Friday, November 28, 2014

In Which I Beg For Us All To Be Good To One Another

In the very recent past (maybe a few months) alone, I have spoken with no less than 6 women of varying ages who have been certainly marked by criticism from an older woman in their lives.  I can also be included in this group.  The "older" women are of varying ages also.  Please don't hear me saying that older women are critical...PLEASE don't hear that...some of the "olders" in these situation aren't "older" at all, but they are just "older" than the "younger" in the situation.

By and large, these "youngers" can think of a list of things to criticize the "olders" about, but these "youngers" I speak of wouldn't, just wouldn't, do it.

My heart wonders why.  Why, oh why, would we intentionally make this hard life harder?  Girls, we need each other.  We are on the same team, trying to navigate life.  I have no need of you pointing out that I have 60 pounds to lose...I am WELL aware of it...and, really, when you point it out, honestly, I just want to keep this fat girl around, hoping desperately that you will love HER.  No girl needs to hear that she is currently not making it as a mom...she is very aware of her shortcomings.  Please don't tell her that her house is always cluttery...she is really just trying to make it through the day with everyone fed and still alive.  Could you please not point out that her job is heading nowhere?  She is passionate about it and loves people through her work

Instead, offer to watch my kids while I hit the gym.  Tell her she is doing a great job as a mom and you are proud of her.  Hang out with her in her cluttery will NOT break out into hives, I promise...and ask her how she's really doing and then listen, really LISTEN, as she speaks her heart.   Tell her you are proud of her for using her gifts to love people, and then take her out to dinner because you know she doesn't make enough money to take herself out.

I wanna live like that.  May it never be said of me that I criticized when I could have loved.  Join me?

Friday, October 10, 2014

happy yellow cart

This cart was meant to be mine.  I loved her at first sight.  She was holding grungy tools at a garage sale, and her sticker said $10.  I didn't have $10 with me, and I didn't have any money left in my "mad money" part of the budget.  There were plenty of years during which the only "mad money" we had was the money that I spent and consequently made Tim mad.  However, these days, our budget does allow me some money to decorate the house, buy fancy hand soap instead of Dial, buy mums for the porch, etc.  I digress...  Anyway, I had already spent that week's "mad money" and I'm really trying to be a budget girl, although it is so very hard.  I walked away from this love-at-first-sight happy yellow cart.

Fast forward two weeks.  My mad money had been replenished, and I had a crisp $10 bill.  I thought, "maybe they are having a yard sale again this week-end".  I drove by, but no such luck.  I had been dreaming of the happy yellow cart in my sleep.  Much to my boys' dismay...actually, just the big boy's dismay, the other two didn't even know what was happening...I parked in the driveway and knocked on the back door.  No answer.  Knocked again.  Still no answer.  I went around to the front door.  She answered!!!!  Now what do I say??  I went with the truth....I saw a happy yellow cart at your garage sale a couple of weeks ago and I didn't have any money but I've been dreaming of the happy yellow cart and I know this is really really weird but is there any chance you still have it and you would sell it to me????  (fingers crossed, hoping she doesn't slam the door in my face)

She smiled and said, "Of course!  I'll meet you out there."  We cleaned off the grungy tools.  I handed her the crisp $10 bill.  The happy cart became mine.  She makes me smile every time I walk by her.  It's like we've been together forever.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Here's to the dark days...

It's one of those days.  Nothing about my circumstances points me to darkness, but the day feels dark.  I can't do all the things, so I lash out.  My to-do list feels like a losing game of Tetris, so I get angry at the people I love the most.  I ask for a night with no kids, but it doesn't really turn out that way.  I realize at about 8:00 that I completely forgot to take dinner to a family with a "Dad fell off the barn" injury.  They went without dinner, and it's my fault.  They're probably starving or eating PopTarts for dinner.  I'm just mad, cranky, grumpy, out of sorts.  It feels dark.  Now, I'm mad at the Loverboy, and he doesn't know why.  There is no why.  He's doing all the things, too.  He's doing more of the things than I'm doing, actually.

