as a mother

Comedian Ali Wong has a short bit about hoarding and helping her mom clean her house.  Tensions ran high when her mom wouldn't let go of a calculator manual.

"You never know when you might need this!"

"Buuuutttt, I do know that I'm gonna have to clean all this $#&@ up when you diiiieee."

It was funny until I thought about my own basement.

I pictured my kids, many years from now, standing trapped in the middle of my crap, still in shock from learning about our financial situation, feeling totally duped.  And then pitying me because I must have been shamefully hiding problems and bad habits and baggage all these years.  Eventually it would all rot into annoyance because cleaning everything out was taking forever.

The last thing I want for my children is to not know the real me.  Ben and I have worked too hard to make our family and our home the safest places for them to be and dream.  

I want them to have a broader, more accurate world view.  I want them to know that owning and renting are both respectable housing options.  I want them to be thoughtful about their choices.  I want them to be unafraid of vulnerability and course-correction.  I want them to make the time to know and love themselves as their Creator does.  And hopefully these things will all converge to create the authentic lives I desire for each of them.

Encouraging them to be brave or be responsible or to confidently be themselves in a resistant culture will have no traction if I'm not doing the same thing.  So here I am, owning my crap, taking big steps to fix things, and staying true to my values regardless of how upstream they are.  All in quite plain view.


we're moving

Did you see my Instagram post?

We just did what I said I'd never do.  We sold our house and I will no longer die in ripe old age under its roof as originally planned.  In two weeks we plan to be fully moved into our new home and will turn the keys to the house over to its new owners a month later.  A slow, daily move and lots of time to finish cleaning up = sanity.

Here's the deal in a beautifully-bulleted nutshell: 

  • Sell house
  • Pay off mortgage and all consumer debt
  • Move family of 5 into a 900ish sq ft, rental home (hence the tag #fivetonine)
  • Eliminate 80-90% of our material possessions

The plan is a messy labour of love.  Our priorities have demanded re-sorting.  We have had to confront a lot of unglamourous habits and past decisions.  We have made reluctant acquaintance with impracticality and unpredictability.

And God has proven Himself faithful and gracious.

I have tapped into the wisdom of various movements: minimalism, tiny homes, essentialism, simple living, KonMari, etc.  For example, this has been a strong guide for me:

Simple living means living holistically with your life’s purpose. - Tsh Oxenreider, The Art of Simple

This stuff is all very en vogue these days.  Below all the adopted philosophy, though, are roots secured to Scripture.  Like this passage:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 NASB)

This is about six months in the making, but the road leading up to this is definitely years-long.  I have no idea how the posts to follow will flow, but hopefully, at the very least, something I share will ignite or affirm something in you that works toward living a life that, from every angle, faces its purpose.  Because that's what I'm trying to do too.

Next: about debt

another look at the deep end

It took me three weeks to publish yesterday's post.

The lesson I thought I had learned on that last day of class evolved into something so different in the days and weeks that followed.

The idea of turning 40 this year has got me on this mission not unlike many of my friends to define and deepen the meaning of my choices, career, etc.  Taking that big plunge into the deep end of the pool that night seemed like a super-awesome metaphor for just doing it, trying new things, chasing crazy dreams, run fearlessly.  And maybe it still is and will be soon.  But I realize that, for me, for this slice of my life, the jump is about something less fantastic and less postable and has much less fanfare tied to it.

It's about admitting that I have been running on fumes for months.
It's about letting go of and delaying some commitments.
It's about nurturing a beautiful marriage that boasts a long tenure but is still so much a delicate, work-in-progress.
It's about pausing during sporadic, desperate prayers for my children and listening for how God wants me to be His answer.

And all this because it was time to get still, bringing leaning on God back to the top of my priority list instead of assigning the concept a hashtag, time for entering into hard, necessary conversations, making difficult decisions and understanding the truth of my past and current choices.

