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Summer Bucket List: Pizza Party (And Another Park)

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Our pizza party happened fairly spontaneously, really.

We were due to pick up Cooper from his morning activity and it was lunch time, so I asked the girls, “Should we get a pizza and head to the park after we pick up Cooper?” They agreed it was an awesome idea, so we pressed onward with plans.

Boys and girls flowed from the school. Cooper hopped in the car and instead of heading for home, we headed to the pizza place for carryout. Cooper was delighted. “Who’s idea was this anyway? This is fun!” he exclaimed.

When we arrived at the park, we casually made our way to a shaded area with picnic tables and got set up. It was incredibly simple. One large Domino’s carryout pizza. Soda. Some paper plates. And a few napkins. That’s it.

Simple was the word.

Almost benign, unremarkable.

Easy.

Regular.

Everyday.

But yet, not.

It worked. It was fast. And it was fun for the kids.

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We ate our pizza. We drank our soda (not nearly all of it, mind you). We cleaned up. All in a matter of 10-15 minutes.

Then we made our way to a nearby park. Because for some reason, parks always work well for us.

They swung.

They took turns jumping off swings.

Maisie went down a triple slide.

Then they all went down the triple slide.

They climbed up. Came back down. And climbed some places they really shouldn’t have been climbing.

They had a blast.

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When they exhausted their fun at the park, we made our way along a bike path and landed at the skateboard park.

All three kids ran back and forth, up and down, on the skateboard ramps. It was hot. And the ramps were pitch sparkly black. I’m not sure how or why they ran that long. But they did. Apparently they needed some exercise. Cooper was the first to weary. Then Elsa. Then Maisie, “the baby.”

Just when I thought it was time to go, Maisie made her way up to the top of a skateboard ramp onto what looked like a big stage. Cooper, Elsa and I were sitting on a park bench at this point, so we watched as Maisie began performing her favorite songs. Let it Go, of course. And ABCs among other childhood faves. Then, after a while, Elsa joined her on stage. Cooper followed shortly. Before I knew it, they were singing ABCs, as in ALL TOGETHER, at the park, on the skateboard stage. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears for that matter. My three children were singing the ABCs ALL TOGETHER at the park?! You can’t make this stuff up, especially when two of your kids are 10 and 12 and far beyond ABCs.

This was quaint.

This was obviously a once in a lifetime occurrence.

This was a little other worldly.

This was the motherhood I envisioned before I became a mom.

This was the moment that made me feel like I was doing something right. Even if the moment only lasted as long as the “ABCs” song.

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What more can I say? The moment came. And the moment passed.

It was a simple outing. Far better than I would’ve ever guessed sitting at that fairly unremarkable pizza party table.

Another summer bucket list activity checked off. Another day at home with the kids.

Pizza party (and another park).

Total Cost: ~$12.00 for pizza and pop

Mom Lesson: Don’t underestimate kids’ ability to make fun anywhere.

Kid Lesson: Big kids are still little kids at heart.

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This post is part of a summer-long series titled Summer Bucket List. This is my first summer home full-time with our three children. My hope for this series is that it will challenge me to adventure out of my mothering comfort zone, will provide opportunities to live and write simply, practically, beautifully and meaningfully, and will stimulate some some fun ideas for your summer as well! To check out the entire series, click here and you’ll be directed to the introductory post where all the posts are listed and linked for easy reading. Enjoy, friends! And have a blessed summer.

Carol Femling - I meant koolaide!!!August 3, 2015 – 10:00 pm

Carol Femling - I used to take you kids to the park several times a week when you all were young. You all loved the simple sandwiches, chips and kookaide that I brought for our lunch. I would LOVE those simple days back!! Enjoy them while you can!! ❤️August 3, 2015 – 9:59 pm

Celebrating 3 Years of Blogging

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Today marks my three year blogging anniversary!

Three years is respectable. In fact, my husband says he’s surprised I’ve remained so committed and passionate about writing after all this time. But I have to be honest, sometimes I feel like I’m lagging a bit. I’ve been writing forever and at this point, I’m convinced I was supposed to start blogging a lot sooner than I did. After all, I began writing in diaries in junior high. I felt a strong call to write for someone other than myself all the way back to 2003. I daydreamed about writing until 2010 when I bought a domain and got everything set up, but decided the blog I’d conceived wasn’t quite right. When I could no longer hold in the words, when I could no longer take the agony of paragraphs continually drafting in my head, I launched this blog, Divine in the Daily, on July 30, 2012.

