Month: April 2015

Thirty-Five

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It was 35 years ago today, at 12:39pm, when I was born into the world at Natrona County Memorial Hospital in Casper, Wyoming.

I’ve celebrated my birthday a variety of ways over the years. I smashed cake in my face when I turned one. I celebrated many a birthday with sleepovers. I had my first (and last) boy-girl party (Oooh!) at Roosevelt Park when I turned 13 with my friend, Kristen. All I remember about that party was one of the boys being carried around the park by his knickers while all of us girls were appalled and roamed around in a small herd (I guess we figured we were better off if we stuck together).

Fast forward about ten years to the first time I had to go to work on my birthday and it felt like just another day. Birthdays just aren’t the same when you’re an adult as they are when you’re a kid.

And then there were a few birthdays that just weren’t very happy. I would go into them with expectations of how the day would go and found myself disappointed at the end. There were birthdays where someone I cared about forgot, and instead of feeling loved and celebrated, I felt alone and sometimes forgotten. But the reality is, I have been the one who has also not lived up to someone’s birthday expectation. I’ve mailed the card or package too late. I have been the one who has forgotten.

So a few years ago, I got to thinking about birthdays in general. And here’s what I realized:

How well I celebrate my birthday is entirely up to me. And it’s not about presents or parties. It’s about celebrating life..a life we’ve all been given for some larger purpose. So, each year, I give myself two gifts:

I check an item off my bucket list. It just seems appropriate that the best way to celebrate another year of life is do something, big or small, that I want to do while I’m still around. One year, I ran along Lake Shore Drive. One year, I went to a shooting range and shot a gun for the first time (Turns out, I’ve got pretty good aim.). This year, I’m going to walk through lavender fields.

I pay it forward. Inspired by people who have been doing this for much longer than I have, each year, I do something for someone else in honor of my birthday. One year, I mailed a box of baby clothes to a friend. Another, I took the teenagers that I mentor out for breakfast. I do something unexpected to make someone’s day, which brings me such joy. This year, I bought a friend a meaningful bracelet in celebration of a life that she recently lost.

On my actual birthday, I thank Jesus for another day, another year and all of the people in my life that I love and that love me back.

And then, I eat cake. With extra frosting.

Cheers to birthdays and celebrating life well!

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PB&J or Panera?

“Tomorrow is lunch bunch,” I said to the four year-old as I was tucking her into bed. “I’m going to pick you up and we are going to have a special lunch at Panera. You can get your favorite: mac and cheese, and we will have a special lunch bunch lunch date.”

This past week at A’s school, it was the Week of the Young Child. I imagine the same is true for most parents of small children, but every week feels like the week of the young child in my world. Anyway, it was a week-long celebration that had a different element each day. The day that A was looking most forward to was the day she called “lunch bunch,” when the parents have lunch with the children.

As I told her the plan for our lunch bunch, I was expecting cheers of celebration from an elated little girl. Instead, tears filled her eyes as her bottom lip quivered. “Mom, I don’t want to have mac and cheese at Panera. I want to pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and eat it at school with you,” she said.

I had something bigger and better for her in mind, and I was a little stunned that all she wanted was for me to bring a simple PB&J to school. I wanted to give her more. I wanted her to indulge in her favorite meal. I wanted lunch bunch to look different, but she had determined how lunch bunch should go.

And so, because I love her, I obliged. “Okay,” I said. “Peanut butter and jelly it is!”

As I was packing her lunch, I just couldn’t give up the idea of making it special. I packed the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, made and cut just the way she likes it. I also packed her favorite chips, some carrots for good measure, a mandarin and a juice box for a special treat.

And sure enough, when I showed up for lunch bunch with the lunch she wanted, she was over the moon. It was a beautiful day, so we sat outside and she recounted her morning. She happily chatted away for 30 minutes while she ate her lunch, and then was ready to re-join her class for the afternoon. Even though I wanted to give her more, her needs had been met and she was content.

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As I headed back to work, I saw myself in my child’s shoes. How many PB&Js have I eaten when Panera was in the plan? How many times has my loving Heavenly Father had something better planned for me when I insisted that things go the way I wanted? The likely answer: often.

As I have seen God’s provision come true in my life, the greater the desire is in me to trust Him and His plan more than doing things my way. But the beautiful thing is, just like I gave A the PB&J, God also meets us wherever we are and lovingly gives us everything He can within the choice that we make.

“Okay, you’re going to choose the PB&J this time, I’ll meet you there. I’ll add some chips, carrots, a mandarin and a special treat. I had something else in mind, but I love you. I’ve given you the ability to make choices, so if this is what you choose, I’ll meet you here with the hope that you’ll continue to trust me more and more so that I can give you all that I have for you,” He says.

And, just like I’m ready to take A to Panera for a special lunch-bunch treat when she’s ready to go, I think He’s ready to give us abundantly more than we can ask for, when we’re ready to step out in faith.

We just need to trust Him and go where He leads, which is easier said than done sometimes. So, until we’re ready, he’ll meet us where we are. But when we are ready, He’s ready too.

Here’s to giving up the PB&Js to see what else is on the menu!

 

Beautifully Broken

“Really? You like that one?” she asked.FullSizeRender_2 (3)

“Yes, you look beautiful.” I said. “Stunning.”

