Posts by Celia

Motherhood: The To-Do List

Posted by on Mar 16, 2013 in Bug & Bear | 0 comments


~ is when, at the end of a long day, you don’t want to play one more game of hide and seek, or chase, or tickle monster, or dress up, or spinning around and around in circles until your back might break, but you do it anyway because you do want your kids to feel loved, attended to, cherished.

~ is when, at the end of your emotional rope, you don’t have the energy for one more tantrum, or power struggle, or display of disrespect, or critique of your fabulous dinner, but you dig a little bit from deep down anyway because you do have your babies best interest at heart, their feelings are important to you, their hearts are so tender.

~ is when, in the wake of your worst mistakes, you don’t feel like facing yourself, or facing your children, or letting your heart be changed because it’s so very hard, but you do it anyway because you do feel your weight of responsibility to protect their spirits, to model good choices and behavior, to guard their well being in every way.

Motherhood. It is just so full of things to do. With virtually no way to gauge if you’re doing all there is to do well. A mother is a nurturer, teacher, disciplinarian, instructor, role model, playmate, question answerer, booboo kisser, helper, caretaker, housecleaner, cook, minor household repairwoman, major household repairwoman, stuffed animal surgeon, and the list goes on. That’s a lot of responsibilities, and this list doesn’t even touch on other relationships and obligations in her life, much less any time she may need to care for herself. It can be utterly overwhelming. The sheer volume of responsibilities and roles to perform can make a mother feel spread too thin and leave her with a sense of failing at the things she holds most dear.

The thing about motherhood, though, is that while there’s so very much to do, so very little of it is of all that much importance. Oh I know it seems like it’s all important, because if you don’t clean the house who will, and if its not clean then you’ve failed to provide a healthy home environment for your children, plus if the place looks terrible then your friends might judge when they come for play dates, and you might go a little crazy because the mess  – IT’S TOO MUCH. Breathe. It’s not important.

What is important in the job of motherhood is capturing and nurturing little hearts, discerning and calling out great destinies in little lives, building relationships with little people so that your influence is greater than the world’s. Because one day, those little babies so dependent on you are going to step out into the world in independence, and when they do, these are the things that matter. How clean your house was, how great your dinners were, even how perfectly you made them behave will not amount to much as they become their own people.

I have struggled with this idea and the relinquishing of control that it ultimately amounts to. That speech about calm down, it’s ok if you don’t clean your house this week, that was all for me. A couple years ago I started to notice that while juggling all of my responsibilities and all of my stress, I was failing at relationship. I was staying relatively successful at all of the peripherals like cooking, cleaning, rule enforcing, and routine, but I was too busy, too tired, too stressed to just be with my kids and really know them. I knew I was missing the whole point and I had to make a change.

I’ll confess that I don’t read much in the way of parenting books anymore because it took me so long to get out of my psychologically savvy head when I had my first child. Instead, when I face a parenting dilemma, I pray and ask God for an answer specific to my kids and our family. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with reading parenting books, I have personally just struggled with relying on head knowledge more than heart connection when it comes to raising my children. So in the wake of this realization that I was failing at relationship when I knew that relationship is all that really matters, I took my To Do list to God and asked Him to show me how to manage. I prayed through the overwhelming weight of responsibility and exhaustion that was crushing me, and this is how He reordered my list:

1. Clean the house on Monday each week, and only on Monday. I felt like I was caught in a never ending cycle of cleaning that never resulted in anything actually being clean. As insignificant as this sounds, it was stealing my time and energy from my girls, not to mention my sanity.  I’m not saying this is the right plan for everyone, just that when I asked He gave me the perfect solution for me that unloaded a ton of pressure. Now the girls and I clean the house together on Mondays, and whatever doesn’t get done waits until the following Monday. If you visit my house and it looks like a 2 and 4 year old cleaned it, well, now you know why.

2. Include the girls in my day to day activities. It seemed like in all of the busyness of taking care of my home and children there was no time for any of the things that keep me sane, like praying, running, and cooking. God showed me that there’s not much on my To Do list each day that my girls can’t do with me, and that involving them in all of my activities was a way to mentor them. They help clean the house on Monday, they’re involved in cooking dinner each night, they exercise with me, we pray together, and I even built in some time that we all quietly do our own thing. At times this is harder than doing my favorite things by myself, but most of the time we all enjoy doing these activities together and I see my girls’ confidence bloom when they realize they can be a part of things that grown ups do.

3. I only have two parenting objectives:

1. For my relationship with my kids to model what a relationship with God is like

2. For my parenting to cultivate God’s destiny in each of my children’s lives

Number 3 is what really turned my To Do list upside down. Gaining that understanding, that my job as a mother really just boils down to a To Do list of two things, revolutionized my mama world. It changed my focus and perspective and completely reordered my priorities. It’s a list of just two objectives, but they are abstract and non-specific, which is so perfect for me because it forces me to be dependent on God to reveal what this looks like from day to day.

According to this list, my most important task as a mother is to pray. Not cook or clean or control, but seek His guidance for each individual day and each individual child. For my relationship with my kids to model what a relationship with God is like, I have to have a relationship with God so that I know what it feels like to be parented by Him. For my parenting to cultivate God’s destiny in each of my children’s lives, I have to ask Him what that destiny is and what things are useful in guiding them towards it. Doing this leaves me feeling a lot less like I have to control or plan a certain way and a lot more inspired and excited to build relationships with my kids based on the unique insight and wisdom I’ve been given about them.

This entire process is wrapped in grace. I do this so imperfectly. I mess up a lot. I’m not following a To Do list published in a book or fabricated by an expert, I’m creating one that is unique to my family based on God’s expert leading and direction. I have to discern and listen and obey and sometimes my humanness gets in the way and I get it all wrong. As I take all of my mistakes and shortcomings back to God I am astounded by His great extension of grace to me, by His ability to bless my family in spite of my mistakes. This experience of grace in my worst moments as a mother did not just transform my To Do list, it changed my life. It showed me what grace and forgiveness look and feel like, and how I can extend grace to my kids in their humanness and shortcomings. If in the face of my worst parenting mistakes and failures God can stay in relationship with me, love me, give me grace and forgiveness, gently instruct me, teach me how to to it differently next time, and give me another chance, then I can know how to do the same for my children.

To Do List:

    1. Pray
    2. Obey
    3. Grace

Rising Again

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Faith | 8 comments

Rising Again

“Good things happen to people who do good.”

I smiled outwardly but winced inwardly as the words rolled casually off her lips. The conversation had nothing to do with me and she was in no way speaking about me, but I felt the familiar sense of condemnation as it hit me again – people believe this. Christian people, it seems, more than any other people.

Because of my own experience, I had a very different perspective on her statement. I had done a lot of good and had a lot of bad things happen. I had wrestled with God on the question of “Why?” for so long that I finally had my own answer on the inside: Shit happens. It just does sometimes. We don’t always know exactly why. And we are often far less powerful to keep it at bay than we wish to imagine. Can God pull us out of the pile and make something good come from all that’s gone wrong, with His power at work in our lives can we overcome and come out better for it? Definitely. But that process is much messier than most people will tell you.

I felt at peace with all of that. But I still struggled with the opinions of others. With the seemingly endless advice about how I may have brought trouble on myself and family and how I could put an end to it if I just prayed right/did right/gave right/talked right/forgave right/etc/etc/etc., I sensed the judgement of others. With the realization that my church, where I had given a lot, served a  lot, and formed a lot of significant relationships for years, would rather distance itself from my family’s needs than get a little messy with us, I was feeling pretty sensitive to any sentiment suggesting the converse of “good things happen to people who do good,” which is “bad things happen to people who do bad.”

“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” Proverbs 24:16

Make no mistake, the goodness in people is not measured by the volume of good things that happen to them. Surely we’ve all met wonderful people diagnosed with cancer, betrayed by a loved one, weathering a financial storm, experiencing devastating loss. I’m exhausted of a theology that says we can control our lives if we do certain things or behave a certain way. I’m worn out on all the lies that thinking produces – that if something bad happens we’ve done something bad, that if others are struggling they have failed to live righteously, that God’s ability to work in our lives has more to do with our works than His Grace. I do not believe that good things always happen to people who do good. I believe that God things always happen to people who seek God, and that God things sometimes look more like rising again in the wake of life’s inevitable falls and risks, better, stronger, braver, than it looks like never experiencing difficulty in the first place.

