What I learned in Lent

This is a repost from 2011.  I have to say, I wasn’t so excited when I noticed that the reason I’m off the computer this year sounds pretty familiar…

Some of you may recall that my Lenten discipline was to be off the web for Lent.  I had great theories that it would give me lots of time– margin— to spend reading scripture, being more attentive to my children and my family and my spirit.  That I would come out at Easter better.  Able to sustain a deeper level of engagement with ideas and people.  I can’t say it was a rousing success.

Yes, I was off the web.  In fact, I was so off the web that I missed the deadlines (at all three local rec centers) to register my children for spring soccer.  Whoops.  And I spent much of Lent sick with three different viruses in succession, and then knee surgery.  Not much margin was going on.

And what did I discover about myself?

That really, I have a very short attention span.  Yes, I had more little bits of time to spend in prayer and reading… but I don’t feel like I used them to their best advantage.  I learned that my use of the web–  reading blogs, occasionally (more often than I’d like) reading through random bits of gossip about people I haven’t met who star on TV shows I’ve never watched as if I were in some dentist’s virtual waiting room– is a symptom of my shallowness, not the cause.

I also read through the book of John.  My friend Amy and I were laughing about the difference between how the gospel of Mark tells a story– just the facts, ma’am– and how John tells it is about ten minutes of standing time in church.  And it turns out that my brain is much more of a Mark-fan than a John-fan.  I’m not proud of this, but there it is.

But I’m trusting that God can take my weakness and use it for his good, even if it means some growing pains in the process.

On the up side, I came to the conclusion that this blogging space serves a very useful function for me.  Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts with me.  It’s a true encouragement to me, and I look forward to being here with you again.

(Don’t miss Jessica’s thoughtful post on what she learned during Lent.)

Resolutions… Hopes?

I feel hesitant to make Resolutions this year… I keep thinking of Nicholas Cage’s wandering stream-of-consciousness meditation aloud on the word “resolute” in National Treasure and feel a little like that.  I had really good resolutions, and God took me somewhere I hadn’t planned to go.  Or that I had hoped for it but didn’t even know how to ask.

So I have some ideas about how I want to be faithful to follow the roads now before me, but I don’t know that there won’t be a fork, and I want to be open to following the fork when I come to it.
“A lady came to a fork in the road.”

“Why didn’t she pick it up?”

(See what I mean about stream-of-consciousness?)

So without further ado, I want to:

  • Run 400 miles in 2012.  (I ran 125 miles last year.  I said I wanted to increase my mileage.  Always so helpful, Sam said, “But you only ran half the year, so you should run 500 miles this year.”)
  • Be ready to go overseas if my skills can be used there.
  • Be outside more.
  • Eat more dinners on china at home.
  • Get comfortable at the new hospital in which I’ll be working (going back to doing some teaching, so I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to feel at home there…)
  • Memorize Scripture.  How much?  A lot…
  • Write a first draft of a novel and rewrite another well enough to query it.
  • Be both disciplined and flexible in our homeschooling so that we learn every day and laugh every day.

Before My Resolutions

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I fail by making too many. Sometimes I fail by not even trying.  Or by being afraid to name what I want.  I failed recently by shooting down my friend’s word for the year… and at our last conversation, she still hadn’t found a new one.  But at least she was trying, while I was just shooting.

I want to start the year with confession, and this is my favorite one (from the Book of Common Prayer):

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

So as I start this year fresh and new, I want to start from the right place.

And then I want to start (again) loving God with my whole heart and my neighbors as myself.


Random School News

Two weeks ago, we went to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Christmas play, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Show.  The actors do a talk-back after the show, and the kids recognized one of the actors from last year’s play, A Christmas Carol.  I was a little nervous because there wasn’t much action on stage (it being a radio production), but the kids especially liked the Foley artist.  I learned that a Foley artist does sound effects.  Very fun.


Then Friday, we had a final exam.  (Total points 100).

  1. Would you rather be a cat or a dog? (7 pts)
  2. Would you rather eat noodles or pasta? (9 pts)
  3. Would you rather dance or jump rope? (20 pts)
  4. Would you rather do math or read? (5 pts)
  5. Are your toenails smooth or bumpy? (4 pts)
  6. What is the best book you read this fall? (10 pts)
  7. What is better: peppermint bark, or gum (not in your hair)? (5 pts) (Only one person answered gum.)
  8. What is your favorite Christmas carol? (15 pts)
  9. What are giving to Jesus for Christmas?(25 pts)

Everyone scored 100, which was a great relief to the teacher.

