Until the moment I opened the door, it had been an ordinary day.

I got myself and the kids ready in the morning, took the big kids to school, took the little kids on a massive Trader Joe's run. Corey boarded a plane for Florida for two days worth of meetings.

I pulled back into our driveway around 11:30, eager to unload the groceries and lay a sleeping Kieran in his bed. I jumped out of the car, popped inside to turn off the alarm before unbuckling the sleeping baby when: "WARNING! WARNING ALARM HISTORY! ALARM HISTORY!"

The words flashing at me from the monitor made no sense. Alarm history? What alarm history? Everything looked just as I had left it, three hours earlier. I punched a few buttons. "SUNROOM DOOR! ZONE 1 MOTION DETECTOR! FRONT DOOR! ALARM HISTORY!"

Completely befuddled, I walked a few steps from the mudroom so I could see the sunroom door -- and I saw it open. Deadbolt extended. Wood trim on the floor. Pieces of pink insulation thrown around the room.

Lightning adrenaline seared through every vein in my body. I turned around, got back into my still running car, backed down the driveway and shut the garage door in one fluid motion. My hands were shaking as I dialed 911.

"What's going on, Mommy?" Teyla asked.

I have no idea, I thought to myself.

Three minutes later, a sheriff's deputy pulled in our driveway. I stayed in my car, as instructed. He went around the back of the house. A few minutes later, a second squad car showed up. I rolled down my window to hear, "I see footsteps going in, but none coming out."

I involuntarily drew my breath. Up to that point, I wasn't convinced we had suffered a break-in. It just didn't make sense. Except for the sunroom, everything had looked so normal. The breakfast dishes were still in the sink. Our Christmas tree shone brightly from its corner. A few Little People lay on the floor. This can't be happening.

But it was. The officers came out the front door 10 minutes later. "We've gone through the house. No one is inside. But we'll need you to come in with us and tell us what's missing."

Only the master bedroom had been touched. The top drawers were all open and rifled through. I looked in our closet.

"My jewelry box is gone," I said, picking up the lonely lid from what had been a three layer box.

The sheriff made notes. I walked back out and then, "Oh! My laptop! My laptop is missing!"

The empty spot on my desk hadn't initially registered. I often move my laptop around the house; a bare desk strewn with deserted power cords was a common sight.

But this time, it wasn't me who had moved my laptop. It was someone else.

The deputies were kind but focused. Our house was the fourth break-in in our area that morning. "Someone's out Christmas shopping," one of them said wryly. They took me out back and showed me where the thief had cut our phone line. So that's why the security system didn't notify the police.

And just like that, they were gone, leaving behind a business card and a case number. "Call if you notice anything else missing."

Ummmm. How about my sense of safety? My bubble of control?

I called Corey, who had just landed in Fort Lauderdale. He barely made it out of the airport before he was back inside, calling Delta and buying a ticket on the next direct flight back to Minneapolis.

The next few hours were a blur. My in-laws arrived; we had planned for them to come over Tuesday afternoon to watch Teyla and Kieran so I could do a few hours of Christmas shopping alone. Providence. Thanks to them, I was able to call Comcast about the phone line, call our favorite carpenter to repair the door, call the security company to have someone come out and reset our monitors and then race to our local library to change all my online passwords.

Miraculously, by that evening, the house was back to normal - full strength, as they say in hockey. Our carpenter friend came before dinner and not only repaired the door, but strengthened the deadbolt. Comcast upped our repair to an emergency status and had a tech to our place by nightfall. Corey got home by 5:00, ragged and weary. The kids and I were so glad to see him. His presence took the crazy level down five notches.

With help from the security company, we learned our thief was probably a pro. He cut our phone lines before he even attempted to get into our house. He used a crowbar to pop open our sunroom door. He went right to the master bedroom, the place where most people store their jewels, guns and extra money. (Or, in our case, our costume jewelry, our Bibles and our socks.)

But. He apparently didn't count on our alarm siren going on - even with a cut phone line. Because our monitors show he entered the sunroom at 9:03 and left via the front door at 9:04. And he left in a hurry, too. I found one earring and an shell bracelet scattered on our front sidewalk later that afternoon. So the air-raid siren that terrifies my children (we've set it off numerous times accidentally, potentially scarring Connor for life) also freaks out the bad guys. Good to know.

Initially, I was more upset about losing my laptop. My precious. But in the days since the break-in, I have become far more poignant about the loss of my jewelry.

Besides a pair of diamond earrings that Corey bought me a few Christmases back, I had nothing valuable. It was all glass and plastic, nothing worthwhile to resell or pawn. But to me, it was all priceless. The earrings I wore on my wedding day. The green-and-blue-glass bracelet I bought at the flea market up north. All my Mercy House jewelry. The silver hoops so big they were dubbed "the dog hoops" during my internships at KARE-11. All the holiday pins my parents gave me when I was a little girl: the beaded red heart for Valentine's Day, the wooden shamrock, the smiling Santa, the red-cheeked cupid. The brooches my mom "loaned me" in the 80s so I could pin them on my top shirt button and look cool. The chunky aquamarine shell and stone necklace Corey bought for me in Indonesia, when he went to help with tsunami relief.

Turns out, my jewelry box didn't just hold pretty baubles. It held memories.

My laptop held memories too, of course. But a few hours after my laptop was stolen, I was able to confirm - to my great relief - that my files had been backed up to my external hard drive just a few day prior. So I lost virtually no information, except the latest copy of my To Do List. Eleven years of pictures and video -- safe. Whew.

And then Corey agreed that I could replace my Dell laptop with a Mac and ... well, let's just say I suddenly saw the silver lining of the break-in.

Lessons learned?

1. A security system isn't a guarantee (obviously), but it's worth the money - especially if you live in a more secluded area like we do. We have neighbors, but our lots are big, and the houses are set back from the road. It makes sense for us - especially since Corey travels. Even if the system was partially thwarted this time, the fact that it cut short the time the thief spent in our home earned it its keep.

