Trust your Trainer

Sometimes the hard stuff neaks up on you… like misspelling “sneaks” (this might be a long one folks; sneaks just came out ‘snakes’ and it was only b/c I already misspelled sneaks…)

Let’s try this again: Sometimes the hard stuff sneaks up on you. I have friends who have had so much come out of left field recently. Breast cancer. Divorce. Death of their spouse at the beginning of their romantic retirement years. A nephew die after conquering cancer (so they thought) just months before. Children diagnosed with arthritis. Breast cancer – actually had 3 friends deal with it in the last 3 years. Spouse caught in an affair. Pregnancy of their fourth, unplanned child. Lack of pregnancy of their first or second child.

For us, the most recently “hard” thing that we have journeyed through is adoption. I had my tubes tied after giving birth to Elam via c-section and let me tell you: I did not doubt that decision for a minute. This body had had it with pregnancy and child birth. I have never understood what you ladies love about pregnancy. I never loved much. The good skin and hair was about it and it in no way made up for the rest… The 75 pounds of it was hard to make up for…

Well surprise, this tube-tying chick has three kids. Never would I have imagined we would have another child. Much less a boy. And the last two weeks have been hard. Tantrums. Kids fighting. Transition drama. Melt downs. Near vomiting during tantrum after fighting to get him to eat his meal. Dealing with his constant fear of being left out, of injustice somehow making him extremely angry and … well that’s enough.

My friends who just recently lost their baby keep asking questions and dealing with their loss. We recently spoke about God and what He knows and what He prepares us for.

My friends could never have seen it coming. In now way were they “prepared” for the challenge. But now that they are fighting through it and facing each day, I can say that in some ways, they were prepared.

My friends have build wonderful friendships in their neighborhood, in the running culture, business world and school realm of their kids. They have spent time building their spiritual foundation with church and our community group and their personal disciplines. They have learned to parent with affection and attachment and have a high value for family time.

I hope there is a good downhill after this.

I hope there is a good downhill after this.

Tomorrow I’ll be running a trail run for 26.2 miles. This is not something I have trained for. This is not in the 2016 fitness plan for Sandi Asker.

So why in the world would I try to do something I haven’t trained for?

My friend asked me. Grandma’s was zero fun. My body is in “marathon shape.” I’m 40. My other friend kept talking me into it. I think I like adventures. I won’t die.

And as I kept thinking about this race, I thought it fit after all. Things that we couldn’t have foreseen have been hard but we have done them together.

“In normal times, community blesses; in hard times, community saves.” Our pastor said this a few weeks ago and it has been true for us.

Our community is formed around our neighborhoods, our kids and and their schedules, our need for respite care and love of eating together. But the community that has saved each other this spring is much more. We have a Trainer leading us, keeping us ready for whatever is ahead. He can see more than we can and He knows when we need rest (every week He says) and He knows when we need to work hard. If we listen, He will keep us going on the race with perseverance.

So while we do normal life, we get to enjoy our friendships and our daily tasks. When the really tough uphills come, we do it together and we celebrate together. We will probably scrape our knees, hands and even fall face first. We might cry. But we trust we are not alone while we do it.

As I texted my girlfriend tonight about what we are wearing and packing, I was working on my nightly reading. This is what I read:

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So just like I blogged before Grandma’s to “trust your training” I think this race I will trust my Trainer and enjoy the race with my friends.

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Meditation on subway tiles

Sit down and grab journal while kids are in pool. 5 min later, middle child bursts out of the pool and hands you the green torpedo to throw to him in said pool.  Drips water all over said journal, Kindle and chance at some reflection.

Second chance to journal: open page to last entry and see it was 5/29/15.  Entry previous 4/3/14 then 1/4/14.

Suffice to say going from 2 kids to 3 kids severely decreased my journalling exercises, saving the planet at least a few trees since I used to love to write down – like with pen and ink and even pencil sometimes – what was going on.

Today I really thought I had a chance.  I really did.

Then tonight I was certain I had a chance.  Bedtime in the hotel here in Madison has been sweet – games after dinner, long chapter book reading time and devotions times 3 kids.  Then snuggle in due to the ridiculous AC and they are out like trout.

View from our hotel room.

View from our hotel room. We are here with Brian as he leads small group leaders who are caring for new staff joining IVCF.

Well first it was Elam crawling into my bed and asking for snuggles.  Then complaining he couldn’t sleep in my king sized bed.  Then complaining about how hot it was in here.  Then something about a toe hurting and I finally caved and went to find ice.

Then my stomach chose that moment to remind me that last night was my first really big meal in days.  I have had zero appetite since running the marathon and last night, the chicken and yummy salad had me taking 2 trips to the buffet.  Then the salad and pizza had me at hellO! (thankfully Jana has befriended me and found the olive oil in the kitchen for me!).

Too much salad.  Too much walking.

I raced back to the room, found a Ziplock for the ice and the toe and found the bathroom.  OY.

Meanwhile C and XS are on the pullout, arguing.  XS is upset that Elam got extra mom time and really REALLY wanted to know what we were talking about.

I almost wrecked the sliding doors in this hotel room (who puts sliders in a hotel room?) while racing to the bathroom the second time.  Then almost crashed the tank lid (that thing you lean back on when sometimes the stomach doesn’t feel so good?) while I was trying to be patient with my belly, entrails and my kids.

