Of course it’s Thankful Tuesday!

The past week has not been an easy one. There was the destruction of my laptop, then four days of a vomiting, whiny 3-year-old, then I got sick (and am still recovering). Last night my husband said, “Do you even have anything to write for Thankful Tuesday?”

I scoffed! How dare he?!

There are plenty:

  • Night driving after meeting with my college freshman girls Bible study, listening to She & Him. I’ve forgotten how lovely it can be to be alone in the car with a good song on and a bright moon.
  • How August is learning to entertain his brother. They have the sweetest budding friendship.
  • The promise of grilled veggies on our early Christmas present from my mother-in-law. (Thanks for the grill, Basia!)
  • Brooksie’s ecstatic joy in the bathtub. (Such happiness that I’m sure his bouncy bottom is going to shoot him face-first into the water at any moment.)
  • August had a blood test yesterday. Shots are one thing, but having someone take a vile of blood from a three years alive arm is something utterly more heart-churning. He screamed the whole time while I sang in his ear and cried. (I couldn’t help it.) Sometimes I shocked at how much I love him, how his pain can hurt me, how easy it is to hold him over the toilet while he pukes, or clean his vomit-soaked sheets. I’m thankful for that. For mother-love: for that guttural, physical love for my boys in me.
  • August told the doctor yesterday that I had a BIG stomach and I didn’t believe him. That’s worth being thankful about, right?
  • Eating pizza with college freshmen and talking about John 1 with them. How I love John, chapter 1. Such poetry and drama and Jesus (some of my favorite things)!
  • Soy cheese on a pizza really doesn’t taste that bad!
  • Soy cheese on a breakfast taco really doesn’t taste that bad!
  • I ate really well Sunday.
  • What does my oldest son want to be for Halloween? His ideas include: a finger, a window, a door, a tooth, a germ, or pancakes. Where did that brain come from??? I love him and I’m so thankful he’s “unique.”
  • Late nights beside my husband on the couch. This is a good life.

And you? What are you thankful for?


Filed under Motherhood

Absence, marriage and making that little heart grow fonder

So yesterday I came across an article in Slate about a new book by Iris Krasnow, who has spent every July for the past decade away from her husband of almost a quarter century. Her book is called The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married, and much of it has to do with how spending significant chunks of time away from your spouse may actually be good for your marriage, especially if you’re a woman.

“…the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that is a cliché. But it is a cliché for a reason,” writes Jessica Grose at Slate.

The benefits of the time spent apart? It helps women become more emotionally self-reliant. It empowers women to recognize that the emotionally fulfilling relationship of marriage is still not “an intimacy oasis,” as a 1980 study from the Journal of Marriage and Family describes it. Also, it benefits couples because they are forced to communicate. It’s easy in the chaos of daily life to go through days with out ever needing to really speak to your spouse. But when communicating is all there is to your relationship, many wives say that time is incredibly fulfilling.

What about you? If you’re married, how often do you spend time away from your spouse? And when you do, does your marriage benefit?


Filed under Books

Taking Care

I’ve never been known for being careful.

When I brush August’s hair, I go for quick and efficient, the same as when I brush my own. I have a tough scalp. I brush my teeth with vigor. I don’t close doors quietly. And I tend to spill. Often.

These are things I’d like to change about myself. I want to be someone who notices the possible repercussions of the actions I am about to take. I may be able to sense the goings on in an acquaintance’s unsaid words, but I will never discover (until it’s too late) the terrible choice of letting my spit-uppy baby (the first one) Skype with my parents while leaning over the keyboard. (But that was 3 years ago…I should have learned by now…)

The problem with not owning the common sense to foresee possible disasters is that you essentially make the same mistake over and over. When you’re eighteen and you lose the camera you got for graduation three days after you got it, you disappoint your parents. When you’re in your thirties and your parents give you a GPS for your birthday (just what you’ve hoped for an entire year since your last was stolen and you are going to be so careful and never leave it out in the car again!) but then you drop it in your bag and lean over to get your child out of the carseat and, whoops, the GPS falls out on the streets of San Francisco never to be seen again (How did I react? I cried for a day. Then I hoped no one would ever notice), then you disappoint your parents.

So, would it shock you to hear that in the past week I have twice done something regrettably careless? One involved leaving markers in the living room, after my husband warned me of our child’s 3-year-old tendencies. (I moved the marker that was out, but never once considered the three still in the packaging.) Are you shocked to hear that while I nursed his brother in the other room, August found that green marker and made wide, brilliant streaks across our 5 day old couch cushions?

Do you want to hear more? On Tuesday, after dropping August off at school, Brooksie and I went to a super cool coffee shop to do a little writing during his naptime. He was fussy. So I pulled out the Ergo so he could fall asleep in it and happened to set him in his car seat beside my coffee beside my computer for one minute. (You know where this is going. Do I even have to say it?) Coffee on the laptop. It’s gone…thankfully the hard drive survived.