“Ugh, I hate that one. Look my eyes – they are swollen. And my face looks fat.”

“No, actually, your eyes are sparkling and your face does not look fat. Oh friend,” I said. “I wish you could see you like I see you.”

For us girls, if we have had that conversation one time, we’ve had it a thousand times. And while I’ve never been a fly on the wall during guy-talk, I image the same conversation surfaces through different words at some level for guys, too. We’re not fooled, guys, you’re not really macho macho men.

It’s interesting though how self-critical we can be. How all we can see are the bags under our eyes or the pimples on our face or our fat legs or our too skinny arms when the first thing other people notice is the beam in our eyes or the warmth on our face or the characteristics that make us uniquely us.

FullSizeRender_3 (2)And it’s not just our physical appearance, we…well at least I…do the same thing when it comes to character. Recently, at a book club meeting (cheers to book clubs!) with a group of trusted women, I shared the story of what is perhaps my biggest regret in life thus far. And in telling them the story, I stared my ugly humanness right in the face…yet again.

It’s true, our own human nature fails us a lot. I have a perfectionist in me that refuses to die. I have judgmental thoughts that pop in to my head without warning. And patience, well, we will have to save that one for another day because in my life, that’s a topic worthy of its own entire blog post…or two.

And yet at that meeting, in the midst of me admitting my own mistakes, frustrated that after multiple times around the mountain, I still couldn’t quite learn some of the lessons life was trying to teach me, my friend looked me straight in the eye and said:

“Kelli, the most beautiful people in my life are the broken ones. You are beautiful. Your heart beats to bring life and encouragement and love to others. God has given you a sensitive heart, gentleness, compassion and a rare understanding for life. We all make mistakes. We all get tangled up in lessons we can’t learn quick enough. We all have things that we don’t like about ourselves. But friend, I so wish you could see yourself like we see you.”

I sobbed. More. Because where I saw ugliness, somehow she saw beauty.FullSizeRender_1 (3)

And here’s what I realized. Whether we look at physical pictures of ourselves or look inside at our own soul, we see the pain, the memories, the fears, the scars, the struggle, the disappointments and the dreams that haven’t yet come true. We see the weight we want to lose or gain, the hair we wished we had or the eye color we hate so much. We see our flaws. We see our brokenness. And those things are present, no doubt. And while they may describe us, they do not define us.

Because what our friends see in us is equally there, equally present. The gentleness, kindness, joy, compassion, hope, warmth, zeal for life and passion for people. The features that make us beautiful inside and out. Those are there, we just need to look for them.

So while we shouldn’t give up on growing and maturing and learning, I’m going to try to look for the sparkle in my own eyes before I criticize the bags underneath them. And I encourage you, friends, to do the same.

Here’s to the broken, beautiful ones.

Purple Hearts

I hadn’t made it all the way through her classroom door, when Adellyn came running up to me as I arrived to pick her up from school earlier this week.FullSizeRender(3)

“Mom, here,” she said, handing me a sheet of paper filled with purple hearts that she had colored. “This is for you. I made it for you because I just love you so much and I know you love purple.”

The innocence. The love. The thoughtfulness. My heart swelled as I hugged my sweet daughter and thanked her for the beautiful artwork, which now hangs front and center on my fridge. It is those moments that make the sleepless nights and the hundreds of dinners I’ve eaten standing at the kitchen counter and answering the same question 484 times all worth it.

I didn’t do anything to earn that picture from her that day. I didn’t even have to ask for it. The best response, the only response, was to thank my little girl and accept her gift.

It is those moments that remind me that I love that little girl more than I can explain in words. It is those moments, like when she’s sleeping so peacefully or when she giggles with her hand over her mouth in exasperation or when she hugs my legs as she says good-bye for the day or when she figures something out and her face beams with pride. It is then when an unconditional love wells up in me from a place I didn’t know existed until I met my daughter.

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Today, Good Friday, is a significant day for me. I was raised Catholic and can Hail Mary and Our Father with the best of ‘em. Through the Catholic church, I learned a lot about God and Jesus. Then, when I was a teenager working a summer job folding t-shirts on an island called Nantucket, a group of friends told me about the difference between religion and having a relationship with a loving God through Jesus.

That understanding has changed the trajectory of my whole life. And while I understood rationally that Jesus loves me, yes I know, for the Bible tells me so, I couldn’t comprehend how Jesus really felt about me…until I met my daughter.

God calls us his sons and daughters. His children. When I look at my daughter just being herself, my heart hurts with love. And now, I get it. I believe that when Jesus looks at you and me, His heart hurts. I think He loves watching us be us, shortcomings, flaws, imperfections and all. And just like I words fall short at explaining how much I love my kiddo, I believe that words can’t explain just how much Jesus loves His kids.

Words may be insufficient, but His life. His obedience. His sacrifice. That.Speaks.Volumes. about how much He loves us.

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And most humbling, is that just like the purple heart picture from my daughter, I didn’t do anything to earn what He chose to do for me. I didn’t even have to ask for it. The best response, the only response was to thank Him and accept His gift.

My prayer for you as we celebrate this Easter weekend is that you would know that you’re worth it, that you’re loved and that there is a plan for your life. You didn’t have to do anything to earn it. You didn’t have to ask. The best response, the only response is to thank Him and accept His gift.

Happy Easter, friends.