Then O made a second final exam, which he called the Final Final Exam.  (all spelling was taken directly from the exam)

  1. witch name would you like to have? a) Sam b) noel c) 36b
  2. witch instrument would you rather be? a) gaiter b) piano c) flute
  3. how many sides would you have if you where a shape? a)1 b)56 c) 12587946351
  4. what code would you make? a) shapes b) symbols c) code

The grades of this exam aren’t back yet.

Then we did science experiments.

O tested taste, blindfolded.
M wanted to know if you could jump rope better when you were old or young (happily, OLD!)

I wanted to confirm independently the study that showed that people are smarter when they chew gum.


Everyone jumped more jumps while they were chewing gum.  Guess it’s true.  Can somebody email my second grade teacher and let her know?

Big :: Small


On our trip I got to visit two friends in Chicago.  I invited myself over to my friend Beth’s house to take her the cutting board she won in the contest, but the happy result was an hour spent together thinking about how great God is. I have watched Beth and her husband navigate a life of great faithfulness to God’s call on their lives over the past nine years.  She observed how amazing it is that even as He is acting all over the world, working out his plans everywhere, He is also focused on each unique heart and our individual relationships with him.

It struck me that we are called to the same thing—not on such a grand scale, I know—in our own families.  Even as I am looking at the big picture of what God has for our family, I need to be simultaneously aware of what is going on in each heart in our home.  It’s a huge task, and I’m glad that responsibility isn’t solely mine.  But I am grateful for such a gentle, loving God to guide me through it, and a wise partner to share it with.


Finished: 101 in 1001

My 1001 days are done.  The idea, if you weren’t familiar with it before, is to complete 101 tasks/goals in 1001 days (2.75 years): enough to time to plan overseas trips, or learn the rudiments of a language…enough time to do those things that are too big for New Year’s Resolutions.  It also requires that the items be measurable, quantifiable.  Nothing vague (like “68. learn to felt.”)  The idea originated here: Day Zero Project.
I began my list-making with who I am, and who I want to be:  a wife, a mother, a writer and creative person, a student & teacher, a daughter my parents, a doctor.  I started my list 2/1/09 and finished it 10/30/2011.  I am happy with what has been done; the list gave me impetus for some habits (copying Scripture, running, not speeding, a regular time/place for daily prayer) that I hadn’t previously set out in this stage of our lives.  There are 17 I didn’t finish, although a handful of them are in process.  I don’t think I’ll be making another list soon.  It was hard to make the list, and I found I populated it with both tasks and habits– but the ones I dread doing (eg, the kids’ passport applications) or require others’ buy-in or assistance (i.e. incorporating the children in my school goal-making, or doing a handmade Christmas) are the ones that still aren’t done.  And the reality is that almost all these items dip into the same pot of time: the few hours a week that I have “free.”  While that’s reality, I think I’d rather reevaluate my time so that strategizing how to decrease our garbage (#28) doesn’t cut into my writing/reading time.

There were dreams– like learning to sail and traveling to do some medical missions– that were so outside my narrow capacity to imagine, that they didn’t even make it onto the list.  And God did them anyway.  (God is like that.)  But I think the original function of the list is to help us break those things down into manageable chunks (like getting the kids’ passports) so that the unimaginable can be done.
So I think I’d like to reevaluate my to-do list and think about how to cultivate the habits so that they aren’t competing with the “to-do”s.  Then I’ll plow forward into the unknown with my hands full of good intentions and get done only what there’s time for in each day.  That’s what I’m learning.

Spiritual Growth & Mentoring

1. Read Interior Castle

2. Read Surprised by Hope

3. Read Rahner’s Prayers (in process)

4. Maintain Weavings group

5. Form a prayer habit—place/time daily

6. Pray daily for Sam with guide

7. Pray daily for children with guide

8. Write curriculum for CC: epiphany

9. Write curriculum for CC: Lent

10. Write curriculum for CC: Easter

11. Write curriculum for CC: Pentecost

12. Bimonthly worship leading

13. Copy Romans

14. Copy a gospel

15. Copy Colossians

16. Copy Ephesians

17. Finish copying Genesis

18. Copy Exodus

19. Copy Jonah

20. Copy Micah

21. Copy Nahum

Stewardship (of finances, earth, and my body)

