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Last Saturday Grace and Elijah played in the creek by our house for the first time. It’s a spring creek and last year Elijah was to little to really get in it. It was one of those fantastic parenting moments when something you dreamed about, and had visions of, takes place right in front of you. They were happy, and curious, laughing, and in some cases, cautious. It was a beautiful moment.

We just recently entered into a new phase of parenthood. We are on our fourth week of the two of them playing together, and getting along really, really well. On Sunday we sat on our deck while they walked down to the swing-set together and played. Greg and I just hung out, alone. We would talk for awhile and then one of us would say, “Can you believe this is happening?”

Parenthood is amazing, and parenting two that are twenty-two months apart is a grand adventure. But let me tell you, by grand adventure I mean exhausting! These last two years with Grace and Elijah have been exhausting joy. Any parent knows what I’m talking about – it is beautiful and amazing and you wouldn’t trade one single moment – and it’s hard.

They fight and scream and cry. They have to be fed SO OFTEN. They can’t change their own diaper no matter how clearly you explain the steps. They really like to talk with you – especially when you are on the phone. They want whatever the other one has even if they just traded for what the other one had. You can’t go out to eat. You can’t hold an adult conversation. A minimum of half of your brain is transformed to a homing device at birth. No matter what it looks like you’re doing, over half of your brain is trying to figure out where they are, what they are doing, and how long you can continue talking about….whatever it is you’re talking about, before you have to go, grab them, apologize, and limp home.

At the end of to many days your only goal is bedtime. If you can just make it to bedtime then you will be a human for a few hours. After a few days of this in a row you panic – I’m not ENJOYING THEM. Everyone reminds you – constantly – that this time will be gone and you will miss it. ENJOY them before they are GONE. So your few hours of humanity is spent in the time honored tradition of a parental guilt bath. You will do better tomorrow.

Not to mention the things you say that you just didn’t know adults ever had to say. You really have to tell them to not put their hand in where?!?!? “Don’t paint with your poop” – did I just say that? Too many to count, and too many that are just too weird.

But somehow, somehow, I sit here today and I am smiling ear to ear. Because parenting is really demanding and hard, most of the time, but it is also mostly awesome. I don’t know how that is possible, how can something be 95% challenging and also 99% fabulous? It just is.

We wake up each day to, “It’s a good day.” When I open my office door I hear, “Mommy!” They run to me like I’ve been gone for 3 weeks instead of 3 hours, and I’m knocked over with hugs. When Greg or I leave the house we hear, “Hug! Kiss!” many many times before we are actually allowed to leave. Elijah put on snow-boots, and nothing else, this morning to go play on the deck. They have started wrestling together and giggling. The sat out on the deck and had a conversation yesterday! Grace at ballet. Elijah dancing. Both of their bouncy runs. “Snuggle with me mommy.” “I like food chicken, but not animal chicken.”

I’m wrong – it is 95% challenging and 150% fabulous. Every day.

So, I have no choice. I am going to turn 40 before I write again and, therefore, I am obligated to write about it. 40 is the first birthday where the stores start selling all black decorations. Inappropriate – 40 is fabulous, black will not do.

It has been a very long time since I have had a milestone birthday, and when a decade of life draws to a close, it is a milestone of consequence. Great consequence indeed.

Not only is this a milestone birthday – it is the very first milestone birthday that I have celebrated from a place of peace and pure contentment. I am truly content in all ways. Perhaps this is driving my joy over this looming anniversary of my life, but I have always, always, been a lover of birthdays (my own being a personal favorite, prior to being a mom). Sadly, as an adult, I have had a really hard time celebrating big. It seems garish, indulgent, un-adultlike. But a milestone birthday? Everyone can go crazy with one of those!

Birthdays, for me, are an opportunity to take a moment and appreciate your life. A chance to evaluate where you have been and where you are going. It is a moment to be fully present and cognizant of your life. I’m so going to like this milestone evaluation better than the last one.