2. That said, this was another gentle reminder that God alone is my true refuge. If I didn't have that bedrock beneath my feet, I doubt I would have regained my sense of well-being as quickly as I did. He is my ultimate security. If I believe Him and His promises to me, I have nothing to fear.

3. If you don't already, back up your computer. This story would be vastly different if I didn't have my files backed up. I used an HP Simple Save external hard drive. It's super easy - just plug it in to your computer, and it will instantly create a backup of your hard drive. Best part: it will back up every 5 min thereafter. So you don't have to do anything to stay current. I didn't leave mine plugged in all the time, since I had a laptop that got moved all over the house all day. But I tried to plug it in at least once we a week, and for sure every time I downloaded pictures from my camera. That's your PSA for the day. Just do it.

4. Macs rule. (More on that in a future post.)

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes the last week. Your outrage on our behalf and warm words of support wrapped me in peace and comfort.

Thanksgiving Menu, Tried and True

I do it every year.

When the November magazines start to arrive, and the covers showcase all versions of updated Thanksgiving classics, I think, “Maybe this is the year to tinker with my menu.” I start to daydream about change. That brown-sugar glaze looks amazing – and easy. Maybe I should add another vegetable dish, like that one with the Brussels sprouts and pancetta. Wow. Check out that pear and custard pie. Do you think it’s crazy to make four different desserts for my family of six?

And then, when it’s just days from The Big Meal and I’m forced to make a decision, I always end up sticking with my traditional line-up. I put it together a few years ago, and it works so well, I can’t bring myself to mess with it.

So I thought I’d share it with you, in case you’re still flirting with decisions. (And if you are, trust me. I understand. No one in my family eats stuffing, except me, but it seems wrong not to make stuffing, doesn’t it? How do I force myself to leave that dish out?)

There are three reasons why I am sold on this particular menu.

1. You can make almost everything the day before. Even for people like me who love to cook, this is a sanity saver. It allows me to enjoy the day of Thanksgiving and spend most of it playing games with my children or going on hikes through the woods outside my door instead of standing on my feet in front of the stove for eight hours. You might say, it enables me to have a slice of Sabbath with my pie – and Sabbath is fuel for a thankful heart.

It was also crucial the last few years because all of our recent homes have only had one oven, which can make Thanksgiving Day extra tricky. Having the side dishes already prepared and ready to reheat in the oven while the turkey rests took a lot of mental gymnastics out of the day.

2. It’s a symphonic menu - meaning, it is more than the sum of its parts. If I remove even one dish, the meal loses something. Put together, it’s the perfect balance of savory and sweet, crispy and creamy, fresh and rich. It touches on every Thanksgiving must-have, sometimes in unexpected ways, without overwhelming the table with any one food group.

3. It tastes phenomenal. 'Nuff said.

Without further ado, here's Thanksgiving Day chez Love Well:

Good Eats Roast Turkey Nothing trendy here. No figs in the stuffing or deep-frying the bird or roasting it upside down. Nope, it’s just turkey, Alton Brown-style. It’s brined – which is really the key to taking a turkey from OK to O WOW – and then cooked at high heat in your oven. The recipe videos are especially helpful to me. (And highly entertaining. "Stuffing, by and large, is evil.") I watch them every year – it’s my own Thanksgiving tradition – so I can be re-educated about the science behind cooking a 15-pound bird in my oven. Also? If you doubt me, believe the good people on the Food Network’s website. This recipe has five stars and almost 3500 reviews.

White Wine Gravy
Gravy is one of those dishes I feel free to play with, but this recipe is close to what I do. I really like the white wine undertones in this. I don't serve wine at Thanksgiving, so I don't offend my Baptist in-laws. But this gravy almost makes up for it.

Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes
The Pioneer Woman's recipe. Seriously. These are a revelation. And so easy. I especially love that I can make them on Wednesday and then pop them in the oven to warm on Thanksgiving and yet they lose nothing in the process. They are just as good the second day as the first.

Roasted Harvest Vegetables
From one of my favorite magazines, Everyday Food. A medley of carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and garlic are roasted at high heat the day before Thanksgiving. (Note: If the aroma of this dish could be made into a perfume, I would wear it.) Just reheat before serving. Again, nothing is lost in translation.

Green Bean, Watercress and and Crispy Shallot Salad
Another Everyday Food contribution. This is a simple salad -- blanched fresh green beans tossed in a light lemon-Dijon vinaigrette and topped with pan-fried shallot circles. Best: It's best served room temperature. Nothing to reheat here. Just prepare the different parts on Wednesday and toss before serving on Thursday.

Dinner Rolls
Normally, I make homemade crescent rolls - and these I do make on Thanksgiving Day, because Corey begs for the bread to be fresh. But this year, I'm going to change it up a little, because the November 2011 Everyday Food had an updated Parker House rolls recipe in which the rolls are brushed twice with melted butter and finished with a sprinkling of salt. (Pardon me. I just drooled.) The recipe isn't on the web yet, nor is the picture, which alone can cause a diabetic coma. So the link up there is only similar, not identical. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Zesty Cranberry Sauce
I love cranberry sauce, and this homemade version is so good, I sometimes eat it for dessert. (True story.) I can't find the recipe online; I've had it so long, I'm not even sure where I got it. But it's easy and short, so I'll just give it to you here.
1 bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine everything in a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to pop, about 8-10 minutes. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Pumpkin Pie
I've loved pumpkin pie for as long as I can remember -- only, it must be THIS pumpkin pie, the kind my mother made and her mother before her. (That's my pumpkin pie in the picture, accompanied by the pear-apple crostata I sometimes make.) It has the right blend of spice and sugar for me. According to family lore, my Nannie got the recipe off a Kroger's can of pumpkin in the 1940s -- which is not the recipe Kroger's shares today. So, for what it's worth, here's what I make.
16 oz canned pumpkin (I can only find 15 oz cans, usually; maybe they don't make 16 oz anymore)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon dark molasses
1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients well. Bake in an unbaked pie crust at 450 for 10 minutes, and then 350 until set, about another 45 min.

