neighborhood free of fences. This is a place God is growing me, growing us, as a family. We are learning what it is to let others in, to let them walk on our grass, and discovering the beauty of fence-free living.

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Kris is passionate about bringing people to the table to be nourished by good words, good food and Jesus. Meet Kris at her blog, kriscamealy.com and on Instagram @kriscamealy. Kris is the author of the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey Of Refinement and the founder of GraceTable.org, a community Table open to all who are hungry for more of Jesus.

In our 14 years of marriage, Husband and I have belonged to 10 different addresses.

TEN.

We have owned, rented, bought, sold, lost, renovated, and built from the ground up. We’ve lived in apartments, condos, big houses, and small houses. With each move we’ve taken away a surer sense of what’s important to us as a family, a greater understanding of our needs, and an ability to create a sense of “home” no matter the house. We’ve also picked up quite a few new skills along the way: everything from how to lay tile, to how to electrically wire an entire house, to how to take a space that feels small and make it feel “cozy” or a large space and make it feel “warm.”

We also learned how NOT to do these things.

But that’s a story for another day.

One thing that’s become clear over the years is that both Husband and I genuinely love the process of making a home. He loves learning new aspects of carpentry (and all the subsequent new tools they require), and I love the design end of it all. While some find building and renovating to be stressful, we actually kind of love it. Some of our favorite dates have been spent strolling through tile stores, or pouring over floor samples, or commiserating over window trim and molding.

I know.

Try not be jealous of our wild and crazy dating life. Read More…

Today’s guest post is by my new friend and fellow hope*writer, Carrie Stephens. I connected  with Carrie right away because I could tell she’s a person who likes to laugh, but also isn’t afraid to get deep. I’m thrilled to share my space with her because I just know you guys will appreciate her words.

After you’re done reading this post, head on over to her blog and show her some love! (Sorry, did I just get bossy?) I didn’t mean to. It’s just that I’m still on the road-trip, its past midnight, and I’ve technically walked over 45,000 steps in the last two days, so once again I’ve lost all ability to be genteel.

I know you’ll understand. Because we’re comfortable with each other like that.

Without further ado, here is Carrie’s post!

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When I was six years old, my friend Dayna and I liked to play hospital. One of us was the pregnant woman, the other was the nurse/Doctor/entire hospital staff. I had seen an episode of General Hospital at a friend’s house (yes, my mother was appropriately horrified), so I knew everyone made very dramatic faces in hospitals. We made sure to do likewise.

Nurse: No! No food for you! [insert maniacal laughter]
Patient: [Languishing with hand over forehead] Surely this will be the end of me!
Doctor: [Heroic face] “Don’t worry…I will save you and your baby!” [Pulls baby from under the blanket over my stomach.]

The narrative always went this same way. Mean nurse. Heroic doctor. Easy-to-deliver baby. What we lacked in our understanding of reality, we made up for in imaginary awesomeness. Read More…

If you know me well at all, you know that there’s nothing I love more than sleeping in. Maybe that makes me sound like a lazy, slothful woman but I may as well own it because it’s the honest-to-God truth. If you ask Husband about how much I love my sleep and he’ll shake his head and mutter something about how he’ll “never understand.”

Husband could never possibly understand though, because he has the terrible misfortune of being physically incapable of sleeping in. On the rare occasion that he can manage to keep his body down for more than 7 hours, it punishes him by waking him up with a terrible headache that lasts for half the day. He may actually be allergic to sleeping in. It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

He’s not only up with the birds each day, but adding insult to injury, he also wakes up with the sun shining out of his butt. I mean, really. He’s relentlessly cheery in the mornings. Don’t ask me about it or I’ll just shake my head and mutter something about how “I’ll never understand.” Read More…

As you guys know, Husband and I have deemed this our Summer Of Fun.

Sounds amazing, right?

Don’t we sound like such cool, carefree parents? (Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.)

Well it’s officially our first day of Summer break over here, and if I’m being honest I should tell you that we’re already playing it fast and loose with our definition of “fun”. If you count getting woken up by an early-riser (why, God?), putting out a fight over who gets the last of the Frosted Mini Wheats, answering 47 questions about the plan for the day in a way that does not dash all hope but also can’t later be misconstrued as “you promised!”, and paying bills all before 9:30 am as “fun”, then YES, we are having so much fun already.

The thing is, we did deem this the Summer of Fun, but we don’t exactly have a mile-long list of riveting activities to keep the children entertained for the next 85 days. (I like to call them “the children” every now and then, because it makes me feel fancy.)

