Wild Child in Bow Tie

Today our church celebrated Confirmation Sunday. Seventeen high school students said YES! to Jesus, the God who loves them and said YES! to them before they were even born.

A year ago Teen stood on the chancel, proclaiming his faith in Jesus. Although he’d been baptized years earlier, that particular Sunday was more meaningful than I could have anticipated as the church said, “Welcome!”

Today we sang Good Good Father:
You’re a good, good Father, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you, it’s who I am

That’s truly what I want my kids to know as they launch into the world – God is good, and God’s love forms the foundation of their identity. But I’d add one more refrain to the song:

The Church says, “Welcome!”

Miracles in the Mundane

Dapper! Dapper!

Teen wore a bow tie for his Confirmation.

He chose to participate in Confirmation, a five-month process for high school students during which they met monthly with their leader and peers for teaching/study and with a one-to-one adult mentor to discuss life and faith. At the end they publicly professed their faith in Jesus Christ through a written and presented personal statement of faith, received baptism if they hadn’t previously, and became full members of the church. And then were honored with a celebratory meal and a verbal blessing from their parents while a packed Fellowship Hall watched.

We were thrilled he wanted to participate, although we didn’t push it. We even suggested he wait a year. He chose to forge ahead.

And then he chose to wear not just a shirt and tie but a three-piece suit + bow tie!

He didn’t have anything nicer than a shirt and tie so Guy took him…

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What’s Your Dance Party?

I’ve been thinking about “YES!”yes

This word, “create,” requires saying Yes to life, to invitations, to play, and, sometimes worse, to those things that intimidate or downright scare me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for saying “NO!” as necessary. I believe in it. Oh baby, YES, we have to say NO! from time to time. My everyday hero, Jen Hatmaker, says: “People will take as much as you will give them, not because they are terrible humans, but because they only want this one slice of you. Plus, you’re probably good at their pet thing. But they don’t observe the scope of your life and all the other tricks on your beam. You can say no, and no one will die. God wants this freedom for us.” Sometimes we have to say No in order to say Yes to something more important. I’ve been thinking on that a lot lately, too.

But, YesGetting out of our comfort zone to live a full, exuberant, energetic, creative life, that requires Yes answers where No might be our instinct.

i-dare-me-clubI’ve been reading a book, I Dare Me!, about a middle-aged wowza-successful gal who felt stuck. To un-stick herself she created a list, with lots of help, of Firsts she could do every day of the year. She began with one of her biggest fears, swimming in the ocean, and so she took a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. I’m not afraid of the ocean, and still, Yikes! Some were way more do-able, like taking a new class at the gym, trying a new recipe and/or restaurant, even going without make-up for a day (and yet, she’s an on-air news anchor, so…). It’s inspirational. I don’t want to do many of the things she did, but I’m asking the big question: What could I do? It’s a Yes to life!

Yes is about letting go of what others think, of what you think, of who you should be or what you should do. It’s embracing the whole range, from silly to ridiculous to meaningful.

Today I said Yes, if only just for a few seconds.

At our moms’ group, a sweet gal shared her story of birthing three babies in rapid succession, and in that time two household moves, of post-partum depression that lasted too long, and from all of that, to Zumba. You read that right, Zumba!zumba-in-the-circuit-logo-2

Previously, I had only ever Zumba’d in the privacy of my own home, not-jiving to a library DVD. I tried a few days in a row, working on steps and rhythm, before I decided I have neither steps nor rhythm (my gals will attest: after a few late-night glasses of wine, I might be convinced otherwise, but we keep that to ourselves).

Zumba was the thing God used to heal this sweet mama. She loves to dance, and so when her youngest began sleeping through the night she first took one class, which led to three, which became a dare from her husband to become an instructor. And so she did! Through Zumba she left depression behind. She grew lighter and brighter and, along with her, so did her family. And today, so did 150 or so women at our church as she led us in a simple, just-for-us routine.

