Getting Old and Staying Young

A few weeks ago I celebrated my 38th birthday. Just saying 38 sounds old. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that I was waking up late and rushing to catch the bus to high school. Or waking up late and rushing to class in college. Now I wake up late and rush to get my kids to school. I’m sensing a pattern. Seriously though, I’m in that stage where people just say “30s” or the 15th anniversary of their 21st birthday. Why do we hide our age? What are we so ashamed of?

Most of the time I don’t “feel” 38. I walk around thinking I’m 20-something until I actually see a 20-something and they look so childlike. I’m reminded of my age when I look closely in the mirror and see wrinkles on my face, or a few gray hairs on my head (I blame Parker for that… they started to appear when he was born). I’m reminded of my age when my friends and I play co-ed indoor soccer against the recently graduated college soccer stars. Or maybe they haven’t even graduated yet. While admiring their impressive skills and high energy, our taunts turn to “It’s past your bedtime!” Or “Don’t you have to get back to the dorm and study for finals.” Or “Your mom just called and you missed curfew!” We may not have won the game, but we did make them laugh.

I’ve always felt like the young one. Maybe because I have two older siblings and I was often too young to stay up and play with them at night. I have a fall birthday, which during school years always made me one of the youngest in my class. My husband is the same age as me (he’s a few months older!). Most of my friends are within a couple years of me, give or take. So I’m not ashamed of my age. Or at least, I’m going to try never to hide my age.

Every day is a gift. We are reminded of this when we hear of someone who died young, or when we have a friend battling cancer while she parents her young children. Each day is a gift. Each day of my 38 years has been a gift. I haven’t always felt like that at the time. Certainly not every day has felt good. But every day is filled with the hope of blessings more amazing that I could imagine.

The next time your age comes up, I hope you will proudly declare the truth, gratefully acknowledging the blessing of each day.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Big Problems. Small Problems.

A friend of mine just underwent surgery for breast cancer. We talked on the phone a few days beforehand as she filled me in on what the procedure would be like and the details. Then asked me about what’s new in my life. “Nothing.” Seriously, with all she has on her mind, we don’t need to talk about me. “Please, I need a distraction. Tell me about your boys.” Well, ok…

I told stories and rambled on about things that certainly don’t seem important compared to upcoming cancer surgery. Funny how our lives, our complaints and worries, dim in comparison to another’s. It’s good to look around and realize our lives aren’t as hard as so-and-so. It could always be worse, right?

IMG_3044But here’s what really struck me the last few days: no problem is small to God. And no problem is big to God either. God cares about all the details of our lives. He cares about my friend with cancer while also caring about my child who complains about how his clothes fit [insert eye roll]. God cares about these things in our lives because He cares about us. He loves us more than we can imagine.

Some people think God has bigger things to deal with than their little prayers. But I think God loves us so much and He wants a relationship with us so much, than He would love to talk to us about anything. Pray for a parking spot. Pray for healing. Pray for your children to stop arguing. Pray for your loved ones to know Jesus. No problem too big or too small. No prayer too big or too small.

“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

“I pray that you may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17-20

Jonah: More than a Fish Story

Jeff took this picture in Sydney, Australia on our honeymoon and it has been hanging on this wall for almost eight years. Despite being a high traffic zone in our house, and us opening and closing the doors nearby multiple times a day, this picture has never been crooked. Until two weeks ago.

The details are a little fuzzy in my mind, but it probably involves one or two children not getting out the door as fast as I planned. So, being the rational, Godly woman I am, I slammed the door shut. Very hard.

“Do you do well to be angry?” God asked Jonah.

“Do you do well to be angry?” God asked me.

For two weeks that picture has been crooked. No matter how many times I straighten it each day, it’s always crooked. One day I asked Jeff if he had some poster putty to fix it. “It’s so weird that the picture is crooked now,” Jeff said. Yeah, so weird…

I confessed my sin to Jeff. I think he rolled his eyes. I immediately felt regret for slamming the door, but I had a two week crooked picture reminder that my anger doesn’t accomplish anything.

