Grow Good Coconuts

IMG_20171211_100032_571

In our church we celebrate Epiphany—Little Christmas, or the arrival of the Wise Men—as evidence that Jesus was sent to save us all, not just the Jews. King of ALL Kings, baby. Everybody’s in.

Christians have been known to forget this. We all like to think our church is the best, even though we know that’s not the name of the game. The Wise Men serve as a reminder that our ways are not God’s ways and we don’t know what we don’t know.

But in case we missed the point, on Sunday, Father Arje told this story at church:

There were three coconut farmers, and they all lived on the other side of the island from the market. This required them to haul their harvest across the island. One day they were sitting in the shade, sipping cool coconut milk. Two of them were having an argument about the best way to get to town.

“To go around the east side of the island is the best way!” said the first. “It’s the way people have always gone.”

“Bah!” said the second farmer. “That path is old and crowded. Too many people. The west side is new and less crowded. No towns. No one but farmers on the road. It’s faster!”

They continued to argue back and forth until finally they turned to the third farmer. “What do you think?” the first farmer asked.

“Well,” he said, “I have gone to the east and I see the value. But I have gone to the west and there is value there as well. And recently, my sons and I forged a new path right through the mountains, and it seems solid.

“So here is what I think. You can go to the east, and he can go to the west, and I can go straight ahead. But we’ll all arrive at the market. And when we get there, does the owner ask us ‘Which way did you come?’ No—he asks us ‘How good are your coconuts?’”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if this year we worried less about what the other farmers were doing and focused instead on growing good coconuts?

With Grateful Voices

IMAG0132

You might be tempted to kick 2017 in the behind and then slam the door on it tonight.

I sure was.

Then on the way to church this morning, Kate said she was going to miss 2017. I snorted, but Shea asked her why.

We swam with turtles! she said.

Yeah, and my football team had a really great season, said Gabe.

And I started kindergarten and played soccer, said Annie.

My volleyball team only lost one game!

I got my favorite teacher!

Mama got a job!

We got a new house!

I have the coolest man cave bedroom ever!

We got a new puppy!

I was in my first play!

One of my best friends from my old school came to my new school!

Teresa got engaged!

All the way to church they shouted out the “highlights” of the year.

Jesus knew what he was about when he said to let the children come and be among us. Adults are burdened by noise and stuff and fear. We let it steal our joy and narrow our vision. I almost let it make me feel like a year–a whole freaking year–was not worthy of my gratitude.

But my babies and their simple love of life reminded me this morning that 2017 was full of blessings and love and goodness.

It really, really was.

Happy New Year, friends. May God’s peace and joy be yours in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmanuel is Coming!

IMG_20141219_174618

I know you still have your fat pants on.

But Advent is coming.

I’m not rushing you. I have glad tidings: This year we have a whole week to get ready. None of this Thanksgiving on Thursday, Advent starts on Sunday madness.

Seven days, sisters.

Find your advent calendars. Or if–like me–you aren’t allowed to disturb the carefully crafted storage box fort in the garage, ask your husband to find it. And the wreath, while he’s in there. Try to ask before he comes back in from finding the calendar.

Click here to order advent candles from Amazon, because Michael’s and Joann’s will not have them. Will not, I tell you, and not because there was a 4 am rush for all the purple candles on Black Friday like the sweet Michael’s girl tried to tell me.

Click here to get your Advent Family Prayer Service.  About this–and if I ever taught you how to write an essay, please look away: I put it together five years ago for my family, and like all good educators, I begged, borrowed and stole it from others. I’m hoping the fact that it’s prayer will outweigh the part where I did not correctly cite my sources.

Click here if you can’t remember how “O Come O Come Emmanuel” goes.

Click here for directions on using a Jesse Tree as your Advent countdown–borrowed from Tara at Feels Like Home blog.

Click here for Advent calendars that countdown to Jesus and not Santa.

Click here for Bishop Barron’s Word On FireDynamic Catholic’s Best Advent Ever,  or Richard Rohr’s daily emails for grown-up advent prayer and reflection.

Click here for everything you need to teach your kids or grandkids about St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6.  And here for everything you need for the Feast of St. Lucy on December 13, a day of lights and sweets.

Because Advent used to be observed like Lent, with fasting and sacrifice, here is a more sober cookie recipe: St Hildegard De Bingen’s Cookies of Joy. And by sober, I mean half the sugar and double the butter.

Last of all, remember to Get ‘er Done, so that your heart and spirit can be at peace in this sacred time of waiting.

Blessed and prayerful Advent to you and yours!