I call the Mom of the starving family.  She assures me they did not starve.  We laugh about it.  Grace.  The Loverboy tells me to leave the table and do some of the things.  They will clean up.  Grace.  The littlest one tells me a story about school and his sweet teacher who points him daily to Jesus whether he knows she does or not.  Grace.  The middle one tells us how happy/sad it makes him when his friends take home "Back Pack" food on Friday...happy because they are happy to have food/sad because they wouldn't have food otherwise.  Grace.  The biggest one says "I'm sorry your night without kids didn't really work out".  Grace.

It's all grace, every last little bit of it.  Grace is the road home.  Grace is what will bring the joy in the morning.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Years ago, at a conference for moms, I heard a speaker talk about a topic I have no memory of.  In the midst of that very inspirational and memorable (ha!) talk, she casually mentioned the idea of margins.  She talked about her family's quest to keep the margins of their life together clear.  Just as a book with little or no margins on the edges would be difficult to read and impossible to take notes in or add to, a life with no space in the margins can be difficult to navigate.

As a young mom, I heard what she was saying, but, honestly, I felt powerless to change much of the stuff creeping into our margins.  I wasn't even sure I wanted to change it.  Our ministry to "big kids" was both challenging and fulfilling.  I liked the fact that high school kids might stop by at the drop of a hat for frozen pizza.  I didn't mind the margins being full because they were full of things we were doing together.  We only had one kid of our own, so he joined in with whatever was happening.  Our lives were full, but I didn't feel a need to change anything.

I am a firm believer that life, just like the weather, comes in seasons.  And so, as our home got more full and the babies started turning into boys and the boys into young men, I started resonating more with the margins lady.  This summer, in particular, our family has cleared the margins.  We have intentionally made space to just "be".  Oh, we're still throwing the camping chairs and bat bags in the back of the Pilot for baseball tournaments, and Mr. Wood has still been going to his job, and the big boy has had Open know the drill, they're never "required", but they are oh-so-required.  However, we have said "no" to things we easily could have said "yes" to.  We have carved out time to sit together by the fire pit.  We have slept in.  We have done projects around the house, not in that "we-are-so-stressed-out-cause-the-floor-is-falling-in" sort of way that we often find ourselves working, but in a relaxed, "just-because-we-want-to" way.  We have even said no to some fun things and important people in order to be with "our people"...the five of us...not because those other things and people aren't SUPER (cause they are...mostly!), but because the five of us will not always be living here together in this old house and the clear margins are sometimes the only space where we can love and be loved, know and be known.

Join me, clear the margins.  Make space.  Chances are, we won't regret it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Holy Interruptions

It happens to me a lot...the reminding of what is most important, what really matters.  It happened again this morning.

I always have plans in my mind.  There are a jillion things I "should" be doing at any given moment.  The laundry, the cleaning, the projects...they often go undone here at the Woodshed.  Sometimes they go undone because I really am busy doing more important things.  Often, they go undone because, when I finally finish all of the important things, I frankly just don't want to do the laundry, the cleaning, the projects.  So, on the rare occasions when the "time to" and the "want to" come together in a beautiful marriage, I like to run with that.  This morning is one of those such times.  I had a space of time and the gumption inside to finish some things hanging over me.  Then, Ezra asked if we could cuddle.  Well, of course we can cuddle.  That turned into "can we watch a movie and eat our breakfast in the living room?". Well, sure.  That's no problem.  Then, the frozen waffles he could make on his own turned into "can you make real waffles, mama?".  Umm, yes, I'd, ahem, love to, dear sweet boy."  At this point, I'm watching the space of time for my plans slip away.  We finished up the waffles, and just as I was closing the dishwasher, thinking "ok, I think I can still get this done", that sweet boy came in and said, "Mama, can you pour me some coffee with Irish Cream?".  AAAGHGHGHAAGHGHG!!!!

Ok, so pouring coffee doesn't even take that long, but the Irish Cream is new, and I'll have to take the seal off, and that takes forever, and I just want to DO WHAT I WANT TO DO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BUT...I read this article this morning, posted by my friend, and I think of that mama.  She would give anything for even one more holy interruption.  She would gladly open the new creamer this morning if it meant just one more moment with her precious boy.   I'm going to pour the coffee with a grateful heart in her honor this morning, and I think I'll even sit and watch the end of A-Team and drink my own cup right along with him.

