Autumn in Columbus

For the last 3 months we’d been looking forward to a weekend a way in Charleston, South Carolina.  Since we’ve been taking care of my parents for the last few months, a friend gave us the gift of a weekend away at her home in James Island.  Originally we (my husband and I) planned a romantic getaway for just the two of us, but, later decided we’d take the “big kids” (how we refer to our middle schooler and 8 year old) with us.  Caregiving is both rewarding and heavy.  It affects all involved – even children – who may not carry the financial and physical weight, but certainly experience the emotional waves in the midst.  We thought they could use a getaway as well.

Unfortunately, after not one, but two unexpected car repairs this week ; an unexpected change in childcare for our toddler, and an overall gut feeling that we needed to stay close to home, we made the devastating choice not to go.

We made the best of things by hopping in the car early Friday morning and heading to Columbus, Ohio for the day.

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It was pretty fun listening to the kids try to guess where we were headed.  They had it all wrong. 🙂

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Once we pulled up to COSI there wasn’t much hoorah or excitement.  There’s a great deal of construction happening in the front of the building .  “Are we going to a warehouse?” our daughter asked.  Hesitance quickly turned into excitement as we got closer and the kids were able to see COSI on the side of the building.

We opted for the $30 unlimited passes which allowed us to choose from shows at the planetarium, big screen and rides on the motion simulator.  We all agreed that our favorite exhibit was the OCEAN exhibit – centered around a huge statue of POSEIDON , with streams of water all around.  We also thoroughly enjoyed the ROCKY MOUNTAIN EXPRESS documentary shown on the big screen.  We were surprised by how fascinating it was to see how railroads were built in the sides of mountains and through perilous terrain.

We were pretty hungry by the time we left around 3:30. We headed to Easton Town Center – just about 10 minutes from downtown Columbus.

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We piled our bowls full of italian goodness at PIADA, then ventured over to West Elm.

The boys ventured to over to the Apple Store to drool over the new iphones while my daughter made her Christmas wishlist at the American Girls Store. Of course we also stopped by the LEGO store, Banana Republic , Jeni’s ice cream , Restoration Hardware and most importantly , Barnes and Noble.

It really was a day well spent.  Columbus offers so much to do for all ages.  If we’d stayed over we would’ve met friends at a pumpkin patch, and gone to the zoo as well.  I have a feeling we’ll be visiting Columbus again in the next few months to catch the DINOSAUR exhibit at COSI and catch the presentation of HARRY POTTER live with the Columbus Symphony at the Ohio Theatre in January.

Although I’m a Michigan fan at heart, the Buckeyes hometown gets two thumbs from us for family fun.

 

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Required Reading for Humans

It was round about page 5, I knew this book was going to wreck me.  I knew I wasn’t going to have goosebumps from sentimental reflections after completing this book.  Rather, I’d be changed in a way that would unravel some of my perceptions and water the roots of others.

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Brene’ Brown teaches us through the avenues of research, interviews, and heart belief that we should live out these principles :

1. People are Hard to Hate Close up. Move in.
2. Speak truth to BS. Be Civil.
3. Hold Hands. With Strangers.
4. Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. 

I don’t carry much weight, but, I’d like to see if we can possibly have this recited every morning in homes across America.  Seriously! If we all walked out our homes armed with truth and clothed in compassion, things would look a whole lot different than they do right now.

Reading this book caused me to evaluate situations I’ve encountered over the last few years of my life.  Disagreements.  Relationships. Political views.  Burdens. I evaluated everything I was carrying in my “luggage”.  I had to admit that there were things I need to let go of – things I needed to unlearn – and things I needed to continue to hold dear and speak about whenever the occasion called for me to do so.

This book also made me reflect on a few other books that I’ve read or am currently reading.  It just feels like we all need to take a step back, hunker down in our favorite chairs, open a window, and read.  We’re not doing so well at having meaningful conversations on social media when it comes to hard topics.  But, maybe – just maybe – if we were all reading the same things, we could come together afterwards and draw from one another’s experiences and perspectives with a desire to understand rather than be understood.

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Might I propose that these gems should be required reading for every human? Wouldn’t the wonder of Meg and Charles Wallace combined with the knowledge of our varying  personalities, the statistics of research and the power of vulnerability create a spectacular revival of human compassion? It would be GRAND, I tell you!