Now I'm off for some final grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. Because avoiding a last-minute trip to the grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving is just as critical as the menu itself. Are you with me?

Kieran : 18 Months

A few days ago, I posted this picture to my Instagram stream.

Yes. That’s exactly what you think it is. I heard lapping sounds coming from the laundry room, realized the dog was outside, entered to find the scene above.

The dish was half empty. (Or half full?) And the boy was so happy.

It’s a fitting story to mark Kieran hitting 18 months. He is so male. All exploratory and delight and belly and giggles. I truly love this age. It’s when toddlers teeter on the brink of babyhood. They are old enough to develop some consistency of routine but not too old to need cuddles every 15 minutes. They can laugh at their own discoveries and at your reaction to them.

A few notables about Kieran at 18 months:

He loves to be outside.
“Out? Out? Out?” he says whenever he remembers the garage door is just beyond the kitchen. He will grab his size 7 tennis shoes (which is GIGANTIC for our kids at this age; he’s wearing shoes Connor wore when he was 3), and sit down on the mudroom floor and try to cram his pudgy little feet into a few inches of Velcro. And once he’s out, please don’t micromanage. He just wants to explore. He will find sticks and bang stumps and poke rocks and wander around the forest (under Daddy’s watchful eye, usually), content to be allowed to roam at will.

He is verbose. When Kieran hit 15 months, I happened upon one of those monthly milestone emails that said most babies have a vocabulary of about five words at 15 months. I almost fell off my chair. At that point, Kieran had command of about 30 words. And his range has only grown since then. In fact, he just called from the other room, “Mother, would you please change my nappy?”

OK. That might be an exaggeration. But he is prone to saying, “Mah-mee? Pooh-pooh?” Which is his gentle way of saying, you might want to grab the smelling salts, woman, because I don’t do anything half way.

Other words (not an exhaustive list, obviously): Ball. Up. Down. All done. Eat. Banana. Water. Milk. Juice. Cookie. No. Connor (which sounds a lot like Cahr). Natalie (Nanee). Uh-oh. Apple (app-oh). Wow. Papa. Gigi. Cow. Woo-woo (dog). Hi. Bye. Car (which sounds a lot like Connor). More. Bubbles. Ah-pane (airplane). Choo-choo (train). Ding-ding-ding (train crossing gates). Hee ‘tis! (Here it is!) Dank do (thank you).

And our new favorite: PUN-kin. (Pumpkin.) Oh the cute. I die.

He also does great animal noises. But I’ll save those for a future day. (Read: As soon as I get all of them on video.)

He is tough.

Exhibit A: A few weeks ago, when I was hanging out with college students so Shaun Groves wouldn’t feel so old, I was walking with Teyla and Kieran across a campus courtyard. Kieran, as usual, was bounding ahead, running and talking to himself. A cute young couple was walking toward us, smiling as they watched his obvious joie de vivre. Right about then, he stumbled and skidded and fell – splat. The young couple gasped and winced. I didn’t even break stride. “Just watch,” I said. Kieran promptly gathered his wits, pushed himself up and ran away. They laughed out loud.

Exhibit B: Chair climbing while wearing a cast.

He has tenacity. Last week, I found Kieran sitting on the floor next to the games cabinet. He had spilled out the contents of Battleship, and was quietly stacking little red and white pieces into towers.

He had some stacks that were 15-20 high. And he just kept building. His pudgy little fingers would reach down, find a new piece, he would diligently try to push the pegs together the right way and keep going.

I was completely entranced by his calm determination.

He is a snuggle puppy. Despite his boyishness, his outward rough-and-tumble, he will drop just about anything to snuggle. When I get him out of his bed in the mornings right now, he wraps his whole body around me and lays his head on my shoulder and we sit together on the couch and burrow under my blanket until the rest of the family gets up. (Sometimes, we watch Little Bear or Oswald at the same time. Great gentle little kid TV, in my opinion. Perfect for 7:00 AM.) He’s also learned that reading books (or to “googee-googee-googee” which, inexplicably, has come to mean “Let’s read some books together” in his brain) is a great time to snuggle. For months now, he has approached me with a book and then turned around and backed into me – as if to say, “I’m here with a book. You will hold me in your lap now.” And with Corey? Goodness gracious. There have been a few times when I couldn’t find Kieran and I eventually discovered him snuggled in Corey’s arms while Corey paces his home office on a conference call.

And there's so much more. He's sleeping through the night now. He's getting better at taking at least one nap a day that is longer than an hour. He's fully into 18-24 month clothes. He
inexplicably started to suck his fingers and thumbs recently.

And ... he just climbed into my lap. (See snuggle puppy above.) Time to go inhale some sweet smelling baby hair and read some books and savor every minute.
Eighteen months goes fast.

Why I Can't Find Anything

The windows in my kitchen had already turned to mirrors, the inky sky outside a foil to the pre-dinner chaos inside.

The counter was littered with dishes, both clean and dirty. I was trying to regain a foothold and straighten up before we launched into another meal and dirtied even more dishes. Standing at the sink, washing Kieran's highchair tray for the 483rd time that day, I saw said toddler walk calmly into view. My eyes followed him as he walked past me, to the cupboard next to the oven. He opened a door, the one to the pots and pans, and threw in a sock. Then he shut the door and walked away, as if the whole thing never happened.

No wonder I can't find anything in this house.

Joining Heather today for Just Write.

On Writing Goofy -- and Calling it Good

You know what’s goofy?

I’m not a serious person in real life.

Yes, I love to think and I’m passionate about discovery and I only read nonfiction and I listen, religiously, to NPR. (And then I bore my husband to tears with all the retelling of interesting stories and conversations. Pray for him.)

But those are my inner workings, my deep life.

On the surface? I’m a people person. I love to laugh. I really love to make you laugh. I love meeting new people and eating new foods and I get bored easily. I’m an extrovert. I wear bright colors. I puffy-pink-heart 80s music.

You might not know this if you only read my blog.

