Being Family (31 Days #12)

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He’s started to gray, a tiny bit, around the temples and definitely in the scruff on his chin. He wears (cool, hipster) glasses to read, and was very, very concerned about getting the temporary parking pass replaced so he didn’t get ticketed. He left 45 minutes before the event started since he’d rather be early than late and really likes to play by All of the Rules. (Now.)

37 years later, and I’m still stunned that my little brother continues to grow up.

Do we all do this — us with younger siblings? Do they always stay 13 years old in our mind, slightly awkward and freckly too cool for school?

We live on opposite coasts with thousands of miles of land and life separating us. We don’t physically see each other often, but when we do we pick up where we left off and make fun of each other’s quirks and perform the same dance moves that always reduce us to crying laughter. We share about life struggles and core beliefs and values, and even though we agree to disagree on some (well, most) things, we always leave with tremendous respect and unending love for each other.

It’s been such an unexpected surprise to watch the parallels between all of us in this Big Sister/Little Brother weekend at the beach. I’ve watched the relationship between Jaana and Paxton and realized it’s almost identical to the relationship between my brother and me — the laughter, the tensions, the play, the annoyances, the love. I’ve watched how connected that relationship is with my kids, and they’ve watched how connected my brother and I still are, regardless of years and miles and differences.

It’s a pretty amazing gift, I’m realizing. For all of us.

You know, we’re given these people and these relationships on earth, and we accept them solely because they’re wrapped up in a single word — family. And because of that, we choose to agree to disagree; we choose to love, regardless; we choose to respect each other despite beliefs, quirks, annoyances. We choose to laugh, love and play. We choose to love in spite of and because of all these things — simply because we’re being who we are with the ones who are being who they are. No pretense, no facade, no images to project. Just freedom to be who you arein the freedom of who they are.

And sometimes that being in freedom together makes you realize that the thousands of miles of land and life can grow a person up. It can make them gray around the temples ever so slightly. It can adjust eyesight. It can bring out the inner PePaw in a man.

But mostly, it just makes you love them that much more.

Especially when they do a cartwheel in the middle of the ice cream shop just to make your kids laugh.

Being a Child (31 Days #11)

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I spent seven hours driving to the beach today, with both my kids. Seven hours of Toby Mac and Britt Nicole and potty breaks every hour because the almost four year-old really, really loves lemonade.

And mommy really, really loves coffee.

We found the beach as quickly as possible. I sat on the shore and soaked in everything around me. There was one small cloud in the sky, and the breeze refueled me. I dug my toes in the sand, unconcerned about ruining my homemade impromptu pedicure.

The kids charged toward the ocean like a long-lost cousin and spent moments that stretched into days laughing and jumping waves. I watched them play and laugh and swim and then I became a little undone.

There’s a lot my kids teach me about being. About embracing every moment with arms outstretched, and squeezing every drop of life out of it. About being unconcerned with the opinions of others; about simply being who they are. They teach me these things when I escape my normal and see from a fresh perspective. They’ve got this faith and being thing down, I think, and I’m often envious of them.

Call it naivety or immaturity — but I wonder if childlike faith isn’t just something you possess about God, but something you possess about who you are? What if childlike faith is so much faith in God and who He is, that you trust who He created you to be? And what if it made you so free you skip and hop and jump waves and shriek with delight?

I don’t know…to me that would feel as awesome as entering the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Jesus rebuked His disciples for keeping children away and said not to hinder them from going to Him. But you know what? Most of the time, I’m the one hindering myself. No one has to intervene and do it for me.

I’m going to attempt childlike faith the next few days. Faith in God, who He is and who He created. And I’m going to try my hardest to go to him and enter that kingdom of heaven.

On earth.

Being Married (31 Days #10)

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It’s Wednesday morning so I do what I always do on Wednesday mornings — drop the kids off at school and drive to our restaurant. I arrive before he does, so I put on a little mascara because I look tired and also reapply lip gloss, because, hello? and go inside.

Our table is open (I wonder if they save it for us?) so I walk right to it and wave hello to the server who always has a smile on her face. She brings me coffee and sets his non-dairy creamer at his spot for when he arrives. I take a phone call because he isn’t there yet but when he walks in I say goodbye and quickly hang up.

Because this hour is precious.

It’s our date morning — the time we carve out to spend an hour together being Greg and Monica. We shed our roles — letting go of the Mommy and Daddy hats, the pastor and employee hats, the counselor and friend hats, the carpooler and coach hats. Just us being us — the couple, the friends, the lovers, the two that became one — who started this crazy ride over 10 years ago.

Sometimes we catch up on work stuff…sometimes kid stuff. Other times we share dreams and goals and visions, or laugh about hilarious movies we can’t wait to see (Will Ferrell, I’m talking to you). Almost always I end up in tears over something, whether it’s laughter or heartfelt emotions; for some reason our times together open my heart wide.

We tend to get so caught up in the doing of family — school, activities, errands, homework, house work, cooking and all the rest — that we do Husband and Wife and Mommy and Daddy really, really well.

But in doing Husband and Wife and Mommy and Daddy, it’s so easy to forget to BE Greg and Monica. It’s easy to forget we are still two BEcoming one, always and forever until death us do part.

Our breakfast dates pull us back to the core of what makes Husband and Wife and Mommy and Daddy work so well — individual people being who we truly are in that separate-yet-together way. His strengths making up for my weaknesses and my strengths making up for his.

A cord of three individual strands of different colors and materials that just are…and by being what they are, are woven together into something intricate and beautiful and deliberate and stronger together than separate.

It’s a precious hour of being myself with the one I’m forever connected to as he’s being himself.

It sustains us for the rest of the days until we meet again…he and me, being who we are.

Teaching Being (31 Days #9)

To read all the posts in the 31 Days series, click here.

I drive to pick her up from school — he’s relaxing in the backseat with his Elmo and the windows are down and the sunroof open. The wind blows through the car and the music blows through my soul and it threatens to overtake me — a burning desire to not do.

We pick up a chocolate milkshake. Whipped cream? Yes, please! and they share it with two straws. She makes big googly eyes at him when they take sips at the same time and their laughter is contagious…bubbling up from my feet all the way to my eyes.

We drive home with the windows down and the sunroof open. And the wind blows through the car and their laughter and the music blow through my soul and again, threaten to overtake me — a burning desire to be.

I drive into our neighborhood and pass our house (much to their delight) and head to the meadow. Dinner needs to be prepared and cleaning done and packing lists made and homework checked off and blogs post written, but I just can’t do it.

Not yet.

We step out of the car and I exhale long and deep.

photo 1

They hold hands as they cross the stream.

The butterfly flits in a circle around me.

The sun warms me from the outside in.

Someone is cutting the grass.

Their laughter echoes across the field.

There are Ferris Bueller clouds in the sky.

There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh-cut grass.

A leaf falls.

That was a big grasshopper.

He runs over yelling “Mama!” and falls into me.

She borrows my sunglasses and they copy my posture. 

photo 2

In the Green Pastures I find Still Waters.

I laid on my back and closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face.

And I was.