The friend behind me had dressed the part: yoga pants and tennis skirt. Me, not so much. I confessed (uh, she was standing behind me, it wasn’t gonna take long…): “I don’t dance.” Thank God, she replied (surprisingly!) in kind.Andy-Grammer-Keep-Your-Head-Up

The song was Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up.”

You gotta keep your head up, oh
And you can let your hair down…

Step side-to-side, I got it (sort of). Add hands and body, I began to lose it. I thought, No Way am I gonna shake my tush in this room, with windows to my side, friends and co-workers nearby, What Are We Doing???

Then I looked around. One hundred-plus women shimmied around the room, each with her own size, shape, and style. Our group founder, about five gals in front of me and about as close to 90 as I am to 50, wiggled and giggled with glee. The smile stretching across her face, the obvious joy-filled un-self-consciousness she was experiencing, it moved me.

I remembered to Dare Myself. To Say Yes (also one of the rules of improv – always say “Yes, and…” – which also means you are fully present in the moment, Not Overthinking).

I let go. I shook my hands, my hair, and my rear. It could not have been pretty, but it was free. I reveled in the beauty of the story we’d heard, of how one gal found her way back to herself through dance and movement.

I believe we were made to move, and we all move to a different beat. And I believe we all have a passion, each different from the others, something that brings us to life and energizes those nearby. The dance-mama found her jive in Zumba. Mine is writing – I get bright-eyed and energetic thinking about what I will write next. It’s not all joy; some of it is excruciating hard work, but it’s still worth it. It’s my passion.

What’s yours?

Create

I wrote here about my intentions for, and here about my results with, “my word” for 2015: Put yourself in the way of beauty.

As 2015 came to a close, I reflected on the fact that my word had truly stuck with me and changed the way I lived. And so I asked myself, what’s next?

The word leaped to mind like a leopard that had been lying in wait:create

I have some creative projects I’d like to kick into high gear, projects for which I set goals I later let slip away. Beyond work, I’d like to be more creative in regular life, in play, relationships, and frame of mind. When I shared the word with others they responded with an impressed, “Oooh…!” It’s the right word at the right time for the right person: me.

Our creative instinct gives testimony to our having been created in the image of a creative God who has given us the privilege and responsibility of co-creating this world we inhabit. We mirror God to others through our creative acts, and I’m convinced we also tickle God pink with joy as we indulge the gifts He has given us.

I’m excited about living into “create” this year as it has so much potential. It is SO much bigger than we typically define it. We can create…

…art, atmosphere, beauty, community, compassion, design, experience, family, friendship, growth, health, home, hope, innovation, joy, laughter, legacy, love, marriage, meals, memories, music, peace, poetry, rituals, service, space, stories, traditions…

Just some of the things I have created so far this year…

rest – I continue to indulge my bedtime ritual, hand and foot massage, tea and book;
space – Tween and I cleaned out his closet;
play – swinging from the big tree in our front yard resets perspective;
stories – I have collected and edited such great stories for church publications;
health – always a work in progress as I try to move more and eat well;
peace – I have reveled in my love of reading, on my own and with Tween;
prayer – our family has prayed for loved ones using Christmas cards as a prompt;
balance – I am prayerfully considering open doors, allowing myself permission to say no as necessary;
healthy and delicious meals to nourish my family (some of which I will share on this blog);
friendship – I invest time in walks and evenings out with special people;
memories – Guy and I stayed up until the wee hours working with Teen on a school project, and I let Tween have ice cream for breakfast while we read in bed on a Sunday morning.

Have you noticed that interesting ideas spark during ordinary activities? My brother-in-law and I discussed creativity while we washed the Christmas china. Also a creative-type, he asked about my writing and goals for this year, and when I mentioned I had chosen “create” as my word for 2016, that I would attempt to structure my daily life and goals around that word, we hatched an idea about which I am beyond excited.