At 30 – just ten short years ago – I was two years divorced. I lived in Atlanta, alone. I only knew three co-workers in a city of 800,000+ people when I moved there in 2000. I literally drove from apartment to apartment until I found something in my price range, not knowing what kind of neighborhood it was or exactly how to get from there to my job. I commuted to work on an eight lane interstate highway (a girl from a town with more cows than people and no stop lights).

For my 30th birthday I drove to Savannah GA, and I got a room at a bed and breakfast on the beach, all by myself. I took a journal, and I spent the weekend mentally shifting from my old life to my new life. I was like a snake shedding it’s skin, and I promise you, I drove back to Atlanta a new woman. I made a decision that my life was no longer going to just happen to me. I grew up. I took responsibility for myself. I stopped being incapable. I claimed my space on this earth. It felt fantastic and frightening.

My first stop was finishing college – I was able to finish my degree by 2002, in Information Technology, while working for GE during the day. Even managed to graduate summa cum laude much to my surprise. (gratuitous plug)

After graduating I changed jobs and went to work with a wonderful company with a servants heart at it’s core. I found in the CEO an incredible mentor who gave me incredible opportunities to build my career and stretch out of my professional comfort zones. I’m celebrating ten years with them this year, and the company continues to stretch me and allow me room to grow.

My next stop was a therapist. With hard work, I was able to really understand what drove my poor decisions in the past (and a few that were still present). The best time, and money, I ever invested in myself was that time with someone trained to help me excavate to my core and start to rebuild. She provided me the tools to live life purposefully and with intent.

After that I found a church, and not just any church, but a church that let me come as I was. A church that taught me a way of relating to religion and Jesus that was not only palatable, but fulfilling. In 2004 I was baptized on Father’s Day with a video taped confession on two jumbo screens broadcast to about 2,500 people in attendance that morning. I had been baptized as a child but I felt a compelling need to publicly confess this new faith that was so much more than I had ever known.

Then life started getting amazing.

In 2005 I made the decision to move back to Missouri and be near my family. I moved back in March of 2006. I went on a date with a very handsome, funny and amazingly witty man on Cinco de Mayo. I married him in July. Best day of my life. In 2008 we moved into our newly built home in March and brought home our beautiful daughter in April. Tied my wedding day for best day. In 2010 we had the most amazing little boy and brought him home in February. We have a three-way tie now! And now it is 2012 and we are once again adding to our family (gasp) – we are getting a new puppy in a few weeks! This family I have, it is indescribably wonderful. I would try to explain, but there are truly no words. Greg, I love you with every. single. fiber. of my being.

So, yes, I enter my 40’s healthier and happier than I have ever been. From having no one to having everyone in ten short years. On my 30th I was hopeful, but I truly didn’t think any amount of time would be enough for me to course correct the train wreck I felt was my life. I didn’t have the ability to forgive myself and realize that God was in hot pursuit. One of the most beautiful lessons I have taken from the past ten years is this; it does not matter how far down the wrong path you go, God is always busy clearing a way for you to get back on His.

My life is not perfect, but I don’t dwell on the difficulties of life. I know that as long as you have people you love, who love you back, everything is bearable. Shame and guilt have no place here. I am a forgiven child of God, and that is all I need to know.

When I thought about writing tonight, I knew this is how the piece would go. I knew it was a story of triumph and hope. I guess I can’t say guilt is totally gone because I did think, maybe I shouldn’t write that…is it prideful? But I remembered a wonderful post I read recently on self-confidence vs. humility. Both are God given traits required to live a full life. This wonderful writer put it most eloquently – self-confidence comes from knowing you are a child of God, humility comes from realizing everyone else is as well.

My life is triumphal, but I am not. I am a child of God, given an abundance of grace. Life may have curve balls to throw at me, but this new life – this beautiful, 40 year old life – is built on solid ground. I can’t handle anything on my own, but I can handle anything with the beautiful network of people God has brought to me. He has built a hedge around me – not to protect me from everything – it is no guarantee of perfection. It is a reminder, though, if I stay within the boundaries fewer things have a clear shot, and I have a place to come to and take cover.