Meanwhile, as I hunched over looking at the nifty subway tiles (they have recently redone this hotel and I keep looking for ideas) I thought to myself:

I wish I had more to show for my life than putting 3 kids to bed tonight.  More than taking them to the Children’s Museum today (which was amazing today!)

We built this city... on rock and roll

We built this city… on rock and roll

More than a lack of patience for 3 kids who really are quite wonderful.

And then I thought if I can’t put 3 wonderful kids to bed without losing my bleeping temper than how can I expect to lead others around me in groups greater than 3?  (But for the love, why don’t my children go to sleep like normal elementary kids might after busy busy days of running from 7am-8pm???)

So, journalling and processing the day and the events that have filled the day seem to just roll into another week and another month and then suddenly you realize your journal still smells new.  And even though your husband offers you a new one you think why, the one I have will last me until they go to college.

So Moms, Dads, especially you with more than 3 kids, maybe you do it alone most days and shiver with excitement at the prospect of peace and quiet – here’s to you tonight.  Here’s to all those interrupted moments you attempt to reflect.  Here’s to those attempts at quiet time.  Here’s to the dreams of being self-aware and forgiving because you’ve done your business with the Lord.

We may wish we had more to show for our days of parenting, cleaning, telling them to get those hands out of their mouths and eat just 2 more bites of meat. But sometimes we just don’t. We don’t.

Last thought: I could have spent the last 10 minutes writing this down in the journal, oh yes I know I could have.

But I am such an extrovert that after all that happened tonight I simply couldn’t introvert the night.  I had to know at least one other person would read my night and laugh, emote, sympathize and nod.  So for you 1-2 people out there, thanks for not letting me keep this to myself.

Now, where is a new episode of Downton Abbey when you need it?

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Brutal

It was brutal.

The marathon that is.

First there was the heat.  The need for water, for the love of all that is good and holy more WATER! Down my neck, over my head (watch out for the FitBit) and down into my shoes.  Oh and ICE thank You Jesus ICE.  Ice on my wrists.  Ice in my hat (please just dump that cup right into it thanks).  A breeze – yes alleluia maybe I can actually do this thing if this breeze lasts.  And the wisps of cool humid air off Lake Superior – oh my sweet hope above hopes that cool air.

Then the smells – we did not smell pretty.  Neither did the port-a-potties.  Oh dear even 10 hours later I could still remember and experience the feeling of my breakfast rising in the back of my throat as I passed the biffies.

For the strangest reason, these dehydrated folks were still able to expel something from their lower extremities and fill those potties with horrific substances which cooked for over 4 hours in the heat.  It was brutal to breathe in that smell when you just wanted to get a fresh breath.

Then the frustrations of 6 months of training going down the toilet (see what I did there?). In the span of 5 hours, I lost 6 months of training towards a goal that I really hadn’t had set in stone until I was honest with myself.

My plan was that I was going to work out hard and furious as I normally do M-Th and then add the long runs in on Fridays while the kids were all 3 in school.  The family barely felt the push of my training since all I did was walk about 30 minutes Sat/Sun.

But after 13.1 and my 9:30 pace quickly slowing down, I knew I wasn’t going to make my sub-4 much less sub-4:15.  After the moderate risk flags gave way to the extremely high risk you’re gonna die unless you slow down right now and don’t kid yourself it’s hot out here flags, I quickly decided I would pay attention.  I slurped down some lemonade mix straight from AdvoCare’s ‘no you’re not gonna die’ mix that my friend Curt gave me.  I decided to run to my family at mile 19 and then see what happens.

Well after I saw mile 17 the thoughts of quitting, lying on the concrete and having to tell my 88-year old father that he was right, this is ridiculous starting to overtake me.  I knew I had to just give way to the walking.  I hate walking a race.  I didn’t pay this money to go for a walk.  I didn’t train with 25, 30 and 35 lb weights with Anna McGee for 6 months for a walk.  I didn’t buy this new hat which says “RUN HAPPY” TO WALK!

But it was brutal.  So I walked.

(This blog is going to be about as long as the marathon was so strap in folks.  Even if only 3 of you read it, strap in.  It’s going to be a long one.)

Then I got to the bridge where Brian was and I couldn’t find him.  Thank God Amy and Susan were there, got me ice and a banana and kept me together until I heard “MOM!” Strawberries. Admitted I was miserable. Then I had to keep going.

Thankfully I met a guy from New Prague who was about 2 feet taller than I and twice as tired.  We chatted as we walked a bit and then I saw Lemon Drop Hill.  There I decided I would have two new goals: I would run the 2 hills left and I would finish running the last 2-3 miles.

I left Mr New Prague and then saw Maribeth.  I told her I was getting sad, thinking about losing baby Isaac, the hard times my friends have gone through lately, my friends who have conquered or dealing with cancer and all the disappointment of the day.  She told me to just finish and time didn’t matter.

So I ran.  I ran up the hills, thanking God for dead lift squats, that lemonade goo, Jesus never letting me feel alone even when I felt alone and for the will to keep going.

Then I saw Ann.  She took a video of me and for the love of Jesus and forgive my pride: I was so glad I was actually running when she videoed me!

Then I ran up behind SuperOne.  I ran it people and a fierce, gorgeous Pacific Islander man go down right next to me.  He grabbed his leg and yelled I NEED HELP.  Wow.