True, I did set myself up to blog about Sabbath for 31 Days. Not a frivolous subject, that. And yes, I do think writing is where my soul indulges itself and works out the quiet mysteries that I might not express to you if I were to meet you for coffee.

But good gravy. Lately, my inner sanguine is chomping at the bit for a little freedom. I’ve been trying to keep her quiet, because I still haven’t finished my 31 Days of Sabbath series and the Compassion bloggers are writing this week and Orphan Sunday just wrapped up and shouldn’t I be writing for Jesus?

But then I step back and look at the blogs I love to read and I think about all these creative, quirky, deep and funny friends I’ve made online. And I realize Jesus is our life, even when we are sharing about that time the baby ate her sister’s Polly Pocket shoes. It’s all for His glory. It’s all a gift.

I just want to share it.

So permission granted? The next few posts will be less meaningful, more trivial, more me. I promise I’ll finish 31 Days of Sabbath. (Eleven posts to go on that front. I’m actually excited to share a few more thoughts over the next few weeks – and this time, to really think about it, instead of rushing to get it written by an outside time frame.) (Whoops! There goes serious, organized Kelly again.)

In the meantime, I’m going to open up the floodgates and share some stories as they come to me.

You’re OK hearing about the latest interview on NPR, right?

Sick - 31 Days of Sabbath : 20

Teyla has been sick this week. An on-again, off-again fever. Circles under her eyes. A slightly runny nose. General lethargy. Enough whine to host her own weekend tasting.

So naturally – but uncharacteristically – she sleeps. Three times this week, she’s taken 2.5 hour naps. She’s gone to bed each night stifling yawns and fallen asleep almost immediately. And this is the girl who didn’t even nap as a baby, who reluctantly accepts her destiny of sleep only after the clock strikes 10, most nights.

Sleep is powerful. It’s restorative. Our bodies heal best while asleep. Our brains reset. A good night’s sleep spurs creativity, improves memory, sharpens attention, even helps reign in our appetite. It’s a miracle drug.

So why do we spurn it?

God created us to need rest. Need. It’s not supposed to be an occasional thing we dabble in, a treat we squeeze into our busy lives when we have a few free hours.

It’s both pitiful and sobering that it takes sickness before many of us will accept God’s mandate.
If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath – our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us. In my relationships with people suffering from cancer, AIDS and other life-threatening illness, I am always struck by the mixture of sadness and relief they experience when illness interrupts their overly busy lives. While each shares their particular fears and sorrows, almost every one confesses some secret gratefulness. “Finally,” they say, “at last. I can rest.”
-Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Wayne Muller
Does that quote sucker-punch you like it does me?

I remember living like that.

Fifteen years ago, I worked as a TV news producer. My husband was a busy executive. We helped lead a group of young marrieds at our church. I was involved in the drama ministry. Corey played softball, religiously. We lived a typical, crazy, whirlwind busy Southern California lifestyle.

Rest? That was an after-thought. I indulged in a Sunday afternoon nap, occasionally. That was good enough, wasn’t it?

It wasn’t. My journals from that time reveal it: Whenever I got sick, I would sit still and pray and read my Bible and reflect. I would sense an emptiness in my soul that I couldn’t feel when I was moving. Sickness was my gift, a chance for me to sleep and be with God. I remember, even then, feeling sad that it took illness for me to rest.

I don’t live like that anymore. Rest is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity.

And oh. It’s also a command.

I don’t want to have to get sick in order to obey it.

Mondays as Sabbath - 31 Days of Sabbath : 19

For many years now, Mondays have been my day of Sabbath.

It isn't because Mondays are a day of rest; the opposite, actually. Mondays are when I reorder my life that has been upended by the weekend. I clean house, do laundry, bake bread. I wear yoga pants and slippers. I make lists and brainstorm menus and sometimes, I take a shower before bed just because it's what clean sheets demand.

But here's what I don't do: I don't do anything outside of the house. I don't sign up for Bible studies or swimming lessons or even library story hour on Mondays. My day is commitment-free. I don't answer my phone unless I want to. I try to stay away from screens, preferring instead to immerse myself in the real world and do work that makes my muscles ache and my soul settle.

It's funny how refreshed I feel by Monday nights. Maybe rest doesn't have as much to do with work as we think it does.

True Transformation - 31 Days of Sabbath : 18

Sabbath is easier to write about than it is to live.

I don’t know why this surprises me. You’d think years of Bible study in which fun, uplifting, encouraging lessons gets kneaded into my life in a gritty, painful, blisters-on-the-soul kind of way would have taught me something.

But it always comes as a bit of a shock.

You mean, it’s takes work?

Yesterday, we attempted a family-wide Sabbath for the first time ever. The two main rules were: No screens, and no work that felt obligatory. Corey and the kids did great. Kieran took a long nap, Corey took Natalie and Connor and built a small workbench, Teyla and I colored and painted and did puzzles. Everyone else seemed to have a great day of being together, resting from work and delighting in God’s many gifts.

But I was restless. Like a dog with a bone, my mind gnawed on the coming week, trying to fit together the tasks that need to get done. I didn’t have food prepared ahead of time, so dinner ended up being leftovers. I kept gravitating toward my phone to check the weather, check the hours of the local library, look up that recipe. I felt (dare I say it?) bored.

Part of my issues – I can’t type that word without putting mental finger quotes around it – can be addressed by preparing more for my day of rest. It would benefit me to have some of my week laid out before I try to set everything aside; otherwise, the details that I normally control turn around and control me. It would be wise to have an easy meal planned. It would also be helpful for me to have some plans for the littles and me. Maybe a craft? Maybe a letter writing extravaganza to our sponsored kids? Maybe we plan an act of kindness to do anonymously that week? I think I would do better with structure. I rest best within a framework of order.

But even though yesterday was more stressful than restful for me, I will not let this go. Because now I have an appetite for God’s rest. This is the fruit of 10 months of Sabbath study. My mind is being transformed. And that is half the battle.
Under God's economy, nothing really changes until our minds do. Transformation is the fruit of a changed outlook. First our minds are renewed, and then we are transformed, and then everything is different, even if it stays the same.
- The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, Mark Buchanan

Application - 31 Days of Sabbath : 17

Tonight at dinner, I proposed to my family that tomorrow, we practice Sabbath.

