Sunday, August 17, 2014

Good Reads

I haven't done this in a while, but I've read some great stuff lately that I thought you might like. What have been some of your favorite posts?

A Love Letter to All the Daughters Everywhere :: by Jennifer Dukes Lee (guest posting on Lisa Jo Baker)

Before They Go to School . . . Have This Conversation :: Lysa TerKeurst

Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed :: Thomas Umstaddt, Jr.

Your Wedding is Still Something Worth Wanting :: Desiring God blog

Dear Single Dudes: It's Time to Man Up :: Matt Walsh (I am pretty sure that not one single dude is reading my blog, but just in case you know one, you might want to share this with him.)

A Bit of Instruction on How to Live a Good Life :: Ann Voskamp (I put this here as a reminder to myself: Pay attention!!!)

Enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why I Let My Daughter Go To Camp for Seven Weeks

Today I get my girl back.

For seven long weeks Julia has been at camp, serving on a work crew. She has learned how to feed hundreds of hungry kids at a time. She has learned how to clean a toilet. She has learned how to pack up food for overnight camping trips. And she has served the community by cleaning up a 24-mile biking path.

Seven long weeks.

She’s not the first of my three to have chosen a summer away. In fact, all three of my girls have had extended stays at camp at one time or another. And over the years lots of people have asked me how on earth I could let them go away for a whole summer.

Here’s a little mommy secret for you: it’s never easy on me. Never.

I spend a good amount of time thinking about them, praying for them, and even worrying a little about them. If you know anything about my story, you know that camp is just about the last place I’d like to send my daughter for the summer.

And yet, I do it.

Here’s why.

Because it really does take a village. No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, I think she was right when she reinforced the idea that many people can and do influence our kids. Personally, I’d hate to be the only influence on my kids’ lives—they would be sad, sorry, one-dimensional people if I were the only one pouring truth into them. The key, of course, is making sure the RIGHT people are influencing our kids. At camp our daughters have been influenced by wonderful Christian college students, amazing adults, and even younger kids who have all had a hand in shaping their thoughts and values.

Because they need to unplug. At the camp our girls have attended, electronics are not allowed. At all. Ever. Even the counselors are not allowed iPods or computers or cell phones (except when they are off duty), so the entire camp is completely present. Completely in the moment. And completely unplugged. I don’t know about you, but I really believe that in this day and age, a kid who knows how to unplug is a great kid in my book. Unplugging teaches kids something valuable about the art of great conversation.

Because they need their freedom. As my girls have grown older they have earned varying degrees of freedom, and a summer away at camp is just one step along that path. I’m sure this freedom is fun at first (hey, let’s see how late we can stay up tonight!), but it also includes making sure she gets enough sleep so that she will have energy to serve the next day. Or being allowed to go into town to do her laundry. Yep, with freedom comes responsibility.

Because they need to work. (And to get dirty. And to not wear makeup.) I hope I’ve already laid the groundwork here, and I hope that before my daughter set foot on camp grounds she already knew how to clean a toilet. But there’s something about having an 8-5 “job” that’s good for her. She’s tired at the end of a day. And something translates to what her dad does every day. Something about when Mom goes to work starts to make sense. She’s learning that there is value in a good day’s work.

Because God has something to teach them there that they can’t learn at home. I don’t know what that lesson is, and I may never know, but I can tell you that my daughters are different people when they come home from a summer away. Somehow it seems that being immersed in nature and being unplugged allows you to really hear from God in a way that just doesn’t happen here in suburbia. It could also be that the big lessons God wants to teach them take time. Seven weeks, perhaps?

For all these reasons, and probably many others, I sent Julia to camp this summer. 

But here’s one reason I did NOT send Julia to camp: because I wanted her out of my hair.

I think it’s pretty obvious that we have fun together and that we enjoy each other’s company. I have a great teenager (I’ve had three great teenagers!), and I’d love to have her around all summer. In fact, it would be easier and a lot less expensive to keep her at home.