I stopped my Lenten fast two weeks ago.  What worked beautifully in the last two years was not this time.  With the season starting much earlier that usual, in the middle of a challenging job transition, my expectations were unrealistic and my motives were facing the wrong direction. (Since when do I post recipes?!)  It was doomed from the start.  And even the plan to stop had poor motives...I'll break it with a home-baked loaf of bread that I saw on Pinterest.

Come on.  Seriously.  I've never even baked bread before.  What was I thinking?

Sure enough, God called me on it.  I walked into church that Sunday, discovered it was Communion week, and was quickly corrected.  This was the bread He wanted me to have, and This - He - was enough.

I eventually did bake a few loaves of bread, by the way.

I eventually did bake a few loaves of bread, by the way.

I'm still walking through a valley and I don't really have anything poetic to round that off. The last two weeks have been more intentional and rich and rough and still a bit exhausting, all at the same time.  And maybe this is perfect timing. In absence of the unrealistic meal-planning, the five books I was reading at once (not kidding), unreasonable expectations of myself and the ones I love, and pursuit of my own glory over God's, I am assuming a more proper, humbler posture towards the amazingness that this coming week commemorates.

graduation day

I passed Adult 1 swim class recently.

I was exhausted and my muscles ached all over, but I can now do the back crawl for about 12m and the front crawl for 10m (with the world's worst form).  But all the bullets have check marks and I have the beginnings of a life skill I have pined over for almost thirty years.  Now I have to practice over the spring and summer, before I forget to point my toes, relax my knees, keep my hips close to the surface, fully extend my arms, keep my ear pinned to my shoulder when I turn to breathe, breathe and not drink, all at the same time.  It's so automatic and instinctual for all the young kids on the other (deep) end of the pool, but we adults have so much fear laced in this whole process that tying all that together is so difficult.

At one point while trying to perfect my back crawl, my rising right arm splashed water onto my face, breaking my momentum and opening the door to flailing panic.  Staring hard at the ceiling, my mind switched to the scene of Jesus asking Peter to step onto the water.  In the second half of that instant, I realized something. Get a grip Leah, you're learning to swim on your back in four and a half feet of water at a community pool in the 'burbs, with two qualified lifeguards nearby.  Save your nerves for the heavy stuff, for, well, Peter's sake.

So, when our instructor suggested we go into the deep end for the final five minutes, I yawped YES.  And then when he said the life jackets aren't out and do you want to try jumping in without them, I swooshed my foot down in the water and declared yes once again.

And in I went.

There's something about my time in the deep end that is making me want to go back.  A kind of freedom, albeit for only about five seconds at a time.  There's no floor immediately below andit feels mysterious-therefore-scary but exciting and warm and enveloping all at the same time.  Plus I had my two child leader-lifesavers standing by, telling me as I'm launching off the big foam island thing to go for it.  If young J and A had my trust for my survival at 7:58 on Sunday night, then surely I could try harder to place it in God's irrefutably more capable hands for the bigger and bolder. 

 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” ‭‭(Mark‬ ‭9:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)


My report card!

My report card!

scared skinnies 101

I started swimming lessons last week.

If you're thinking it's a because-I'm-turning-forty thing, you are absolutely right.  I want to acquire the skill and eventually use it for exercise.  Plus I'm hoping to teach the kids after, since our previous attempts at lessons didn't pan out.

Forever and always...I'm always here.

Forever and always...I'm always here.

Lesson No. 1 - It's not easy to find the right bathing suit.  It's winter so you are confined to a single rack of mish-mashed variety in the sporting good stores.  Anywhere else is for beach-frolicking.  Uh, no thanks.  Finding a one-piece suit that doesn't hike up beyond my pelvis, provides adequate support for things that need support and doesn't cost a hundred bucks isn't easy.  I tried on over a dozen suits to no avail.  Then I finally found a Sears-branded (I'm too told to care about brands - just hold it all together, please) suit in candy apple red.  Basic, functional, cute.  And makes me look like I wish I was on Baywatch.  Oops.  Oh well.