Did I mention that I want to be aware? I really do. I’ve been making mistakes like this for 32 years. Come on! To try harder you have to first have a warning bell in your brain that says: This is a bad idea! How did I not get one of those?

Last week, after the couch incident and my washing the cushions with my tears, I sat beside my husband on the couch. I said, “I want to be careful. I want to be careful with our things and our kids and our time and our money. I want to be careful!”

I keep thinking of those words, typing this post on my husband’s computer, wondering what it means that I’m not a careful person. I don’t take care. In the past I’ve written those things off, choosing to embrace my carefree! fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants! nature. Sure, it means we have impromptu breakfast dance parties in the kitchen. But it also means I make people feel like the gifts they give me are not valuable. It means I teach my kid to leave toys he cares about outside because I didn’t think to enforce clean-up.

I want my boys to be grateful. I want to be grateful. And I know that means more than feeling that emotion in my heart. I feel grateful a lot. But do I respond in my everyday choices with gratefulness? Do I choose to care?

Forgive the frustration, friends. I’m just a little slow to learn.


Filed under Motherhood

#Ask5for5 Campaign: Let’s do this, people.

I’m so excited to have Sarah Lenssen guest posting here today. In August, she launched the Ask5for5 Initiative and in just six weeks, she’s raised $23,000 (as of this posting) towards the famine crisis in East Africa. Her goal is $40,000. I’ll let her tell us more about how we can support her efforts. Thanks Sarah!

Thank you Mama:Monk and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can’t wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we’ll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps.

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren’t so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world’s first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond–or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity’s baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don’t do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn’t want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?

My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya–the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, “I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm.” The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. “We don’t have enough food now…our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues.”

Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on–in nine generations of 5x5x5…we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to
help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support,
healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It’s so so simple; here’s what you need to do:

  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!

I’m looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at [email protected] if you’re interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn’t wait. She doesn’t wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn’t wait for us to decide if she’s important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on…please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped–you are saving lives and changing history.

p.s. Please don’t move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you’re life is busy like mine, you probably won’t get back to it later. Let’s not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let’s leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5
Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography


Filed under Guest Post

Green peas, weddings, acorns and more! A Thankful Tuesday post

  • Yesterday’s lunch when a newly 6-month-old baby was simultaneously consuming and expelling puréed green peas all over his face: This made his older brother laugh hysterically. Which caused the little babes smile like a hero. He made his big brother laugh! So they both stared at each other over lunch, both smiling and knowing whatever secret it is that brothers know.
  • Cooler evenings which lead to cooler mornings: which lead to coffee and prayer
  • A driveway for practicing tricycle riding.
  • A weekend to see sweet friends from San Francisco all in Dallas for Cecelia’s wedding. After 6 weeks in a lonely new place, how can I say thanks for time to dress up with girlfriends, eat barbeque (best wedding food ever) and dance my heart out? And how can I not add to this list the fact that I have a mother who would fly to Dallas to watch my boys so my husband and I could have such a weekend? Grateful, grateful.
  • For the satisfaction that comes every time a cardboard box is emptied and out of my house. I’d love to move this moving in thing along but I’m thankful for this home, for my sweaty boy running free in his yard, for closet space and for the hope of settling in…
  • Old trees dropping acorns in the yard.
  • Did I mention that for my birthday, my friend Julie Manwarring letter-pressed my favorite Elizabeth Bishop sonnet for me? I framed it today. It’s right in front of my kitchen sink, which, in my humble opinion, is the best place for a sonnet.
  • My baby is 6 months old! And 18 pounds, 12 ounces. His thighs are thicker than my upper arm! And I can’t stop kissing all that chunk.
  • Being married to the best wedding dancer on the planet. Is anyone more fun than that guy?
  • Two days for my 90-year-old  grandmother to cuddle with Brooksie.
  • New friends and dates on the calendar and hope and hope and hope…


Filed under Motherhood

On graveyards…

I miss graveyards.

I mean the lovely ones, with hills and big oak trees and ornate above-ground shrines and stone caskets.

I love pebble paths between sections where I can read names of the centuries gone: Ann, who died in 1853.

I miss the graveyards behind the church, in the middle of the old East Coast town, mistaken for a park.

I love cities that don’t hide their dead on the edge of town: old cities, churches that understood the wholeness, completion of both baptism and burial on the same plot of land.

There are many things I miss about the East Coast (which I always miss the most this time of year…Philadelphia in the fall is perfection) but what I miss the most right now is the graveyards. Where are they in Austin? I haven’t seen them yet. I know Texas cities were late bloomers. They became themselves mostly during the 20th century and by that time it seemed reasonable to put the graveyard on the outskirts of town in a treeless plot, and stick a chain link fence around it.