Throughout this year my blog will feature writers, painters, photographers, musicians, parents, teachers, missionaries, activists, philosophers, church leaders and more, all sharing perspectives on and experiences of creating. Together we are going to blow the roof of this word, “create.” We are going to see that it is so everyday true-to-life and still so crazy-spectacular. I can’t wait to learn from each guest post, and I’m so grateful for those who will join me in this creative adventure.

I am thrilled to be able to create a platform and community for people from all arenas of my life, living out their calling in such marvelous ways, to share about creative expression. The Create Challenge guest posts begin next Wednesday, friends!

Ready, set, CREATE!

Meatless Monday – “Beyond Meat” White Bean Chicken Chili

It began with a video I saw on Facebook.

Some weeks later Guy mentioned he’d also seen it. Interesting concept: this guy who wants to eat meat, while also reducing his environmental footprint, produces a plant-based fake meat that is more convincing than these types of products have been before.

And then Tween mentioned yet again how he’d like to for once taste chicken, since he’s never had it and all his friends have. Teen felt the same during middle school years, the increased desire for independence bumping up against family values. We get it.

So on a recent trip to Whole Foods we purchased a package of Beyond Meat Grilled Chicken Strips.beyond chicken

Which sent me looking for a recipe I’ve tried before but never with chicken: a chicken and white bean chili, originally from Epicurious (and modified, as always, by me).

Teen lumbered into the kitchen just as I pulled “the chicken” from the fridge, asking the inevitable question: “What’s for dinner?”

I held up the package.

His face belied confusion and skepticism, and in that look I saw that our family values have, indeed, taken hold.

He wasn’t sure he wanted “real meat.”

I feel the same. It’s funny, really, as I didn’t intend all those years ago to become a vegetarian. I simply went without meat so long that I lost the digestive enzymes. When I tried to eat it, meat made me sick. And so, just as unintentionally, I lived into the ethics of meat-free and plant-based eating.

Now I have a confused relationship with fake meat. I don’t miss real meat, and I don’t think I need fake meat, but once in a while the texture or flavor allows for variety and pleasure in my plant-based diet. On the whole I truly prefer veggie versions of meat favorites – salads without meat or dairy toppings, marinated veggie sandwiches instead of burgers, veggie stews instead of meat stews, veggie chili instead of…you get the idea.

But I’m not entirely opposed, especially where my kids are concerned… if they want veggie breakfast sausage, or chik patties, so be it.

Which brings us to the White Bean Chicken Chili. Despite Teen’s face, he ate it. We all did, and it was good. Guy and I shared more than a look – the Beyond Meat chicken tasted how we remember chicken. Shockingly so. And it’s vegan, GMO- and soy-free.

The chili itself was delish, and it would have been so even if we’d left out chicken, or used Field Roast Italian sausage, or tofu (pressed, seasoned, and baked). Our family would eat this recipe with or without “meat.” And yet, I won’t be surprised if I find myself popping a Beyond Meat package in my cart another time.

White Bean Chicken Chili
Serves 4-6

1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 12-oz pkg Beyond Meat grilled chicken, diced (I used kitchen shears to cut strips into bites)
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1 c veggie broth
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 7-oz can diced green chilies (or sub 7-oz of prepared green salsa)

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, and dried red pepper. Sauté 5 minutes, adding water by the tablespoon as necessary to avoid sticking. Add Beyond Chicken and cook approximately 5 minutes.

Drain and rinse beans. Add beans, broth + 1/2 c water, celery, bell pepper, and chilies or salsa. Simmer about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into bowls. Top with your favorite chili toppings: cilantro, green onions, cheese, corn chips. Serve alongside crusty bread or corn bread.

Note: Beware of heat! I used green salsa instead of green chilies because I didn’t have chilies on hand. In fact, as crazy salsa-lovers, we had three open bottles of green salsa in the fridge: one hot (Hatch), one mild, and one family-approved. Season accordingly!

beyond beansbeyond veggies

I dare you: you wouldn't know it's not chicken...

