Love, Grow, & Overflow

My cup overflows. My laundry does too.

Category: Friendship


Spring’s here, finally.  Winter stayed past its welcome, but the tree outside our house budded anyway, defying day after day of snow and gray skies.  It’s not pretty yet, but the grass is greening and those buds are promises hanging from the branch, ready to pop.  I open the windows even though it’s still cold.  I need to inhale spring, to close my eyes and remembering how sunshine feels on skin.

Everything’s ready to bloom, but I’m thinking about falling.

We love living in this community.  There’s a lot of love growing in this place, and it often feels like we are smack-dab in the middle of it.  As a mom, the fastest way to my heart is to sincerely love my kids, and I didn’t know so many people could fit in there.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.

There’s the friend who sent us this, back when my daughter’s tiny heart was just a flutter, back when only a handful of people knew she existed.  Already in the heart of God, oh yes. What a sweet reminder.

There are the friends who brought meals and encouragement and rocking arms for a baby who was nicknamed “cry-cry” (and this new mother could’ve shared that title.)

The friend who helped us plan financially for our first child, teaching us one-on-one in her kitchen, my nauseous self nibbling my way to debtless one cracker at a time.

The friend who came over and taught me her couponing system, bouncing my little girl on her hip as she talked.

The friends who knit blankets, prayers stitched into the fibers that my kids snuggle even today, still covered by love and yarn and prayers.

When I got sick with baby number two, the friend who rushed over with a hospital-grade thermometer and swept my one-year-old off to the zoo.

The friends who, when my husband traveled out of town and my Caesarean stitches were not yet healed, stopped by to lift my toddler out of the crib each morning. And put her in at nap time.  And lift her out when she woke in the afternoon.  And back again at bedtime.

The friend who offered, instead of a meal, to clean my bathroom, Christ-hands scrubbing my grout.

Everything’s ready to bloom here, but I’m thinking about falling.  They’re tied together, newness and birth and falling under the weight of it all.  Falling, and being caught.

I think of those trust-falls that groups do for teambuilding, where one person stands with their hands across their chest and falls backwards into the arms of everyone else.  When I was overtired and post-surgical and sick and falling, so many arms caught me.

When I think of that catching time, my hands still go to my heart.

My list above is from just one season of many we’ve lived here, and they’ve all brought blessings like sunshine.  We can breathe deeply here.  Extend our roots deeply.  Fall a little more deeply each day.

Oh, yes.


IMG_1048-001My daughter’s favorite coat is long and minky-soft, zebra print with a ruffle around the bottom.  The inside is lined in hot pink.  Last week she wore it with big white furry boots and a red boys’ snow hat that looked like a race car.  She carried a fluffy white stuffed cat in her arms.  It was quite the outfit, completely over the top.  She wore it, happy and beautiful.

The zebra coat is a loaner, actually.  It came our way by means of a complicated pipeline of hand-me-ups and hand-me-downs that my mom friends have designed to maximize the cute-clothes wearing in our group.  It doesn’t matter to my daughter that someone else’s initials are on the tag.  It’s hers because she wears it, because someone draped it across her shoulders.

She just turned four, my little girl in zebra stripes.  We joke that her birthday is becoming a season in itself.  Our family lives out of town, so we started celebrating a couple weeks early when relatives surprised her with a couple gifts.  We had cupcakes at her grandpa’s house and more cupcakes the next day with two of her grandmas.  When we returned home, traveling friends stayed overnight and brought a gift for her.  Her godmother had her over for a special dinner with cloth napkins and jewels scattered across the table.  On her birthday, more friends stopped by.  Relatives posted a video of them singing birthday wishes.  Others left messages for her.

One thing is true: my daughter is loved lavishly.

I don’t believe in “too much love,” and I am so thankful for people who remind my daughter that she is cherished and dear.   I know, though, that many kids are also phenomenal, and yet not all have a parade of people waiting to pour love and cuddly toys upon them.  I know it’s unfair.  I don’t want her to become spoiled or entitled. Sometimes, it leaves me a little conflicted.

My daughter has no such conflicts.  She is loved.  It is hers because she wears it, the love of so many people draped across her shoulders.  It bears the marks of the people who have passed it down.  It is broken-in love, lavish and soft.  It is bright and loud, sometimes a bit over the top.  When she wears it, she is beautiful, bold enough to stand against the piercing winds.


Photo by Curtis Gregory Perry

It’s summer.  We do summers especially well here in the north, where snow may fall in October or May.  Even early June sometimes keeps us in the occasional sweatshirt, so when summer really comes it’s like cracking an egg, sunshine and warmth running thick and golden across our town.

I take the kids to the town festival – my two little ones, and two more who fall into the sweet category of chosen-family.   I’ve known them since their momma could hold them both at the same time, one on each hip.  They’ve known my kids from birth.  Even before that, when my babies were still in my womb, the boys prayed for them by name, earnest and velvet-rich words of children who know their prayers are heard and avail much.

