Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Lost and Broken

About a month and a half ago, our TV broke.  Around the same time, my husband lost his wedding band. And then my car keys went missing. Then, I couldn’t locate my engagement ring. The diamond was wobbling in its setting, so I had put it in the box it came in and set the box in a safe place where it wouldn’t be misplaced. And then I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember where that safe place was. I could’ve sworn it was on my dresser, but it wasn’t there at all. No engagement ring that held the memory of my husband kneeling down in some random guy’s backyard asking me to spend the rest of his life with him while I sneezed and coughed all over him because I had been too sick with a nasty cold to be convinced to go to the mountains like he had planned. And then, a guy smashed the back half of our 18 year-old minivan. We were fine, and it still runs but it was just one more thing.

Lost and broken. Everything, it seemed, in our lives was getting lost and/or broken. We have three sons. We are not strangers to lost and broke. But this was more than usual for sure.

Our TV is still broken. I don’t want to fix it. It’s summertime. Summer is for popsicles and playing. Riding bikes around the neighborhood, running, climbing, swinging, exploring. We don’t need a TV in the summer because we have Outside. Our conversations now sound like this:

“I’m bored, Mom.”
“Go outside.”
“But the only thing that makes me not bored is playing video games or watching shows.”
“Bummer. TV’s broken. Go outside.”
“Go. Outside. Or you can help me wash the dishes, fold the laundry, clean the bathrooms, take out the trash...”
“I’m going to the park.”
“I thought so.”

Fifteen minutes later, I hear peals of laughter coming from my children who are running, climbing, swinging… They are investing more of their time playing in God’s creation because our TV is broken.

And we talk more with a broken TV. We spend time togethering. I know that’s not a verb, but it should be. We play games together. We tell stories together. We read together. And my husband? My husband turned into a chatterbox. My introverted, keeps-his-cards-close-to-his-vest husband comes home from work and tells me things without me exhausting him with a million questions.

It’s beautiful, this togetherness we’ve found because of the broken.

The other things? The lost wedding band? He found it. It had slid off of his finger inside his baseball glove when he was playing catch with the kids, but while it was lost, it reminded him how much he loves being married to me. (At least that’s what he told me.) And it sweetened our relationship. I was never mad. These things happen. But the fact that it was lost reminded us how precious our marriage is.

The lost keys? They turned up. I knew they would.

The engagement ring? I remembered the safe place I put it. And we realized that the valuable thing about the ring-- the memories-weren’t altered in any way.

The smashed back end of the minivan? We’re still figuring out the insurance in that situation, but I am confident it will turn out in a way that will be a blessing.

Lost or broken is not a death sentence, you see. Sometimes recognizing that things are lost and/or broken is a gift.

I think that’s the way God sees it, because when I believed I was just fine on my own thankyouverymuch, I didn’t need Jesus. When I didn’t believe I was broken, I could take care of myself, be the master of my domain and all that. But when I recognized my life, my soul, my heart as it was… lost and broken… it was only then that I realized what I really needed to be found and whole.

Emily Donehoo is the only female in a family of five. She is a former High School English Teacher and National Trainer for the College Board. These days, when she isn’t scrubbing toilets, administering timeouts, working at book fairs, attempting to tackle dinner, laundry, homework help, dishes, and a preschooler’s incessant questions, she writes authentically about the hard stuff that really matters, hoping to uncover the truth that God has for us whether it makes us cry from laughter, pain or both at the same time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Say Yes to Summer!

By Maggie Bartlett

The other night, I noticed how filthy my feet were from a day “working” in the yard (i.e. putzing around attempting to pot some plants), so I quickly washed them before bed. It was like pressing the rewind button to my childhood. I recalled sticking my feet in the tub in our childhood home, the swamp cooler blasting and crickets chanting outside. I felt nostalgic. For summer days of swim team and tennis practice, flashlight tag and cookouts—days of easy living.

Do you remember washing your feet before bed? Mom and Dad used to have us clean our feet after a long day of running through the neighborhood chasing the next adventure. Having us wash our feet was likely Mom’s way of saying I still care about your hygiene but not enough to try to wrangle three children into the bathtub at 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. It was also about clean sheets, which is a highly underrated pleasure in life. She helped us scrubbed our feet down and dry them off as we sleepily wrapped up the bedtime routine. 

Even when my freckled body was crusty with dry sweat, slipping freshly washed feet under crisp, cold sheets was the perfect nightcap after a day of escapades.

Summer as a kid was the best. No school! Playing with friends all day, late nights watching movies and no real responsibilities. Are you kidding me? That’s not just a kid’s dream, it’s everyone’s dream. When summer rolls in, I’m itching for days at the pool and nights camping in the backyard. But then I wake up and it’s Monday, and joke's on me because I’m not 12 anymore and someone has to go to the grocery store so we can stop having “breakfast for dinner.”

This summer, I’m bringing the playfulness back. Because we don’t just believe in a powerful and mighty God, he’s also a mischievous and lighthearted God too. We can draw near to him in prayer and mourning and in laughter and silliness. 