Perhaps, this is a rather audacious hope and thought.  Perhaps, required reading would threaten one of our greatest blessings – freedom.  And – perhaps , the change that is happening in my own heart because of these books and because of my relationship with God – is enough to spark a personal revival .  And perhaps , that’s enough.  If each of us as humans , committed to filling our hearts and minds with books that compel us to apologize, forgive, listen , and wonder …. perhaps , the world could change.  From books to hearts – may it be so. May it be so.

 

THE MOTHERS – a book review

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I have a tendency to buy books based on their covers.  I allow the cover art to draw me in even if the inside flap synopsis does little to intrigue me.  Naturally, there have been times I have been smitten by a cover only to succumb to boredom as I they to get into the story.

THE MOTHERS not only drew me in with it’s radiant cover of a hidden image made with brilliant colors; its story line captivated from the beginning.

As the plot weaves in and out of the black church experience, grief, young love, and friendship, it is easy to find yourself unable to put this book down.

I could smell the salt from the ocean.

I could picture the mother’s praying at Upper Room Church.

I could feel the varied emotions from each character.

The writing indulged in dialogue and description that at times almost made me feel uncomfortable for how true to life it was. Fascinating writing.

Even after putting the book down and trying to move on to another novel, the characters are still lingering.  Two of the characters actually made me so upset that I considered not finishing the book.  But, I had to.

There’s way too much use of the “F” word .  It’s frequency was absolutely unnecessary for the telling of the story.  And, I hated the ending.

Other than that, this book was near perfect.

4.50 stars our of 5 in my book!  Definitely a must read for the summer!

Strong Coffee & White Whales

Early this morning I brewed a pot of the strongest coffee we have, poured it in a thermos, and headed in to the city to pick up our oldest from a youth overnighter.  I really don’t mind driving from the outskirts into the city, but I hate driving in the rain.  It was pouring this morning! Thankfully, the rain was no match for my strong coffee & my Justin Bieber playlist. (Yes…I’m a belieber).

By the time I picked up our son my coffee had kicked in . I was ready to explore the city a bit.  My “we stayed up until after midnight” tweenager didn’t share my enthusiasm for exploring, but perked up a bit when we walked up to this place.

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Instantly, I felt as if I were on the streets of Notting Hill.  This beautifully painted corner bookstore is both pleasing to the eye and easy to find.  Although the congested side streets leave little room for parking, we found a safe and inexpensive lot just up the street.

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Immediately, my son found a row of books he’d been wanting to read.  He quickly made  his decision, then sat down in this adorable reading nook.

Of course, I took a little longer to decide which books to buy.

Now that I’m self employed, my budget for books is a bit tighter than it was just 2 months ago.  But, thankfully, I’d already set aside money for our summer books back in January.  Today was a perfect day to dip into it.

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I shopped around for a bit longer. From religion to philosophy ; race issues to the latest fiction, I was very impressed with the variety of books offered for sale.   The store is easy to get around in.  Very clean, bright and filled with both new arrivals and used books.  My son, as if reading my mind said, “I have a feeling this might be one of my new favorite places to visit.” I agreed emphatically.

Upon checking out, the sweet young lady at the counter placed in my bag both a bookmark and a directory of local independent bookstores.  That was the icing on the cake.  I love to see small businesses joining forces to keep our communities and neighborhoods thriving both financially and culturally.

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White Whale Bookstore
Pittsburgh, PA 

Definitely FOUR STARS in my book. 

The Monday Reset

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For many who work in churches or even serve in their communities over the weekend, Monday’s can be a mixed bag.  Sometimes the excitement of the weekend’s services and activities serve as a bit of adrenaline for people in ministry, ; especially creatives.  Often, we like to jump right in and start planning and collaborating in preparation for what’s coming up next.  But, just as often, Monday’s can seem like the continuation of a productive and meaningful, but very long weekend.  Here are a few suggestions I’ve made part of my Monday routine in order to recuperate and refresh for the week ahead.