You see, I firmly believe that our boys are not in charge of our house, and, so, their demands should never dictate all that happens.  However, this morning, it hit me in a new way.  What if those holy interruptions really ARE the real stuff of life.  Maybe I have always had it backwards.  I've just assumed that the plans I have are the REAL things I should be doing, and most roadblocks to those plans are just annoying, or amusing at best.  Maybe the divine plan for me has more to do with the holy interruptions and less to do with the plans I make.  I won't dump the plans altogether...I mean, I can't go on wearing unwashed jeans FOREVER, and I really do think I'd like to finish those projects some day...but, for today, I'll drink the coffee.  I'll snuggle a little longer.  I'll give thanks for the holy interruptions.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Could the Woodshed handle a sister?

NO, I am NOT pregnant.  I just wanted to see if that title would make anyone think so.  Bahahahaha.  :)  I have, however, had two conversations this week with two different guys in my family that have me pondering, wondering, praying as I go along....

The first was with Simon.  He often says he wants a baby.  This time, however, he quite matter-of-factly said, "I'm praying to God that he will put a baby in your tummy.  It can be a boy or a girl, but I think it should be a girl.  I want you to have a baby in your tummy because I don't want to be the littlest anymore.  I'm always the littlest, and I don't want to be anymore."  Well, ummmm, ok....

Then, last night, Mr. Wood said to me, "I'd really like to have a daughter".  Well, ummmm, ok....

You see, I'm kind of done with the giving birth and the caring for newborns.  I mean, all of the parts are still there, and they are all still in working order, but I'm done.  I'm over it.  Perhaps you're thinking I'm a selfish horrible woman, and you can continue thinking that, but I'm past the diapers and morning sickness and lack of sleep and nursing bras and strollers and wipes and pack n plays and naps.  Oh, it was all beautiful while it lasted, but we have moved past it now and this is a beautiful place to be.  Of course, I trust the God of the Universe enough to know that, should he choose to place another one of those creatures inside of me, he would give me the grace and stamina to make it happen and to love that sweet baby so much I would wonder what we had done without him or her.  BUT...if it's up to me, I feel done.

Then, there's adoption.  Mr. Wood and I have always thought this might be a journey we would take some day.  We talked about it even before we had the boys, maybe even before we were married.  However, the thought of home studies and home visits and dossiers and all of that makes me have to throw up in my mouth a little bit.  Oh sure, if God clearly tells us to start the process, I will do all of that out of obedience, and I get that it is all necessary...I mean, I don't want some delinquent adopting a bunch of kids.  BUT I just don't really WANT to do it, you know?

So, here we are....I've got two Wood guys putting the thoughts in my head this week, and, wow, wouldn't it really be nice to have someone to buy smocked dresses and make hair bows for around here?  I guess I'm just going to pray that if anyone has a kid in need of a family who has no requirements like morning sickness, nursing bras, dossiers, or home studies, they will know they can drop her off here.  It's a long shot, but stranger things have happened...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

We can do hard things.

Growing up, most things came easy for me.  I had great parents, and I even enjoyed being around them most of the time.  I was pretty good at school.  I made friends fairly easily.  I was good at music stuff.  I never played sports because I would have had to work at it and I would not have been very good after a little work or even a lot of work.  See, I just didn't do things that I couldn't be good at.

Then I got to college.  This "4.0 in high school" girl struggled in Chemistry her freshman year.  No matter how hard I tried and how much I studied, I could not get it.  I wasn't sure what to do as I had never come across something so difficult for me.  I was also severely homesick.  Our phone bill the first month I was there (I was 10 hours away from home, so calling was my only option and cell phones were not around yet!) was over $250.  My dad, bless his heart, called me and issued the ultimatum after that bill arrived!  I can remember riding in the back seat of some guy's little hatchback, on our way back to Milligan after fall break.  In those days, you just caught a ride with anyone heading towards the Midwest and had your parents pick you up at the Plainfield Cracker Barrel. As we were heading into the mountains, I was repeating, over and over under my breath, "Be still and know that I am God.".  For whatever reason, that was the scripture on my mind and I thought that if I just said it to myself enough times I might not hyperventilate and grab the steering wheel so the strange boy would wreck and I would have enough injuries that I would have to go back home.  Pathetic, huh?