I dare you: you won’t know it’s not chicken…

Dead Weight

The smallest bump and it shattered to heaps of blue safety-glass shards.Shattered-Tempered-Glass

Because of our bathroom’s tight space, we wedged the scale between the shower and toilet. No room to stand on it there, we pulled it out each time we required its services. For years, it tattle-taled the ups and downs of our binges and purges, our couch-sitting and exer-cursions. Its yo-yo reporting had us just the slightest bit addicted, self-loathing on the upswing and exulting on the downswing.

You might expect I was the hard-core user, the lone female in a house reeking from testosterone, but you’d be wrong. Its whispered secrets enticed us all.

Oldest daughter of the tiniest Viking you’ll ever meet, my pediatrician always found me on the high end of the growth chart. And I blossomed early, so to speak. I felt like a giant in my family and on the playground. Never an athlete, I also never felt comfortable in my own skin. I had no reason, or none that I recognized, to respect what my body could do.

To complicate matters, my mom cooked like a gourmet but ate mostly muesli, what we called “bird food.” Small like a bird compared with her gigantic offspring, early on I developed a love-hate relationship with food and my body. I genuinely appreciate good food and the creativity of cooking, but I’m almost as likely to punish myself by eating bad pizza, with its accompanying greasy guilt, as I am to reward myself by eating healthy.

Both my babies were born in the six-pound range, but neither stayed small for long. Teen competed in the top three for height throughout elementary school and passed up his mama in shoe size and then height as middle school began. An easy athlete, he played most sports hard and fast until in 8th grade he discovered his passion: rugby. Between 9th and 10th grade he grew an inch and dropped 30 pounds, equally due to ADHD meds and his desire to be in his best shape for his sport. Now he spends hours most days of the week split between the gym and the field. He pushes himself until it hurts, complains loudly, and loves it. A tad obsessive, he weighs himself regularly and presses harder until the numbers tip.

Tween’s diapered infant body revealed a barrel chest, just like his dad’s, and one of my favorite things about his dad when we began dating. I felt safely wrapped up in that chest, and I anticipated that far down the road someone else would appreciate that same feature in my son. As a picky-eating toddler he got skinny, and then grew wider before taller. He’s still waiting to hit his growth spurt, which we anticipate any time now. He weighs himself infrequently, mostly to confirm his negative body feelings, exacerbated by comments from peers and a few unthinking adults.

I can’t report on Guy because we don’t share numbers. Which means neither of us feels good about the numbers we know and the numbers we desire, and so…

We have tried hard to fight the body-shaming culture with a body-positive culture at home. Health is the goal. We eat mostly plant-based, unprocessed foods. We expect everyone to be involved in regular physical activity – a sport, the gym, walking, biking, playing outside in the fresh air – because our bodies were made for movement. We discourage negative body comments and counter with, “eat healthy and enjoy moving.”

But that scale…3479588225_de40388083_n

Guy intended to replace it on our next Costco trip. I had mixed feelings, especially when Teen missed it. Our clothes and overall feelings of health ought to be a good enough indication without a number. At Costco today we completely forgot to purchase a scale. I remembered after we’d left when I realized I had bought supplies for a three-day food-based cleanse and wondered how much weight I might drop, at least for a time, as I detoxed my winter indulgences.

Obviously it’s complicated, and I guess I’ll have to listen to my body instead.

Thankful Thursday – A New Year

NYE15

I haven’t posted a Thankful Thursday in a while. I also cannot believe we are three weeks into 2016. And yet, I’m already planning for spring, and summer, and fall, and I’m not even sure what happened to Christmas except that it was, in surprising ways, quiet, lovely and crazy, relaxing and somehow just what we needed.

I’m thankful.

I am always thankful for our small NorCal town, and the beauties of small-town living.

I am thankful for a Dear One who invited us to our small town Awesome College basketball game on New Year’s Eve – for fun, friends and family cheering together as we encouraged the team and welcomed a new year. And then the goofiness of allowing Tween to stay up until midnight, drinking too much apple cider while snuggling pooch and watching Ryan Seacrest’s (lacking) NYE show.NYEQI
I am thankful for my beloved Guy, and his birthday, and a family excursion to Marin to walk a beautiful wintry beach with my loves.marin dog marin shell marin
I am thankful for opportunities to buy and cook beautiful California in-season produce in enticing ways, to savor flavors and feed my family healthy food.broccoli
I am thankful for new creative projects that challenge, excite, and sometimes scare me just enough.