Lesson No. 2 - The first class was great.  We started with blowing bubbles in the water.  I'm not kidding.  But hey, small victories create momentum, right?  We graduated to front and back starfishes and ended off the session with attempting to glide with kicking, which I guess is floating.  In true over-thinking form, I was convinced that I mastered the mechanics, yet when I opened my eyes under the water, I was barely moving forward.  I asked my "you could be my son" instructor to watch me try again and tell me what I was doing wrong.  In the kindest tone, he said it all.  Relax.  Story of my life, kid.  Wouldn't you know it, letting my knees bend got me moving.

Lesson No. 3 - Deciding to do new things requires you new things.  We started learning the front crawl last night.  I came home exhausted.  The moving of the legs and the arms and the breathing was almost too much.  And I had a flutterboard.  But this is the necessary pain of starting something new, right?  It's unfamiliar and difficult, but just requires repetition - practice - and then your body stops working against you and goes with the flow.  Reminds me of when I was doing the write31days challenge (note to self: start writing again).

I suspect my next lesson will be about faith.  We are heading to the deep end next week.

the word for 2016

On my first morning back to work after Christmas, the freezing rain pecked at my face as I walked through crunchy new snow, reminding me every quarter-second that the dream of the unseasonably balmy weather going right into spring has died.

everyone else was smart enough to sleep in.

everyone else was smart enough to sleep in.






Only five days ago, on Christmas Eve, I was out for a run/jog, perhaps more of a jolly skip because its impossibility.  I had to stop along the way to take this:

minimum four swing requirement - check!

minimum four swing requirement - check!

Another awesome jungle gym has been added to our neighbourhood.  Even I am biting down hard in excitement to try the mini rock climbing contraption.

I can't, though, because there is a wire fence still surrounding it all.  Something about it is not quite ready.  I'm sure all the kids living in the homes along its perimeter are keeping a close daily watch on that fence, waiting for it to disappear and the fun to begin.

I thought about that fence that morning, wondering how this whole scene represents my life. But the fence isn't wire. It's taller and impenetrable, maybe made of brick. I can't see through to the playground.  But it's there.  I just need to get past the fence.

I can't believe we are at the end of 2015 already. The year really flew by and I am thankful for the whole thing. I read a lot of books, ran a lot, like I aimed to

update on 2015 goals...

update on 2015 goals...


There were things, though, dreams, I was so excited about in the early months that wilted away because of my self-doubt and fear. I gave up because I couldn't imagine the likelihood of awesomeness on the other side of the fence.

I assigned Community as my word for 2016 several months ago, without too much woo-woo Holy Spirit consultation. But then a couple of weeks ago, in the same style that Open came to me for this year, He spoke to my heart with Pursue.

Okay, then.

The coming year may get a little crazy, I suspect. I have a dog now, for goodness' sake, anything goes.  Maybe it's because I'm turning 40 or maybe it's because I'm fed up with chickening out.  But in 2016 I will trust God's promises more wholly and discover and enjoy the awesomeness on the other side of that fence.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Phils 4:19-20)

five people to pray for this Christmas

I have an aunt who religiously (pardon the pun) opens her grace-before-meals by thanking God for the gift of life.  It's so notable that we cousins (you know, the grown adults) reduce to poorly hidden giggles every time.

Our immaturity aside, few things are more noble than showing gratitude for our lives, and I enjoy that it is the most consistent staple of our extended family meals.

As I'm sure you are, we are already knee-deep into the Christmas gatherings, with the big ones in clear view.  We are going to bless the food, give thanks for the year, lift up the homeless and lonely, and lots of other amazing things that working with God can do.  This year, I intend to step a little outside of my regular holiday prayer repertoire and pray for a few other people not usually on my radar, and invite you to join in.