Other than a couple trips to the beach, a camping trip with friends (in a trailer, because air-conditioning and coffee pots), and the annual road trip that Amber and I take with our kids, we don’t have much on the calendar.

And you know what?

THAT is fun.

The lure of freedom and all the possibility it represents is the most thrilling thing in the world to me right now.

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For us, The Summer of Fun is mostly about choosing to consciously find and appreciate the fun in regular-life moments. There will be lots of swimming and Popsicles, outdoor movies and late bedtimes, family game-nights and spontaneous picnics in the park.

I guess what I mean is that we will not be standing on our heads and dancing like monkeys in an effort to keep the kids happy. Because everyone knows that ‘keeping the kids happy’ is the biggest booby-trap in the entire world. They would ride that wave until we are fully capsized on the Sea Of Parents-Who-Died-Trying. Read More…

When I sat down at my desk this morning, I fully planned on writing something lighthearted and funny about how I will not be making my children any “summer-fun activity charts”, or “chore charts”, or any other kind of charts for that matter. Because anything that requires me to drive to the dollar store to buy gold star stickers and poster board, create a whole point-system, and then keep track of that system sounds like a lot of work and is quite simply too much for me right now.

To be totally honest, keeping track of anything other than what’s for dinner tonight is quite simply too much for me right now.

Then I was going to write something really poignant about the beauty in the slower rhythms of summer, or how spring has birthed a lot of new life into our household- metaphorically, of course. Calm down. We are having no more human babies over here. Just know that it was going to be a beautiful piece. Read More…

I love that scene in the movie The Holiday where Iris is having dinner with her unlikely and charming friend, an old man named Arthur Abbott. They’re discussing gumption in leading ladies on film and he tells her to quit playing the ‘best friend role’ in her own life. She says, “You’re right. That was brilliant. I mean, you’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for heaven’s sake!”

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By the way, you should know that aside from burritos and GIFs of SNL-funny-ladies, movie quotes are basically my love language. As a self-confessed movie buff, I sometimes get a lot of flack for watching the same movies over and over. (I also get a lot of flack for using the word “flack”, but that’s a story for another day.)

I do realize that watching one film more than 5 times seems excessive and frivolous, but guys! Sometimes I actually learn things, okay? Plus, it’s like therapy, only better. I get to lie on a couch and sort out important life lessons but it only costs a fraction of the price and I don’t have to put on real pants. I think I’m onto something here.

So is Iris, by the way.

In the story of my own life, I may as well swing for the fences and shoot for the role of leading lady, right?

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Arthur and Iris got me thinking- about stories, and how every good story requires adventure. And every great adventure requires some amount risk and courage.

Now, before we get too flowery and aspirational here, let me just pause.

I get it.

Living “an adventurous story” and being “a leading lady” who “takes risks” is all fine and good and nice to talk about on a Thursday morning. But it takes actual courage.

Courage is one of those words that are fun to say and hard to do.

And finding courage when you lack it can be even harder. 

As I continue to pursue writing, I find myself saying “yes” to all kinds of new, scary, and difficult things. I find myself taking risks, even when I have no idea how it will end. Not because I’m some kind of a badass superhero, but because I’ve simply reached a point where I can no longer ignore the dream and the lure of it’s possibility.

Which is really not like me, by the way, and has led to some extremely anxious, sweaty-palm, nervous-stomach moments when I feel like I’ve suddenly misplaced my courage like it’s a lost set of keys.

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Writing is a bit of a lonely endeavor. It requires a lot of time and space to think, to get inside your own head, and to wrestle the words onto the page. Sometimes it feels easy and fun but other times it feels like you’re clawing your way up a mountain.

Alone.

And terribly unprepared.

With only, like, a couple of carabiners and some ill-fitting spandex shorts. Like Tom Cruise in that one Mission Impossible movie, but minus the multi-million dollar budget and fancy props. Read More…

My life is full of imaginary brick walls. Some thick and looming, some crumbled and deteriorating, and still others that are bright red and sturdy, shielding me from outside winds.

But the walls are everywhere. 

I told you recently about the wall I’d been building between my husband and I. I confessed how I had picked up each brick one by one, felt it’s weight, and then foolishly set it down between us. Never looking up, I worked tirelessly at my wall. It wasn’t until I stopped to see it for what it was- a lie, that I had the sense to stop. The wall was a lie because I always thought it kept me safe, but it turns out that it really only kept me separate. You see, some walls need to be brought down.

Other walls are brought down by accident, by sudden impact, or even by neglect.

There’s a wall that I haven’t told you about. I don’t think I’m ready to name it just yet. Maybe it’s not even mine to name, but it shares my landscape. This wall has begun to crumble. At first I was all action- running in every direction trying to catch the bricks as they fell away, trying desperately to stack them back into place. But now…

Now I’m just paralyzed in the moment.