Then I saw Chrissa.  On a bike.  Then JoHanna on a scooter since she had surgery (or something) and she had…  She had the best thing ever.  ICE.  I hadn’t had any for way to long.

Then my family again and then, I realized I wasn’t going to stop running.  Or at least moving my feet in the way they normally moved when I ran.  Pictures show me barely lifting my feet.

And with my family, my sweet friends who just had their 4th baby.

I couldn’t hardly look at them but I heard Nate say “there she is!” with such pride in his voice and endearment that I choked up.  I couldn’t stop I told them. For many reasons, but suffice to say, it was just brutal.

It was so hot people were quitting their volunteer positions b/c they couldn’t handle the heat.  Yet here were my parents, my family (my hubs who took care of them all plus pushing my dad in the wheelchair – who incidentally just fixed the sink in the hotel where we are staying — he is AMAZING) and my sweet friends with their 4 kids cheering as if it were 50 degrees and lovely.

He is my best friend and a great coach!

He is my best friend and a great coach!

It was so hot.  So hot.  Brutally hot.

And then I finished.  I ran across the finish line.  And all I wanted to do was go home.

I have never walked so much (FitBit makes me think it was about 27 minutes).  I have never not wanted to run so badly in my life.  I have never felt so unmotivated and ready to quit.  I have never felt so done before being done in my life.

You don’t quit until you’re done.  That’s like a motto for us at the Y and in our family.

And I wanted to quit.  Oh boy did I.

And no shame to those who did.  I get it.

But I didn’t want to.

Because the Gardners didn’t give up when they lost their baby.  Carrie didn’t when she had breast cancer.  Our church didn’t when they faced yet another challenge and another pastoral search.  Matt Damon didn’t when stranded on Mars.

I kept thinking Jesus hung on the Cross and endured such suffering for such a purpose.  And yet here I was running a race for less than 5 hours for what?

Well I did it because I finish what I start.  I like having goals.  Because time alone to reflect is best for me when I am active.  I work stuff out there on the streets and roads.  I get energy by exhausting my body.

I did it because my two kids want to run a 5K now in July with us. Because they knew I could finish.

The day before they got to run too.  It was so sweet.

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They had a blast and did so well all day. Proud of them.

It was brutal finally because it was so humiliating.  I had so many people telling me “You got this!” and “you’re ready” and “you might even beat your goal!” that I just am so disappointed in how it all turned out.

But ironically, Sunday morning came, I walked into church and heard Philippians 2 preached:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

This happened Saturday.  None of us cared how fast we went.  We just wanted to look out for each other and make sure everyone was safe.

It was brutal.

It is over.  The brutal-est day ever is over.  And I’m so glad.

 

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Trust your training

I literally sat down about 3 hours ago to start this blog when I heard blood curdling screaming coming from the garage. XS was screeching and sobbing.  I waited about 3-4 minutes and realized it wasn’t dying down.  I opened the door to find Brian comforting a bleeding XS: ear bleeding and small bruise behind said ear.

They said they wanted to play with a real baseball and now we know why those little t-ball sluggers wear batting helmets!

Ah, life is never boring around here…

I had wanted to write about training.

I had just been reflecting on my stinky shoes.  I had removed them from my gym bag in preparation for my swim work out tmrw.  I actually got a little sad: tmrw will be my last “workout” at the Y before the marathon Saturday.

be grateful you can't smell these...

be grateful you can’t smell these…

 

These shoes carried me during a 1/2 marathon last September and were my shoes at the Y for a lot of the winter and spring.  Good shoes.  Second pair (first pair was Grandma’s Marathon last year…)

How can shoes bring such emotion?

Well tonight it might be b/c a 20 minute trip to the library took 60.  Because it’s day 2 of summer vacation.  Because I am a girl.  Because it’s been grey, cloudy and cool all week.

It might also be b/c these shoes represent what I have been training for since January.  The risks with heavier weights.  The noon classes I shoved into my Wednesdays after work and before momming.  The conversations with friends about magnesium, avocados and eggs (friends: some people eat a LOT of eggs…)  The push-ups, lunges and renegade rows that still make me cry.

I wore these shoes when I met my friend who lost a nephew to cancer and struggles with faith.  I wore these shoes when I found out a long-term relationship had died.  I wore these shoes when I cried with a friend who cried for unknown reasons – sobbed really.  I wore these shoes when I found out Isaac died.  I found these shoes in my gym bag later that day, tied together by an unknown friend who wanted to make sure I didn’t lose one that day as I rushed out of the building.

I put the shoes aside and thought: Trust Your Training.  There’s literally nothing else I can do at this point to help me run this race.

And isn’t life like that?  Stuff comes up and you just have to take a deep breath and tell yourself to trust your training.

When you’re sitting holding your kid and you’re debating on an ER visit, you call your friend the ER pediatrician.  I trust his training.

When you’re stuck alone on Mars and you’re Matt Damon, you’re glad you’re a botanist and trust your training.

When you get a call that your friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you sit down and trust Mayo doctors’ and their training.

When you don’t know what to do during a taper week, you trust others ideas about tapering and their training.

When you get kicked in the teeth by life, aren’t you going to wish you had trained for moments like this?

I won’t run (many or any…) more marathons.  (Don’t look now but she’s dreaming of another race in another city… not sure which one but dreaming.)