22. Pay off Condo (in process)

23. Pay off Corolla

24. 3 mos emergency fund

25. Max Sam’s 401K

26. Weigh trash for a month (though I ended up doing volume instead of weight)

27. Weigh recycling for a month (ditto)

28. Reduce trash by 20%

29. Reduce recycling by 20%

30. Purge Stuff spring 2009

31. Purge stuff winter 2009/2010

32. Chart for 1 year quantity of local (<100 mi) food v. long-distant

33. Decrease non-local food by 25%

34. Make exercise a habit (5d/wk)

35. Twice annual dental visits

36. MD visit in 2009

37. Reach goal weight & maintain it

38. Train for & run a 5K

Blessing Sam

39. Get the children’s passports so we can travel (have the applications…)

40. Attend a conference with Sam (+/- kids)

41. Take him to a musical twice yearly (2009: Chicago, Joseph, 2010: In the Heights, Nine, 2011: Next to Normal, 2011: Lion King)

42. Dates each month

Blessing the Children

43. Build a play fort

44. Write in journals at least once a month

45. Write goals for children’s habits (w/ their help)

46. Write plan for achieving goals

47. Dates (at least 6/year)

48. Cook with J weekly

50. Play with M alone daily

51. Do a project with O weekly

Writing/Creative Life

52. Conference 2009 (RMFW)

53. Conference 2010 (RMFW)

54. Conference 2011 (RMFW)

55. Finish my YA novel

56. Finish my medical novel

57. Send medical novel to a beta reader

58. Find 20 agents to query

59. Submit query/proposal to 10 agents

60. Establish and maintain weekly writing habit

61. Write draft of Nicolas book

62. Write draft of middle grade/YA Book (in process)

63. Knit stockings for Christmas

64. Knit wash cloths

65. Knit children’s hats/gloves

66. Write Frank & Buddy draft

67. Write Advent/Ransom essay

68. Learn to felt

69. Knit myself a sweater


70. Submit essays twice a year (submitted a story in August 2011)

71. Do an entirely homemade Christmas

Learning & Teaching

72. Read 1 volume of Plutarch’s lives

73. Incorporate handiwork: embroidery, mending, knitting

74. Read Parenting in the Pew

75. Read Ministry of Motherhood

76. Read Laying Down the Rails

77. Take on A for capstone project

Blessing our Parents

78. Field trips with Mom/Dad quarterly

79. Maintain contact with my brother (once a month phone call)

80. Visit my parents at their house bimonthly

81. Visit J twice yearly (GA 08, IL 08, GA 09,IN 09, GA 10, IL 10, IL 11, IL 11)

82. Video of kids to J 2x/year


83. 50 CME in 2009

84. CME in 2010

85. CME in 2011

86. ALSO maternity care conference

87. 1 Gen Staff Meeting in 2009

88. 2 Primary Care meetings in 2009

89. 6 Perinatal meetings in 2009

90. 1st module of Board recertification

91. 2d module of Board recertification

92. 3rd module of Board recertification

93. 1 Gen Staff meeting in 2010

94. 2 Primary Care meetings in 2010

95. 4 Perinatal meetings in 2010

96. 1 gen staff meeting in 2011

97. 2 primary care meetings in 2011

98. 4 Perinatal Meetings in 2011


99. Make a habit of not


100. Start a neighborhood CM group

101. Read Dad’s WWII book (in process)


My whole life I wanted to be a runner.  My brother was a runner, and after dragging myself through our weekly Monday fifteen-minute run in P.E. in junior high, I decided I would never be a runner.  I taught aerobic classes, swam regularly, and played soccer, but I never loved running.  During medical school and residency, when my schedule made taking any sort of class difficult, I began jogging and ran a few 5K races.  I had a running buddy in Chicago, and we’d run 30 minutes a few times a week.  I enjoyed her company (and the caloric margin that jogging afforded me), but when I got too pregnant to continue (at 28 weeks, I think, when I could no longer last 30 minutes jogging without visiting the bathroom) I stopped and never picked it up again.

Until this summer.  After my knee surgery and 12 weeks of PT, I tried again.  My friend Renee was an enthusiastic cheer leader and babysitter.  My friend Jerusha sent a link to Hal Higdon’s 8 weeks to 8K plan and committed to working through it with me.  And somewhere there in September—not until after the 5K—it finally clicked.  I became a runner.


The first 5 minutes is no fun, but after that, endorphins (or whatever) kick in, and I love it.  That doesn’t mean every run is easy, and in fact quite a few of them are hard, but I am loving it.