"But I have homework!" shrieked Natalie with alarm.

Ah yes. There is always an obstacle to rest and delight, isn't there? But as our pastor pointed out last week, information alone doesn't bring transformation. Application brings transformation.

So tomorrow, we apply. The rubber meets the road. I have celebrated Sabbath in my own way, on my own time. But as a family unit?


I am aware tomorrow will not be a day of perfection, when children miraculously get along and I bake homemade bread for lunch and Corey lets me take a long afternoon nap and we hold a 90-minute prayer meeting and devotional at bedtime.

But I do hope the day is free from striving, that the work we do -- the nitty-gritty parenting work of changing diapers and emptying cereal bowls, of packing Monday lunches and even double-checking homework -- will be marked by a spirit of thankfulness. I want to ignore the obligations and revel in the present.

And I want my family to do it with me. I am praying the spirit of Sabbath woos our hearts and creates an appetite for her weekly blessing.

Women of Faith 2011: What I Learned Without Attending

By Thursday night, I had decided to take 10-year-old Natalie with me to Women of Faith. I knew she might not fully comprehend the words from the stage, but I was confident that the Jesus-loving environment and some precious one-on-one time with my oldest girl would be the real prize.

Then came Saturday morning. My husband was racing to get some work done outside, before a landscaping crew arrives next week. It wasn’t going well. Tree roots appeared where they weren’t thought to be. A project that was already overwhelming grew more so. Corey was frustrated.

And then the kids started bickering. Connor bossed Teyla. Teyla yelled back. Kieran fussed about everything, thanks to an early morning wake-up of 6:00. And Natalie tried her best to block it all out by planting herself in front of the TV.

For my part, I was feeling refreshed and excited. Not only did I have an afternoon at Women of Faith ahead of me, but Corey had let me sleep in until 10:30. It was a much-needed boost for my mental and emotional state. I was dressed for a girls day out, and I was ready to go soak in the Imagine line-up.

But I didn’t have peace.

I tried my best to ignore the meltdown around me. A huge part of me wanted to say, “Have a great afternoon with the cranky kids and the huge project, Corey. I’m off to enjoy Natalie and God. Tootles!”

And many times in the past, I’ve done that. I’ve plugged my ears against the Holy Spirit’s quiet whisper and plowed ahead with Making Kelly Happy.

Funny thing, though. It rarely works. If I want to stay in step with the Spirit, I cannot ignore His leadings and pursue my own way without repercussions. When I chose that route, I lose peace. Joy. Fellowship. (Please note: I’ve learned this hard way.)

So I decided to skip Women of Faith and be a woman of faith. I set aside my own desires and told Corey I would take charge of the whiny, cranky, hungry masses which would enable him to focus the rest of the afternoon on prepping the yard for next week. I loaded the kids into the minivan and grabbed some Subway and a peppermint mocha from McDonald’s (who knew?!?) and drove around admiring the trees until both Teyla and Kieran fell asleep.

And I traded my selfishness and disappointment and pity for God’s peace and joy and fellowship.

In the end, isn’t that what a Women of Faith weekend is all about?

Orphan Sunday 2011

Would you like to join me for dinner in November?

It won't be anything fancy. I probably won't even have dessert. (Gasp.)

That's because I'll be serving nothing but water and a rice-based mixture that is fed every day to millions of orphans worldwide.

It's part of my plan for Orphan Sunday, which this year is November 6. It's a day set apart for the Church to stop and hear God's heartbeat for the fatherless -- and then ask, "What now, Lord?"

My favorite part about Orphan Sunday is that you can personalize it. Each local Orphan Sunday event or activity is created by local believers in the local church. So events have their own feel. In 2010, events included sermons and Sunday School classes on God’s heart for the orphan, prayer gatherings, fasts and simple meals, student-led fundraisers, foster family recruiting and live concerts.

This year? There are even more resources at your fingertips. On the Christian Alliance for Orphans website, you can find ideas for your children's ministry, your youth group, your small group or Bible study, inserts for your church bulletin, videos that can be played in your church service, posters and and prayer guides.

And a partridge in a pear tree....

Sorry. I know it's a lot. So let me highlight for you my favorite new resource this year -- the Orphan's Table. It's an easy-to-cook package you can share with friends and family -- a meal of protein-rich rice that is daily sustenance for orphans around the globe. Included in the kit is a prayer and discussion guide, and you can also order the DVD "Answer the Cry: Faces of Hope" to show to your guests. And it's all free, although if you can make a donation to cover shipping costs, that would be grace.

I'm going to host an Orphan's Table meal at my house for our family and a few close friends. (Close friends: Be looking for your invite.) I am especially excited about how this might impact the kids in attendance, mine own included. I have to think sitting down to a meal of rice and water and than talking about how God would want us, as a family, to help children without families will make a tangible impact.

But here's the deal: You have to order your Orphan's Table package TODAY for it to make it to your house by November 6. Packages ordered after October 21 will be shipped as soon as possible, but there's no guarantee they will make it to your house by Orphan Sunday. Of course, you can host your own meal to talk about orphans at any time, so if you miss the deadline, I would still urge you to act. But if you can order today, and join with the global Church on November 6 and cry out for orphans? You will be blessed.

If you want to know more about Orphan Sunday, I would love to answer any questions or help you on the road. You can grab the button below. And please, spread the word. I am so grateful for my many blog friends whose hearts beat with God's passion for the orphan.

Orphan Sunday

Candles - 31 Days of Sabbath : 16

In October, in Minnesota, our daily quota of light decreases. Dusk comes, not at bath time, but at dinner time. The sun's rays slant sideways, and the golden light is beautiful but lukewarm.

It is now that I light my candles.

(My favorite trio, shining nightly next to our front door. Originally posted on Instagram.)