“To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” Leo Buscaglia

Over the past several years, my eyes have opened to an entire breed of people that at one time I did not know existed: Risk Takers. Courageous souls who are willing to take a stand for what they believe in, sacrifice their comfort to do something significant, speak with boldness in defense of those who can not speak for themselves, love passionately with abandon, and all of this with no regard for fear of failure, rejection, or criticism. I think that as a result of some of the rising again I’ve had to do after taking some painful falls, I’ve become more like these people, and for that I am grateful, for that I would not trade a moment of my own hardship. Here is what I’ve learned about these special people, these Risk Takers: Sometimes the people most passionate for God and others, the people most committed to doing good, no, great things, are the ones who take the biggest risks. From a selfless desire to serve and love comes passion, courage, surrender, willingness to lose everything. And sometimes people who take big risks experience great losses.

We have just got to stop heaping condemnation and unsolicited advice on people who are hurting. We must stop telling them what they did wrong and how they can do right better. We need to throw out the idea that we can know someone else’s heart based solely on what we see in their circumstances, and worse yet, that we can control our own circumstances by thinking we’re better than those people going through hard things. There really is no formula to explain why good or bad things happen, and by trying to apply one using our limited human understanding, we do grave injustice to the mystery of God and to the people around us.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt


Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in Cooking | 0 comments

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Once upon a time, Husband and I wanted to make chili. Husband remembered that his dad had a great chili recipe, so he called him up to get it.

Husband: “Dad, don’t you have a good chili recipe? We want to make chili. But I don’t like onions or bell peppers and C doesn’t like cumin or beans.”

Dad: “Ummm… I don’t think you guys like chili.”

A father’s wisdom right there, folks. But the thing is, we do like chili, so long as it’s of the onionless-beanless-meaty-easy-on-the-cumin variety. Recently when Husband requested bison chili for his birthday dinner (actually bison chili and chocolate mousse, he’s a man of diverse tastes) I was ecstatic to find that the famous recipe from Tolbert’s Chili Parlor in historic Grapevine, Texas, is basically just beef and chiles with lots of spice and a little cumin. I altered the recipe slightly to include bison instead of ground beef since it’s leaner and less processed with antibiotics and hormones, added a little bacon fat because, well, bacon fat makes everything better, and adjusted the spices to our liking.

I found the dried chiles called for in this recipe at Whole Foods. Speaking of Whole Foods, that place is like grocery nirvana. In an effort to save money and condense my shopping trips with small children to one stop, I’ve begun exclusively shopping at Wal Mart. I can feed our family of four on something like $20 a week, it’s incredible. But Whole Foods, oh man, Whole Foods is like an alternate grocery universe where the fish counter worker engages me in witty banter, I mysteriously enjoy grocery shopping, and my children skip through the aisles excitedly chattering about specialty foods. Wal Mart sucks and I never want to go back.

But anyway. Bison Chili. You should try it.

Bison Chili

Bison Chili (adapted from Tolbert’s recipe for Frank X. Tolbert’s Original Bowl of Red)

5 slices bacon

4 pounds ground bison

16 dried ancho chiles

1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin

1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano

1 heaping tablespoon cayenne

1-1 1/2 tablespoon tabasco, depending on spice preference

6-8 minced garlic cloves

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons masa harina

Cut stems off of chiles and remove seeds from inside. Be sure to remove all seeds otherwise they will give the chili a bitter flavor. Place the chiles in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer the chiles for 30 minutes.

While chiles are simmering, cook bacon in a pan over medium high heat to render fat. Remove bacon from pan and brown ground bison in two batches in bacon fat. Once cooked, remove browned meat to a large pot or dutch oven.

Once chiles have simmered for 30 minutes, puree them in a blender with a small amount of cooking liquid to make a smooth, thin paste. Use as little liquid as possible or the chili will be soupy. Pour the chile puree over the ground meat in the dutch oven. Pour enough of the remaining chile cooking liquid into the dutch oven to cover the meat by about 1 inch. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Remove the chili from the heat and stir in the cumin, oregano, cayenne, tabasco, garlic, and salt. Return the chili to the heat and resume simmering, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.

After 45 minutes, add the masa harina. Cover the chili again and simmer for another 30 minutes, tasting often to adjust seasoning to your liking. Remove the chili from the heat, cool, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Skim fat from top of chili before reheating. Serve with cheese, sour cream, and green onion.

This chili takes a bit of time to make but makes a lot, so we eat it for several nights and freeze the rest for a later time. It is also good served in chili cheese burritos, chili dogs, and stuffed poblano peppers.





Holy Ever After

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 in Faith, Marriage & Family | 0 comments

Holy Ever After

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to travel alone (alone!) to Hawaii for my dear friend’s wedding. Did I mention I was alone? It’s the first time I’ve travelled anywhere alone since I had children. It was wonderful, refreshing, and a brand of fun with girlfriends that I had kind of forgotten existed.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful in every way. The bride and groom exchanged vows overlooking the Pacific Ocean with strands of tropical flowers floating in the trees above them. The scenery was breathtaking, and so was the ceremony. Their hometown pastor traveled a long way to marry the bride and groom, and his wedding sermon was thought provoking and meaningful.  With great grace and honesty, this pastor shared the real story, that marriage includes ups and downs, heartache mixed in with the happiness, and that there was divine purpose in all of this. He said (my paraphrase, he was much more eloquent) that once you get married, your spouse will contribute more to your holiness than any other person ever will again in your life. That struck me as such depth of truth and wisdom that I seriously pondered it as I watched the bride and groom take communion and wash each others feet out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was one of the most profound perspectives on marriage that I have ever heard.

Websters defines holiness as “the state of being exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Yeah, so that’s not what I’m talking about here. I don’t think marriage makes one perfect in goodness and righteousness, at least mine hasn’t yet. Another definition is “having a divine quality.” That’s what I think marriage has the ability to do, create in us a divine quality by moving us closer to God as we confront and cast off our selfishness, character flaws, and wounds. A synonym is sanctification – “the state of growing in divine grace.” Yes. Marriage presents an opportunity for growing in divine grace.

I am not the same person I was when I got married. Standing at the edge of the ocean in the gentle Hawaiian breeze, watching my amazingly together friend make this big commitment, I was reminded that when I did the same thing eight years ago I was pretty much a mess. Why did Husband choose me in all of my messiness all those years ago? I remembered he once mentioned that something he loved about me was that my heart was tender towards God. I think part of what he must have meant was that he saw in me a willingness and desire to grow, learn, and mature that ran deeper than my flaws and weaknesses. Our marriage has been an ongoing process of growing in divine grace. Sanctification. We have both been willing to be changed. We have both been willing to be humbled. We have both been willing to become less selfish.

Six weeks before Husband and I exchanged our vows, my dad died. I had great difficulty following this life event and my difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. Husband could have left. People would have understood. But he stayed. Not only did he stay, he never once mentioned the thought of leaving. I even asked at times if he wanted to and his answer was always the same – “We’re in this together. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Years later Husband lost his business, income, and status. He had great difficulty following this life event and his difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. I could have left. People would have understood. But I stayed. By the grace of God alone, when I could sense his question of “Will you leave?” I somehow knew to look at him and say “If I had nothing but you, our baby, and our two crazy dogs, I would be happy. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Marriage offers an opportunity like no other to grow in divine grace – to exchange selfishness for love, haughtiness for humility, shame for a fresh view of ourselves through a lover’s eyes, fear for strength to push through the greatest challenges. I always hope when I write about marriage that people I know who are divorced feel no condemnation. Marriage takes such work, commitment, respect, and forgiveness from both people that I find it rather miraculous that anyone’s marriage can endure. My marriage is not perfect by any means. But it has been a sanctifying force for me. I can see that it has been for Husband too. That wedding sermon helped me understand why and I wished I had heard it sooner. If someone had described marriage to me before I made my own vows as a process that would not only add to my happiness but also to my holiness, my sanctification, my growth in divine grace, then I think I would have viewed each struggle and conflict along the way very differently. I would have purposed more to have a heart malleable enough to change and a willingness to let marriage grow and stretch me instead of expecting it to be continual bliss. I would have welcomed all that comes with the process of Holy Ever After as an indispensable part of my Happily Ever After.



Stinky Baggage

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in Mental Health | 1 comment

*WARNING* graphic poo information follows…

One of my household responsibilities is cleaning up all the dog poo in our yard. I’m not sure exactly how this not so appealing job fell on me, but somehow it did. Hmmmm. Add to list of “discussions” to have with Husband about redistribution of household tasks. Sounds like man’s work to me now that I think about it.

But anyway. This may not sound like a huge deal, the cleaning of the poo, but you just. don’t. know. We have two very large dogs. They make very large poo. And I’m not sure what exactly we’re feeding them, but they make a lot of poo. It’s a nasty job.

I try to do it every day, and when I’m able to maintain this schedule the job is gross, but it’s doable. Scoop poop, place in bag, throw in trash, wash hands, 5 minutes total. Somehow in all of the busyness, house guests, and snow surrounding the holidays, though, the task got away from me and I went more than a month without scooping the poo. Suddenly one unseasonably warm January day, I found myself out in the yard, lugging around a giant, full-to-the-brim bag heavy with dog poo, feeling like it was impossible to clean up the mess that had accumulated as the poo piled up day after day, week after week, with no tending to keep it from escalating out of control. I couldn’t even recognize the nice landscape of our yard anymore. I just saw a lot of ugly stinky crap, taking up residence and taking over where clean and pure and beauty used to live.

Where am I going with this absolutely disgusting story? Well, as I was dragging around my stinking bag of poo, I had this thought…

How many of us are dragging around a stinking bag of $&!? in some way or another? You know, hurts, anger, resentment, unforgiveness that we’ve neglected to clean up for so long that it has just taken over the once lovely landscape of our lives?

Much like my yard full of dog poo, hurts and anger that are cleaned out regularly are pretty manageable, but those that are allowed to accumulate over time until they start to take over require some serious heavy lifting to remove. And like my yard full of poo, there comes a time that it either seems easier to let the crap continue to collect, or the crap no longer seems noticeable because it has become a permanent fixture. And just like a yard full of poo, all of this eventually really starts to stink.

So the day I realized I had to clean up, I was outside with Bug and Bear and I saw that this was too much mess for them to play happily and safely. The mess was disrupting my enjoyment of our usually pleasant yard too. I figured my neighbors were probably noticing and keeping their distance as well. The crap in your heart does the same thing you know – affects your family’s enjoyment and health, grosses you out on the inside, and repels the people who do life with you.

I want to point out that I’m not talking about significant traumas or deep wounds here, those things are not so simple and the emotions involved more confusing. I’m simply talking about the day to day issues, relatively small in the grand scheme of things, that evoke hurt and anger. 2012 was a difficult and painful year. Some people, some strangers, some friends, hurt me terribly, caused my family significant harm. I’m over it. It’s not that I don’t care that these things happened, but I do care less about holding the hurt and anger than keeping myself and my family physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy and happy. In many of these instances I could have retaliated, but it would have come with the hefty price tag of my peace and joy. I think spending my days with young children who marvel at absolutely everything with wide-eyed wonder makes me very aware that the time is short and I don’t get these days back. Do I really want to look back one day and realize I sacrificed my life, my joy, my children’s joy, because someone (who may not even matter all that much) did something that hurt, but that’s over?

I am not saying that I pretend my hurts and anger don’t exist in an act of denial, but that I do the daily discipline of scooping the poop. It takes daily maintenance to keep out the crap of unresolved emotion and bitter unforgiveness, but keeping up with this daily scooping out prevents a massive shoveling job later. Yes it can be a gross job. It’s definitely messy. But taking my hurts to God every day, going through all of the messy feelings with Him until they’re not so powerful anymore, and then letting it go with forgiveness, cleans up the mess before it makes my whole life look like crap. Scoop poop, hand off to God, call it old trash, wash up my heart, then move on with no time wasted.

Of course, sometimes in the process of scooping the poop I realize there’s a discussion to be had. Husband! We need to talk about who scoops the poo…


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