But I’m sure I’ll face challenges in other ways.  Death.  Sickness.  Offensives that will run deep.  Friends that will move.  Heartbreak with teenagers.  More national tragedies.  Christians who will live in such a way that make me and the world hate our worldview.  Drama that will overwhelm.

And I want to be ready.  When the gun goes off, I want to be able to run the race with perseverance.  One more race.  One more day.  Surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses.  Cheered on by dear friends.

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.  Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way as it holds promise for the present life and the for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8

 

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One more

There is a personal trainer who teaches classes at the Y who has become the voice in my head during long runs and solo lifting sessions.  She says things like “this is only 4% of your day” or “don’t quit until ‘yer done” and “does anyone want to get stronger today?”

She also says “the things you hate the most are probably the things you need the most.”  For me it’s lunges. (WHY oh WHY when we do so MANY of them are they still so hard?!)

When I do certain exercises and I hate them, it is probably because it is hard to do and it is revealing a weak spot.

Of course my friend means exercise but as I have walked next to friends through weeks of suffering it has come to mean more than just I may have weak muscles.

Some of these challenges we have faced have shown me areas of my life where I need to change.

When Isaac died, my heart broke on sometimes an hourly basis.  I found the towel at the Y become a tissue as well as a sweat wiper.  I would cry watching movies (Anne of Green Gables scene when they buried Matthew turned into an sob fest), lose my breath when I would remember the chain of events of April 21 or simply cry with my friends as we continue to grieve together.

It didn’t completely soften my heart (golly if this didn’t what will?) towards my children and I have not turned into Mary Poppins, BUT…

I find I am less picky.  I care less about how much they eat (I used to be a protein and veggie pusher at the cost of tears and even gagging sometimes – shame on me) or even what they eat (sure, have another piece of whatever that gooey candy is from the birthday party).  I care less about the mess, even in the boys’ drawers.  Underwear inside out?  Mismatched socks?  Mismatched PJ’s? No longer on the top of my complaint list. (Ok it does sometimes still drive me slightly crazy but that’s just normal mom-mode at bedtime right!?)

We celebrate more.  Today XS graduated from preschool.  (He told me beforehand that he was “nervous.”  Bless him.)  But we celebrated real good with juice, Chinese noodles at lunch and noodles at dinner again.

Grateful Homecroft teachers let big siblings attend the ceremony!

Grateful Homecroft teachers let big siblings attend the ceremony!

I never wanted 3 kids.  Had the tubal after Elam’s birth since it was a c-section and I was hanging open already.  We were sure we didn’t want or need another kid.  1-1 defense seemed best for our family.  Besides, when do people ever win a trip for 5 to Disneyworld?

But oh how grateful we are for this third child to make life uncomfortable – budget, time, diapers for overnights, lover of Chinese noodles so that I always have to have at least one dish in the fridge that’s just for this boy – mostly silly irritations but every once in a while we think what the what?

We thought we had it all together before 3 kids… ha!  We thought we had a handle on college fund planning, child care and one pink bedroom and one blue one.  Little did we know.

Thank God He knew we needed Him.

I find I am angry less.  When I remind my kids to do something (even for the 10th time) I remind them, they apologize and we move on.  When I find they have spilled, even if it IS pork grease from the freshly grilled loin Elam proudly helped Dad bring in from the deck… on the freshly cleaned carpets.  (WHO INSTALLS WHITE CARPET!?)

I find I kiss the boys while they sleep.  I chat with Calista more during bedtime and let her keep chatting.  I pray more while I run (although that may be because I am training for a marathon and simply have more time TO pray).  Brian and I pray more together before bed.  Brian and I also argue so much less than a year ago we should write a book about it.

This spring has shown me so many of my weak spots!  I could keep writing about how I find it hard to keep my mouth shut, harder to be nice sometimes and really hard to not try to fix everyone’s problems in the next 4 minutes.

And I’m sure this next week and its challenges of a friend facing a tough season ahead, Brian being gone for the last 4 days of school, grieving the end of a school year with my 8-year old and the busy weekend will show me more of the weak spots.

But as I do one more lunge, one more mile, one more day, I am also finding God gives me just what I need: faith for one more.  Joy for one more.  Energy for one more.  Strength for one more.

FullSizeRenderFrom a text from a friend.  From a note in the mailbox.  From a praise from a stranger.  From flowers from a friend.  From gifts left for me such a this necklace.

 

And then I believe I can do one more mile, one more race, one more phone call and one more blog that might mean something.

 

 

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Ordinary Time

“Mom, I just wish I could do something.”

“We’d do anything.

We had just spent hours with some of our dearest friends from church.  Our grieving friends had had a super hard day, putting baby Isaac’s clothes away.  Grandma Elaine had headed home to Iowa.  And overall, they were just sad.  We were sad with them, literally weeping together when Elam came in.

Elam had been trying to help XS and another boy slow down on the swings.  The babysitters thought they were going too fast or high and he wanted to help.  In the process, somehow this happened.

It looked like really REALLY bad road rash 2 days ago. Today, just like really bad road rash.

It looked like really REALLY bad road rash 2 days ago. Today, just like really bad road rash.

Elam was crying. Christy was crying. I was crying. It was slightly overwhelming.

