Happy 2nd Birthday Ru!!

Darling Girl,

On the day you were born, we fell so in love with you.

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And now for two whole years, we have gotten to do life with you everyday. You are fiery, feisty, wild, and sweet.

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You make us laugh. You make us celebrate. And in two year old fashion, you sometimes exhaust us with you antics.

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I call you: Ruby: bold and brave. You are fearless (except when really loud noises are involved). You run and climb and keep up with your brother and older cousins the best you can.

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Last night we were driving in the car and your dad said, “I just like to watch her and see what she’ll do next.” I love listening to you talk. And talk. And talk. And talk.

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Ruby: bold and brave, you are two. We are so glad you were born. We love you more than words can say.

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Castlewood Park

We spent a couple nights hiking together as a family this week. There is a gorgeous park nearby called Castlewood and the kids loved the adventure of it all. (And the playground at the end of the trail).

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6 Months Later

Six months ago, I wrote this in a journal:

Under the staircase, you can see the bare cement where there was once piles of things stored. There are no longer any books on the bookshelves. But heavy-laden boxes piled upon each other instead. Ruby’s closet is empty and her suitcase full.  

Last night I filled out a forward address form on the USPS website. I hesitated just a moment when they asked me to declare whether this was a permanent or temporary forward.  

We’ve booked a U-haul and my parents arrive a week from today to help us load and move.  

Before bed last night, Jason and I were talking how everyday the move feels more and more real. It’s not that it didn’t feel real the day before, but there are somehow layers to the reality that keep growing thicker. 

So today, I pack. While the kids entertain themselves as best they can. And I take a million breaks to kiss away “injuries.” And I find new things for them to play with or watch.  

Judah packs his very own box full of his most essential items: favorite toys. I have to convince him not to tape it up, because I know in five minutes one of those toys will be needed for another adventure. 

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It has only been six months. But it feels like a lifetime ago. Six months ago, Jason worked for a nonprofit. The snow was up to our waists outside of our house. The days were short and below freezing.

Six months ago we left friends and a home seven years in the making. We left the house we brought our babies too. And the fire department down the street that Jason was on-call with during his “off hours” from work. We had a dog. And everyday we headed out back to gather eggs from the chickens.

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There has been so much forward motion since then. New job. Selling the house. New house. Reconnecting with family and old friends. But as the dust settles and change is no longer our constant, I’m starting to look back. Man, we loved that place.

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The other night, Jason and I were talking about Minnesota. And how we want to go back to visit someday, but not yet. It just feels too soon.

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I have nothing but gratitude for the land of 10,000 lakes. For the people we love there. For the harsh winters. For the short summers. For everything they gave us and taught us. I miss our favorite places. The farmers markets. The Guthrie. The Minnesota Zoo. I miss our  church. And the regular everyday places we went: Cub foods, Eddingtons for soup, the libraries, the nature centers.

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Lately I’ve noticed that I have started to refer to where we were as “up North.” Because “Minneapolis,” or “Robbinsdale” seems to small of a container to hold seven years. “Up North” is just about big enough to hold all of it. The trips to Northern Minnesota or across to Wisconsin. Downtown. St. Paul. The outlying suburbs. The small towns. The farmlands. The toughness and tenacity of those we knew. The walks around the lakes. The slow still moments where God poured his love out.

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Six months ago, we packed up and headed towards change. And I’ve yet to unpack all the North gave us.

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We spent Wednesday morning at the zoo, surrounded by God’s infinite creativity. Not just in the variety of animals, their different sizes, different shapes, different skills and abilities. But in the same infinite creativity seen within humanity. The skin tones, the body shapes, the personalities that surrounded us, made me stand in awe.

We are quite beautiful, all of us. Not those that fit certain criteria, but all. We are quirky, creative, and sometimes crabby. We are, all of us, capable of beauty and cruelty.

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The beauty of the animal kingdom is that they innately accept how they are created and use it to the best of their abilities. For us, it takes a large amount of work, prayer, and grace to get out from under our cultural conditioning and see ourselves and others as we truly are.

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I was reminded of a Thomas Merton quote I had read somewhere along the way:

“It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.

I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

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There truly is no way to tell someone that we are walking around shining like the sun.

 

Take A Bow

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Tonight, as Ruby and I were walking to her rocker to begin the nightly routine, she paused and said, “I take a bow.” She bent over at the waist, hands behind her back.

I laughed, and she continued to bow over and over until she finally made it to the rocking chair.

It made me think, while I was rocking her. How I often end the day with my personal failures and to-do lists running through my mind. And as those whirl around, I mentally prepare for the next day.

And she simply let go of what this day had and didn’t have. She forgot the tantrums, struggles, and even accomplishments (like buckling her car seat by herself!).

She saluted this day and her involvement in it with a simple bow.

“…the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these…”

Roots and Wings

 

I read one times time that a parent’s main job is to give their kids roots and wings. I think that’s why coming back to be closer to our own roots was so important to us. Living ten minutes away from my family and only a few hours away from Jason’s means a lot more time with them. It means our kids will grow on knowing the stretch of highway 44 between St. Louis and Springfield. They will watch the rolling hills and bluffs go by through the car windows. They will remember the huge farm we pass by with emus, llamas, and antique cars. They will know the roads signs watching for small towns from Pacific to Union to Sullivan to Rolla to Lebanon to Marshfield  and back again.

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They will know their grandparents baking, the pies and cookies, the pretzels dipped in almond bark.

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They will read the same books that their dad read growing up on the plaid futon.

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And run around through the front and backyard.

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They will be spoiled endlessly by attention and love from their aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

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The Ever Present God

I was thinking about my college self or maybe just my pre-kids self. I used to spend hours reading about God and journaling. Under our bed are two large containers full of my old journals. There are probably at least thirty.

Now, in this phase of life, my alone time is not plentiful. And while I still check out library books as if I had the time to read them all, (currently they are stacked ten high beside the couch), I don’t have the empty hours to spend pouring over words like I used to.

Lately, I have been thinking about how walking alongside life with God doesn’t necessitate hours of “quiet time” a day. There are a few things that I have been pondering before God in this.

First is the story of one of the desert Fathers, Abba Moses. One of the younger monks came to him seeking wisdom on how to live and grow as a monk. And Abba Moses’ response was: “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”

I was thinking about my “cell” as my time and context of life. Currently, I stay home with two small kids. Can God possibly teach me more about himself in this phase? Absolutely. He can definitely teach me more about loving Him better and loving others in my here and now.

One of my favorite biblical characters is Enoch. For one thing I love the mystery. We really know very little about him.What is remembered is that he “walked with God.”

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I love what Richard Rohr has to say to this: “My starting point is that we’re already there. We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. As we take another it means that God is choosing us now and now and now. We have nothing to attain or even learn. We do, however need to unlearn some things…” (Richard Rohr).

Thomas Keating says it differently. “The divine presence has always been with us, but we think it is absent. That thought is the monumental illusion of the human condition. The spiritual journey is designed to heal it.”

In the midst of daily life my pool time, caring for children, cleaning, etc. God is already there and I can turn my mind to him and walk with Him at any moment. In any circumstance.

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All that to say, I look forward to learning more of God throughout the years. I will enjoy it when a different season of life allots for more time in quiet. But for now I know that always no matter the season: in Him I move and breath and have my being.

Project in the Works

I am in the middle of building up a body of work right now for a future project.

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Since I am at home with two kids, that means that my time to work on it falls either when the kids are happily entertained (like with weird objects I find around the kitchen and play dough) or sleeping. The former doesn’t usually last very long, so really my best bet is nap time.

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Or to just invite them to paint right alongside me.

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