But I am confident that God has used this summer in Julia’s life to shape her into the woman He wants her to be. As much as my heart longed to be with her, I trust that God had better things for her at camp than He had for her here at home.


Today I get her back.

I will throw my arms around her and hold her tightly. I will load her things into my car and listen to her stories all the way home (or until she falls asleep). I will help her do her stinky laundry and cook her a couple of great meals until she settles into a new routine at home.

And as the school year starts and talk of camp becomes less and less a part of our everyday conversation, I will watch her—this new, grownup version of her—and I will know that I made the hardest right decision of my life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

16,375 Miles of Fun

You know how sometimes you’re sitting in church and your mind wanders just a little? 

Mine did that last Sunday. Even though I was listening to a great sermon, I still found myself, after spending the day before in the car driving home from vacation, wondering just how many miles I had traveled since the end of school last May.

As work-intensive as last summer was, this summer has been travel-intensive and I have loved every minute of it.

As a professor it’s hard to get away during the school year. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. When your class meets only three days a week for sixteen weeks (that’s 48 class sessions for those of you who, like me, are math challenged) you pretty much have to be there.

I can’t complain, though. We have generous breaks. I have my summers. Heck, most weeks I even have Tuesdays and Thursdays.

But during the semester I can’t leave.

So when my husband goes on the rare business trip and asks me to come along, I usually have to say no. And this makes me sad because he goes to some pretty cool places. This May, however, one of his trips fell after the semester had ended, after my grades had been turned in, and after our daughter’s graduation. Plus, it wasn’t bad that the trip was to Napa, CA.

He didn’t have to ask twice.

My summer of travel started as soon as school got out and pretty much hasn’t stopped.


So there I was, sitting in church, just thinking about the drive home from WI the day before and all of the other amazing places I had been all summer, realizing that I’ve been trotting the globe like a crazy woman, when a thought came to me: “How many miles have I actually traveled this summer?”

Of course I went home, fired up Google Maps, and figured it out.

Here’s what I came up with:

Chicago to Napa, CA and back: 4300 miles.

Chicago to London: 4000 miles.

London to Oxford: 60 miles.

Oxford to Edinburgh: 370 miles.

Edinburgh to London: 415 miles.

London to Chicago: 4000 miles.

Chicago to Dallas and back: 1830 miles.

(This is my darling niece, Kira, and her beautiful mom, my sister, Jennifer. 
Kira's getting married, so we went to Dallas for a bridal shower for her.)

(And this is the beautiful park in downtown Dallas where Kira will be getting married in September. Isn't it gorgeous?!)

Chicago to Eagle River, WI and back: 700 miles.

(Two weeks of ahhhhhhh.)

And finally, a second trip to Eagle River this week to pick up Julia from camp: 700 miles.

I think that brings me to a grand total of 16,375 miles.

Am I tired? Yeah, a bit. But I am so glad I’ve done it. I’m heading into the new school year with a heart full of memories of time spent with all the people I love most in this world. I’ve seen some amazing places and have had some incredible adventures.

I’d say I’ve had 16,375 miles of fun.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's See How Much I Can Write in 10 Minutes

Hi there!

We're getting ready to leave for a wedding in ten minutes, but surprise! I'm the first one ready. I thought I'd just give you all a quick update and then a quick good bye for a while.

First, the update.

People have been asking how my summer is going and what I've been up to, and I realize that my answer is kind of crazy. Since school got out in early May, I have been to California and back. England and back. Dallas and back. And now I'm headed to the north woods for two weeks.

So most of my summer has been spent . . . elsewhere. Which, for this traveling girl, is not a bad thing.

I've also spent a lot of time in doctor's offices. Nothing at all is the matter with me (in fact, every time I get a check up the doctor cannot believe that there is NO family history of basically anything), it's just time for a lot of checking up. You know, mid-life and all that.