 

 

 

Faith, Hope and Love

901935_10151597596166834_995123265_o

Look at this girl. I met her in 1994, when she was 18 months old. With those twinkly eyes and saucy curls, she worked her way into the hearts of my family.

She was in my wedding:

furlow w 239

I was her Confirmation sponsor, five weeks postpartum:

IMG_5041_0005_005

She loves on my babies:

She went to college and she dated and that was a thing because there were some practice guys who were lovely young men, but not The One. One or two of them might have been Almost The One, or Probably Could Be The One With A Lot Of Prayer, Patience and Counseling.

But this is not what we dream for the people we love. We want them to find The One.

Two years ago, praise be to God, this guy walked carefully into her life.

20431186_10155597924486834_6510034407090965229_n

The light began to shine, the angels sang, everything fell into place as God ordained it and two weeks ago, this happened:

22859855_10155875078821834_693989386123026554_o

I never thought about what it felt like for my parents, who surely prayed Shea into my life, to see me joined with him in marriage. Then Mike called us to say he was going to ask Teresa to marry him and I was flooded with gratitude to God. All parents and godparents and side parents pray for The One, but kids are stubborn.

Mike is for sure The One and I know that because of how he makes Teresa feel. She is so well-loved by him that she glows. She laughs without cares. She shakes the small stuff. Her future is here, to have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death does part them.

The second best thing about them, after the way they love each other, is the prayerful and faithful nature of their relationship. They are going to do big things as they build their family and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

But first, there’s a wedding in the works! I am the mother of a junior bridesmaid, a flower girl and a lector. There’s a shower to plan and dresses to buy and general squealing into the phone over every little detail.

It’s going to be amazing.

#mikeandteresaslovestory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dasher

Sisters, we got a puppy.

I KNOW. But here’s what happened. Two weeks ago I was driving the kids home from Sunday school and when I got to the intersection where the Humane society is located, I felt the command to turn.

“Where’re we going?” Gabe asked.

“Let’s go look at dogs.”

“Are we getting one????” Annie squealed from the back seat.

“Only if there are puppies” I said. In the almost two years since Sugar crossed the Rainbow Bridge there have never been puppies at the Humane society. Not. Even. Once. But that day, there were four. Litter mates, surrendered without parents so only God knows a single thing about their pedigree–probably closer to ketchup than whole wheat. Two of them were all black, one looked like a black and white Springer Spaniel and one was colored like a German Shepherd.

He was the most chill. I sent Shea this picture:

20171026_203551

He texted “You had one job. Go to Sunday School. WHY ARE YOU AT THE HUMANE SOCIETY???.”

“God made me” I texted back. “I’ll explain when we get home.”

Other kids wait for their moms to say “Yes”. But my kids know when I text dad the picture, the deal is sealed. If it was up to me, we’d live on five acres and breed bassets. If it was up to Shea, we’d own a zoo.

Surely it is not news that our crazy sits on the front porch and hollers at the neighbors. What’s one more dog? Especially when he’s cute.

 

 

 

 

 

From One Jen to Another

IMG_20171022_143355_126.jpg

Dear Jen Hatmaker,

I just finished Of Mess and Moxie. Thanks for the laughs.

Like all good books, it taught me a lesson. I thought I should share it, because sharing is caring and all that jazz.

You wrote this in Chapter 21, How To (Part Four): How to do the laundry:

“8. Remember the darks! Yay, you! Despair at the light load in the dryer. This is like discovering the dishes in the dishwasher are clean. Throw load of lights on your bed to “fold in a few minutes” while you move the darks to the dryer. 9. Co-Sleep with the light load that night. Give them their own bed space, like a person.”

When I read this, even though I have Jesus in my heart, I judged you. I did. Who sleeps with laundry? I thought in my most OCD voice. Someone should tell Jen Hatmaker that laundry day is a process, not a string of one-off events where it’s ok to skip an event here or there. Wash. Dry. Fold. Place in various laundry baskets to be put away by minions when they get home from school. This is not rocket science, although it may have been informed by a scientific approach. For the love, indeed.

I read that chapter Thursday night.

On Friday, we picked up our new puppy. Saturday morning, I awoke at 6 am so that my son and I could drive 8 hours round trip to his play-off football game in cold and pouring rain. I left Shea home with the new puppy, the grumpy old basset hound, our two girls, a volleyball game and two soccer games. Divide and conquer.

My sweet husband thought he would knock out the laundry. He did four loads. He did them all the way to dry, good man. In the middle of that, I called in a panic because I had a flat tire on the 5 in the middle of nowhere Oregon. You may think my panic was about the tire, but it wasn’t. I needed my husband to find the nearest teammate traveling up the 5 and send them to get my football player.

(Full disclosure–there was a screw in my tire. I saw it two weeks ago. It was wedged in there good and I figured it would hold.)

The same time I arrived in pouring rain to watch a football game (new tire safely in place), he arrived in pouring rain to watch two pee-wee soccer games. We left the middle child at home with the puppy and she called no less than five times to give and get timely updates: “Dash pooped on the floor. I cleaned it. Is Gabe still winning?”

When we got home, my son jumped in the shower and my husband took him to a Halloween party. I sat down for a whole four seconds before the grumpy basset hound decided she’d had enough and started nipping at anyone who came near her. Took me a good twenty minutes to recalibrate her attitude, by which time the puppy had pooped on the floor, the five year old was screaming in a cold shower and I’d lost my drink. That is not a metaphor. I had a nice vodka tonic and I set it down and I can’t find it.

You see where this is going right? When I finally dragged myself to bed, there was all the laundry. My husband and I stood there looking at it in silence. Then he said “I’ll sleep on the couch with the puppy?”, I said “Yep”, shoved the clothes over to his side and climbed in to co-sleep with the laundry.

God is good, Jen Hatmaker. Grace is good. Humility too. Honesty. Sisterhood. And sometimes, co-sleeping with the laundry .

 

 

 

IMG_20171022_143355_126.jpg

Boys In Blue

The Dodgers are going to the World Series.

This is big. It’s not 108 years big, or 86 years big, but it’s still been 28 years since Kirk Gibson’s magical walk off home run in Game 1 of the ’88 series. I was 16.

Baseball is not my favorite sport. It comes after college football, NFL, College basketball (women and men) and the NHL. So sixth. It’s my sixth favorite sport.

But the Boys in Blue are my #1 pro sports team. LA girl. Legacy Dodger fan. I remember being at my grandparents’ home in Duarte for the ’81 Series win, watching my grandfather, dad and uncle hootin’ and hollerin’ as they listened to the radio on the patio.

(Of course that was the BBQ where my grandfather asked for sherry to pour on the steaks as they grilled, and my grandmother gave him a bottle they had emptied of sherry and used to smuggle vodka across the border from Mexico. The explosion burned my Papa’s eyebrows off his face and all I can remember is them laughing, so probably they were deep into the bottle with the correct label on it. Also my cousin, I believe as a result of PTSD from this night, deliberately sought out and married a San Francisco Giants fan.)

My dad had a friend with season tickets, so once a year growing up we went with Mark to a game. His seats were good ones, in the yellow down third base line. I learned to appreciate the pace of the game live and in person, the rhythm of pitches and shelling peanuts.

I came back to Dodger games in my 20s. It was the late 90s and a game ticket could be had for $6. My roommate would burst through the front door and say “Dodgers?” and off we’d go. If we timed it right, we could leave Long Beach at 6 and be in our seats for the first pitch at 7:05. I knew every approach to get into the stadium, but more importantly–I knew how to get out. And that’s saying something. If there were such a thing as the “7 F*ck Ups of the World”, the parking lot at Chavez Ravine would be one of them.

This was the era of Karros and Piazza, Nomo and Hollandsworth. Also Todd Worrell. That guy. Look, I don’t often feel strongly about sports figures but my antipathy towards Worrell is deeply seated. I watched my boyfriend Mike Piazza put a lot of runs on the board that Worrell gave back in the top of the 9th, with fast balls right down the pipe. Everybody knew. My grandma could have hit them.

When Shea asked me to marry him, I was less worried about his unbaptized soul than I was about yoking with an Angels fan. Mixed marriages are not to be entered into lightly. People have been known to get divorced.

In June, I took the kids to their first Dodger game, with Teresa and Mike. I used to go to Dodger games with Teresa and her mom when she was small enough that we carried her in. Total full circle moment.

But also, we were in LA for Sue’s funeral and she was the kind of Dodger fan who still listened to games on the radio. She and I decided last winter that we would take the kids and go the next time we were down. We went in her honor. Hard stuff.

Tickets are not $6 anymore and so the most affordable professionals sports ticket in town is damn near not affordable. The ushers no longer wear straw hats and chase down beach balls. The peanut guy, though–still cash only. I bought the kids hats and dogs. We did the wave and a group of drunk guys behind us had an inexhaustible supply of beach balls. It was awesome sauce.

And now here they go. A Dodgers-Yankee series would be something for the ages, but at this writing, the Astros are up 3-0 in Game 6 so we’ll see.

Either way, Let’s Go Dodgers. #ThisTeam #Dodgerblue