Thankfully there were other moms and dads there and we got Elam bandaged up, other friends took over the conversation and somehow, with 12 kids, 3 babysitters, and 22 people total, we spent the evening together. We BBQ-ed, started an obligatory fire in the grill, killed some mosquitos and grieved together.

We also planned ahead for baby J coming in a few short weeks.

(True community – here is a freebie glance at a soon to be coming blog post.  True community is when your 6-year old SON remembers your girlfriend’s due date.  Just ask Elam: he knows it is May 30.)

It was devastating however to watch our friends grieve.

Shattering to walk into church behind them on Mothers Day.

Heartbreaking to get a “thank you” text from one of the grandpas exactly 14 days after it happened. It was mid-workout and after I read it at 10:00am, I knelt down on my exercise mat, cried a few hard tears, then picked myself up and got back to my push-ups and renegade rows. (Why is it when I experience hard resistance in class that I start to cry for real?  Those bloomin’ renegade rows do it every week.)

Well the night after Elam hurt his arm and we had spent time with our friends, Calista had expressed herself simply,” I just wish there was something I could do!  It is so hard to hear Elam in pain.”

And later when I was praying with the boys and I got quiet, Elam asked what I was thinking about.  “I just wish there was something I could do.  I asked Chris that earlier.  I just wish I could do something to help them.”

“Well, we’d do anything Mom.” It was simple.  Heartfelt.

I rarely don’t know what exactly to do.  I mostly have a list of 25 things and it is a matter of which thing to do.  And often I’m doing 2-3 of those things simultaneously. Especially when I’m solo parent for 14 days straight.

But in this grieving season, I am struck with such a sense of not knowing a single thing to do…

Except pray. Text. Stop by. Have lunch. Hug. Say “I love you.” Seemingly unhelpful, un-extrodinary things

Ordinary things.

Incidentally, for you liturgical types (of which I must not be b/c it took 4 attempts plus the use of my computer spell checker to get “liturgical” spelled correctly…) you know this.  But we are now technically in “Ordinary Time.” It’s no longer Easter (did you know Easter lasts 7 weeks? I just asked Calista if she knew and she said it lasts 50 days.  Yay.  She listens.)

My devotional guide reminded me that in Ordinary Time, we don’t have feasts, reminders like Christmas, Lent or Easter to wake us up and keep us in tune with the Spirit.*  Instead, now we enter in a time when we simply follow Jesus. In ordinary ways.

Ordinary Time.

The bustle of family visiting, funeral planning and having to share the fresh, sad story is coming to a close.

Instead, my friends are taking their girls to school. Planning to return to work. Running their miles early in the morning. Putting away clothes. Returning overdue library books.

Ordinary things.

However, I’ll bet they wouldn’t call it ordinary. Nothing for them is ordinary, or normal.  It is a new life, a shattered image of the dream they had been living.

And those of us around them wonder what to do, how to help.  Or maybe we shift the conversation away from the pain because we just don’t know what to do.

When I haven’t known what to do lately, I have decided to do what I always do. Stick to the plan. Keep following. Running my miles. Serving dinner. Being a friend. Talking to the neighbors. Finishing the last Harry Potter book. Writing.

Ordinary Time.

What is ordinary about a babe not waking from his morning nap after getting a full belly from his loving mother?

What is ordinary about going for a bike ride in the cemetery, where the roads are flat (a rarity in Duluth) and finding that babe’s gravesite?

Fitting: my normally smiling kids appropriately didn't smile for this shot. I took it to show Brian what we were doing Mothers Day afternoon. And somehow it felt right to share this photo.

Fitting: my normally smiling kids appropriately didn’t smile for this shot. I took it to show Brian what we were doing Mothers Day afternoon. It reflects how we all felt looking at it.

What is ordinary about helping another car filled with people, who happen to be looking for the section where babies are buried in that same cemetery?

What will we find as we just do what we always do? Who will find? Or Who might find us?

Ordinary Time.

 

  • The book I am currently using for devotions is Bobby Gross’ “living the Christian year” (IVP of course)

 

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Friendship is…

The last two weeks have reminded me so much of how important relationships are.  The extra time, momentary discomfort and the minor work seem nothing compared to the joy I have had being on the receiving end of what friendship is.

Friendship is meeting a girlfriend at mile 10 with cut up fresh pear and oranges and then running the last 5 with her uphill both ways (golly Hawk’s Ridge is hilly!)

water bottleFriendship is buying a water bottle for your girlfriend who happened to mention she may need to buy a “going out” water bottle.  My bright red YMCA bottle is like my calling card.  I’ve left bottles at church, at friends’ houses and in the garage.  My girlfriend (my very pregnant girlfriend) remembered this despite all of the tragedy and busy surrounding her/us and presented me with a gift of a “fancy” water bottle tonight. After serving me dinner…  So sweet.

Friendship (or just love) is Calista racing to wash it for me, fill it with fresh, cold water and then taking a picture for me so I could blog about it.

Friendship is remembering to pray for your friend’s mother who is having heart surgery, while holding your baby who didn’t wake up that morning.  It’s leading the prayer, asking us all to hold hands and then pray out loud while the rest of us wept for the kindness.

Friendship is remembering families who are caring for families facing tragedy.  Offering to bring a meal to the weekly community group which meets every week.  Bringing an ENTIRE meal which provides leftovers to a mom who is single-parenting for two weeks.  Bringing the meal in non-returnable recyclable pans.  Bringing strawberries too for the kids.  And seeming to love every minute of it.