For all of you – new friends, old friends, family friends – Thank you. You make my life beautiful and precious. You are a gift to me. You are all a part of the grace of God. I am loving this birthday because you are in my life. Thank you.

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So, if you have watched the news, read the news, or been on facebook these past two weeks you have probably heard about the Kony 2012 campaign. A sincere effort by a young father to change the world by bringing attention and making notorious a man in Africa who has for years led the LRA. The LRA is well known for abducting children and making the young girls sex slaves and the young boys soldiers. A part of the new soldiers initiation is to often times kill their own parents.

As with anything nowadays it didn’t take long for people to begin criticizing the effort – the film maker made it too simplistic, the LRA isn’t even in Uganda anymore, the problems won’t be solved by taking out this one man. Well, I watched the film and I don’t remember hearing a claim that this would solve all the problems in Uganda, I do recall seeing a map showing that the LRA had left Uganda over the last few years. I agree with research and second opinions but so often it acts as inadvertent diversion and distraction.

I would love to think that the critics of this movement had as much sincerity behind their critiques as the young men and women across America have in embracing this cause…but I’m less confidant in their sincerity for some reason.

You see – I don’t care whether Kony is still powerful – I care that I have known for years that he existed and did nothing. I couldn’t have told you his name, but pretty much my entire adult life I have ached for the troubles of Africa. I have been sickened by the lack of humanity and the atrocities that go on there, but I’ve never. done. anything. I have known forever.

I know many people talk about cleaning up our own back yard and give countless examples of vicious acts that occur right here in the States. I’ve never really understood that – a first world country with limitless resources has problems, undoubtedly, we have people so of course we have problems, but comparing that to a third world country’s problems is the height of arrogance.

I imagine going down to the homeless shelter tonight and lamenting to the inhabitants that I have to wait until Friday to get the new iPad. Seriously?!? I cannot imagine walking up to a woman with HIV who has children who will most likely die as well and telling her that we have troubles in America too. I cannot imagine it.

To many the message in that beautiful film was less about the impact of bringing Kony down and more about the fact that people are uniting to change the world. I know it won’t change Africa – but to change the world you don’t have to change Africa. To change the world you have to change it for any one person – that changes the world. I believe that if Kony were brought to justice many lives would change, and I believe that would change the world. How many Mandela’s have been murdered or had their soul ripped apart? What could those murdered children have accomplished? What could the survivors still do? What would it mean to them if the leader were brought to justice? For that matter – what will it mean to our young people driving this campaign? What will they be empowered to accomplish in their lives? How many will take this success and use it to make bigger and bigger change?

I believe that the most life affirming thing we have to give is hope and what kind of hope would those poor parentless children have if knew that an entire country united to right a wrong, even if it doesn’t right everything? Isn’t it our job to right wrongs, one at a time, until it really does right the world? Should our attention only be given to causes that will, in a single sweep, correct everything?

When I posted the Kony video I wrote, “This is about our children.” At the time I was thinking of my children having to face such a hopeless existence but after I posted it the sentence stayed with me and a truth was revealed in my heart that the children being impacted by this, they are my children too. Who else do they have? If a child has no one – then that child deserves everyone.

I spoke of the critics as diversions and distractions – what I mean by that is a fire was lit up in me by that video. I was inspired. I was excited for the youth movement that was driving it. I was excited to have a cause to unite behind globally because in this new age we can do that – we can have global goals and causes that are individually driven and not government controlled. That film made me look at the social network more broadly. But when the critics started I felt a bit of my passion withdraw. I heard a little voice give permission to let go and step back. I had a little first world relief that maybe this wasn’t something that required anything of me…after all, some of the facts are in dispute. I was diverted from the message and distracted by the noise.