It's an autumn ritual for me. Who needs the flickering flames when the sun shines bright until 10:00 PM? It is when the darkness closes in that I crave the light. Even tiny candles like the votives above speak comfort to me. They are a sign of the season, the annual rhythm that marks our life here in the Upper Midwest. Symbols of life slowing, of the coming exhale, of the time to rest.

Shabbath candles have a similar significance.
In the Jewish tradition, after ritual bathing, the woman of the household lights the two Sabbath candles, offering a blessing. When you light your candles, offer any blessing that reflects the thoughts of your heart.
May our hearts be lifted, our spirits refreshed , as we light the Sabbath candles. May the light fill our home with kindness and peace. Blessed is the loving Spirit by whose power we consecrate the lighting of these candles.
Like the sounding of a bell that calls the monks to meditation, as the lighting of the candles begins the Mass, as the lighting of the candles begins Sabbath time, so does the lighting of these candles call our souls to rest and delight.
- Sabbath, by Wayne Muller
Tonight, around 5:30, I will go around my house and light my candles. Today isn't Sabbath. But for just a moment, I will stop and pray and thank God for His many gifts. In this way, I celebrate a Sabbath moment.

All because of tiny candles.

Should I bring my daughter to Women of Faith?

I have tickets to attend Women of Faith: Imagine this weekend at the Excel Center in St. Paul. It's a ridiculous privilege to be on the blog team for this particular event, and I'm excited to sit for even a few minutes and hear God's wisdom spoken by women.

But this weekend is also fall break for most of Minnesota schools; no classes Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Many families use this long weekend to travel or do something big or just relax and enjoy the autumn weather. Which means, while I have two tickets to Women of Faith, most of my grown-up girlfriends aren't available to attend with me.

So I'm thinking of taking my youngest girlfriend instead -- my daughter Natalie, age 10.

Good idea? Or am I setting myself up for failure? Part of me wonders if the speakers would be talking over Natalie's head. I don't want her to be bored. But another part of me thinks just exposing her to thousands of women who are passionate about Jesus is a good thing, no matter what she grasps intellectually or spiritually.

A couple of caveats:
1 I'm only planning to attend Saturday's sessions, and I may not even stay for all of those, depending on the needs of the rest of my family that day.
2. The last time I attended Women of Faith, I lived in San Diego. So it was at least 10 years ago, maybe more. For those of you who've attending since then, is it age appropriate for a 10-year-old girl? I was childless in those days, so I didn't look at Women of Faith through the eyes of a mom.

Share your thoughts? I'd love to hear them. (And if you're interested in attending too, tickets are still available.)

Guilt - 31 Days of Sabbath : 15

I'm falling behind in my 31 Days of Sabbath series. Ironically, it's because I'm resting.

And while I doubt you've noticed, I've noticed. I'm embarrassed and squirmy and even a tad guilt-ridden about it.

Which is ridiculous, no? To feel guilty about resting during a series on the Sabbath.

But this is where we are, as a culture. This is where I am, as a person. Even after 10 months of reading and studying and praying about Sabbath, I have an uneasy peace with doing something as simple as falling asleep in Teyla's bed while I wait for Miss Bundle of Energy to calm down. (I did it twice more since Saturday, for the record.)

I suppose the good news, if I'm going to be completely honest, is that I'm learning to stop anyway. After all, I did allow myself the luxury of taking unintended Sabbaths after a Week O' Crazy instead of forcing myself to stay awake and post. I read a few extra books to Kieran when he asked, and I listened to Natalie's story about school the other morning instead of turing on my computer, and I stopped typing just a few minutes ago to "taste" the Play-Dough shake Connor brought to me. (It was delicious, by the way. Sour blue raspberry with lemon swirl on top.)

And I'm learning to shrug off the guilt, because God says rest is good. And I'm believing God, not my culture.

Life Saver - 31 Days of Sabbath : 14

Today, I am celebrating Sabbath. Not because I want to, but because I will crack completely if I don’t.

The last 10 days have been the busiest of fall, stuffed with fun like a scarecrow full of straw. We went Up North for a long weekend with Corey’s parents. An hour after we got home last Sunday, my parents, my sister and her three children arrived to stay with us for a week. We hosted a gathering for my parents to share about their new ministry and we ate at my families favorite Twin Cities restaurants (I lost track of how many times Emily ate at CafĂ© Latte last week) and we relished watching all seven cousins playing together under one roof. We went to Trader Joe's and the Minnesota Children's Museum and Teddy Bear Park. Everyone was gone by Friday night, just in time for us to celebrate Connor’s 8th birthday Saturday by hosting six boys here for a spy party. (I realized this weekend that I have thrown 22 birthday parties in my 10 years of parenting. Maybe next October I’ll do 31 days of Birthday Parties.)

Bottom line, as Corey would surely be saying to me right now, complete with that hand motion that says Get To The Point: We’re tired. Even good busy is busy.

This morning, at church, where I was manning our church’s Pumpkin Patch sign-up table, Natalie sided up to me and said, “So what are we doing today?”

Nothing, child. Nothing.

Sabbath is the healing I need. Today, it's not just a choice. It's saving my life.

A Jewish Sabbath - 31 Days of Sabbath : 13

A few days ago, I read a quote from Eugene Peterson (who is really responsible for starting me on this Sabbath journey) that I can't stop thinking about. In response to a question about how we slow down, he said:
There’s one book which I think is indispensable for convincing you [Sabbath is important] - Abraham Heschel’s book, The Sabbath. If you read that book three times, you will think, “There is no way I cannot keep the Sabbath. If I’m going to honor God, I’ve got to keep a Sabbath.” It’s a paperback, inexpensive. If the commandments don’t convince you, which they should, Heschel should do it. (Emphasis mine)
I immediately added The Sabbath to my Amazon cart. It came today. And I'm already entranced.

The author's daughter wrote the foreword. Her description of the family's weekly Sabbath observance makes me hunger for this sort of tradition for my own family. For me.
Friday evenings in my home were the climax of the week, as they are for every religious Jewish family. My mother and I kindled the lights for the Sabbath, and all of a sudden, I felt transformed, emotionally and even physically. ...