Friendship is offering to take 3 kids (mine – all these are about me, just FYI – this blog is not supposed to be tricky) for 3 hours on a Saturday even though you are a grandmother, and probably wonderful OTHER things you could do on a Saturday (like sleep IN!), plan 8 activities for the morning and bake cookies with those kids.  It’s letting them taste every ingredient (Flour tastes like dust they said).  It’s loving them with hugs and literally CHASING them around the playground on a chilly, April morning.

Friendship is offering to watch those kids again just days later if needed.

Friendship is planning to go visit your girlfriend in the hospital when she has her baby in a few weeks with other friends.  Even though your sweet baby just passed away weeks ago. Planning it with a smile and peace in your eyes.  And planning it because we remember how we visited together when that sweet baby boy was born just months ago. (And how that night we didn’t just rejoice over his new life, but we overheard another baby entering the world through the shared bathroom doors!!!)

Friendship is texting the morning after you buried your baby son before 8am to offer prayers for an important meeting before reminded to do so.  It’s remembering that my husband had a big interview that day and was getting a license to be able to minister in the Covenant church and praying just the right words for him that morning.

Friendship is learning to say “I love you” every time you say goodbye, even though you’re not related.  But after all you have walked through recently, seems more natural than if you had been born in the same house.

Friendship is texting to see how I am doing since Brian is away for 2 weeks.

Friendship is fixing my boys’ bikes so the seats are adjusted to the right height for a new biking season.

Friendship is asking an acquaintance at the Y how she is doing after witnessing her shock after finding out her girlfriend’s baby just died.

Friendship is texting daily to see if a friend needs anything.  And then when she tells you she is lonely, texting 4-5 rapid fire Bible verses that are so so EXACTLY what I needed to hear.  “even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.” (Is 46).  And then joke with you by texting about the gray hair part and the funny timing of the hair appointment later that day, even though I am sure that friend was quite busy this afternoon.

Friendship is telling her that her white hair is rad and she shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

Friendship is asking your girlfriend what she needs. And offering to take her 3 kids for 2 hours so she can get that white hair cut and styled again.

windy hair

After 10 minutes of styling, shaping and gelling the hair to look just right, 3 second in the wind did this. What do you think?

 

Friendship is dropping off popsicle making trays, Apple Juice, a card, rocks and loaning a stuffed animal when you’re stuck at home with impetigo. A girlfriend and her son (one of XS’ really first buddy) dropped these things off a few weeks ago.  When I asked XS today what friendship is to me he said, “Giving other people’s toys back.” He was referring to his dropping of the stuffed animal which he did last night.

Friendship is, according to Elam, “Loving and serving people.  Giving people your food.  Worshiping Jesus together and giving people Bibles.”

Friendship is, according to Calista, “having fun with the people you like.”

Friendship is Jesus with skin on everywhere I turn: at the Y, at the grocery store (my peanut butter, lunch meat and hydration drinks were all on sale today!), church, the neighborhood and on the phone almost every hour.

How have you been a friend lately? You are doing more than you know for those of us on the receiving end.

And who has been a friend to you?

Thank your friends.

Be a friend.

It just might change the world.

 

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The Circus: Day One

It was supposed to start at 6am, but my body thought 5am would be better.  I was lying in bed, praying to go back to sleep but eventually I gave up.  I knew it was 6am when Elam came BOUNDING into the room just as he does every morning.

I gave him the obligatory 6 minute snuggles and then got ready for my 16 mile run.  It was a long run today getting ready for Grandma’s Marathon in just 8 weeks (eek).  Brian helped me by coaching and jogging alongside of me for the last 6.7 miles.  It was sunny, calm for the first time in weeks on a Friday (yay!) and birds sang the whole time.  I saw my first sandpiper, scared up a deer (ok she scared me too) and ate my banana in some stranger’s driveway.

Running w B

This afternoon my two close girlfriends and I created a genuine, 3-ring circus.  Sally was off to a neighbor’s house where an elementary girl with very long hair had head lice.  She combed it through and gave the girl a haircut. That’s love people.

I took off for Homecroft Elementary where 75 2nd graders were eagerly waiting to watch a sheep’s eye get dissected.  I read through the notes, watched slides on line and got very ill as I considered my options for cancelling on this volunteer opportunity.

lines like this got me:

“If some of the vitreous humor begins to come out of the eyeball… let it come out slowly.” (might it erupt if I’m not careful?)

“you may need to tease the material loose from the inside of the eye” (is this a joke? … see what I did there?  and there?)

Instead I showed up and was the one without a partner (moment of sadness please) and realized there weren’t enough tools, scissors and scalpels for us all to cut into these balls of fatty … eyeballs.

But wow, what 90 minutes we had with those kids.  One girl told me she threw up outside during the dissection.  My friend Amy had looks of disgust on her face as she cut through the eyeball. One table of kids went from gasps of shock to audible grimaces.

Calista was delighted I was there and we actually learned a lot about the eye ball and found the insides of the eyes had a shimmery, iridescent green/blue “tapetum.”  It was fascinating thinking about how God created all of that.

Calista eyeball

There were things said I have never heard in a schoolroom. “Logan, give someone else a chance to stick their finger in the eye.”  “Anyone else need an eyeball? There are two bags full over here.”