How many times do I have the boys in their car seats and realize I forgot my keys, or sunglasses, or water? I’m just as guilty for making us late as they are. And does it even matter if we are a few minutes late?

After Jonah was swallowed and vomitted by a fish, he finally obeyed God and told the people of Ninevah that God was going to judge the city. The people repented. They changed their ways and called on the Lord to not destroy them. And God had mercy on them. He relented from His anger and showed them mercy. But Jonah… He wasn’t happy about it all. He was angry. Angry about a plant that provided him shade but then died. Angry that God sent him to Ninevah, only to show mercy to them. Angry that he couldn’t choose who received God’s favor.

Do you do well to be angry? It’s not worth a crooked picture frame for weeks. Or worse. Take a breath. Be thankful for the mercy God shows you, and start showing that mercy to others.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

How Pregnancies Wrecked My Body

I put the boys down for a nap, opened the mail, and excitedly found my Fitbit had arrived! I promptly put it on my wrist, grabbed the little instruction booklet, and laid on the couch. 

In my defense, this was the treasured “nap time” when one child sleeps and the other stays in his room for at least 3 minutes before I have to entertain/threaten/bribe him to give me 10 more minutes of alone time. Second, we spent the morning running around a kid play place where I crawled through tunnels, down slides, pushed Parker in a tractor, and all sorts of activity since the 572 friends we asked to join us couldn’t come, and I promised a fun day for Jack (he earned it with a rewards system I implemented… Maybe another post).

So I laid on the couch, Fitbit on my wrist, reading the manual. Then Fitbit was like “A little less conversation, a little more action please.” Turns out the thing only counts steps when you take the steps. I know, crazy.

I bought the Fitbit with birthday gift money, hoping it would give me some motivation to get back in shape. Over the last six years my body has been through a lot. 

  • 4 pregnancies: 20 weeks, 41 weeks, 6 weeks, and 38 weeks. That’s a total of 105 weeks – more than 2 years!
  • Delivered 3 babies, only got to bring 2 home.
  • Gained 15 pounds, lost 15 pounds. Gained 50, lost 50. Gained 40, lost 20.
  • 16 weeks on bed rest, flat on my back.
  • 2 surgeries to keep babies inside me
  • 9 months of inactivity: no running, no chasing a toddler around, no lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk.
  • Not to mention all the emotions that accompany these challenging pregnancies.

Six years ago I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. These days my body hurts from normal mom life: carrying a baby and chasing an energetic 4 year old. Instead of running laps on a track, I’m often driving laps in my car where the boys seem to most enjoy sleeping.
After bed rest and delivering Jack, it took my body about 15 months before I felt normal again. It’s been 11 months since Parker was born, but I feel stuck. Tired after long, but good days at home with the boys, I don’t want to work out at night. But I look at the energy of my husband and children and think I want to be there. I want to do that. And I don’t want to struggle through it.

Instead of finding temporary comfort in an evening catching up on Netflix, I’m hoping Fitbit can help me pursue long-term comfort as I get my body back. I know the road might be long, but I like the clothes in my closet and I want them to fit again. And I want to climb some mountains.

Sucky vs. Guitar

IMG_2895Pacifier: 1) a person or thing that pacifies; 2) a rubber or plastic device, often shaped as a nipple, for a baby to suck on.

Hence our name for it: sucky. We gave Jack a pacifier in the first few days of his life because he wasn’t nursing well. We thought the pacifier would help him learn to suck and it did. He only has his sucky when he is sleeping, but since dentists recommend quitting the pacifier around age 2, we have been warning Jack for months that “some day soon there will be no more sucky.”

On another note, I’ve been compiling ideas for Christmas gifts for Jack and at the top of that list is a guitar. After debating the merits of a kid guitar from Toys R Us for $30 or a real 3/4 size guitar from a real music store for $130, I decided the cheap one would do. Jack could still learn some chords, learn to strum, and learn to be gentle with it, but without the necessity of being gentle with an expensive guitar.