Plus I needed a crown replaced, so I've spent a good bit of time with my dentist with whom I have a love-hate relationship. I love him as a person (SUCH a great guy!), but I absolutely hate going there. Oh well. That's done.

So, like I said, I'm leaving again. Tomorrow morning, B and I are leaving for the north woods where we hope to get a glimpse of our youngest girl who's at camp for the summer. In fact, the boat is already tied to the top of our car, the bike rack is installed and ready for bikes, and our first stop tomorrow is camp so I can hug my girl's neck.

Well, I did it. I updated you in ten minutes.

And now, despite the rain and gloomy weather, we're off to celebrate the daughter of some of our closest friends. So excited!

Happy summer! See you in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Let Go of Regret

I see you, mama. The one with Regret written all over your face and on your sagging shoulders and in your sad eyes. The one whose hopes and dreams consist of words you wish you had said, deeds you wish you had done, or those you wish you could undo.

“If only” has become your mantra.

I see you and I know you because I am you.

Seems, sometimes, like Regret is a mother’s best friend.

We walk with it, chew on it, and let it weigh us down. None of us are immune.

I’ve certainly had my share of regrets over the years—things I wish I had done; things I wish I had said. More often, though, things I wish I had not said. The words, they do poison.

In the past few weeks I have spoken to two friends—both amazing mothers—who are filled with regret over children who are not currently living in the way these parents have raised them. One child has rejected the faith with which they were raised; the other is on the brink of making some important decisions about how to live.

In both conversations, I noticed that both of my friends expressed serious regret about their parenting.

Maybe you’ve felt this, too.

Here’s the thing, mamas: we are not made to regret. And I think our regrets come from our forgetfulness about three important things.

1. We forget that we are ultimately not in control.

In other words, we give ourselves way too much blame (or credit!) for the way our kids turn out. As much as we’d like to make the way easy for our kids, we have to remember that some kids very simply will not learn from our mistakes. They may not even learn from their own. We can give our children the tools (whether that be an education, a faith heritage, a stable family—whatever it is) that can make paving the way a bit easier, but it’s up to them to use them.

Don’t blame yourself if your child rejects the tools you have given him or her. Just be faithful every day.

2. We forget that we are forgiven, just as much as our children are.

Forgiveness is a powerful arsenal in our parenting strategy, and we must remember to also practice it on ourselves.

I recently read the most beautiful definition of grace: “Grace says, ‘There you are, I’ve been waiting for you and you’re welcome here. All of you. You are beloved.’”

Mama, you are beloved—all of you—whether or not you’ve messed up. Or your kid has. Or your husband has. It doesn’t matter. Grace is here, waiting for you.

Mama, forgive yourself because God already has. Don’t let the regret that you’re feeling limit you from the power of forgiveness and grace in your life, which will move you ahead to do the next right thing.

3. We forget that the story isn’t finished yet.

I’ve known parents of some seriously messed up kids. Some have let regrets stop them from doing what they should be doing—whether that is acting with tough love or gently loving them back home. But some parents I’ve known have simply said, “My son’s (or daughter’s) story is not yet finished. God has not given up on this child, and neither will I.” They have prayed continuously for their child. They have opened the door to their home. They have shown, in very practical terms, what the love of Jesus means.

Mama, your story is not yet finished—thank goodness for that, right?!—and neither is your child’s. Our stories continue to grow and to change and to mold us into the people we are today, and that’s true for our kids as well. If you have regrets, remember that your child’s story is still being written and that the way he or she is living today is not the end of the story.

Even more important, remember that God has not walked away from your child, He still loves them, and He will never give up fighting for them.

So mama? For the sake of your family (and your sanity) will you give up your regrets? Don’t dwell on those things that are over and done. Realize that, ultimately, you are not in control. Move ahead with grace and forgiveness. 

And thank God that the story is not finished yet.