It’s just that I’m a little homesick. For Syracuse? For Philadelphia? For San Francisco? I don’t know.

Don’t mind me, Austin. Really. I’m not trying to judge your depth based on where you bury your dead. Just consider this a lament from a girl who likes gravestones, who sometimes to needs to walk around them to remind herself that she will die too.


Filed under Uncategorized

Wise Stuff My Husband Said {A Series}: Beauty and Brokenness

Two weeks ago when August had his traumatic day at school, I was a mess when Chris got home. We put the boys to bed and talked. He said, remember how my dad said, “You’re only as happy as your saddest child?”

I remembered.

Then we thought about it some more. For the past year Chris has been slowly picking through Dale Brunner’s commentary on the first half of the book of Matthew. It’s fantastic. I’ve read it in chunks. Chris reads it almost everyday and then rereads the good stuff over and over. (Sidenote: Dale Brunner taught a seminary class I took on the life of Christ. He is hands-down the cutest little gray-headed man I’ve ever seen. And he is oh so very wise. Now is when you should click here to buy Matthew: A Commentary, Vol. 1: The Christbook.)

Chris reminded me that Brunner’s commentary on The Beatitudes says: “The deepest joy may reside in persons with the deepest sadness.” Then he says this, “Sadness and joy are not mutually exclusive; they are often cause and effect” (164).

We’ve been thinking about that and discussing it lately. Isn’t that what true community is meant to look like? To truly love each other we have to choose to feel with the people in our lives who are hurting. That has to be so much more than being sad about their struggle but leaving it behind when we’re back in our home, our life, our family. That’s not an easy choice. It’s intentional. Our minds like to close themselves off to any other’s pain. We have enough of our own. Entering in to brokenness means hurting ourselves. But can we really experience joy, true joy, if we haven’t walked the dark places? Friendship, community, fellowship (oh! there’s a word we don’t use anymore!) is only real when it ventures into the beautiful places and the broken places. The stuff in between is a chat about the weather.

That following Sunday, somewhere on the MoPac Expressway on our way home from church, while half of our car (ahem, August and Micha) were singing along to the Cars 2 soundtrack, Chris brought it up again. He was thinking about our budget, what we want to value as a family. He said maybe beauty and brokenness should be our gage.

What if we chose to only buy stuff that is either made with care or is absolutely essential? What if we formed our family around the goal of always giving our time and things to the hurting?

How do you respond to these questions when you’re in the car, trying to keep your 3-year-old awake till you get home and can put him to bed? How do you respond when the chaos of your life rarely reminds you how deep and wise and kind-hearted this man is whom you’re married to? How do you respond when you think about The Beatitudes and recall how failed you are at really believing in the upside down reality of Jesus and the blessings he pours out to the poor in spirit, to the merciful?

You do like I did: Say, “Okay. Those are our values.”

Then you buy a notebook, and make some notes and rethink the words you use to correct August’s behavior and wonder how to teach your boys to love the broken when it hurts you so badly to even try.

Yesterday I drove past a homeless man begging on the side of a big intersection. August said, “That man doesn’t have a home or a job. But God will take care of him.”

Brokenness and Beauty. Ah, Lord, let it be the truth of us.


Filed under Family Life

A short post from a tired lady.

Ah, how I wish I had a long, deep, lovely thing to post today.

Instead, I’m tired and grouching (that’s not a word, Hohorst!) to Chris that my time is already stretched here and I hardly have friends yet! What a complainy-face I can be.

Listen, I’m writing this at 11:04 pm and I have to go to bed. Now! Someone’s going to have to carry me to my bed and it’s not going to be this cat on the couch beside me.

But I want to tell you this: This morning I got up at 6:50 and sat on my deck with my coffee and several mosquitoes. I used the daily prayer guide at Sacred Space (which I highly recommend, by the way) and I let myself be quiet with the Lord for a little while. As I moved through the process of prayer, becoming more and more aware that August was watching a show in the living room and Brooksie would be waking up soon and was probably crying in his room that very minute, I came to the short scripture passage for the day.

I read it quickly, the way you read a recipe. Or an email from Groupon, looking for something to make it worth my while. Then I moved on. Do you know what the next screen asked me to do? Envision Jesus sitting beside me and talk to him about my reaction to the scripture passage. Did anything stand out to me? Did nothing? Why or why not?

I said, “Jesus, I don’t even remember what I just read. I’m tired. I’m sorry I can’t even pay attention for five minutes.”

Do you know what reply I sensed?