The seasons are a clever gift from Him because He knows we need newness and hope in spring, adventure and folly in summer, beauty and rest in fall and quiet and stillness in winter. 

I’m thankful for the gift of summer excitement, especially as the craze of life continues to rise.

Let’s have fun this summer. We can still do our chores and pay our bills and show up to life like a real adult is supposed to, but we can also play. With friends, with kids, with spouses. Say yes! Yes to homegrown tomatoes for dinner and peach cobblers for breakfast, slip-n-slides in the front yard and chalk in the driveway and, sure why not, yes to the ice cream truck too (mostly because who knew those things still existed?). When the day’s so hot I feel like someone actually put me in the oven, I’m going to channel my inner child and run through the sprinklers to cool off. Hope you can make time to do something silly, too.

Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. 

She works at a marketing agency and loves to write, climb mountains and travel in her free time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

3 Small But Important Things About Puppy Instincts and Traumatized Children

1. Puppies Behave Badly.

I guess we had too many shoes, so we got a puppy. He flings boots around the yard by their laces, rips the flip out of flip-flops, and chews my slippers so often that my toes have gotten used to their new slimy sensation first thing in the morning. And though he is clearly bent on destruction, he’s also a floppy-eared puppy. He’s white with tan freckles and spots, and one eye ringed in black like he lost a fight at the animal shelter. So his sweet face makes even his 5 am wakeup calls endearing. We call him Moby—like the whale.

Moby’s four months old now and he’s already potty trained—mostly. He does get excited to see people and leaks a little, but who doesn’t? He’s still learning not to puppy bite, or jump up on people, countertops, or the cat. But bad puppy behavior aside I was glad to get a young dog. It gives us the chance to train him correctly from the beginning. We can train him to wag instead of bark. 

2. Beginnings Make Things Good or Bad.

A woman I once knew rescued an adult dog that had been abused. It was a black, skinny thing that cowered under her desk all day growling and nipping at people who stopped by. The dog never wagged its tail, or excitedly licked anyone, or seemed happy to see people at all. This woman had saved that dog from a terrible life, but she had failed to rehabilitate it. It wasn’t actually her failure. She wasn’t the one who treated the dog badly in the first place. Some things puppies learn when they are very young cannot be unlearned, no matter how loving and caring a new owner may be.

Humans are like this too. Whatever happens to us when we’re very young creates our instincts for life. Humans who are abused, especially when they’re young, learn to snarl instead of smile, to bark instead of wag. Like abused dogs, they have their instincts turned on their heads. So when people try to respond to what they think these dogs or humans would want, they’re usually surprised with bared teeth and snarling.

If it’s serious enough, then it’s useless to try to get these sorts of creatures to stop biting people and growling. I thought about this a little when we set off for the Humane Society to get our dog. I was afraid we would get one that despite all our best efforts would not stop growling. I have that fear deeply ingrained in my mind now, because of our youngest daughter. We rescued her too, fostered her, and then adopted her. She was treated badly the first half of her life and never has stopped growling and nipping—not for the second half of her life. It was a reality check for us, like no other, that sometimes damage like hers cannot be undone. But we put her under our metaphorical desk for awhile—even if she was not happy, she was safe and cared for.

3. Believing Puppy Is Good Is Good.

Now we’re caring for Moby. He’s okay. No one hurt him. So his instincts are pretty good. Eating shoes, jumping on people, and puppy bites aside, he’s a good boy because that’s what we tell him, and ourselves, and we all believe it. We work on behavior and he learns. It’s a pretty good setup when it’s working the way it was intended—for humans and dogs. And even when things go wrong; when Moby tangles his leash around my legs and takes me to the ground, (like this morning) we make them right. I get back up. Moby licks my scratches and wags his tail. And we start running again.

Rebecca Barnes is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law. She loves to cook for anyone who likes good food, and she feels competitive about weeding her flower garden. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Would You Tell Your 18-Year-Old Self?

"She walks in step with God, her path blazed by God, she’s happy. If she stumbles, she’s not down for long; God has a grip on her hand." – Psalm 37:23-24 (MSG) (pronoun changed from he to she)

Aren’t you thankful the month of May is almost over and we’ve fallen into summer? Are you like me and your body, mind, and soul has been shouting at you for weeks now to slow down and relax more? (I totally resonated with last week's Flatirons Women's Blog.)

I used to think that December leading up to Christmas was the most hectic time of the year. But no more. It seems that the month of May has become even crazier than Christmas. As daylight lengthens, so does our “To Do” lists: spring cleaning, yard work, planning for summer, wrapping up the school year, and of course, graduations.

Standing in Target, looking through graduation cards, I imagined what I would write if I could design one of my own. 

Better yet…what would I say, if I could be the commencement speaker at a high school graduation.

This past May, my daughter Abby graduated from high school. If I could’ve taken the stage at the ceremony and spoken a blessing over all the graduates I’d say, “I hope and pray you live out Psalm 37. For this is what I want for you: walk in step with God, let Him blaze your path, be happy with Him, and remember when you stumble God’s got you in His powerful hand. He will always lift you up.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think my words would resonate with many graduates. 

