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So, we moved.

We packed all the things and we drove west and here we are now, in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada.

When we left the little farm in Saskatchewan, a new family was just beginning to snuggle into the big old farmhouse. Two sweet boys and their parents, and a whole new batch of LEGO and toy trucks and dirty knees. It made me happy to know there would be bugs in jars on the windowsill of the kitchen, once again.

When we drove away from that little farm, I cried. Carter was with me, and my foster daughter, and I was tired from a long week-that-felt-like-a-year. I was on my way out-of-town for the last time and the farm was my last stop, and when I hugged the new farm-mommy it was a hello and a farewell and a I hope you love it here as much as we did, and I thought I was good. But then, as we were leaving, Carter asked me to stop.

I’ve never been brave enough to jump from that tree, he said.

Do you want to? I asked.

Ya, he said.

So I waited in the car and he ran out to the tree from which his brothers and their friends had jumped to often and so carelessly and he climbed it like a squirrel and without hesitating he leaped.

That’s when I cried.

Because of the leaping.

Because it was the perfect ending and the perfect beginning and because it was brave and cool and the absolute best last-thing-to-do-before-leaving-and-beginning-a-new-adventure thing ever.

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There’s something about turning fifty-one that makes a girl want to unobtrusively slip through the day. Fifty was kind of like sitting on the fence, not really committing to one half-century or the other. But fifty-one, well, that’s like risking a broken hip by jumping off the fence into the downhill side of the pasture.

Tuck and roll, that’s about all you can do.

I had my fifty-first birthday yesterday. Although when I asked my foster son how old he thought I was he said thirty-nine, so I love him the most right now.

Honestly, it was a bit of a snore as far as birthdays go. The husband and children were all away, working or travelling overseas(!) or whatever, and I was home with the fostered ones. And we ran out of milk so there was a grocery trip to town for that, plus my prescription for high cholesterol to refill, so that was glamorous and didn’t make me feel old at all.

And on the day went. Some lovely Facebook messages, a couple of homemade cards from the sweeties here, a few minutes in my yellow chair on the deck (until the sweeties here found me there) and leftovers pulled out of the fridge for supper. A tired man and two tired sons home from their hard-working days, and bless his heart, my husband wants to take me out for my birthday. Except our town is really small and there’s nothing to do if you aren’t into the local bar thing, and even the Snack Shack was closed so we settled for ice cream from the cooler at the gas station and a drive down the back roads.

I love country drives.

Smoke from forest fires way up north made for a hazy day.

Smoke from forest fires way up north made for a hazy day.

Our smokey farm.

Our smokey farm.

Until my fifty-one year old bladder couldn’t take it anymore and we had to come home so I could pee, which also didn’t make me feel old.

And then my sweet baby comes over with this made-with-his-own-hands treasure, and my heart does that little hop skip jump thing, and I think maybe fifty-one won’t be so bad after all. Because Janelle is loved.

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Some things happen quickly. A fast food burger, an internet search, an email. Quick, quick and on to the next thing, and it’s hard to adjust to the things that take their time.

Like a fixing a meal that doesn’t require a can opener, or reading a book instead of a blog post, or raising the kids or planting a garden or making a friend.

Fast has its place. Fast is about getting it done and moving on.

But time-taking, and the personal investment that requires… that’s living.

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Carter’s donkey, Joy, did not arrive in a ready-to-go box. No instant friendship or skipping steps to get to the fun stuff.

This one will take time. That’s a good thing for a boy living in a Hurry Hurry world.

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I’ve been reading/thinking/wondering about joy lately. The people kind, not the donkey kind. And about how joy takes time. Can joy be a habit? Can I deliberately do things to make me a more joyful person? I need to figure this out, because I’m talking about this very thing next weekend, and I’m still not sure.

And if you are wondering, Carter and Joy have spent this past year getting to know each other better. I don’t know if they’d call each other friends, yet. But they’re getting there.

Rest.

But then get up. That’s the hard part. The getting back in the saddle. The returning to the battle. The rising up, taking hold, marching on.

The children would choose the easy sleep in the morning, rather than the harder rise. They’d keep themselves tucked and cozy, if I allowed.

Once in a while, yes, I allow.

But most mornings I don’t. They get up to breakfast and scripture and a few minutes with Dad around the table before he leaves for work. And it’s outside for chores and inside for math and there are beds to make and toilets to clean.

The youngest boy, he’s felt a little beaten up lately. Life has seemed especially hard, with friends moving and a sore throat and the almost-needing-stiches gash above his eye. And he has a cold sore on his lip. He’s been full of heavy sighs and why me’s and this morning, when I call him to the breakfast table, he just… can’t… quite… make… it.

I understand.

So he rests for a bit, right there on the kitchen floor, through the porridge and the scripture and the visiting with Dad.

But he can’t stay there, or his rest will quickly become an obstacle. He’ll be stepped on and frowned at and resented by the other children.

Rest, yes. But then get up.

Do the hard rise, and carry on. Face what must be faced, do what must be done.

Today, don’t let rest become the goal. Instead, let it be the motivation. There are good things waiting out there for the well-rested you and me to be doing.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

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It’s been almost two years since I first published this. I’m needing the reminder this week, when life is pressing and deadlines are looming and much is calling… to do the hard rise and to carry on.