Eventually Chemistry ended  and I pulled out a C for my final grade.  The next semester I got a B, and I can honestly say I've never thought about Chemistry again since then.  I grew to love Milligan as much as my own home, and I am convinced that those struggles made me more like Jesus than I would have been without them.

As I look at these boys God has given to us in light of my story, I am determined to allow them to have struggles.  I don't want to solve all of their issues and make life easy for them.  I want to be grateful for the struggles they encounter.  Certainly, I will pray that they will not be hurt in the midst of them, and certainly, I would rather they not have them at all and still become all they were made to be.  However, the older I get the more I believe that it just doesn't work that way.  The struggle IS the refining fire.  If we want to be refined, we just have to embrace the struggle.

I remain grateful for three boys who are becoming who they were created to be and for the man walking alongside me as we navigate these years.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reflections on football...

Now that's not something I thought I'd ever write about, but I have learned a valuable lesson from my good friend Cody Adams...sports can relate to and teach lessons about other areas of life. So, being a mama of three fairly sporty boys, I'm always on the lookout for those lessons.

For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on last night's experience:

1. Sherman made an incredible play. He has serious talent and skill.

2.  When Sherman made that "choke" symbol to the 49ers player, he was being rude, or, as Ezra said it, he was acting like a jerk.

3.  I am sad that my boys saw him do that, but I am glad they recognized that it was not appropriate.

4.  I do realize that the 49ers player may have been saying rude things that we did not hear.

5.  That interview was funny to me, mostly because of the reporter's reaction.

6.  Sherman's actual words (if you can get past the yelling) most likely reflect the honest thoughts of many pro athletes who have the gumption to reach that level of play.

7.  I believe there is a different way to live and think about one's self, but, if I'm brutally honest, sometimes I feel that way about myself, too.

8.  I believe that Sherman is an intelligent man based on his past accomplishments, but that interview still makes me say "WOW".

9.  If I had just been running and jumping and stretching out my arm way far, particularly with all of that gear on, maybe I would have been yelling too.

10.  All in all, he's still a person just like me, and he likely has a mama who loves him and doesn't want me to assume that his public actions and interviews completely define least that's what I would want for my boys....BUT if any of my boys ever makes that choke sign at someone, they better believe they'll be in trouble with me, even if they are playing in the NFL.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Gap

Although you won't find me making fun of anyone who has made resolutions, I haven't made any for myself.  I also can't zero in on one word for the year as I have in some past years....

The one thing I can't get my mind off of or wrap my brain around, though, is our family's role in narrowing the gap between us and those who need things we have.  It has been eating at me for years.  I can point back to when I read the book The Irresistible Revolution as the starting point for the gnawing at my brain and heart.  Oh sure, we've done small things to try and narrow the gap...getting rid of (some) excess, giving more, doing our part (or at least attempting) to be nice to the planet, reaching out here and there, secretly meeting needs of people we know, adopting a boy in El Salvador and a girl in Ecuador through Compassion International, praying about whether we should adopt an orphan....  While these are all good things, and I'm grateful for the small changes our family has made, we still have an "us" and "them" mentality.  "We" help "them".  "They" need food or money, so "we" throw it towards "them".  "We" feel stirred, so "we" adopt another child through Compassion.

Meanwhile, we go on with our lives, spending the grocery money each week and only feeling angst when we've reached the budget limit and therefore the shoe polish Dad needed and the more expensive shampoo Mom wanted will have to wait until next week.  We have all that we need and more.  Our clothes are generally in style and they are certainly warm and in our size.  The gloves I got for Christmas (which I love) cost as much as caring for a child in Ecuador for a whole month.  Our vehicles, while I wish they were newer and had that new fangled "talk on the phone through your car" system, are not more than 10 years old and run well.

So, how do we reconcile this?  How do we narrow the gap and erase "them" and "us" from our vocabulary?  How do we enter into community with people who need things we have?  That's what I'm looking for this year.  That's what I'm praying about.  That's what I long for.  I can't reduce it to a resolution or a word, but it is what it is what is in my heart for our family...for 2014 and beyond.