You too could order from Nebraska Scientific eyeballs, intestines and all sorts of yummy things to dissect.  And they ship with UPS.

Meanwhile Calista, Elam and I went to pick up kid #3 and found the final ring of the circus.  Rebekah (due in 5 weeks) perhaps had the hardest job, taking care of her own 2 kids, plus 3 extra.  She was rounding them ALL up to walk to the bus to pick up her #3.  2 kids in a single baby jogger and the bus stop having uphills both ways.  We all walked to the bus stop together, ran into Sally and walked our brood home.

We debated the choices we all made that day: head lice, sheep eyeball dissection and babysitting each other’s kids.  What a way to spend a sunny Friday afternoon!

paper plate

Don’t eat off this plate.

 

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One week ago…

One week ago I didn’t know what to do.  What to say.  How to help.

One week ago I hadn’t ever really grieved.  Hadn’t cried so hard my eyes, throat and chest hurt.  Hadn’t ever seen my friends all doing the same.

One week ago I had never hugged my friend and the children’s pastor at my church so tight I never wanted to let go.

One week ago I didn’t know just how great my church really was, is and probably will always be. One week ago I was not as proud as I am now to say I’m on staff at Lakeview Covenant Church.

One week ago I was sweating after class, getting a phone call from my husband that life had changed forever for our good friends, Chris and Christy.  Their 3 month old, long-awaited for, much prayed for, much prepared for baby boy didn’t wake up from his morning nap.

One week ago I had never held a dead child, much less a sweet baby. That sweet babe was rocked in his momma’s arms all day until dad arrived from his trip to Michigan.  Momma shared him, asked me to say goodbye to him.  So I did.

One week ago I had never fallen to my knees so many times.  168 hours of pain, sadness and the inability to shake the feeling that just .7 miles away, a family has been shattered.

One week ago people starting praying, bringing food, cleaning bathrooms, taking care of the other 3 children, putting onesies away and gathering photos.  One week ago people starting asking “how can I help?” and figured out a million ways to love.

One week ago I heard Grandpa Bob say, “It’s times like these when we really start to love each other the way we should.”

I heard Christy say, while holding baby Isaac’s body, “God is still good.  Don’t worry you guys” (tears streaming down her face) “I won’t forget that.  Even now.”

I heard my own children ask, “Are you afraid to let us go to sleep Momma?”  “Are you still sad about baby Isaac?”  “Why didn’t I die when I was a baby?”

I heard people at the visitation and funeral say, “This church takes care of people.”  “Christy sure has a lot of running friends.”  “I came from Edina.  Chris and I used to work 2 offices apart.  I had to come.”

One week ago, I knew Chris and Christy could run forever.  But I didn’t know they could stand for 5 hours to greet, weep and hug the hundreds of people who came to church to support them.

One week ago, I knew I loved these friends of mine, and our community group which has met for almost two years.  But I didn’t know the extent we would go to show love at at time like this.  One friend moved out of her house for three days so family from out of town could move in and be 2 blocks away from Chris and Christy’s home.

One week ago, I knew my friends loved Jesus.  But I didn’t know that they could place a hand on their baby’s stomach, in a casket and point to the Cross while singing, “through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You.”

we sang this song at the funeral and it’s worth a listen…

One week ago I knew Christy loved babies, especially her own.  But I didn’t know she could still hold her relatives’ and neighbors’ babies without a painful look on her face.

One week ago I knew Chris and Christy had friends and wonderful ones at that.  But I didn’t know the dozens, hundreds and even more who love them.  The flowers (dozens of arrangements), the bars and cookies (counters filled at the church) and even the ice cream (tubs of it) donated by Bridgeman’s for the funeral told us how.  At the touch of a text button, goods for a family waiting room at the church (chapstick, CLIF bars, waters and someone thought of makeup remover pads) showed up in 24 hours.  Even a refrigerator.  After 3 emails and a handful of text messages, those bars and cookies showed up.  The woman coordinating the kitchen for the meal after the service had to turn people away from helping serving.

One week ago, and this may be the most important, I knew God was faithful.  That He provided.  That He comforted the brokenhearted.  That He could help the mother who miscarried twice one year apart.  That He could give that same mother twins less than a year after the last miscarriage.  That He could walk my friend Linda through the sudden death of her husband and replace dreams of a retired life with her husband with visions for other ideas.  That He could strengthen those of us who suffer with energy to serve.  That He loves us through one another.

But this week I know more than ever that God is real.  He gave strength to my friend to sing and preach really, the song “How Great Thou Art” to begin the funeral of baby Issac.  He gave Chris strength to speak and even make us laugh at the funeral.  He gave laughter even the day of the death of Isaac as we remembered funny things, even as Christy was still holding Isaac.

Isaac means laughter.  And I “happened” to being a chapter this week in Lauren Winner’s book “Wearing God” called laughter.  Here is a quote from the Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals:

Lord, to laugh in the midst of trial and to rejoice in the darkest valley is another way of saying, “our hope is in You.” Fill us with laughter and joy while we work for peace and strive for justice…

Help us to live so foolishly for you that we draw onlookers and those who would deride us.  And while they watch and mock, change all our hearts that we might learn to laugh at the foolishness this world calls normal and run away with the circus that is real life.  Amen.