My children are silent and awestruck.  They take it all in: fried foods and flashing lights and music and crowds.  I’ve got a strip of ride tickets in my hand and a couple of guys who can’t wait to use them.  The rides seemed so innocuous five years ago, but now I feel my stomach plunge as I watch them careen into the sky.  They go so high.  They go so fast.  I lean forward to tell my kids the screams are fun screams.  I say a quick little prayer that the boys will choose rides that aren’t named after ways to die.

They’re preteens now.  Their faces grow more angled, their shoulders broaden, foreshadowing the young men they are becoming.  They choose the Matterhorn, which, despite its mountain moniker, stays blissfully low to the ground.  They’re old enough to catch the eye of two whispering girls who hop into the car behind them, and young enough not to notice.  They wave at us enthusiastically before the ride starts.  We wave back, standing in the shadow of a midway stall where a dunk-tank clown taunts the passersby.  For the next ninety seconds, the boys are a blur.  Our eyes search for them, but before we can point them out, they’ve flown by.

They exit the ride smiling, and my daughter decides that she wants to ride too.  We’re nowhere near the kiddie rides, but she is adamant.  I’m about to tell her no, to offer a bribe or consolation prize, when I see the Tilt-a-Whirl.  It’s bubble-gum pink with cupped benches that spin in small circles.  This ride’s greatest risk seems to be centrifugal vomit, so I say yes and hand over three tickets.

She hops out of the double stroller and they climb the stairs hand-in-hand.   The sign says she has to ride with a responsible person, and I debate that definition in my head.   We wait forever, my mind contriving possible disasters.  What if her shoelace gets stuck in the track as they walk to their car, and no one notices, and the ride starts up?  What if she hates it, screams in fear for the next two minutes?  I call up instructions to have her sit in between the boys, and they nod.  One puts a protective hand on her shoulder.

They board the ride.  She’s snug in the middle, like when they play video games on the couch and she wedges herself between them to watch.  They pull the bar down across their laps, and she grabs on.  When the ride starts, their car spins and I can’t see them.  When it spins into view again, her face is pure joy.  Her eyes dart from side to side as she tries to focus, mouth agape, laughing.  The boys laugh with her.  Her head lolls forward a little, and then the car catches a hill and spins faster.  She leans back, looks up, laughing harder.  I laugh, too, suddenly amused and relieved and sentimental all at once.

It’s so beautiful, this moment blinking in the midway lights.  How did we get here so soon?  Sometimes it terrifies me, the speed of this life, the dips ahead I am blind to see.  It’s warm and gold like summer, though, this journey with the people I love.  We sit leg to leg and shoulder to shoulder, holding tight and laughing, heads thrown back to the sky.

One Foot in Front of the Other

My 5K was a week and a half ago.

I was not ready.  I went anyway.

Originally, I enlisted a running buddy and we developed a pretty straightforward plan: do an eight week training program, run the race at the end of it.  Unfortunately, due to several different factors including crutches, crises and unexpected out-of-town trips, neither of us was prepared to run.  It was important to us to still complete the 5K, since we were participating long-distance in a tribute 5K in memory of our friends’ daughter, so my running buddy became my walking buddy.

Other than the Komen Race for the Cure several years ago, in which I bobbed down city streets in a river of thousands of pink-clad casual walkers, I’ve never participated in a 5K before.  There were a few hundred participants in this one, and most of them were runners showing off lots of thigh muscle in die-hard runner clothing, fancy smartphone armbands around their biceps.  And then there was me, wearing my race shirt (apparently most people don’t wear their race shirts to the race – who knew?) and baggy shorts.  However, I’m pretty sure that once I pinned my race number onto the front, no one could tell the difference.

In addition to the awesomeness of an official bib number, the race started with a pistol shot in the air.  (At least it sounded like a pistol.  I was pretty far back in the crowd because I didn’t want to get trampled by the real runners, so I didn’t actually see it.  But it’s nice to hear a gunshot in an urban area without feeling the need to duck and cover.)  And there were real tables of people handing out water along the way, with empty cups scattered across the grass by the runners who were so dedicated that they did not have time to use the trash can.  Hard core.  And there was a nice person clocking us at the end of the first mile, which was amusing – nothing like official proof that you are not very fast.

We weren’t running, but we clipped along at a pretty good walking speed for most of the race, close to the front of the non-runner crowd.  The race was two big loops around an urban park, which meant that halfway through, we got to watch people who were twice as fast as us cross the finish line.  A few hundred feet into the second loop, we noticed that one of the police cars on race patrol was coasting at our heels.  Apparently, most of the walkers had stopped after the first loop instead of doing the full 5K, and we were the last people in the race.  The very…. last…. people.