I feel myself standing there at the bottom, frozen in a dust cloud of smoke and rubble, watching it fall. I want this wall to be strong again, but I am helpless because it is not mine to labor over. Some walls represent shared spaces, and at the end of the day that is all they are. Shared spaces. I can help clean up the wreckage but I cannot build the wall. It doesn’t belong to me.

Which got me thinking…

I’ve spent too much time toiling over the wrong walls. There are other, more important walls, after all. My marriage, for instance, is a load-bearing wall. It shelters me, protects me, and holds me up. It not only deserves, but requires my constant care. I must abandon my habit of building walls between us and instead build the wall of us.

Because if a wall is truly strong, it cannot be easily brought down. Read More…

It’s my first real post of 2016 and there’s so much that I want to talk to you guys about! So much actually, that I realized I need to divide it up into 5 separate posts, so as not to make your eyes bleed from exhaustion by trying to squeeze it all into one. See how much I care about you guys? You’re welcome.

It’s been a very busy few weeks around here. Christmas happened. 15 of my relatives came to town to celebrate with us, which including my local family equaled 25 of us all together. It was quite the Griswold style affair. I hosted our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, so I don’t mean to brag or anything, but that’s a lot of people and if you need me I’ll just be over here high-fiving a million angels because DISHES.

Here we all are, squeezed into one photo in my kitchen.

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It was a lovely time with family and- bonus! It turns out my children thrive on extra chaos. They loved it.

Here’s our own little family on our porch on Christmas Eve, because for some reason that has become our tradition since moving into the Forever House.

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Every holiday we take a picture on the porch. It may feel redundant as the years pass by, but one day it’ll just be Husband and I standing there and I want to document all the years we have with our littles on this porch.

As you guys know, we’d been planning to surprise the kids on Christmas morning with the very big news that we’d be leaving to join our best friends in Hawaii a few days later. You also know that I held on to this secret for an entire year which is basically the biggest accomplishment of my life. I’m happy to report that all my be-labored efforts to keep a lid on it were totally worth it and their reactions fully lived up to my expectations.

They basically lost their minds. It was the best. I really wanted to include the video of their reactions here so you could see for yourself, but unfortunately I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to do that so you’ll just have to use your imagination. But just know that it was totally magical.

There was a minor (major) kerfuffle the day before we were meant to leave when we realized that we (and by we I mean Husband) booked tickets to the WRONG ISLAND. Yes, he did. After some very expensive last minute rearranging, and a rather pointless pit stop in Honolulu, we joined our friends in Maui for 9 whole glorious sleeps. In fact, on the plane ride home Husband and I had to recount this together at least three times on our hands because it went by so quickly that we were convinced the whole trip was only 4 or 5 days long. It turns out Hawaii is a strange vortex where time has no actual meaning. The days were long and leisurely but the collective whole of them felt as if they were so fast they’d never even happened. Like some kind of dreamy and tropical mirage in the desert of regular life.

It was wonderful. Read More…

I make a lot of confessions here, but for a long time I’ve wanted to share confessions from the male perspective. Seeing as how that’s impossible to do myself, I’ve been waiting for the perfect chance to outsource. That perfect chance presented itself when out of the blue, my good friend offered to write a piece for me. He knew exactly what he wanted to write about and it was perfect for the blog.

It was a bit of a trick, actually, because after we worked out the details and shook on it he informed me this meant I would obviously have to do a bit of public speaking for him in return. Ah. So that’s what just happened.

Regardless of what I may have gotten myself into, I’m so excited to be sharing my space today with Brant Boersma. Brant is the kind of person who’s charismatic personality, passion for life, and positivity naturally draws people in and encourages them. His words below are an important reminder that part of being a human is overcoming fear.

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My wife and I have three daughters, all significantly different, and all incredible. Teya Rose, Presley Shae, and Violet Wiley. My babies. I could carry on about how proud I am to be their dad, but if you have kids of your own then you already know what I mean. Parenting changes everything. You get that.

As a father to three girls, I keep hearing how I should be afraid of the coming teenage years. There’s stress over meaningless things, an unrivaled sassiness, a constant dissatisfaction and lack of gratefulness, and to top it all off: PUBERTY. Hormones kick in, periods happen, and things get awkward. And let’s not forget those effing teenage boys…

It’s true- all things considered, the teenage years do sound scary, but all in, life is just scary. Doubts, disappointments, uncertainty, failing, not being “enough”- these are all things that don’t depend on age or gender.

I’m talking about human things, I guess.  Read More…