The sense of peace that came upon us as we kindled the lights was created, in part, by the hectic tension of Fridays. Preparation for a holy day, my father often said, was as important as the day itself. During the busy mornings, my mother shopped for groceries, and in the afternoons, the atmosphere grew increasingly nervous as she cooked. My father came home from his office an hour or two before sunset to take care of his own preparations, and as the last minutes of the workweek came to a close, both of my parents were in the kitchen, frantically trying to remember what they might have forgotten to prepare. ...

Then, suddenly, it was time: twenty minutes before sunset. Whatever hadn't been finished in the kitchen we simply left behind as we lit the candles and blessed the arrival of the Sabbath My father writes: "The Sabbath comes like a caress, wiping away fear, sorrow and somber memories."
Don't you love that?

I will write more in the coming days about the intersection of Sabbath theory and Sabbath reality -- and intersection that is quite messy and congested for me, since I didn't grow up with a Sabbath tradition and I'm a mom to little ones.

But for now, I will just wrap that picture of Sabbath around me like a fuzzy fleece blanket and let it warm me all the way to my soul.

The Rizers

I know I'm posting a lot lately -- if I keep up with 31 Days of Sabbath and post every day this month, I will have posted more in October than I did the entire first half of the year.

But my excitement is such that I must interrupt regularly scheduled broadcasting to share this.

I have memorized 14 Bible verses in the last two weeks. Even better -- MY KIDS have memorized 14 Bible verses in the last two weeks.

How? Two weeks ago, I downloaded The Rizers new album, Rise Up. And viola. Memorization complete.

Who are The Rizers, you ask? Well, have you heard of Seeds Family Worship? Bible verses set to music? It's a simple concept that holds great potential. But like a superpower, if not properly controlled, it can go very wrong. The key is -- it must be done RIGHT for the kids to want to listen to it AND for the parents to put up with it.

In my opinion, both Seeds and The Rizers fit that bill. The biggest difference is style of music. If Seeds is Chris Tomlin, The Rizers are Newsboys. Or maybe The Bangles. Think pop rock with an 80s twist. Infectious. Fun. Loud. These songs are so catchy, I listen to them when the kids aren't even in the car. And I may have made track 1 my October Siesta Memory Challenge verse.

You know how much I like The Rizers? I'm going to give away a copy of Rise Up. Using my own allowance money. Just because I want to. Leave me a comment here if you're interested. I'll draw a winner in a week.

Or, if you want to sample or buy their music for yourself, right now, without waiting, you can get it on iTunes or Amazon.

And then, I dare you not to sing along.

(I kid you not. Right now, as I'm writing this, Natalie is in the next room working on her homework and singing Bible verses under her breath. Suh-weet!)

(Do I even need to add that I am not being compensated in any way for this post or this giveaway? I'm just doing it because I had to share. And I'm sanguine. This is what we do.)

CONTEST CLOSED: The winner is Sarah at 32 Flavors! Thanks for entering, everyone, and by all means, buy this CD even if you didn't win! It will make a great Christmas present.

Unintended Sabbath - 31 Days of Sabbath : 12

I just fell asleep in Teyla's bed.

It's the involuntary consequence of lying down next to a clean, cuddly three-year-old in a darkened room after a triple reading of Apple Trouble at the tail end of an exhausting day.

I thought I was snuggling. Turns out, I was celebrating an unintended Sabbath. Instead of fighting the tiredness, I gave in to it and let it to overtake me like a oceanic tide. I sighed and wrapped my arms around Teyla's frame and I slept. (For at least a few minutes.)

Almost every Sabbath book I've read this past year has a story like this one from Wayne Muller.
When I gather with friends and colleagues for Sabbath retreats, those courageous few who manage to carve out a day or a weekend for quiet reflection often arrive thoroughly exhausted. By the afternoon, some inevitably fall asleep right in the middle of our meditations. When they awaken they quickly apologize for their spiritual transgressions; they feel ashamed and embarrassed. I reassure them it is good when they sleep. It is a sign of trust, that they feel safe enough finally to let go and surrender to their weariness.
Allowing myself to admit I'm tired, feeling the ache in my bones and my feet, thanking God for a warm bed and even the tasks that created my weariness - these are echoes of Sabbath rest.

When was the last time you consciously chose to let yourself sleep, even when you had other things to do?

Unitasking - 31 Days of Sabbath : 11

It started because I was tired of calling my kids the wrong name.

“Na .. Con .. you! You on the couch!”

All moms do it at some point. But for me, it had become an epidemic. A little self-examination, and I diagnosed a scattered brain. My black belt multitasking skills had chopped up my concentration. I couldn’t focus to save my life. Even when I was sitting still, my mind was chasing thoughts that flew like scraps of paper in a windstorm.

The phenomenon isn’t unique to me. The last few years, a myriad of studies says multitasking isn't as efficient as we want to believe, that the deluge of data we face every day drastically affects our ability to focus. Stanford researchers found multitaskers "do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time." One of the world's leading brain scientist even believes the technology barrage is "rewiring our brain," that while the multitasking stops, our thinking remains fractured. (Wondering how your brain is doing? You can test your focus here.)

There are many strategies to combat this. I would gently suggest Sabbath should be at the top of our list. For what is a day of rest but a day of learning to pay attention to what is right in front of us? Sabbath, by definition, is a time of sacred unitasking.

I tried this myself, back in August. The final three weeks of summer, I tried to do only one thing at a time. No checking Twitter while I waited for the Star Tribune site to load. No looking at the forecast at a red light. No reading blogs while listening to Connor tell me a story. I even turned off my beloved Pandora so I wouldn't be distracted while cooking dinner.

I'll be honest with you: It was a hard three weeks. My brain has almost completely lost the ability to focus. Even without outside distractions, I would find myself standing in the middle of my closet, with a blank look on my face, wondering why I was in there. I would daydream when I tried to play with my kids. And yes, I still got their names wrong, occasionally.

But. I got them right more than usual. In the end, I found my unitasking experiment taught me the following things:

1. I can only do one thing at a time. No. Really. I might think I can do two things a a time, but I'm really just switching back and forth between two tasks. All those times I called one of my kid by the wrong name? It was almost always because I was talking distracted.

2. Social media is a blessing and a curse. I am grateful for the friendships I nurture on Twitter and Facebook. But because both streams of information update in real-time, I find it impossible not to sneak a peak whenever I am the slightest bit bored. (Read: I run to my computer every five minutes.) Solution? Shut it off. The last three weeks of August, I checked Facebook and Twitter just twice a day -- once in the morning, once at night. And because I use Tweetdeck to update both, I shut the program off the rest of the time. This made it harder for me to sit at my desk and mindlessly surf Twitter -- something I realized I do a lot, to my horror. Exiting Tweetdeck also got rid of the pop-ups that announce something new is posted. Otherwise, I was -- what one researcher called -- a "sucker for irrelevancy."

3. Unitasking is hard work. It took a lot of mental energy to do only one thing at a time. And my productivity decreased, for sure. But you know what? I enjoyed life more. Once the internal swirl stilled to a mere breeze, I found it easier to be present in the moment. I noticed more, thought more, prayed more. I lived more intentionally, less on instinct. (Funny that unitasking requires intention for me, while multitasking has become default.)

4. Ultimately, I need Sabbath. Taking one day a week to unplug and set myself before the Living God is cleansing. I am reminded of how big God is, how loved I am. Life's stresses become largely irrelevant. My ship is righted. I am able to set my face toward the coming days with a quiet peace and joy, knowing that God goes before me.

My prayer is that Sabbath will renew my mind and restore my center. I don't want to live distracted. And someday, maybe someday, I will call my children by their rightful names without having to concentrate.

Let it be, Lord. Let it be.

Thanksgiving - 31 Days of Sabbath : 10

Sabbath is a nesting doll. Tucked inside are layered sibling concepts.

Mindfulness. Joy. Peace. Trust.

And at the heart of it all, thankfulness.

It is impossible to have true Sabbath without gratitude.

As I write this, my Canadian friends a few hundred miles to the north celebrate Thanksgiving. My mind naturally draws toward Ann Voskamp and her One Thousand Gifts.

What was it Ann said about eucharisteo, about how counting gifts slows the time?
When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment.

And when I’m always looking for the next glimpse of glory, I slow and enter. And time slows. Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows. ...

Giving thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention. In this space of time and sphere, I am attentive, aware, accepting the whole of the moment, weighing it down with me all here.

During Sabbath, time slows. We are present, aware of what we have, not what we need. Aware of what we've been given, not what we want. God's beauty surrounds us always, and during Sabbath, we suddenly see. Like the disciples on the mount, when we become fully awake, we behold his glory.

And our hearts pour out thanks upon thanks.

A Sabbath Mood - 31 Days of Sabbath : 9

Whatever is foreseen in joy
must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
by our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
the hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
by work of ours; the field is tilled
and left to grace. That we may reap,
great work is done while we're asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
rests on our day, and finds it good.
- Wendell Berry (a man I've come to see as the Poet Laureate of Sabbath)

The Ancient Paths - 31 Days of Sabbath : 8

We are at the North Shore again this weekend, hiking between towering pine and golden aspen and pounding surf that is the color of sea glass. The trails whisper to me. "Walk here. Behold the beauty. The Sabbath awaits."

It is a new path. But it has a wise soul.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (
Jeremiah 6:16)

Misunderstood - 31 Days of Sabbath : 7

You know what's hard about Sabbath?

Other people might think you are lazy.

They might think you are taking the easy way out when you say, "I'm sorry. I can't do this anymore. I need to rest." They might think you are un-American for not always being busy. They might believe you are looking for ways to shift responsibility. They might judge your motives or your passion or your priorities.

Ironically, the best way to free yourself from the chains of external approval is to celebrate Sabbath. For there, you find your way back to God's heart. And once again, His blessing is all that matters.

To that end, I am now going to turn off the computer and rest. Even if you think I'm being careless.

This is scary.

Counting - 31 Days of Sabbath : 6

Teyla is a spunky and bright three and a half years old now, and thus, getting quite good at counting. She usually makes it to 12 or 13 before she starts to lose her way. And then it's "14, 18, 17, 18, 15, 17, 20!"

She is delighted with herself, and it goes without saying, we are delighted with her. Learning to count is one of those basic skills of the Western preschooler. Not only does it set the foundation for early math, but it helps them to navigate the world of parental demands. "You can watch two episodes of Bubble Guppies, and then the TV goes off" or maybe "I will count to three, and if your shoes still aren't on, you will go straight to a time out."

But I sometimes wonder if we are teaching our children to count the right things. In our society, numbers are important because, with them, we count money, possessions, years. We count the number of times we've moved and the cost of a new car and how many miles we have to accrue before we can go to Hawaii.

Numbers give us the tools to assess our world. Nothing wrong with that. But do we teach our children to count most the things that are important to God? Do we number the tangible and thus give it weight, and leave the intangible to the breeze and thus render it inconsequential?

The Sabbath teaches us to count what's real.

Wayne Muller tells this story, in his book "Sabbath."
My friend Janie was visiting the home of an old potter at Santa Clara pueblo. She was admiring the enormous collection of pots her host had on display throughout his home. "How many do you have?" my friend innocently inquired. Her host lowered his eyes. "We do not count such things," he replied quietly.

During Sabbath, we stop counting. How do we count friendship or laughter? How do we count the value of honesty, or bread from the oven? How can we count the sunrise, the trusting clasp of a child's hand, a melody, a tear, a lover's touch? So many truly precious things grow only in the soil of time; and we can only begin to know their value when we stop counting.

During Sabbath, things that grow in time are honored at least as much as those things we would buy and sell. At rest, we can take deeper measure of our true wealth. If we do not rest, if we do not taste and eat and serve and teach and pray and give thanks and do all those things that grow only in time, we will become more impoverished than we will ever know.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)