Then, last week while putting Jack in bed, Jeff says “Jack do you want to trade your sucky IMG_5207for a guitar?” Bribery and Reward are very similar in parenting. Jack said yes, but then understood he would lose his sucky and changed his mind. This continued for a few days until I actually bought the guitar so Jack could see and touch what he would get IF he gave up his sucky. Although from the beginning of this random, undiscussed plan of Jeff’s, that I did not agree to, I questioned the trade … it’s not like you can sleep with a guitar.

IMG_5214So Wednesday night we took his sucky and gave him a guitar. He loved the guitar! Played it, jumped around, danced and sang. Then asked for his sucky. Basically he has spent the last two nights in our bed, but without a sucky. He has been rewarded with candy in the morning (isn’t that also bad for your teeth?) and extra stuffed animal friends in his bed, in addition to the guitar.

Today at nap time Jack cried and asked for his sucky for 20 minutes… and let’s just say this Mommy’s resolve isn’t so strong when I don’t have back up from Daddy. A few big tears and a sad face … “If you promise to go to sleep right away you can have the sucky. But you only get it today as a special thing. You don’t get it tonight.”

Jack giggled and smiled. He knew he won. But he did go to sleep right away.

Halloween: Love It. Hate It.

IMG_4966Love: creative, home-made costumes.
Hate: scary, gory or store-bought costumes.

Love: kids coming to my door, conversations I get to have, giving out their favorite candy, making them smile for a moment.
Hate: it’s impossible to estimate how much candy to buy. Sometimes we run out and I give the last kids granola bars and mints leftover from my baby shower. Other times (like this year) we have a bucket of candy left.

Love: creative, fall-themed decorating.
Hate: scary, evil decorations, fake gravestones, things I have to try to explain when Jack asks about it.

PIMG_4969eople, please at least remove the fake gravestones from your decorations. Why promote so much death? I have a real gravestone with my son’s name on it. It’s not something you want.

Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy – things which sound a lot like Halloween costumes and decorations that are popular. But Jesus came to bring life. Life to the full. (John 10:10)

In everything we do, let’s bring life. Let’s show the world what life with Jesus looks like.

My Birthday List

20120331-105506.jpgHave you ever had to brush your teeth using bottled water? Or make sure your mouth is sealed shut while showering so no water drips get in? I have. A few trips we have taken required our dependence on bottled water to avoid “travelers diarrhea” and other diseases, including Thailand, Mexico, and most of all Africa. Not only could we not drink the water (or ice), but we had to make sure not to eat any fruit or vegetables that we didn’t peel ourselves.

After a week climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, we ate lunch with our guides and porters and a “restaurant.” It didn’t look like any kind of restaurant we have in the states. We ate ribs from cows… But I saw the cows in Africa and they are so skinny you can see their bones. Along with the ribs were cucumbers, which I avoided because they would’ve been washed with unclean water. Jeff, however, had a brain lapse and began eating the cucumbers until I elbowed him and gave him a look. Not wanting to be rude, we didn’t make a big deal about it. He only consumed a couple small slices before realizing his mistake, and he was ok.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe recently returned from Cancun, Mexico where we also had to avoid tap water. However Cancun caters to tourists, so often the hotels and tour companies are equipped with purified water. But even the dependence on bottled water and making sure I had enough for the day and night, created a little anxiety in me. I am used to drinking 80-100 ounces of water a day! I’m constantly refilling my water bottle at home. Being in Mexico made me a little nervous… what if I can’t get enough water? What do I do?

The trip served as a reminder to me of the luxury I have living in America and having an abundance of clean water flowing from my faucets – every faucet. I shower in water clean enough to drink. I flush the toilet with water clean enough to drink. Meanwhile people all over the world walk miles to collect water which is unclean and causes disease.

According to, “Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. 90% of the 30,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are in children under five years old.”

DSC_6896On Friday I turn 33 years old. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than helping meet actual needs for people, like clean water. Would you consider donating $33, or any amount, to Charity : Water and help me end the crisis of clean water? My goal is to raise $1,000 and right now every donation is matched by one of Charity : Water’s generous donors.

Clean water for all global citizens would cost $9 billion. Sound impossible? Annual US and European spending on perfume is $12 billion. Maybe if we realign our priorities we can make a real difference and save people’s lives. Join me by giving people a better life by giving them clean water. Donate today at Charity : Water.

Fashion Faux Pas: Busted!

Jeff and DebbieEmail From My Cousin: Hope you had fun at your friend’s wedding–you looked great!  I have to ask, having just looked at so many of our old photos, is that black and white dress the same one you wore to Susan’s wedding? If so, Jen Hatmaker would be so proud of you for making good use of it over the years!! 🙂 It just looked familiar, and I wondered if you’d rediscovered it during your “clothes purge”!  Way to go, if so!

Reply from Me: LOL! Yes that zebra print dress was bought for Susan’s wedding 14 years ago! I did rediscover it in the purge and it fit so I texted Cathy a picture of me in it and asked if it was still “in.” The fashionista said yes so I wore it. I bought that little sweater thing at Ann Taylor the other day for $30 which conveniently hid my horrendous farmers tan… I need to buy some sleeveless tops. My mom was like “buy a new dress!!” And I was like no, it’s fine, why buy something to only wear it once again. Then she showed up to babysit and was wowed by the dress. She couldn’t believe it was 14 years old. Haha. Thanks for noticing and sharing this 7 moment 🙂

Response From Cousin: I knew it!!!!!  That’s hilarious… the little sweater looked perfect with it, and I think it’s fantastic that not only did you “recycle” the dress, but that you fit into something from 14 years ago!!  You’ve got to add that story to your next “7”-related blog post.

Done. Following the themes of 7 from previous blog posts (here, here, here and here), not buying a new dress saved money which can be re-purposed to help others in need and it didn’t add any more waste to the earth. Do you have fashionable clothes you’ve “recycled” through the years? Instead of fashion faux pas, I call it fashion smart.

Here I am 14 years ago with some cousins.


When You Get an Envelope from the Red Light Enforcement Police

Jeff, Jack and I went up to Wisconsin over the weekend to visit family. The first chance he got, Jack climbed on to his three year old cousin’s new battery operated tractor. Jack sat on it happily moving the steering wheel but going no where. He didn’t Peg_Perego_Turf_Tractor_a1fc2645ca1e0b36e981_1know it moved. Then his cousin comes in, “Hey Jack! To make the tractor go you have to push the pedal with your foot.”

Such clear instruction. Jack lifted his legs up, located the pedal, and pushed his foot on it. Vroom vroom!

On the drive home I was thinking about how boring my car looks. Jeff’s car has lots of character. It stands out. It’s easy to spot on the road. My car blends in to the hundreds, or thousands, of other SUVs that are so similar. I was thinking about adding a window decal but Jeff has a thing against car decorations.

Me: Are you against stickers on your car, or my car too?

Jeff: What do you want to do?

Me: Add a Valpo decal in the window or Young Life.

Jeff: No you can’t do that. You could get running boards, or hella lights, or a bumper bar on the front of your car like police cars have.

Me: What? Those sound a lot more expensive than the $3.50 sticker I want.7995700002_large

What are “hella lights” you ask? Yes, me too. In fact I wondered if that was the technical term or what they are referred to in rap songs. It’s actually the brand name. See the picture for an example of how cool my SUV could look.

Me: What would I even use hella lights for?

Jeff: If you’re out at night and find yourself in the middle of a pick up game of basketball, you could flip on your lights to light up the court so the game can go on.

Me: That is often a situation I find myself in.

Then Jeff fell asleep. Don’t worry boys, I’ll get you home safely.


In other car-related news, yesterday an envelope came in the mail from the Police Department’s Red Light Enforcement Office. It was addressed to me. Yikes. I opened it to find… pictures of Jeff’s car driving through the red light!! Woohoo it’s not me!! Haha… you see Jeff and I bought new cars at the same time but the way we did it, we basically switched license plates. So that’s why it was addressed to me.

I put the ticket back in the envelope in the stack of mail and left it for Jeff to see.

Jeff: Uh oh, someone got a ticket!

(opens envelope)

Jeff: Oh no… it’s me!