I am thankful for new books that fulfill my craving to learn through story.Jan16 bks
I am thankful for our moms’ group at church, for the leadership team who pray and lead with love; for the larger group who share their struggles and joys in prayer so we can hope and be encouraged together; and especially for my table group of women with whom we cry and laugh and share in life as we grow in faith and friendship.

I am thankful for snuggly pets.phoebe
I am thankful for my gals who take me as I am, even when I arrive with wet hair because I showered last-minute because I just wasn’t sure I was up to a night out. And yet our friendships light up my life and I need them more than they know.jan gals
I am thankful Finals Week = Almost Over for Teen. I am thankful Teen allowed Guy and me to participate in a coloring project with him (coloring = one of the “school tasks” I’m always willing to do, since no one should truly be graded on coloring), reminiscent of my own mom working on high school projects late into the night with me, cherished memories I hope my son will also have of his mom.C color

Being thankful makes me happy. What are you thankful for so far in 2016?

Panic Attack

I arrived home from work mid-afternoon and found Teen seated on his yoga ball hunched over a stack of papers in front of the family room computer, his study spot. I came up behind him and while I was yet two feet away, he abruptly stiffened and threw his hands in a “Don’t Shoot!” position. Without looking at me he shouted, DON’T touch me!”

I recoiled, slapped by his words. Without a sound, I tip-toed a wide berth and gingerly reached to remove the bowls containing crumbs and residue of his chips and salsa snack.

An hour later Tween and I had flopped on his bed to read aloud a book we’re enjoying together when Teen poured himself in alongside us. He said, “Mom, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted at you. I was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack and I just couldn’t handle it. I needed to be alone, and couldn’t deal with interruption.” He explained that he’d been trying to figure out his current GPA and what he would need to score on various final exams to keep or raise various grades. He had felt utter despair of being accepted to any college he’d want to attend – the list of which has gotten both shorter and longer as we’ve accepted a realistic assessment of his high school academic performance.jeremiah-29-11

We have prayed this verse over our child since the day we knew we were pregnant, about eighteen years ago. He knows it by heart, and he prays it for himself. And so we talked about the hard fact that God’s plans might not look like ours. As much as he wants to attend a four year college straight out of high school, and he might, perhaps that’s not his only or best option. Maybe taking classes at a community college, getting out of the way classes that would be more difficult at a four-year school, getting a part-time job and a super-cool internship, maybe all that takes some stress off. Maybe it’s okay to not live the Lamorinda norm. YES, it is okay not to live the cultural norm.

Wise beyond his age, Tween understood his presence wasn’t helpful so he slipped off his bed and out of his room while Teen and I talked. I mostly listened as Teen poured out his heart and mind – classes he likes and doesn’t, teachers he loves, teachers he likes but wishes they put more love into their classes, teachers he feels don’t give a damn… None of it an excuse because it’s still up to him to be responsible, work hard, and do his best, but easier done if you feel like the Teacher has invested in both subject and students.

The conversation ended as it was time to move on to sports practice. He trudged to his room to gear up and I followed him. I said aloud his name, and wordlessly my Big Kid poured himself into my arms for a hug. My Teen, generally touch averse, needed a Mom Hug as much as I needed to hold my child for a moment. “Thanks, Mom,” he whispered into my hair.

This weekend he’s out of town for a huge college/high school sports tournament, a high school recruiting event and the only one like it he will attend. Next week he has finals, bad timing. Meanwhile I hope he plays aggressive and safe, and leaves behind some of that stress on the field so that he returns home tired but energized, ready to sleep and then study. He’ll be fine even if the path winds in unexpected directions. We have faith.