This world is often times nothing but constant diversion and distraction. I know I won’t solve any big problems but you know what – I’m going to stand up with the Kony2012 movement. I’m going to support our young people driving this big goal. I’m going to do it less for the impact it will have on a country but totally for the impact it will have on the kids. Even if it is just one, but I know it will be more. And that changes the world.

Some days I just can’t get all of my thoughts to settle in one place. This is not a very effective state to be in when attempting to write. I missed the last 2 weeks and I won’t be doing that again for awhile – I heard from almost every one of you! I was a little amazed that anyone even noticed but it certainly made me feel much more accountable to my weekly schedule – that is for certain.

Perhaps I can manage a top ten list for February (in random order):

1. Sewing is hard.

I did manage to thread the machine this month (ok it actually happened in March but I’m counting it for February due to honest intent). The problems started when I went to cut my fabric for the first project. I learned I have a mental deficiency concerning cutting things into a square. With the help of some friends I think I have some idea how to do it now, but I became frustrated so quickly that I’ll have to really gear up for the next go at it.

2. I am no longer attempting to change old habits concerning my health.

I am now a bona fide healthy person. I’ve taken three trips and lost weight on every one of them – that is a gold star accomplishment! (wink Lisa – gold stars!) Not only that but I worked out… in a hotel gym! I am addicted to exercise – I crave it.
I am at that annoying stage of the process where I’m just so amazed that I’ve actually made such a radical change, I can’t seem to talk of anything else. If everyone knew that I only voiced 10% of my thoughts on the matter they may cry. But I mean seriously, the change is just night and day. I want to exercise, I feel great, I have energy. I wish I could start a clinic to encourage everyone to do this. I am literally adding years to my health – that is miraculous.

3. My baby is two years old.

Mr. E turned two and that means that I’ve been a mom of two for two years – amazing. The second is so much different, a boy is so much different. E is just…joy and passion. He is high energy, to much courage, and funny. He loves to laugh and be silly and he loves to snuggle. My family has been whole now for two years. It was a crooked path to paradise but I have arrived.

4. I really love work.

We are at a challenging and exciting time in our business and industry and it is so exciting to be a part of change. It is also terrifying and intimidating, but mostly exciting and invigorating. I get to work with some really amazing people and even though I work remotely I feel like a part of the team and that is a blessing. I cannot express my gratitude regarding my employer and my teammates – it is just truly a blessing.

5. Gratitude is my goal attitude.

I am so thankful for my life. My husband, kids, job, family, friends – I just have an over abundance of ooey gooey goodness in my life. Because it was such a crooked path to today though, I am hyper aware of the blessings.

6. Sometimes a list of ten things seems like a lot of things

🙂 This post is falling apart…

See, I go out to write because writing in a house with two toddlers is just not going to happen. The problem is the performance pressure – I go out, I have a certain amount of time, and sometimes it just flows – like the last post, but sometimes my brain just runs around in circles, like tonight. That was a very long and wrong sentence.

What I really want to write about is the pain and confusion around aging parents. My friends and I have parents with a variety of health issues and it is scary and sad. Some have even lost their parents.

But, I am not ready to write about that. Not honestly and if I’m going to take time away to write I at least want it to be honest. The problem is my heart knows what it wants to talk about but my brain is just not ready. Or maybe my brain knows but my heart can’t handle it…either way, it isn’t happening tonight.

How about this – if you are blessed to still have your parents, or if you are an aging parent, take some time over the next week to love one another. Write your parents and tell them why, in detail, you appreciate about them. Write your kids and make sure they know you are proud of them – with details. Don’t assume they know, don’t assume you have time. Now is the only time we are guaranteed. Try to make life easier for one another. Try to appreciate what the other is feeling. Remember that everyone is just doing the best they can and life is to short to take one another for granted. A handwritten note would be treasured. No advice, no requests – just a note of love.

Maybe your estranged – I encourage you to try to mend the relationship. Every situation needs a hero. No disagreement is resolved without someone willing to compromise, forgive, understand. I know there are things that seem insurmountable and maybe your situation is one of them. I pray then that you will find peace and a miracle.

Much love.

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