Kids I’m joining the circus.  I’m cleaning other people’s toilets.  I’m up at 6 playing Battleship with my son.  I’m visiting the widow across the street (good thing since her brother just died).  I’m crying in the middle of renegade rows and push-ups (back to back mind you).  I’m running 15 and 16 miles, praying for Chris and Christy every step.  I’m asking for people to empty garbage cans.  I’m putting on jammies at 5pm and making the kids chicken nuggets.  I’m calling my BFF crying in the van on the ride down the Hill, watching the waves crash on the shore line and still driving to the Y.  I am going to watch Anne of Green Gables with my daughter.  I’m taking a nap.

And I’m praying that if I ever have to go through anything as hard as what my friends are going through, I will praise Him.  Give Him credit.  Rely on Him.  And none of us will forget that He is good.  And that He can grant us the ability to laugh in the midst of trial.

I’m running away with the circus… around 6am Friday – want to join me?

Isaac

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YOU MATTER!

I am white.  Midwestern.  Grew up in a farming town where the only non-white kids were adopted.  I literally don’t think there were any non-white adults except a Vietnamese family my dad’s church adopted.  Thankfully, the Lam’s were in our home regularly and babysat me.

My mom was a missionary to Korea and we ate Korean food regularly.  Kimchee was in our fridge (wrapped in 10 ziplocks with rubber bands!) and I had “pulgogi” (Korean marinated beef) at my high school graduation.

I went to college downtown St Paul and had mostly white friends.  I lived with an adopted Korean roommate two years in a row, but mainly we were white Midwestern kids.

Until I chose to follow Jesus in college and join InterVarsity as a campus staff in 1998, I don’t think I dealt much with race, racism and my own heart.

Fast forward to today.  I am studying Genesis 6-8 and the Flood for my job writing Bible studies for my church.

God completely destroys the earth and everything breathing on it because they are just too wicked.  But Noah is righteous.  And either he is good enough to influence his family, or his family is also righteous because his 3 sons and their wives are also saved.

AND THEN, the iconic images of the Flood stood out to me: the animals.  14 clean ones get saved and 2 of every “unclean” (according to Jewish rules) animal get a place in the big ark.

I believe God made all of the animals.  He could have just started over after the flood but He didn’t.  He also could have chosen to make new people (I believe He did that too).  But He saved a family instead and started over.

In the face of Black Lives Matter, pro-life debates and the Oregon Standoff, I have to say this today.  I just have to!

Black Lives Matter.  Although as a woman I do encounter some frustrations and judgment, I have no idea what it is like to feel unsafe in a parking lot filled with white, drunk college boys.  I have no idea how it feels to be followed around the Mall of America.  I have no idea how it feels to be watched in any store.  Simply b/c of the color of my skin.

I know I have to choose to look every person in the eye and say good morning.  Sometimes there are folks I encounter en route to the Y or at the bus stop who make me want to look away, but I choose to believe their lives matter.  I have to struggle against prejudice and assumptions about blacks and browns with low-slung jeans that get my 4 year old to ask why he doesn’t pull up his pants.  About the Native Americans who “always seem to have domestic violence and abuse” and get written up in the paper.  About Chinese parents who are too hard on their kids.  About rich white folks who probably don’t care about any of the above…

I will also dare to say: ANIMALS’ lives matter.  God made them and throughout Genesis we see that they are included in the mandate to multiply and fill the earth.  Revelation 5 tells us in the heavenlies that all creatures will worship the Lord.

I eat meat and am not suggesting we worship the animals, but sometimes we don’t take God’s command to care for the earth and all that is upon it seriously enough.

White militia lives matter.  So do those Native families who lost that land to the whites generations ago – they do too.

The cops who wield justice effectively and lose their lives that mattered.  The cops who give the others bad names – yep them too.

The Unborn matter.  The woman who lost her babe at 22 weeks … no his name is Arlo – they named him.  His life, albeit short: it matters.

The system made up of broken, wonderful, wretched, just and wacky folks: all of them matter.  

And YOUR LIVES MATTER.  They matter because God created you.  He wants to rescue you from this corrupt system, generation and injustice.

So let’s live as if our lives DO matter.  And like other people’s lives matter too.  Show them what the Truth is.

To that widow across the street.  To that kid who is always sent to the principal.  To that new man who joined our fitness class today.  To that single mom who has had to leave her job all week to care for her sick kids.  To you who feel like the mundane is just that, MUNDANE.

To you who work out next to me, sit next to me at church, walk past my house, ride the bus with my kids.  To you who raise kids with brown skin and face the challenges that surpass my own.  To you who have brown skin and fight the anger, the fatigue and the injustice.

You matter.  I notice.  InterVarsity notices.  The Church notices.  Many of us see you and want to stand with you.

But even more: God notices.  He remembered Noah and the waters receded.  The family was rescued from the flood waters and eventually got to be free again.

God will preserve you.  He will keep you from destruction.  If you listen to Him and follow His plans (Noah literally was given building plans for this barge/ark) He will rescue you.  He will bring you justice.

Your lives matter.  

God’s words sometimes literally blow me away.  Leaving me feeling speechless.

And then a blog tumbles out…

Sandi Shelton Asker

Training World Changers in Training

sandi@asker.net

218.760.8371

Blog:  www.lifeasan.asker.net

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