It’s been a long road to get to this place. But the journey is just getting started.

I’ve noticed something in my beautiful circle of writers. Many writers my chronological age of near 40, 40, and just past 40 are far ahead of me. They’re published. They’re speaking. They attend ALL the fabulous writing conferences, are friends with ALL the writers in our niche, and regularly contribute on this site and that. I’m not published. I’m not speaking (heck, just the thought of that scares me). I don’t contribute on any site. I’ve attended one writing conference and will be attending my second this fall. And I have two to three handfuls of writers I would consider friends or becoming friends.

In the days leading up to this blogging anniversary, I’ve been thinking about who I once wanted to be as a writer vs. who I now know myself to be as a writer. It’s useless to compare myself to writers my age. It’s useless to compare myself to writers younger than me. It’s useless to compare myself to anyone for that matter. I’m not Ann or Angie, Jen or Jennie, Sarah B Or Sarah Mae. The beautiful truth is, God’s plan for each one of His creations is unique.

Ann Voskamp

We attended a funeral for a 13-year-old girl this morning. Beautiful. Shy. Fun. Loved home, books and her family. Sweet Olivia. Why would God take His daughter home so soon? Why so young? Why?

As much as I would like to know WHY Olivia’s life had to end so soon, I don’t need to understand WHY. We don’t know WHY. But as the pastor said, it’s our responsibility to LIVE for OLIVIA, to trust that God has a master plan, a master design for each one of us and all of creation.

Perhaps I needed that funeral this morning, on the day that marks my 3rd blogging anniversary. God’s timelines are better than our own. Sometimes we don’t understand His plans at all, sometimes we want things to happen slower or faster, sooner or later than they do. But in the end, everything works together for our good.

So here I am. Faithful to the call.

Writing.

That’s all I need to do. That’s all I need to know.

Now that I’ve gotten all the deep and heavy stuff out of my system, I’d like to celebrate.

3 years of writing.

320 published blog posts.

62 unpublished blog posts.

And YOU, my readers, my lovely, wonderful, caring, loving, understanding, wise and loyal readers. I am so grateful for you. Without readers, a writer’s words fall silent. Without you, none of this blogging business would mean anything. So thank you. Thank you dearly.

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In honor of you who have faithfully read my words, I’d like to share my 10 MOST READ BLOG POSTS. Here they are, in order. Do with them what you may. Read the list, click and refresh your memory, or read them all if you have a bunch of free time on your hands this weekend!

  1. Dear Jamie: A Letter to My Childhood Friend
  2. Dear Denise: A Letter to My College Roommate
  3. Dear Rachel: A Letter to My Former Colleague, Mentor and Friend
  4. Dear Cyndy: A Letter to My Second Mom
  5. Meet Mick
  6. Meet Tiffany and Raegan
  7. In Which I’m Throwing a Belated Retirement Party for My Dad, Mr. Femling!
  8. The Apple of My Eye
  9. Dear Eli: A Letter to My Son’s Swim Instructor
  10. Dear Grandma: A Letter to the One Who Made Her Mark

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As you can see, my Letters to the Unthanked series has been an incredible hit. I believe in the power of a well-written, heartfelt letter. So much so that I’ve been seriously pondering a long-term “letters” series. I have a couple ideas in mind, but don’t anticipate starting anything until November at the earliest, maybe after New Years.

And now, to conclude this most random of posts, I would like to answer two questions you left for me about writing and blogging!

Question #1: Do you care what people think of your writing?

Ummm…yes. I definitely care what people think of my writing. Thank you for asking. Writing this blog has forced me to address my people pleasing tendencies.

I totally want you to like my writing. I totally want you to LOVE my writing. When people “read your heart” and read it often, they begin to understand WHO you are at your core; this puts you in a continuously vulnerable position as the writer. So I love it when you read and relate to what I’m writing. I love it when you comment, when you let me know my writing inspired you or moved you or touched you somehow. I do care what you think about my writing. I want you to like it. I want it to help you. I want my writing to help you realize you’re not alone in whatever you’re facing. I want my writing to impact your life.

But in three years of blogging, I’ve also realized that I can’t please everyone. If I sat and obsessed about your response every time I pressed publish, I’d be paralyzed and would never share a thing. People don’t always think the way I think. People don’t always care about the things I care about. Sometimes I write stuff that’s too crazy deep and sometimes people think I’m sharing too much. Sometimes I just need to write for myself, and sometimes I need to write for a niche audience who needs to hear a particular message. And then there’s the whole busy factor. People are busy. People don’t have a lot of time to read. People have hundreds of posts to choose from as they scroll through Facebook, Twitter and email. Sometimes I wonder what people think when they scroll past my post and choose not to read, but honestly, it’s not worth the obsession.

Whether a post is a huge success or barely anyone reads, I do care. But I can’t care too much. I am learning to trust that the people who NEED to hear my words on any given day will HEAR THEM. That’s all that’s important.

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Question #2: What is your long-term goal for your blog?

This question is BIG! While I’m quite transparent about most things on the blog, I guard the specifics of my writing dreams closely, so I’d like to share the big-picture, long-term goals without going into great detail. Here goes!

  1. Maintain this space as a creative outlet for me to express and share beautiful, relevant and honest writing that comes from my heart. I need a place to write. I enjoy blogging. And I appreciate the dialogue and connection blogging provides. So I might as well write here, right?
  2. Maintain this space as an opportunity to serve others, to reach out to others, to help others realize they’re not alone in whatever it is they’re facing, to engage in important dialogue, and to build authentic relationships with readers. One of my biggest dreams for this space is to use my writing to advocate for those whose voices need to be amplified not only in the USA, but in Haiti, Africa and around the world as I’m called.
  3. Further develop and refine my writing so someday I have the possibility of becoming published. Yes, the answer to this question wouldn’t be complete or honest unless I admitted that I would like to be a published author someday. Perhaps that’s a surprise to some of you, perhaps that’s not a surprise to others. This is obviously a BIG goal and one I’ve spoken very little about on this blog or in real life. I guard the details of this long-term goal closely as it feels incredibly vulnerable, unsure and unknown. But a post is planned for September that will reveal next steps for my writing. So keep an eye out for that!

I do believe that’s more than enough for now, friends! It’s been a delight to share these random insights with you today on this 3 year blogging anniversary. Thank you for reading and for listening. This post has been a work in progress, spanning all summer day long as I’ve been able to write in bits and pieces, 9:00 a.m. all the way until 11:00 p.m. Good night and good morning, friends. Have a great day.

pinksig

Mama

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I bought her from a street vendor in Haiti.

Poverty stricken men begged for our business. They didn’t have to beg me a second for her. I saw her. I wanted her from the minute I laid eyes on her.

I bought her for $12. Didn’t barter a cent. She’s worth far more.

If she were to break, I would freak.

She’s pregnant. Expectant. Waiting on something more.

She doesn’t push or shove her way to delivery. She wants nothing more than to birth when the time is right.

She’s beautiful. Ripe. Swollen with new life.

Moves my heart so.

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She’s been on my dresser for a year and a half. I stare at her nearly every morning before I rise from bed.

Three weeks ago, I brought her to her rightful place. Downstairs. Where we move. Where we live. Where I write and ponder. Where she can be treasured, loved and remembered for who she was, for who is, for who she will be.

Expectant.

Lovely.

Full of promise.

Peaceful.

Mama.

pinksig

Testing Day

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

testingTwo weeks ago, I traveled to a bigger city to have intense neuropsychological testing done. I had the same testing done nine years ago when I spent seven weeks in the state hospital after a prescription drug overdose. Doctors are going to compare past and present test results to see how my brain is functioning. This testing helps nail down my mental illness diagnosis and to get additional help in other areas if needed.

A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive and behavioral functions using a set of standardized tests and procedures. A variety of mental functions are systematically tested. A neuropsychological evaluation is critical for understanding which brain functions are impaired and which remain intact.

My dad drove me to my appointment. He asked me if I was nervous about the testing, and I told him that I was more nervous about leaving the kids behind for the day. My dad and I talked about music and his time in the service. We seemed to have a very relaxing drive.

We arrived to the testing early. There was a Perkins nearby, so I decided to eat breakfast and drink some needed coffee. After that, my dad dropped me off at the testing site. I was early, so I went for a walk outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I felt free in that moment. I was in a bigger and new city. I went back in to prepare for the testing. I skimmed through a bit of a gossip magazine and waited for the doctor to call me back. My dad was eating at Red Lobster during this time.

The doctor called me back to his office and told me to make myself comfortable. I sat in a chair directly across from him. He asked me a series of questions. I was being analyzed. I asked him in the middle of the session if I could take a couple pictures for the blog post I was going to write. He told me no, these tests are confidential. If people were to see pictures, they may try to duplicate the testing or figure out answers prior to taking the test. He asked me a few questions and sent me out to the waiting area. I asked him how I did, with a smile, before leaving his office. I don’t remember his response? Being questioned made me kinda nervous.

A few minutes later, I was called back for more testing. I know that I excelled in certain areas because I felt as though I was playing a fun game. Other parts of the testing were very difficult. I felt frustrated and kind of sad.

After over an hour of testing, I needed a break. I told the lady who was testing me that I needed a five minute break. I may have taken longer? I went into the waiting area and was happy to see my dad sitting there. I told him how difficult the testing was. I was thinking of posting a status update on Facebook, but I did not feel the time was right. Why would people care anyways? So I proceeded to step outside, took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and lifted my hands to the sky. I probably said a little prayer too. I raced back in because I told her five minutes, not fifteen. I was kinda excited to return to the testing because every new test was a surprise.

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When I went back inside, testing continued for a couple hours. I am going to tell you vaguely about the testing without giving away details. The tester started by asking me general questions. Then I had to say words backwards and subtract backwards. She told me a list of words, and I was haunted by the list throughout the procedure. She kept telling me to say the words I remembered; I just heard a list of monotone sounds that I was not interested in, names of people who had no faces. Maybe if she would have let me look at the list, I would have done better remembering? I realized my short term memory lacks. We played a fun game where small keys fit into holes on a pegboard. I felt I mastered that, along with repeating visual images. Then came math. Even if I had a calculator, I would not have done well with that part. Sometimes I would just say, “Sorry, I’m done. I give up on that. I just cannot complete that part.” We ended the session with computer testing, which was around 350 questions.

The results from the testing should be back soon. I look forward to seeing the results. I am having the report sent to my psychiatrist who recommended the testing. I am also having a copy sent to me. My sister, who is a speech pathologist, is going to help me analyze the results. No matter what the results say about me, I am going to continue to live life and take care of business. Having a mental illness and possible cognitive impairments are just a part of me. They do not define who I am as a person.

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David Carol Cave - I love love love your attitude Tiffany. The test results DO NOT define you! Hand in their sweet girl!July 27, 2015 – 8:37 pm

Christa Nelson Miller - Very interesting report, TIff!July 27, 2015 – 8:22 pm

Washing Dishes with Ginny Owens

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He has made everything beautiful in its time. He set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 

God knows our hearts intimately.

He created us, made us, fashioned us fine.

He knows what makes us tick, knows what makes us cry.

He knows all of us, every part of us, the beautiful, upside down, inside out bits of us.

When we step out in faith, He reveals His purpose, His best, His grand design for our lives on earth and into eternity, too.

This, I learned on one trip to Haiti, one trip to the Dominican Republic, and one Ginny Owens acoustic house show.

When you know, you just know – this moment is a gift from God, this opportunity is a gift from God, this place and this time is a gift from the only One who could give it.

So when we received confirmation that Ginny and two band members would, indeed, be spending the night at our home, I knew it was a gift. Sent from heaven alone.

God knows whose writing and singing heart matches mine most closely. Ann VoskampSara Groves. And Ginny Owens. So He sent one, the only one I needed now. Ginny Owens. To perform in our home, to be present, to give me a taste of heaven.

When everyone cleared the concert, she asked how she could help. A beautiful servant heart, indeed.

She loves washing dishes, so we stood side by side. She washed. I dried. It was simple, really. Whole. Lovely. Pure.

The concert was amazing. But this washing dishes together was the greatest gift, the quietest, most heavenly gift.

Depth of conversation came the next morn around the breakfast table. But this washing dishes together was one human heart plus one human heart doing life together.

Wash. Dry.

Wash. Dry.

Wash. Dry.

We chatted. Milk spilled and puddled around Ginny’s boots and I checked her dress for milk spots. Band members, Dave and Andrew, ate late night pizza at our kitchen table. I brought the kids to bed and came back down again.

Ginny and I washed and dried everything but the awkward glass beverage containers, then called it a night.

It was slow.

Good.

Simple.

Rich.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received.

God says…I know you. I know both of you. I brought you together for such a time as this.

This washing and drying, this living side by side, this being God’s beautiful, holy creations complementing one another? This is a taste of heaven. Taste. Believe. Receive the gift. For it is given most kindly, most affectionately, most intimately.

Eternity.

It’s set in our hearts.

He speaks when the time is right, reminds us of the beauty before us.

Know.

No one can fathom the goodness.

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