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If I’ve struggled with anything in my life, I’ve struggled to believe these two things: I am smart and I am beautiful.

And even greater is the struggle to resist measuring my smartness and beautifulness against her smartness and beautifulness, which is so destructive because we all are, you know. In different ways and at different stages, but we all are so smart and so beautiful. Not one or the other, not not enough of either.

I wish I’d learned this earlier. I wish I’d spent less time worrying about tummy rolls and hairstyles and grade point averages, and more time laughing and living and having fun. I wish I’d grown up learning how to affirm instead of compare. I wish I’d been better at complimenting others and myself. I wish I’d loved better the other girls, instead of harbouring secret jealousies and fighting the demons of self-perceived inadequacies.

I wish we could all accept that we are both smart and beautiful, all the time. We are smart, you guys. We do remarkable things that take brains. We learn stuff and we apply these learned things in creative ways and we adapt to the changes that come with environment and years and we make important decisions and we do clever, important things every single day.

And we are beautiful. We really, really are. We should take such great pleasure in our loveliness. We were gorgeously made and adorned and yes it’s true, beauty comes from inside. It shines right out through our eyes and it’s in our giggles and we don’t even understand, usually, how adorable we are when we smile or when we stroke the dog or when we beat eggs into frothy glory in the chipped blue bowl that was a wedding gift all those years ago.

I look at women differently than I used to. I used to evaluate you, my friend. Isn’t that sad? I used to try to determine whether you were prettier than I or better educated or more happily married or thinner, and I’d feel better or worse about myself based on how I imagined we stacked up against each other.

I don’t do that anymore. I mean, there are lingering wisps of silliness because of how ingrained these measuring-up thoughts and behaviours have been, but I fight them. I try very hard now to use my Jesus eyes and to see you in all your gracefulness and loveliness and brainy-ness.

And guess what? The world has become a friendlier place.

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A lot of people save their posts and pictures for holidays. Or special occasions. I might not see anything from some of you until you take a trip. (And that’s okay; I totally love the trip pictures.)

You know who doesn’t do that, though?

Moms.

Moms photograph and post everything from dirty-faced children in a puddle to the new bedspread they found on sale to what they made for supper.

Some have said this is because moms are looking for validation, or they are trying to portray a life they aren’t really leading, or they are caught in the measuring-up-to-the-joneses trap.

Maybe that’s true for some, but for a lot of moms I think it’s simply because fabulous trips are a thing of the past or the distant future. They will likely be few and far between, anyway, while the children are small.

The farthest some moms will go is between home and the grocery store, and even that trip will require packing a suitcase and planning ahead.

It’s hard sometimes, when you’d love to go and do things. Especially when others are going and doing things.

But staying and doing things can be fabulous, too. So photograph away, mom friends, and I’ll happily view and comment and honestly gush over the things that are happening in your space, right now.

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Recently, mom friends of mine have photographed: crocuses blooming, babies laughing, kids biking, birthday cake candle blowing, dance recital costumes, and baby toe sucking. I am thankful moms have the technology today to take and document these moments. Thanks for sharing them, friends.

On the Wednesday before Mother’s Day, be blessed and happy!

 

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We are in the city for the weekend. A Spring Renewal at a church we love, and it’s already been beautiful. Full and meaningful and dripping with emotion and nostalgia and music and message and love.

We walk into the hall for the Saturday lunch, a fundraising event for a ministry with which we are marginally involved, and there is my cousin Randy, big as life, sitting at one of those long plywood-topped tables. He’s been home for ten months and I’ve known that, but this is the first time I’ve seen him. The last was eighteen years ago, at my grandfather’s funeral, and I was pregnant-like-crazy with my first baby.

That was the last time anyone in the family had seen him. He’s been lost, you see.

He has a story but it’s his to tell, not mine. I can tell you this, though. He was lost, but love found him.

I can tell you this, too. He was my cousin, a boy cute-as-a-button with a smile that could light up your heart and he grew up handsome and strong and charming. Family gatherings brought us together from time to time, and he was sweet and one of the boys, and that was how I knew him.

But he was my husband’s friend.

I see Randy first and my heart fills as I hug him and whisper my happiness at his return, and I cast a look around the room for Lyndon, and I tell Randy how happy Lyndon will be to see him. Then, there he is, and all I can do is stand back and watch the reunion. Holy ground.

I watch as two grown men weep in each others’ arms and I count the seconds as they turn into minutes and that embrace, faces wet and arms tight, is the manliest thing I’ve ever seen.

Are you home? Lyndon asks. Are you really home?

And Randy says, yes.

All weekend my husband leaks joy. Over and over, with wonder in his voice and tears in his eyes, he whispers in my ear, Randy’s home.

This is Spring, I think. This is Renewal.

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Wow, it’s been a year already. Spring Renewal is once more around the corner and this year I play a mini role, teaching a class on joy. It doesn’t get much more joyful than remembering this sweet reunion.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge in nostalgia this week.

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Really, don’t. And if that’s what you are doing, then just do the thing you carved up instead.

I have a friend, a good friend, who is a very busy person (who isn’t?). We would try to get together from time to time, back when the kids were smaller, and she would tell me she had an hour here or there she could give me, or a bit of time on the following afternoon she could offer. It always made me feel a little little, if you know what I mean.

Like the time I showed up at another friend’s house for a Christmas gift exchange we’d planned among three of us and our toddlers. I’d been so excited to have finally met some other women in this new little community I’d moved into, and I walked up to the house hauling my little sled with my little Tyson and our little gifts, and knocked on the door. And knocked again but there was no answer so I peeked my head in and called out we’re here, and walked in a couple of steps to hear two women sharing their unkind opinions about me and my family and my parenting and all the tender fears I’d spoken into the new friendships with them in those visits we’d had.

I put up some pretty strong cautious-about-friendship walls after that.

Maybe you’ve put up some walls, too. Because Sister, friendship can be a minefield of misstep and misunderstanding. Why is that, I wonder?

Why do I have to compare and compete and judge, even when I don’t want to. Why do I measure my parenting against your parenting, or my shape against your shape, or my faith walk against your faith walk?

It’s exhausting, isn’t it. I’ve been working on it for years. On being who I am and accepting who you are and experiencing the beauty of honest and true relationships. It’s one of the reasons I write what I write and try to be transparent and all that.

So really, don’t feel like you have to carve out time for me, because that’s more about you than it is about me.

If you don’t have time, you don’t have time and I’m fine with that.

If you have a little bit of time, enjoy the little bit of time without making me feel like I’m a sacrifice you are making.

And if you don’t really want to be friends, don’t pretend you do and then talk about me when you think I’m not listening.

And for the record, I’ll do the same with you.

Except when I mess up (and I probably will) and I do something to make you feel like you are a burden or a challenge or, heaven forbid, a project.

I don’t want to carve out time for you. If you are my friend then I want you to know I’m all in. I want to embrace and enjoy and luxuriate in the time I am fortunate enough to spend with you.

We are strong women. Let’s be women who care and are fierce about our love and who can trust each other with our hearts. Let’s work together and be happy for each other and be honest with each other. Let’s support and challenge and encourage each other. Let’s cheer our victories and mourn our losses and put aside our differences.

Let’s forgive.

Let’s be friends.

We said goodbye to a friend yesterday. He’s been like one of our boys for a long time and now he’s off on an adventure and so yesterday afternoon after church, like so many Sunday afternoons past, he spent time with us and ate with us and then it was time for him to leave.

IMG_2937 We said goodbye and there were tears and jokes because… boys.

Today is Christmas Eve eve and I have things to do. I have a little boy who needs his laundry done and his bag packed, and I bet the rest of us would like some clean socks, too, and I need to run to town for milk and hopefully to hold a little babe and hug her mom for a few minutes, and we’re out of bread so there’s that.

But I’m thinking of a boy and a goodbye and of how things end. They just do.

Even Advent.

There’s a looming goodbye around the corner. A farewell to a season of waiting, resting, and expecting. And beyond, there is a birth and a hello.

And this is the sacrificial sweetness of goodbyes, for without them the hellos would be impossible.

We call it hope.

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When he was asked to speak that Sunday, he almost said no. He wasn’t sure he wanted to get up there in front of all those eyes and ears and tell everyone and God who his favourite bible character was and why. He let me talk him into it, though, because I said he had good words to share from a good heart, and it would be a good experience.

It’s all good.

So he said he would, and he wrote his two little paragraphs, and he got up there at the front, my man-child, and he said it strong and confident:

Hi. I’m Carter. I’m going to share who my favourite bible character is. His name is David. I chose David because he is a sinner. A big sinner. And he sinned a lot but every time he sinned he turned back to God and that is inspiring for me because I am a sinner and I also need to turn back to God.

And I’m also going to share who I think shared a lot of love to others. I think David, again, shared a lot of love to Jonathon in a manly way. David and Jonathon were the kinds of friends who always watched each others back. And I want to be like David by being a loyal friend and a good Christian.

A loyal friend and a good Christian.

I have some of those in my life. I’m thankful for them, today.

The day begins, chilled kitchen in early morning, waiting for the ticking heat register on the baseboard to warm the room. And a little voice and a hand in mine and an excited, Come and see this. It’s beautiful.

I go, of course, and we peek through window blinds to see the glorious sun, rising on Thanksgiving Sunday.

I could see something pink in the cracks, and then I looked and saw it, and his eyes shine with his discovery, and the day begins with beauty.

It’s full, the day, with preparing food and church and sharing the table with friends. And somewhere in there, there’s a tiny little bit of not-so-thankful-ness.

It hurts to admit, but it starts when he doesn’t have time to carve the turkey when I ask and they don’t clean the basement as clean as I think they should and all these silly little things prick holes in my heart, and some of the thankful leaks away.

It’s silly, I know. So silly, but so human.

Mostly, though, the day is baptized in thankful grace. A beautiful, sun-begun and friendship-warmed day, and this is the honesty of it all. That nothing is perfect, no matter how good the turkey and stuffing and cranberries taste.

Day sinks into evening, and we end it with a long drive to return the oldest to school. I’m tired – we’re all tired – but there is something sweet about finishing this way. Everyone packed into the vehicle, snoozing or listening to music or playing a game on a device, and my husband and I mostly quiet in the front as the prairie rushes by.

IMG_2359 I see the moon outside my window, high and bright in a still-lit sky. I snap her photo quick, and my husband calls my eyes to the view on his side. Sun dogs, glowing beauty around the sinking sun, and he rolls down his window so I can snap them, too.

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We carry on, finishing the day the way it began, in glory. And all the little prickly bits are healed – they always are – by the grace of being together, imperfections and all.