  • Morning Pages    – Morning Pages have become especially helpful for me.  I take the 1st 30 minutes of Monday morning (and often other weekday mornings as well), to first brain dump . This might sound crazy to some of you, but I do a brain dump even before I pray.  I spend 5-10 minutes writing down all the things that are on my mind.  Sometimes, my thoughts are all over the place.  Sometimes, my brain dump ends up looking like a to do list.  Other times, my brain dump actually is a prayer in written form.  The goal is to clear space in your mind and release the thoughts and worries that you may have carried into Monday from the weekend.  After the brain dump, I spend the remaining time writing.  I take the first thought or prompt that comes into my mind, and I write uninterrupted for 20 minutes.  This is done to stir my creative juices and spark inspiration.  I find it much easier to jump into my creative tasks for the week ( songwriting, writing, arranging, service planning, family activities, etc) when I’ve spent time in the morning creating space for my brain to ponder, imagine, and express.
  • Reflect, Repent, Receive One of the things that naturally comes from my morning pages is an awareness of the state of my heart and mind.  It is easy to enter into conversation with the Lord when I’ve taken the time to acknowledge my struggles, worries, needs, and victories. Find some music or a psalm that keeps your heart tender towards God and use that as a way to enter into His presence.  When we are accustomed to leading, teaching and serving, we often do so out of habit rather than heart.  It’s imperative that we keep our relationship with God open and healthy, so we can minister to others from that place.
  • Check In with a Mentor  – I can’t encourage this enough.  It is so important that we seek out wise, godly counsel.  Find someone you can speak honestly with who will not only correct you, but help you to take steps toward your goals and growth.  A good mentor desires that you grow and experience even more than they have.  Seek out someone who can not only speak to your now, but your future.
  • Lastly , Make Room For Rest  – When I was working full time, I didn’t schedule after work activities on Mondays.  Meals were simple and took little prep.  Housework was minimal.  And I’d leave work on Monday’s an hour earlier than other days, and added that hour to a day later in the week.  I purposely carved out time on Monday evenings to catch up on a show on Netflix, read or go to bed early.  This made for both a gentle but productive entry into my workweek after a weekend of ministry.

 

Monday doesn’t have to be a day of dread and exhaustion.  What works for me might not work for you.  Make it personal.  Find a way to extract things that can wait from your Monday schedule.  Care for yourself so you’re caring for others from a full cup.

Sunday Slow

Easy like a Sunday morning.” 

I never understood this saying.  I grew up in a home where we went to church EVERY Sunday morning.  We didn’t just go to church, we stayed at church through Morning prayer, Sunday School, morning service, and then returned later in the evening for Sunday night service. Putting on my frilly dresses, ruffled socks, and sitting in moms lap while she braided my hair was anything but, easy. Don’t get me wrong ; I’m very thankful for my upbringing.  I Just recall often wondering what it would be like to do other things on Sunday like some of my friends who came to school on Monday’s with tales of family day trips, pancake breakfasts, or building forts in their rooms …on Sunday’s.

As an adult, I felt called to the vocation of ministry.  The itch of ruffled socks hadn’t scarred me too badly.  I knew at the age of 19 that God was stirring a passion in my heart for telling others about Him through music, teaching , conversation, and writing.  I has never been just a job for me, always a calling.

Interestingly enough, in varying seasons, I’ve had the opportunity to experience easy Sundays.  Three years ago when we decided to homeschool, I found out shortly after that I was pregnant.  At that time I was still very active in ministry, but would be home from church by noon.  It was a freedom unlike our family had experienced before.  We started using Sundays as our slow day.  We stopped having fancy soul food dinners, and started using our crockpot for easy meals that would be ready by early afternoon.  We stopped grocery shopping on Sunday’s and started carving our time for naps, walks at the park, or even sitting in front of the tv . (I know, gasp!)  On Sunday evenings I’d sit at the coffee table and plan our homeschool schedule for the week while my husband got the kids ready for bed.  Easy and slow. 

Currently, we’re unexpectedly in another season that affords us some slow on Sundays.  We’ve been attending an amazing church that has Saturday night services.  With one of our children headed to middle school, we’ll begin attending on Sundays soon so that he can attend the middle school activities.  But, for now, we are enjoying spending our Saturdays running errands, cleaning a bit, and dashing to events before heading to church.  It creates so much space on our Sunday’s to just be present and prepare our minds and bodies for the full week ahead.

The more I read the lyrics to Lionel Richie’s song, “Easy” , I have no idea why the song title was chosen.  The lyrics create a scene that appears to be anything BUT easy.  Often that’s how life is.  A series of twists, turns and long bends in the road.  Sometimes we have to keep driving through the storm to make it to our destination on time.  But, more often than night, it’s safer if we just slow down, take our time, pull over and enjoy the scenery. 

Wishing you a slow and rest filled, Sunday! 

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