Me: Muahahaha!

Perhaps the Red Light Cameras have taken pity on my boring-looking SUV and they only pay attention to fancy cars like Jeff’s.

Stop Your Whining

My car is only one month older than Jack

My car is only one month older than Jack

My car was making a weird noise and it’s less than two years old, so I brought it to the dealership. I planned on waiting the one hour for them to diagnose the problem, figuring I’d have to make another appointment for them to fix whatever is wrong. Jack and I entertained ourselves by sitting in every car in the showroom, watching every show on my iPad, and eating every snack I brought all Car4within the first 20 minutes. Now what?

After one hour 15 minutes, they still couldn’t figure out what was wrong so they put me in a loaner car. Now you need to know: 1) I drive an SUV. 2) they only had a sedan available. Ok that’s fine, it might not fit my stroller but I’ll survive. But my car guy was nice “I have kids. I know what it’s like. I’ll get your stroller to fit.”
By the time I signed the papers and got out there, Nice Car Guy had moved my stroller into the loaner AND was securing the car seat for me! How wonderful!

Car3The next day my car was “fixed” (the “quotes” are some foreshadowing for you), I returned the loaner, hoped Nice Car Guy would move the car seat for me again but he wasn’t there. I struggled to move it while keeping Jack from being run over, or running away.

One week later: noise returns. I schedule an appointment to bring my car in and immediately
get a loaner (since we’ve already sat in ever car on the showroom floor).

The loaner they gave me was pretty much a shoe box with wheels. We might as well have just put an engine on Jack’s little pull wagon. I joke, but I’m kind of serious. Kid stuff takes up space. Just fitting the car seat in the shoe box loaner was challenging.

In addition to its small size, the Shoe Box with Wheels didn’t even have bluetooth. How am I supposed to listen to music? Especially since my main radio station was doing their annual fundraiser. Also, this car did NOT fit my stroller – no way around it – and we had plans to go to the zoo. After some complicated conversations with friends, I discovered a Car1friend who had an extra stroller IN her car – imagine a double stroller and single stroller in your car at the same time, and I couldn’t even fit one stroller in this car. Oh, and Jeff didn’t really fit in the car. He had to sit in the backseat.

I drove the Shoe Box for almost a week and I complained about it for almost a week. It was a brand new car. It was safe, reliable, and got us where we needed to go. Oh, and it was free. Totally free. And I complained about it for a week.

The last day we had the Shoe Box, Jack and I went to my cousin’s house and I was going to pick up McDonalds on the way. Jack was whining in the backseat about something or nothing, and my whining and complaining about the car was starting to sink in.

Jack, you are going to stop whining, and Mommy is going to stop whining.

Little Jack just 3 months old in the big stroller.

Little Jack just 3 months old in the big stroller.

And then I looked up and saw McDonalds was actually on the left and I was in the right turn lane. So much for McDonalds. I guess we’ll get a Lunchable at the gas station (don’t judge my parenting eating choices, this post is about complaining.)

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Do you know who said that? Do you hear this quote much? If we were friends in high school, you might recall that it was our theme verse for every youth group trip. It’s in the Bible. Philippians 2:14.

We are commanded not to complain. Which means that complaining is a sin. I knew all this even as the words were coming out of my mouth complaining about the Shoe Box, I mean Loaner Car. But we live in a culture of entitlement – I’m entitled to a loaner car equivalent to my real car. And when we don’t get it, we complain. My complaining was usually kind of funny. You probably laughed reading this post because you can sympathize. But it’s still sin. Sometimes sin is funny – to us. It’s never funny to God.

BusPhilippians 2 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It admonishes us to encourage, comfort and love each other. Don’t be selfish, be humble, and think of others as better than yourself. Have the same attitude as Christ – though He was GOD, He humbled Himself to death on a cross. Don’t complain, don’t argue. Be blameless and pure. Shine your light. Hold firmly to the Word of God.

Next time you hear me complain, call me out. I don’t want to get sucked in to living like this world. I want to live like Jesus. I want my joy for Christ to shine, even in a Shoe Box With Wheels.