The world around them is screaming just the opposite… walk independently, not with God. Blaze your own path because you know what makes you happy. And when you fall, pull yourself up. Don’t ask for help, but trust in your own strength, and take the world by storm.

This pep talk might be inspirational for many youths, but eventually, they’ll smack into the reality that, as Khalid, the rapper tells them, they’re really just “young, dumb, and broke.”

But weren’t we there once upon a time? Didn’t we think we were smarter than our parents, destined to do amazing things with our lives? Nothing and no one could stop us from living out our dreams. Maybe you’re still like the graduates, full of skyrocketing high hopes. Or perhaps you’re like me, and you wish to dream big again.

Just imagine, if you could step back in time to when you were 18 years-old, what would you tell yourself? 

Can you count on one hand five key truths you’d cling to?

Me, I’d tell myself:

  • Give God thanks every day, because each one is a gift from Him.
  • Love God and others on purpose, because love lasts forever.
  • Commit to long-lasting friendships. Hold on to the ones who knew when…
  • Trust God every step of the way, in good times and bad.
  • Follow Jesus, because His plans are even better than your biggest dreams
I may not be speaking from a stage, but I will speak these truths to the one 18-year-old dearest to my heart, my daughter Abby. Who can you share your treasured, timeless truths with this week?

Laura Busse lives in Boulder, CO with her husband and three non-stop teenagers. As the founder of The 3 O'Clock Wake Up Call, she envisions a world where everyone in every nation gives thanks to God, every day at 3 pm. If you want to start getting daily 3 O’Clock Wake Up Call messages, you can either download the free mobile app (be sure to say “yes” to getting push notifications), or get text messages by texting 3PM to 313131.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Crazy Days of May

May. The month of chaos for families across the nation. Graduations and ceremonies, baseball practice, dance recitals, concerts…

May. The month of “Just eat it in the car! We’re late! Shoes! Go!”

The month for remembering the thank you cards and thank you gifts and cupcakes for this thing and oh yeah, it’s crazy hair day...

May in the ‘Hoo house is just like that, friends. It is not only Crazy Hair Day, it is just plain Crazy Town up in here. Last week, we had tee-ball practice, baseball games, football games, a track meet, and one of my sons had a concert at his elementary school. You guys, Elementary School Music. I just couldn’t. I mean, I did, but I felt like my brain was being shaken around inside of my skull for an hour because… 4th graders with recorders and drums.

I know many people watch those concerts and think, Oh. How sweet. They are such little angels. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I am more in the How long is this going to last? Please make it stop camp.

It’s not that they were bad. In fact, by Elementary School standards, they were amazing. But sometimes I forget that kids are learning, and I hold them to the same impossible standards to which I hold myself.

And I forget that my children are learning and their concerts SHOULD sound like kids plunking and squeaking and banging on instruments. Their baseball games SHOULD have errant throws and ugly swings. Their performances SHOULD consist of my kid crossing his arms and not singing because THAT IS WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING PEOPLE.

When I was a kid, my grandparents came to almost every game, meet, recital, and concert I had. They were there, beaming with pride, watching me compete and perform. And while most of my family consistently had opinions and suggestions about my performances, my Papa rarely had any advice to offer. He just watched, joyfully. He watched with a twinkle in his eye and happiness in his heart. He just showed up and enjoyed watching me grow up. If I threw the ball over the third baseman’s head, he’d chuckle. If I hit a home run, he’d clap once and wink at me if he caught my eye as I was trotting towards home plate. He just loved to watch me do the things I loved. He loved watching all of his grandkids the same way… with a bursting heart full of love. It was his JOY to love us.

You see, for years, I’ve prayed for my children. I’ve prayed that God would protect them and make them strong. I’ve prayed that God would change situations and temperaments and outcomes. I’ve prayed that the boys would do well at their games, meets, concerts, assessments. I’ve prayed that they would succeed. I’ve prayed that God would help them learn and become better.

And I don’t think that any of those things are bad things to pray about.

But I also don’t think that they are the most important things to pray about.

A few weeks ago, James Henderson, founder of Ashrei, a spiritual formation ministry in Latin America, told us that it is God’s JOY to love us.

God DELIGHTS in loving us and being our friend.

All I could think of was the twinkle in my Papa’s eyes when he would sit in the bleachers watching me play ball. I could see his face light up when he told a story. He delighted in loving us. And the feeling of being loved without agenda was the best feeling in the world.

Friends, since then, my prayer has been, “God, please help me enjoy my children. God, please help me delight in loving them. God, please help me see them the way You see them. Please help me to choose showing up with an open heart and open arms for them. Please help me to be more like You. Please help me love them without agenda. Amen.”

Emily Donehoo is the only female in a family of five. She is a former High School English Teacher and National Trainer for the College Board. These days, when she isn’t scrubbing toilets, administering timeouts, working at book fairs, attempting to tackle dinner, laundry, homework help, dishes, and a preschooler’s incessant questions, she writes authentically about the hard stuff that really matters, hoping to uncover the truth that God has for us whether it makes us cry from laughter, pain or both at the same time.