Micha, do you think I don’t know you’re a mother? Do you think I don’t realize that when Brooks wakes up he’ll need you? I always know that you’re a mother, even while you’re praying. You don’t have to be remarkable. I love you. I love you: distracted, stressed, lonely. I know you and I love you.


Anybody else need to hear that today?


Filed under the Praying Life

And, a list!

Here are the thankful things:

  • Home again! Home again! Yes, it’s not the same home, but it’s still our home. The sweetest little place with a fairytale-esque stone path through a garden and a wall that’s orange for no particular reason. And a perfectly cozy nursery for my baby where I can rock him and sing to him in the dark.
  • Our cat Ezra, who has been missed by every member of our family, has returned home! (He was kept by my gracious mother-in-law at Kitty Camp-what her home turns into when Ezra joins her two cats—for two and a half months. I’m so thankful.) He came home purring and hasn’t stopped. His favorite new cozy spot? On my lap and Brooksie’s belly while the latter is nursing in the rocking chair. Brooksie still has that hand-opening-and-closing-reflex when he’s breastfeeding, so he just scratches Ezra’s fur. Both parties are happy…even if I’m a little squished.
  • A baby so hungry that he woke up every two hours to nurse Saturday night. Even though my plan was to wait till his six-month doctor’s appointment this Thursday, I broke out the rice cereal and I’ve never seen a baby so excited for food. He face-dove right into it, waving his arms like a dancing bird. He can’t get enough and he spent Monday almost giddy with smiles.
  • Second chances: New preschool today! It’s a co-op, something I had begun to be part of in San Francisco but hadn’t pursued here in Austin. Sometimes, we change our minds, and August and I had a really great experience there last week when we visited. (There’s a very relaxed potty policy…as in, there’s not a potty policy!) I’m excited for his day tomorrow.
  • New community. Listen to this. You won’t believe it. At our new church on Sunday, when we passed the peace, we introduced ourselves to the guy in front of us. He just moved from San Francisco, too! When? Six weeks ago, my friends, just like us. What church did he go to in SF, you say? Well, he was at our church. He was friends with some of our friends. Then I said, well, look who’s in front of you, our other friends who were part of City Church when they lived in SF. That’s right, Fred Harrell, three rows of City Church alumni at Christ Church this past Sunday. We laughed about it but I wasn’t surprised. God has been interweaving my world for a long time now.
  • My husband is amazing at making and prioritizing friends. I love that about him. He loves spending time with them. He loves talking about things that matter with them. And he loves watching the Philadelphia Eagles with them, whether or not they want to watch the Eagles or have ever cared about the Eagles. And the great thing about Chris? He can make them care…at least a little bit. So, right then after church, he convinced our new friend Paul from SF and another new friend to meet him for the game that afternoon. And, what do you know? They won.
  • One Thousand Gifts: Cardboard boxes taped into a tunnel on the deck, the sheer physical exhaustion of unpacking boxes, a cool Saturday morning: pastries and coffee outside with my boys, August decorating his body with markers when we weren’t paying attention, a small group of UT freshmen girls I know I’m going to love, driving back from campus under Sunday night’s white-hot moon, the chance I’ll have to see my Yoobs at Cecelia’s wedding this weekend, a mother who will fly to Dallas to watch my boys so I can enjoy a wedding, a writer’s group at our new church, a writer-friend at our new church, a husband across the room: organizing our kitchen cabinets while our boys sleep, relief that good things are waiting here in Austin.


What are you thankful for today?


Filed under the Praying Life

It’s moving day so let’s read a poem.

Today we move into our house. We open up boxes that were packed on June 25, that long and short summer ago. It will be like Christmas! And, honestly, it will be a little sad because it means we actually live here in this new city. It’s our home now, not some place we parked ourselves for a month or two.

You want to know something new in my life? My being sad has been a sweet reminder lately that God loves me. And yesterday, while I ate a chunk of my last bar of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate (I sort of brought 10 bars with me when I left SF. Don’t judge!) and felt that heavy weight of the loss of place and the ache of needing friends, I was reminded of this dear Jane Kenyon poem (I love her) and the water “filling the pitcher until it spills…”

Happy moving day.

Briefly It Enters, Briefly Speaks

by Jane Kenyon


I am the blossom pressed in a book,

found again after two hundred years. . . .


I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper….


When the young girl who starves

sits down to a table

she will sit beside me. . . .


I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .


I am water rushing to the wellhead,

filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .


I am the patient gardener

of the dry and weedy garden. . . .


I am the stone step,

the latch, and the working hinge. . . .


I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .

the longest hair, white

before the rest. . . .


I am there in the basket of fruit

presented to the widow. . . .


I am the musk rose opening

unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .


I am the one whose love

overcomes you, already with you

when you think to call my name. . . .


Collected Poems Jane Kenyon (Graywolf Press, 2005)

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry