Remind me of this when I forget, which might be often. Or just every January.

I want you to be ridiculous. I want you to say YES to the weird stuff. You’re not having any fun? Change that. We can absolutely be sojourners on this ride, and we can be missionaries to our neighbors – or we can pack up everything and move across the pond. Let’s do it all. Let’s not wait another day to start living. Your bank account might never be wide enough for the dreams you can dream but may your heart always be strong enough for the weight it will carry.

You can’t afford a trip to Europe? Do you know someone who’s been? Invite them over to tell their stories and ask to see their photographs. Make food you might taste over there and drink the drinks you envision yourself having. Sit outside in a garden. Call the visitors bureau and ask them about the city. If you can’t call: research, here I’ve done some for you … Travel ideas for Italy. Pinterest is a thing: use it.

Streets of Madrid

Go there, do it. Even if you can’t literally go any where. Enlist help from someone who loves hosting, ask them to show you or help you, invite friends (new and old) to enjoy a night on the canals.

You don’t have to own a boat, rent one; it doesn’t even have to have a motor. Or you can ask a friend or family member who owns one. Buy the hat for the captain, sit down, play the music, and watch the landscape pass-by as if you’re in Italy. DO IT. Why not?

Fathers Day 2015

When you feel ridiculous you should always have weird looks and stares from those around you who can’t see the beauty of dreaming just yet. They will soon, keep going. When they ask “why” your answer is always at the ready … “why not?!”

Dreaming isn’t an idea that you never realize. Dreaming is the opposite of fantasy, it’s your reality waiting to happen.

It won’t give you permission and the first step into Ridiculous is chilly. You might feel foolish and childish. You might fain mocking from the crowds but here’s a secret: they all wish they could wade into this water too. So keep going. Start swimming.

Lakeshore, showing them the beach

They will know who I am by your love for each other. (Paraphrased from John 13:35) Love is so many, many things. Mowing someone’s lawn, visiting the sick in your hospitals, making meals for young mothers, lending your hands, giving to causes with time, money or talent. But love isn’t a chore. Love is also being first in line at the roller coaster with your wide-eyed 9 year old for the first coaster ride of their life. It’s the sheer volume of happiness they eek out as you ascend and then rip down the rafters. Love is showing up to the dance recitals and hosting the sleepovers, it’s making the pancakes or warming up leftovers. Love is beneath the sheets, but also in the backyard. It’s touching your loved ones gently and ushering them closer for an embrace. It’s always an offering, never an obligation.

You guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love is the high five and the posters on the sidelines when your people run the race they never thought they could finish. It’s the Holiday dinners and traditions for some of us, it’s the stockings and wrapping paper for others. It can be too much and not enough all at once. Love is overwhelming, like standing in a field of wild poppies for the first time and noticing that if you had never taken the wrong turn you would have gone the rest of your life not knowing that this existed. And it would continue to exist, without your permission or need for interference whatsoever. It’s there because the seed was planted and the clouds broke open and sang them into the air, a duet with the sun. It’s there, we just have to see it.

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Love is so contagious. Be ridiculous. And then pass it on.

There’s water in my basement but everything’s ok.

I rushed home this afternoon after a workout to shower and get to a 1pm lunch appointment. I was cutting it close but I love the race against the clock and I would make it. Until I ran downstairs to change the laundry and find something clean to throw on and run out the door …

There was a sound of water running and the wash machine wasn’t on .. and then I stepped on our rug and it was soaking wet, and now so were my feet, and then I looked around more intently and yes; our water heater must be leaking. Must have BEEN leaking – there’s standing water in my basement. Coming up through our Hickory hardwood floors, just dancing around the grooves of the wood as water might do, when it has nothing else to do.

Raindrops: spring rain

I thought if I could figure out how to stop the leak and clean it up, I could still make it to my lunch a little late. I had been daydreaming about what I was going to order. I was so excited. A frantic call to Aaron, an email off to our insurance agent. I thought I would just have to wait … so why not wait over lunch?

But then the phone started ringing. The insurance agent, then the clean up crew, then the plumber. Everyone could come right away, or shortly. And all of a sudden I wasn’t going to be ordering lunch. Or washing my dishes, or finishing the laundry, or cooking.

I was (am) literally stuck here.

——–

Aaron and I had just talked about our plans for this summer. We need to replace a roof on a portion of the garage, we need a new door and the cement steps are giving way. It’s time to refinish our main-floor flooring. We are slowly and surely making our way towards a replacement car for our van. All the things, right? All. The. Things. Clearly we should have been planning to replace a water heater, too. Possibly a furnace. This is an old house, and while we remodeled her and gave her a new dress, she is still standing on the same 80 year old bones.

And sometimes I forget that doing something once doesn’t mean we’ll never have to do it again. Buying a car once doesn’t mean that in 230,000 miles you won’t need to buy another. Replacing floors doesn’t mean you won’t have to refinish them. Taking hot showers and doing your dishes doesn’t mean you won’t wear out the mechanics that deliver that hot water to you.

Northern Michigan

———

A couple weeks ago at church there was a young man who got up at the end with a word for the congregation. This happens in our church – people listen for the Holy Spirit and often get images, dreams, or words of encouragement to share with everyone else – and he shared something about tithing. He had felt God convicting him to tithe $60 but all he had to give was $30 and he kind of went back and forth with himself for a while trying to justify his need vs conviction. After a bit he drove to the bank and got the amount he felt he was supposed to give and experienced overwhelming peace in that obedience.

That same morning I said to Aaron, a little off the cuff, I think we should be tithing. We haven’t for a while, and at the time that felt like what we were supposed to be doing. There’s obedience in all kinds of different ways with our time and our resources. But for some reason, that morning, I just felt like we needed to start again. Aaron said to add it to the list of things to discuss and then we kind of dropped it and went on with our morning. But as soon as the pastor called up the volunteers to take the offering, I whipped out our checkbook, wrote a check and dropped it in the bucket. Not knowing any of this young mans own conviction over tithe that same morning.

Weekend up north with Penelope

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Earlier this month I felt God hammering me with the word “Provision” – defined as “the action of providing or supplying something for use // An amount or thing supplied or provided” and I tend to think of provision as strictly financial.

I’ve chronicled our financial story on this blog for a long time. Becoming debt free and selling and buying homes, how we budget and even most recently – how we plan, financially, for vacations. Provision is a large part of our daily life, belief in God or not.

But when I started looking for more what that word really means, in a spiritual sense, I found some amazing things. In Philipeans 4:9 It talks about God supplying (providing) all our needs according to His riches in glory. In Matthew 6:26 it talks about the birds of the air – how God feeds them without their sowing or reaping … and aren’t we worth more than the birds?

Around the house and in the garden

I learned that Provision, in the sense that I felt God was hammering me with it, is a word for His economy. There’s an all encompassing feeling to being “provided for” rather than just putting money in the bank.

God wants to provide me with love, rest, assurance, knowledge, intimacy, joy, purpose, and satisfaction. He wants to care for my hunger, fill my emptiness, call me “daughter, sow seeds of intimacy into my life, save my marriage, equip me daily to parent and instruct me to steward my gifts well.

——–

It’s not that I’ve felt a lacking in provision, but I’ve been missing the point. Mostly in my personal life. I’ve felt the need to continue to work harder for relationships, for success. I’ve felt the pressure to perform and rush and run. I’ve felt guilty for the time available to me in order to pour into women, children, our family. I’ve measured myself against the world with a yard stick that is always only too short. But by centimeters. So the recognition was just in front of me, almost there. Just a little more. A little longer.

And I failed. Every time.

Windmill Island

But this word provision brought with it an understanding that God will provide my comfort. Not Aaron, or success, or recognition, or financial gain, or even being debt free, not my plans or expectations or need for control. None of the labels I want for myself or seek in this life are ever going to provide me lasting comfort.

When I have unmet needs, God reminds me to turn towards him. When I’m dying for connection, God reminds me to take my disappointments and unmet expectations to him. He is the giver of all good things.

——-

So we had our hot water heater replaced, floors are ripped up and broken into pieces in our basement, tomorrow the washer and dryer get moved to assess any damage underneath. We might need new floors. All things. All temporary things, fixable things.

A wrench in anyone’s plans for sure. And still a mountain of unknown ahead. But the sun is shining and everyone who’s been in our home helping this afternoon has been kind and friendly, professional and quick and most important, understanding.

I feel completely at ease in all of this. No rushing or fretting. No amount of planning can undo the surprises and no amount of planning can keep the surprises away, either. We’ll do what we’re able, when we’re able. And not just financially, because if I’ve learned anything here it’s that provision is far deeper than creature comfort.

Cherry blossoms

——–

As I was wrestling through this idea of Provision over the last few weeks, God kept asking me this question:

“Are you more worried about what people think of you, or what I can do through you?”

And I’d have to say that mostly I’m more worried about people, but slowly I’m learning to swim.

South Haven Pier and Lighthouse in the fog 2014

Hidden in all the words

It took over 700 words in an unpublished essay for me to get this one sentence … “If there’s only one thing I can keep from my first family: I want it to be that I was in one.”

And I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

This keeps happening lately. I surround the one thing I want to express with hundreds of words, often not knowing what it is I want to get out until I’ve written it and then I think, oh – there it is. And suddenly the rest of the words don’t mean anything and I walk away from the essay all together.

Riley Woods

I’m doing a Bible Study right now with a small group of women, we’re walking through a book on Your Beautiful Purpose and for the most part, I’ve been blown away each and every week. Because what I wanted going in to this study was a prescribed outcome. I wanted A to connect to B which was going to equal C and I could carry on knowing exactly what I should be doing with my life and voila! Purpose found.

I’ve been afraid each week to speak up, to tell parts of my story. I haven’t come to an understanding yet of what I should and shouldn’t share in these situations but last night on my way home it hit me that I’ve been trying to use my pain as the Branding Expert for my story.

That’s not to say that what I’ve been through/what I’ve done isn’t true. How often do I need to marry my past with my present? Or do I at all?

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I so badly want to do something great with my life, but I’ve longsince thought that meant I would have to tell everyone everything all the time for them to see the transformation in me. I USED TO BE THIS :: NOW I’M THIS. And that might work for a little bit, to live through the painful parts of my story over and over again to demonstrate the new life I have now, but is that the point?

Am I just staying abandoned in my pain because it’s powerful?

Am I staying unlovable in my self because it’s relatable?

Am I staying small in my life because it’s required?

Am I staying lonely in relationships because it’s comfortable?

To the Bay!

I think part of the shame story is always that our pain and our past is unique. Which, it is, but it’s not special. What makes me special is not what I’ve been through and I think for a while I’ve been lost in how to get out of this pattern.

Isn’t it possible that the small, seemingly insignificant parts of my life are the great thing I am doing in my life? Listening when my kids talk, being there when they fall apart, loving them unconditionally, feeding them around a dinner table every night, washing their sheets, signing their permission slips, volunteering in their social lives, driving them safely to their practices and events?

I’ve felt called to something significant for a long time. Something substantial. And how I’ve interpreted that has always been sparkly and great and big. SPLASHY! SEEN!

But I’ve also noticed a shift, because what I struggle with today will be gone tomorrow. I won’t always have children to rear or sheets to wash or feasts to serve. These guys are going to grow up and be wonderfully on their own and then I might find myself right where I am now: wondering what’s next?

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

So instead of begrudgingly accepting the task of my every day – I’ve started to think of it as an opportunity I’m grateful for. One of the lies I often get sucked in to is that whatever life is right now is how it’s always going to be. ALWAYS. ALLLLLLWAYYYYYYSSSSS. And that’s a really long time for me. But instead, I get to do this today. This won’t actually last forever, and for now this is where I’m planted.

So I’m sprouting a few small roots. No longer easily unearthed by the slightest wind, I’m learning to withstand the weather of life and to bloom any way.

Night 1, Day 2 of Summer Road Trip West

Morning light

And it will be ok.

If you can’t sing, be the song

Hi. I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. “You” being this side of me, I suppose. Going through old photos and boxes of letters recently we found the letter Aaron wrote to his groomsmen before our wedding. He titled it his Single Man’s Swan Song, it was an ode to a former piece of him, a letting go of the old and an invitation to take on the new alongside of him. In true Aaron-fashion he was the first of his buddies to get married (to have a kid, a business, etc) and he owned it. His place in his story, and his clear decision to add a partner to his life with an invitation extended to his confidants to continue the journey with him … but also with us.

We laugh now when we read his letter to his friends but it really stuck with me. I’ve been wondering if this is my Swan Song to this part of me. A farewell, a goodbye, a letting go. A distance but an invitation to the change. It has long since been my goal to be authored and published. To walk into a book store and see my name on the spine of a book. So, as one does at the end of a year or season or extended period of waiting, I re-evaluated my goals. This entire year has been one evaluation after another.

Do I want this?

Is this for me?

Can I walk in this?

Will this hurt me?

Does this help me?

Where is this moving me?

Am I ready?

Slowly, ever so slowly, I’ve noticed that whatever desire was in me to be known on paper has changed. To see ink printed with my words, as satisfying as that is, hasn’t worked out. I’ve tried and mostly failed. And that’s ok. I’m not sorry I tried, or sad that it didn’t work out, or even hung up on the idea that some day it surely will. Maybe I’ve already written my book. Likely, I’ve written many in these archives. Scores of seasons and transitions and living – all recorded. All ready ordered.

So some of it goes unwritten, who cares. Some of it doesn’t get archived here, but maybe, even better, it gets archived on the hearts of my children. It bubbles up out of the mouths of my dearest friends who walked this road with me, maybe one day they’ll tell part of my story for me when I no longer can.

And maybe, just maybe, I tell my story a little differently from here on out. Maybe I start talking. Maybe I start speaking. Maybe I start sharing. Maybe I start profusely sweating and blacking out on a stage while words fall out of my mouth and instead of carrying these chapters with me, maybe I let them out.

Who knows?

I sure don’t. 12 years ago when we decided I would stay home and be a mom I had no idea that a decade later I would still be writing. That, at one point, this writing would bring in a full time income and a community of complete strangers who got me through some of the hardest seasons to date. For anonymous people to mean so much to a person, it might be borderline, but also? It was a lifeline. It was my lifeline.

I’m plagued with What’s Next lately, not like I have been before. I’m not frantic for something to distract me, I’m curious as to where this is all going. What have I been doing to prepare myself for what’s next all these years? I live on standby right now, with one parent who runs a company the sacrifice to the family is that changes, big or small, need to be leveled at a baseline. Here’s how far we can stretch and still bend, together. But this, this is where we break. We have to know where that point is. And we do, we know that point – so I continue to be a mom. I continue to freelance photography and when I stop being afraid of query letters – it’s how I continue to write outside of this space and flex those muscle’s too.

Should someone get sick, should the kids have a break or vacation from school – I’m on standby to supervise. I’m the constant parent. But I have a constant partner.

Aaron and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this past August. It was delicious. I wrote (on Facebook) that I finally trust in marriage. God, it’s beautiful. I don’t deserve this life but I get to keep living it. It’s not lost on me that marriages all around me fall down. That friends suffer loss, that my own family suffers loss. I’ve spent the better part of the last thirteen years with my back against the wall waiting for the suffering to befall my house. Surely it was coming, I was due. And if I wasn’t going to suffer loss of love, I was up to bat to lose a life.

Ever so subtly I started backing away from the wall and embracing the vulnerability of stepping in with both feet. I would say something out loud and Aaron wouldn’t shun me. I would stand in front of him, naked in spirit, and ask him if he could see me and he would dance with me. I would sit next to him while he held our babies and I would whisper “is this pretend?” and he would look at me and promise with his eyes that I could trust this. I’ve cried a lot this year (spoiler alert!) because I didn’t know. I had no idea.

How can this be? For me?

It is. IT IS IT IS IT IS IT IS. This is for me. !!!!!!!! HOLY SHIT THIS IS FOR ME.

And I have no more words. I’m not searching for anything, I found it.

xoxo
Jodi

Truth and Dare

I’ve tried to write essay after essay to bridge the gap from the letter I wrote to my kids about politics to the realities of our season. Turns out every time I look at the blank page in front of me I want to explain and suffer through words and slip back into victimization as a way to exploit the negative impacts of a man. I haven’t been able to figure this out. How do I open my mouth and say anything worth while in the middle of this?

Maybe I don’t.

Isn’t that nice? Maybe I don’t have to say anything at all. If I really need to, I can talk to my kids in person or pen the letter quietly and privately. I can write in their journals, the ones I keep specifically for each of them filled with love notes and stories and explanations and apologies and prayers and little victories.

Riley Woods 🙌 Fall 2016

These are my babies.

And this is what I know to be true:

Love matters. Not the empty words of “Love matters, Love wins”, this isn’t a banner I’m wearing, it’s a way of living. And it matters. It’s sacred, to give space to the parts of us that you cannot see. To let the light in, to quiet the darkness of loneliness. Even if it’s a smile, an acknowledgment of someone else’s breath, of their life. Seeing people matters.

Northern Michigan

Art matters. The expression of that space in someone else, their words and stories, their songs, paintings, poems, photographs, designs, gardens, sculptures, dances and battle cries. It’s witnessing someone else hold a mirror up to the vulnerable parts of who they are: and the expression of their heart is essentially their art. Can you see me? Do you hear me? Am I enough? Am I worthy and brave?

This discussion matters. Because our souls are not dead. Because who we present to the whole of the world is often the least of the person we know in the quiet places of our heart, as ourselves. We are wild, we are free.

Weekend on the Lakeshore

Faith matters. There are 3 parts to our heart – like Mind, Body, Soul … our heart has a function, guardian, and emotional aspect. I’m just learning this, or re-learning this as I think most adolescents are taught to unlearn and disconnect their hearts from their mind, from their body. We’re taught, largely on a scale of “fitting in”, to disregard our hearts as a part of our soul. And then we’re taught to hide them. Faith is believing that this trinity in my heart is worth protecting and it’s worth going after with everything I’ve got to keep them connected. I am a girl on fire for keeping my faith alive. I love God and only recently can I say that I see him as a good, good Father.

The Bible is such a wild fairytale some times. It’s radical and unprecedented. It’s a horror story and a birth story and a redeeming love story. It reads like a scifi novel, like a poet in love, like a parent in suffering. It reads like a scientist discovering the wild unknown and it introduces language and words and hidden meanings. It’s one of the oldest recorded histories of our time and it leaves nothing, yet everything, to the imagination. I’m not a scholar of the Bible, but I am a student. If I’m going to say I love God, I want to know who he is. And I have so many questions. They feel provocative, sometimes obscene. But this is faith. And it’s the most daring piece of me. And it matters.

I've never seen a field of sunflowers praying before. I get that they were heavy and this must be what happens before harvesting their seeds but I like to imagine the world a little differently. Not so black and white. Not so either or. Not so afraid of b

Lastly and certainly not least, people matter. Other. Outside, different, margin and fringe. Diversity. If you can see someone, if you can see their eyes or their art, then the rest maybe doesn’t matter. Their eyes and their art are what they are any way. So the color of their skin, their clothes, piercings or tattoos, their hair or the way they wear their past: doesn’t.

These are the simple things I know to be true.

So I’m going to start there.