The people who made our outfits - I'm in my last month of my no-new-clothes year and since we are two days away from Christmas Eve, I'll be shopping in my own existing wardrobe for what to wear.  But these items were still made by someone, just like all the sweaters, skirts, dresses, slacks (okay nobody says slacks anymore but it's more fun than 'pants'), and jewelry we are giving, getting and wearing in the next ten days.  Someones's daughter, mother, husband, breadwinner, last hope, and inspiration created these things, and these people deserve my attention far more than the discount and free shipping I scored buying them.

The most annoying person at work - Maybe there's a Scrooge in accounting, or a Susie-does-Christmas-better-than-everyone-and-won't-shut-up-about-it, or management is dragging you through h-e-double-hockey-sticks in what should be a quiet time of the fiscal year.  Whoever it is, bite down hard, take a gracious breath and pray good things, like, really good things, over his or her life.  And mean it.

The catalyst in the family - Come on now, people, let's get real.  I have been to sucky family Christmases and so have you.  There are deeply-rooted pains in many families that even the best gravy ever can't hide (mmmm gravy though).  There is someone in the wreckage who serves as the cornerstone of the whole thing - check your ego at the door - who needs our intercession to nudge/shove them into the place of mercy or repentance or humility or rebuilding. Or all of the above.  Without judgement, I am lifting these people to the only One who knows how to fix these messes.

The non-believer on the cusp, within reach of my influence - You might already know who it is because of past conversations, or you may have no idea.  But there is someone that God has placed within earshot who He has been inviting to the party and I want their hearts softened and receptive to the possibilities of that something they're thirsting for but can't put their finger on it.

Me - Sometimes I feel selfish taking up airtime to pray for myself, but in cases like the one above, part of their story hinges on my obedience to how God is asking me live. I am (forever) praying for the courage to live the follower's life outrageously and contagiously, beyond intentionally greeting everyone Merry Christmas at Starbucks and posting classic nativity verses in all caps on social media. I want to be brave enough to do the counter-cultural things and love the haters and be a proper steward and say no when I don't want to and not care who's watching or if anyone is watching. Well gosh, Baby Jesus, I guess that's my Christmas life wish then, Amen.


Given my track record since the 31 days series, I doubt I'll be posting anything new before Christmas.  My sweet friends, I wish for you all a God-breathed week that fills your soul with life, fills your tummy with nourishment and fills the rooms with belly laughter on Christmas Eve and Christmas and Boxing Day and every moment before and after!

would you, could you, in the dark?

Reluctantly, but for the sake of conversation, my bus driver asked me how I was enjoying the book I was reading.  A Lucky Life Interrupted by Tom Brokaw.  I had already read over 150 pages since cracking the book open yesterday and eager for the home stretch this afternoon.

Released in May, the book is a memoir of his recent journey through multiple myeloma, without shortage of glimpses into the state of the US health care system, anecdotes as a world-class journalist, and reflection on his life, marriage, family and career.

“It’s really good.”

He could barely look at the book in my hand, recalling that I had told him that it was about his cancer journey yesterday morning.  There was a “to each his own” air to his half of the conversation that followed and he repeated that he can’t read that “stuff”.

“But you don’t even know what’s in it.”

It seemed he had been beaten down by family and friends’ illness over the years that the thought of diving into something like this would draw out too much darkness.

I felt like I was in Green Eggs and Ham twilight zone.

“Try it! Try it! You will see!”

After assuring him that I was not immune to the impact of cancer and premature death, I tried to sell him on the idea of adopting an (say it with me) attitude of gratitude and the risk of sticking to what feels safe but is actually fear-based.

And then we reached my stop and got off.

How many times do we let fear stop us from knowing more?  Understanding the world better?  Understanding each other’s hearts better?
Had I taken a peek into the book at the library, saw it was about cancer and said ick, can’t handle that one, I would have missed out on a beautiful piece of writing.

This lesson is serving me as a reminder to be brave enough to find out more.  To ask questions.  To try something different.  To refuse safety and ignorance and allow my faith to maybe take me to the Say, I like...