Well… we may be newbies to this 5K thing, but we were certainly not about to be last-place newbies.  So we started running.  We ran past several people.  We speed-walked past several more.  And then we saw the orange cones marking the finish lines, and we ran the rest of the way.  I’m sure it was humorous to the people at the line to see us almost-last-place folk carrying on like champions, cheering as we ran across, grasping each others’ hand victoriously in the air.

We felt honored to complete the race in celebration of the life of Samantha, and in support of our friends who will race this coming weekend.  Still, I expected the 5K to feel a little disappointing and anti-climactic.  After all, we’d failed to reach our goals.  Instead, I found it inspiring and fun.  I still don’t understand how people can get addicted to running, but I can see myself doing more 5Ks – and running all the way.

Unpretty Trees

There is a little tree on the side of our yard that I love.  Its branches are high enough to walk under, but low enough to reach up and touch (or lift a child to touch).  It stands about the size of our one-story home, so it fits well in our yard.  Its leaves are a deep, bright green, and it has lots and lots of branches that mushroom out into an almost perfect dome.  It is a fantastic tree to anchor a game of ring-around-the-rosy.  It’s just a great tree!

This spring, the tree didn’t bud.  All the trees in our neighborhood were in bloom or at least on their way, but my little tree buddy’s branches were stark and lifeless.  We rent, so my husband mentioned it to the property owners who asked their gardener, a mutual friend, to check it out.  He came out a week or two later and declared it alive and about to bud.  Sure enough, leaves have now appeared everywhere and are on their way to maturity.

In passing, the gardener mentioned that it was sort-of an ugly tree!  Our friend knows far more about plants than we do.  I’ve seen his work; he has a green thumb and a great eye for natural beauty.  We, on the other hand, are not landscaping people.  I have a hard time telling which plants in our yard are weeds and which were intentionally planted by the former owners.  I’m guessing most people who know anything about trees might find themselves sharing the gardener’s opinion.  I’m fascinated that the tree could be something of such great worth to one person and of such low value to another.  I guess it all depends on the rubrics we use to measure worth.

Ultimately, it’s just a tree.  Its success as a tree isn’t swayed by either the gardener’s opinions or my own.  The same idea applies to people, though.  I wonder how many people I have mentally marginalized because they’ve struck me as unpretty trees.  I’m not one to be intentionally cruel, but there are plenty of people that it’s just easier to pass by: that relative who always has something negative to say… the coworker who is so difficult to be around… that young adult who doesn’t say much and is hard to engage.  They are someone’s beautiful trees, in this realm or the next.  Perhaps, with the right eyes, they could be mine.

The Things We Hold


My daughter stared, crestfallen, at her broken teacup.  Her friend was visiting, and she’d asked me to let them play with her porcelain tea set, so I took down from the high shelf in her room.  They had played wonderfully together until, in a moment of impulsivity, a tiny hand banged it against the table.  The delicate gold-rimmed cup cracked into jagged-edged halves.

As I searched for shards and tissues, I had a bit of mom remorse, thinking I should’ve suggested the plastic set instead, and reconsidering whether a three-year-old should have something so fragile.  A couple days later, when the super glue had dried, my daughter handled her tea cups with a new reverence.  Little by little, she is learning to take good care of what is precious to her.  That’s a lesson she wouldn’t have learned with her plastic set.

I know the tea party phase will pass all too quickly, and soon she will be busy flirting and texting (or rolling her eyes at her lame mom who still thinks texting is the big thing).  I already worry about those tough years.  I’m encouraged, though, by the character of the middle school and high school kids I know.

In my pre-mom days, I got the chance to volunteer as a chaperone on youth events at our church.  On one trip, our group had stopped at the café in a grocery store for a quick meal, and on the way in, some of the girls noticed a cute boy working outside the store.  Unfortunately, one of the girls got a nosebleed in the middle of our meal.  She went to the bathroom and tried to get it to stop without success, so she sat, embarrassed, trying to look discreet while holding a napkin up to her nose.

Soon it was time to leave.  It was a mortifying situation for a preteen – walking by a cute boy with blood running from one’s nose.  She had friends who loved her, though.  The rest of the girls grabbed napkins and crumpled them up to their noses, too.  My favorite photo of youth ministry was taken that day: our cute girls, trendy boots and tennies crunching the snow, walking toward the car in a wide row.  Even with their faces half-hidden by napkins, it’s obvious that they are laughing.

This could have been a story about a cute boy.   I wouldn’t have remembered it.  Instead, it’s the story about the type of friend I hope my daughter has one day, and the type of friend I hope my daughter is one day – the kind who remembers that we take good care of what is precious to us.

Sometimes, that looks like a preschooler holding her teacups with deliberate gentleness.  Sometimes, that looks like twelve-year-olds holding napkins to their noses with loving abandon.  People-treasures or moment-treasures or thing-treasures – our love is shown in how we handle the things we hold.