A few years ago we took a family vacation to the Black Hills in South Dakota. We toured museums and viewed mountainsides that had been carved into art and we played.

One day, after stopping in at a university to see yet another display of fossils and rocks and bones, we had lunch on the grounds. I’d packed sandwiches and such, and because we didn’t see any Keep Off the Grass signs, we spread it all out and picnicked. People were coming and going so it was a little like picnicking in a fish bowl. I was mildly uncomfortable because that’s how I get whenever I am doing something that causes people to look at me. I imagine their disapproval. I wonder if I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing.

While I’m sitting on the grass, handing out the food and imagining all that criticism from all those passing people, I look over and see Carter. Eating his sandwich. On the lawn. Where people can see him.

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My husband and my children don’t have the same hangups that I do. They don’t think the same way. They don’t wonder or care, usually, what other people think. They say things like:

No one is looking, or

You’ll never see these people again so who cares, or

If it’s really a problem, someone will tell us to stop.

My husband and my children, because of their whatever attitudes, often have a lot more fun. They seem to live more freely. They try things more easily. They do things like:

Going to a movie alone, dressed in his Hallowe’en costume complete with creepy-eyed contact lenses, just because he wanted to and couldn’t find a friend who could go with him. As a teenager, I would have never done that.

Taking up interesting hobbies, like knitting, even though he might be teased for it. I still have a hard time doing something for which I might be teased.

Developing their personal tastes in things like art and music, even though they aren’t typical interests among their peers. This one, I understand.

I’m getting better at all of this. I’m getting better at caring more about what God thinks and less about what people think. Oh, what freedom! I’ve been able to say no sometimes and to be okay, for the most part, with what others might think about it. I’ve also been able to say yes to some things I wouldn’t have said yes to before. Nice.

I keep this picture of my uninhibited, creative, sandwich-eating boy on the desktop of my computer. It reminds me to let go of the fear of being criticized, and to embrace the joy of living in the moment.

Thanks, Carter, for showing me how to really eat a sandwich.

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Life has been fast-paced lately, and I’ve found it hard to write enough sentences to put together into anything resembling a blog post. This week I’ve decided to repost some old stuff that was fun to write at the time, and fun to remember now. I hope that’s okay!

Thanks for your patience.

When he was little he’d let his brothers do whatever they wanted, so this.

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Then he grew a bit and changed his mind about that. He wasn’t as willing to be the canvas upon which they expressed their creativity. He decided to have a say in it all, to be his own man, and he didn’t let them do whatever they wanted anymore.

Now he wears his hair short because long hair bugs him.

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He wears his jeans baggy and his sweaters wooly because that’s what makes him feel comfortable. And his socks are wool too and they fit just right into his knee-high water-proof, snow-proof, barn-proof, fashion-proof camouflage boots. And that old green army surplus jacket handed down from his older brother to finish the ensemble.

He’s completely fine with how he looks. He couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks.

I think I’m that way, too, until I’m standing in the Southland Mall in the city and every other woman there is wearing black leggings tucked into fashion boots.

I look down at my non-skinny jeans and my actual winter boots for, you know, winter… and I want to run to the nearest Aldo’s or Gap’s or wherever they get the cool clothes from and beg them to help me. To please make me look like everyone else.

Then I see him walking toward me with his dad, and he’s all bebopping along to the music in his head and I remember I helped him be that confident in himself and I creep back slowly from the peer-pressure ledge I was about to jump from.

They all did it, but my youngest boy was the worst for it. He had a rock in his hand, and a second one stashed in his mouth, almost all the time. He loved, I mean he LOVED throwing rocks.

It was a problem.

Because people don’t like being hit by rocks. And people don’t like their stuff being hit by rocks. And people just plain don’t like to see kids throwing rocks, period.

My story begins a decade ago, and we are at church, and it is after the service is finished and everyone is standing around in the parking lot visiting and a kid comes to tell me that Carter is throwing rocks again.

I feel all the hot things you feel when your kid is being bad, especially when your kid is being bad in public, and maybe extra especially when the public is church. I’m frustrated. And angry. And plain fed up with the boy.

I do the not-very-gentle-haul-the-kid-away-from-THE-EYES-by-the-arm thing that moms do, and we’re sitting in the truck, and I say…

Carter, why do you throw rocks?

And he looks at me, all sincere-eyes and honest-face, and he says, I have to throw rocks, mom. They’re there and I can’t help myself and I just have to.

I’ve thought often over the years about that little conversation. The rock-throwing boy is almost a teenager now, and the next boy is almost grown and the other boy is even more grown and they are all on their journeys away from home and into The World. And the rock throwing has turned into bike riding and tree climbing and home leaving.

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This isn’t a parenting post, not really. It’s not about whether moms should let kids do what they want, or whether moms worry too much about what other people think, or whether rock-throwing is an important developmental stage and stifling it might stifle a child’s sense of who he really is and is meant to be in the world. It’s not any of that.

I get that throwing rocks can be dangerous.

But I also get that sometimes we all (or maybe its just me?) have rock throwing needs.

That feeling that there is something there and I just.can’t.help.myself. and if I’d just pick it up and do with it what I’m meant to do, there would be some kind of grand awesomeness.

The problem is that my whole life I’ve been told not to throw rocks, so I don’t.

My word for this year is DO. This year, I’m limbering up my throwing arm.