I’m in no position to advise anyone on how to start, but the 8K plan helped me increase my mileage slowly but surely.  It was detailed enough to give me an assignment every day, but they were doable, and the results were consistent.  I also like www.mapmyrun.com (and am not receiving any compensation for recommending these two resources).  The iMapMyRun app lets me record my route (as well as my distance, time and pace) for each run (or walk or bike ride) as I go.  And for this novice, who likes the outcome as well as the process, seeing my total miles build up really helped me keep going.  I’ve run over sixty miles total since starting in late July.  Not bad for someone who thought she’d never be a runner.

Wrong Side of the Bed

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed the other day.  Sam and I shoveled heavy, wet snow off the driveway.  I spent the rest of the day feeling dissatisfied.  Melancholy.  (Or, to quote Flip in Bellwether by Connie Willis, “Itch.”)

Was it too much candy?  (Must. Stop. Eating. Candy.)  Or PMS?
The big kids went to their home school classes and had a great time, and SweetP and I spent the day looking at each other.  She’d see my grumpy face and ask, “Can I have another piece of candy?”  I’d say Yes.  She’d eat the candy.  I’d feel like a bad mom.  She’d see my grumpy face and ask…


I hate feeling this way.  I want to set the tone in our house, not spend my days responding to some invisible emotional thermostat.

I finally got off the couch and called a friend to see if we could take our kids to the gym, where I got 30 minutes on the bike and 30 minutes playing chase and tag and hide-and-seek and HORSE with the kids.  That helped.  Then I fixed the vacuum and at long last got the shredded leaves and sand off the floor.  That helped, too.  Doing.  That helps me– because when it comes down to it, I’m much better at doing than being.

But I so want to BE a grateful, kind person.  A person who has a servant’s heart, and doesn’t just DO serving things because it makes me feel better.  For now, though, I guess the latter will just have to be enough.

Process vs. Outcomes: Is that the Question?

Before asking a hard question, let’s begin with a gratuitous flower photo:
One of my friends a long time ago said she could never homeschool because she was outcome-driven as opposed to process-driven.  It was the first time I had heard the dichotomy, and the implication was that I was a process-driven gal.  I had never thought of myself that way, but I did my best at the time of own that identity in some way.  I think I am learning to appreciate the process and not just the outcome.  But as time as gone on, I have come to think of it as a false dichotomy, perhaps in the same way the spiritual-material dichotomy is false.

I am noticing in myself, however, a tendency to avoid some processes that don’t immediately produce visible outcomes.  Take housework, for example.  As a kid, because of my parents’ schedule, we did all out housework on the weekends, in a big blast on Saturdays.  I remember my parents’ satisfaction that the whole house was clean.  At the same time. Probably as a result of that, doing housework bit by bit doesn’t seem very satisfying to me.  I never have the whole house clean at one time.  At any given moment, you might find my bathrooms clean, or the stove… but it won’t be on a day that the floor is clean, or the windows washed.  Oh wait, I’m not sure the windows have ever been clean.

Jessica has a great post on the temptation to do nothing if one can’t do something completely, or perfectly, and I appreciate so much her answer to that struggle.  Go check it out, and then tell me what you’re tempted to avoid completely simply because it can’t be done perfectly.  Maybe we can encourage one another to do what we can, when we can.

Back in the game

Hey, first I want to point you to my sidebar, where I just figured out how to add back my blogroll.  (I’d been missing it since the switch over to WordPress.)  There’s some good stuff over there!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

On my way home from Chicago, my back went out.  It’s such an old-fashioned phrase, but it really sums up what it feels like.

I missed work.  My parents came for three days to be with the children.  Sam rearranged meetings and worked an abbreviated schedule.  My friend Lori drove the carpool.  My friend Renee brought us dinner.  All the while, I laid flat on my back in bed and prayed this would end quickly.

The view from my bed:

This happens to me periodically.  The last time was in 2009, so I can’t really complain.  But it makes me appreciate all the folks who come to my aid.  And it makes me realize all the little things that don’t seem like much as I do them (you know: doing laundry and making bread and yogurt and emptying the trash and making meals and driving kids here and there and vacuuming…) add up to a lot.  Maybe I need to cut back on some of it.  Maybe I need to teach the kids to do more of it.  And for sure, I need to pray more for those around me who suffer this way on a daily basis… and need to be stepping up to bringing them dinner, vacuuming now and then, and volunteering to help with their carpools.  Back to margin.

From the Book of Common Prayer:

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it will be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.  Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen.