Thursday, May 5, 2016

Home Tour

Married for almost 8 years, Nick and I must have spent at least 5 of those years planning, saving, hoping, and finally letting go of everything we wanted about buying a home. God's great design involved some irony (to me) by placing our first home near where we grew up and had hoped to own a home way back when.

This time, the expectations and dreams were appropriate. The house meets our needs, the biggest one being less than 10 minutes from the church's two main worship sites. It also fulfills some hopes and dream, since a single family house comes with a yard. Gardening and letting the kids explore on their own or have the space for soccer or tee-ball were possibilities that have become much easier than in our largely urban Saint Louis "yard."

Here's your visual tour! Thanks for stopping by.

Sowing Pizza Garden Seeds

Kitchen Work Triangle
 The kitchen has an open L layout with a logical work triangle. Everyone in the family spends a lot of time in this room.

Kitchen, Passing Through Eating Area

The kids' table sits next to the island and has plenty of bright light from the west-facing patio door. The patio door (to the left of the sink) has a view of the back gate and corner where the vegetable garden is located.

No picture of the eating area at this time: it's the only space without a direct window, and it's where so many things get piled. Mostly the scraps of paper are good reminders, but they lack a better home for now.

Entry and Front Window
The living room window faces east. We had a 30+ year honey locust removed in late March/early April... it's my least favorite tree. The morning sun really streams in right now! Next spring we'll put in a more appropriately sized tree for the space. Probably something that's about 15'-20' when mature.

Living Room
This wall holds Ariel's toys and books. I was happy to find the shelf on Craigslist for less than 50% the new price. Ariel is less supervised than the older kids were at her age and she really likes crinkling the plastic jackets on library books... or ripping at them and any tiny tear in a page. Therefore the older kids prefer their books and games to be in the coat closet. The mirrored doors distract Ariel from really wanting to explore the inside ;-) Eventually, a TV will go on this wall. Probably some favorite photos, too, to balance out the large black screen.

Living Room Sectional
We sold the futon in Saint Louis to facilitate moving. It had a good life as Nick's bed when he came home from college, as our bed the first year we were married, as Abigail's big girl bed, and as our couch in STL. This is now our first actual couch. #adulting

Behind it is a 'console table' made out of shelves mounted to the wall. Someday a large piece of art would be great on the wall between the lamps. It's the wall you see first when coming in the door.

At the left edge of the photo, you can see the leg of a piano. This has been a favorite with the kids. Our reader, Abigail, is the most motivated to sit and try the Alfred Basic book. But her younger brother watches and imitates carefully, and at forte. I like sight reading my way through old lesson books, too.

Ariel's corner
After passing from the living room through the eating area, Abigail and Ariel's room is the first.

The colors are most true in the first photo.

It's hard to believe, but sometime in the next 6-8 months, Ariel will be finished with her crib! Abigail's bed is a platform bed with room for a trundle. The twin size trundle is currently in Evan's room. I'm determined to get more life out of that crib mattress, and have plans for making a smaller trundle for Ariel. Eventually, it could make a neat reading nook sofa or low lounge seating with throw pillows when she's entering kindergarten. Or, the crib-size trundle could be sold to some poor parent who's tired of sharing a bed with their kid ;-)

Abigail's corner
Abigail's favorite part of the room is where she keeps her dolls. She loves to arrange everything just so. The tiny table often hosts birthday parties or pancake breakfasts for all the other dolls.

You can spy Abigail in her princess dress in the closet door mirror. I'm not personally a fan of mirror closet doors... but the kids LOVE them. So, the mirrors will stay until other projects have been taken care of. In the meantime, there will be so much dancing and so many goofy faces.

Girls' Room
Out the window, you can see the roofline of the middle school behind our yard. There is a green space with walking trail, so the school isn't too close. The noise level has been fine during recess and PE. Today, I had been sitting with Ariel about 10 minutes to put her to sleep for her nap when the marching band drum line began practicing outdoors for the first time. Thankfully it wasn't on the same side of the building as us. She slept fine. Marching band was one thing that never occurred to me as we thought through this house's location next to a school. Now you know!

Evan's Dresser
Evan's room is the middle bedroom and smallest. Speaking of small, you can spy my little helper, Ariel, in almost every photo of our house.

Evan loves his train set, vehicles, Lincoln logs, and Duplos... and wants them out all the time. "I'm not finished building!" he will protest. Feet appreciate a 12" cleared zone next to the bed. It's his preferred compromise.

The picture with Evan's dresser has the truest colors.

Evan's Window

All the bedrooms have the darkest blackout curtains that I could find. The fabric is off-white cotton duck, but the back has an acrylic coating that makes sure ZERO light filters through. I hung them even with the bottom of the window casing or just above the floor, added about 6-10" of pull back room on each side, and then added eye screws. Why? To make the sides light-blocking, too. I sewed a plastic ring to the top corner of each panel and the ring fastens to the eye hook to close the gap. Just what parents need for early riser kids. Just kidding! Nearly complete darkness is helpful to everyone's bodies as we sleep. So no night lights for my kids, either.

Master Bedroom

The Master bedroom is at the end of the hallway, on the south side of the house. The window faces west, however.

Because Ariel's crib had been between the bed and the closet, and because of the swing of the closet door, we haven't shifted the bed over. The ceiling fan is off-center, because of the closet door swing. Eventually, a long, wrapped canvas of a landscape is what we'd like to put above the bed. Something calm and peaceful. It'll help the room look more balanced.

Master Window

About 6' from the Master window is a large 8'x8' shed. The plus side is that we can stash so many bulky yard and garden things in it. The downside is our view. The afternoon light doesn't allow you to see much through the window in the picture. But the shed is there.

Master Dresser
Just keeping it real: yes, that's my sewing desk piled high with mending and the ends of projects. And those are the laundry baskets.

But my favorite part of this view is the picture of Nick and I on the dresser. We used to have many other photos and things on the dresser top or our walls. In Saint Louis the TV was in our bedroom for almost a year. Increasingly, I want this space to be a calm, sacred space just for us. The kid stuff needs to be in so much of the house -- but not here. The TV, phones, and computers don't need to be here either. Creating a calm space factored into why all the bedrooms got top priority in painting when we moved in.

My helper
 This photo gives a glimpse of the full bathroom door (immediate left side), half bathroom door (just after the open bedroom door), and Master closet door.

This photo also has the truest color for the walls and ceiling in the Master bedroom. Plus, there's my buddy: ransacking the cabinet with her pajamas and nighttime diapers.

Thanks for stopping by our virtual tour!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Family Update

By the numbers:

  • 160 days (5 months, 1 week, or so) since moving to Chicagoland from Saint Louis.
  • 102 days, that Nick has been working as a vicar.*
  • 3.5 months (105 days) since Nick turned 32 years old, and 18 days since I turned 32 years old.
  • 26 days since Easter, which fell on Evan's birthday this year!
  • 14 days since Abigail began attending kindergarten in her new elementary school.
  • 0 days since Ariel began walking independently. So glad I still have time before she's 100% a toddler.

*Can you define it?? It's basically a future pastor on his internship

The seasonal turn to spring did not come with familiarity this year. Not only are we now living back in Chicagoland, but the weather here is about 10F degrees colder most days of the year than Saint Louis. Add an El Nino year with a very cool March and SNOW in April... well, I'm happy to get outdoors and begin gardening.

After 2.5 years away, it's familiar and different.

Abigail attends elementary school. She's still familiar Abby with many of the same likes and smile, but now at 6 years old, she's confident. Explaining processes for how to make something, or how to plan a trip (her dream this month is to camp out in our backyard), is often what she's telling others. As her mom, I try (and fail) to keep up with her thinking trail as she lays out an idea and we try to help it happen. Abigail likes to DO things, and MAKE things, and patiently watching or coaching from the sidelines is good practice for the next season of parenting. She still has momentary nerves as she encounters new situations, but loves being around people enough that the nerves are temporary. All the same, I'm trying to lengthen the time between new transitions. Her latest transition was to elementary school and riding the bus. Her next transition will be to add in some sort of music group in the fall. It's important to us that she have an on-going sport (swim) with an occasional extra one (like dance, gymnastics, etc), and that she be engaged in music (I'm teaching basic piano and we go to choral and band concerts, musical theater, and ballet throughout the year). Our family choices are centered on her transitioning well to school for April/May.

Evan at 4 years old still loves to cook (aka taste test) with us. He loves being involved in projects. Recently, we installed smoke alarms in the bedrooms. Evan heaven. His mind constantly works on figuring things out, but linear and logical process hasn't firmed up like it has at 6 years of age with his older sister. How electricity travels from power plants, through high voltage wires, to substations, to homes fascinates him. HOW is huge right now. Especially if it involves electricity or motors. He creates massive train sets on his rug and narrates imaginative stories with people, cars, and the train set town. Just don't ask him to pick it up in order to vacuum! He rides a bike with training wheels, scooters on two wheels (getting faster), swims, just began soccer, and likes backyard TBall. He plays his harmonica or the piano with lots of crescendo/diminuendo or fast/slow or rhythm, and often listens for the background instruments in songs ("I hear a triangle!"). His big transition will be in the fall, attending 4 year old preschool 2 days a week. Otherwise, he's game for many activities at home if we get to work together on modeling, coloring, painting, cooking, or playing a game.

Ariel has made the mental switch from baby to toddler. She has strong opinions about what she wants and when she wants it. As any smart third child knows to do, Ariel watches her older siblings for clues as to which tone or volume gets my attention fastest... All her words are highly contextual variations on "Mama" (more, me, 'don't leave me,' 'can I try what Mama has?', moo, etc), "Papa" (sheep that 'baa', ball, bear, Grandpa, man that looks like he could be a 'papa', etc), "book," "duck," "ooo" for things she really loves or wants me to see (like her wearing sunglasses), and a few animal noises and a few baby signs. I didn't stress out about a by-the-clock routine during the move, but once she turned 11 months old, she showed signs that a firmer routine would help her. Now Ariel really likes the predictability. It's a sad sometimes that she's almost beyond falling asleep snuggling together, but I really like that she knows what comes next and can feel confident about figuring out her world. Her transition recently is to get used to the predictable routine of the YMCA childcare room. It's important that she warm up a little to trusting other people to care for her. Twice a week she spends 30-45 minutes in the childcare room while I work out. Learning the routine of goodbye and me coming back will help both of us for new activities in the fall like a small group Bible study, or classes for me.

Nick's transition from grad student to vicar has been on-going for a while. Some of his responsibilities are weekly, others are periodic. He thrives when he can schedule himself, and he's been great at sitting down as a couple for weekly and monthly calendar checks. Nick also works with the kids on times when he'll be away for work (like Wed evenings) and I'll be doing things differently because of solo parenting. It's really neat to see him applying both his background in college ministry and so many years of pastoral grad classes, all while learning new things for this specific context. He's becoming more disciplined about sleep (which was so important while a grad student, too). Nick gets to soon be next for our family focus: he needs a regular, consistent exercise habit. It's been sporadic, and often sacrificed to work or time for me to do something away from the kids or house. He's generally active through biking to work when the weather warms up, with the kids, or through yard work. 32 years is not 25 years, nor 16 years! Staying fit takes more focus.

I'm enjoying the fun of our family being "tourists in our new town." We've made lists of places we want to revisit and things we've never (or rarely) done in Chicagoland. Like, the first and last time I went to the Willis Tower Skydeck was in 1998! I've also never been on a boat tour in Chicago. It's fun because it's all new to the kids and they add in their own ideas about where we should go. At home, my teaching skills have been flexed through coming up with a more formal school focus than just fun enrichment activities. Reading through state standards and matching up activities to make a weekly rhythm and achieve progress in the standards for multi-age kids has been challenging. I hesitate to call it homeschooling because of the baggage that term carries. As a parent with three kids in three different stages of development, I can see now how formal school is a really good support and a challenge for some kids (and how one school might not work well for some kids). The lists of pros and cons of public, private, and homeschool keep getting longer in my mind. I'm at peace sending Abigail to public elementary school for this season. I'm at peace sending Evan to private preschool for half the week. I'm still at peace being a full-time mom, and Ariel's first teacher. With Abigail in elementary school, the future freedom to pursue grad school or get back into the workforce is starting to take shape in my mind. "This is what it might be like to have all three kids be school age." comes up just as much as, "If I need to work or the right job comes along and two kids were in elementary school, this is how Ariel's care could work."

So there you have a snapshot of our family in April 2016! Six months into this adventure in Chicagoland. I'd love to hear updates from you!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Concluding Well

The flip side of any new endeavor is, of course, the wrapping up. To conclude well seems elusive at times. But my personality likes to move ON. With decisiveness.

This blog had a good run. Like my previous blog (Paris, 2006), it was a great tool to communicate with friends and family through a season. But it has served it's purpose: mostly to be a reflective space for how teaching my kids is going and how connected our family is with loving neighbors. Our lives have some habits that will serve us well going forward. And our lives are full enough to close this blog chapter.

To that end, you will soon see some activity on this blog! It's about time after 6 months of packing, moving, and adjusting. Coming up are posts on:
  • Updates on family members
  • Tour of our new home
  • Reflection on God's faithfulness
Thank you for your prayers, comments, emails, and support!
I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gravestones and Flu Shots

We walk home from school on these warm, golden fall afternoons. The neighborhood was developed in a Tudor- and Colonial-revival style in the 1920's: the homes come clad in earthy bricks or half timbers, with slate or tile roofs. Both kids are eager to catch up on what each one did during their days. It's a beautiful, pleasant walk!

photo credit:

Now that October has arrived, the Halloween decorations come creeping out. Most homes go the route of "old haunted house" with fake spider webs on bushes or an army of small plastic sheet ghosts hanging from a tree. My kids chose to stop on the corner where one house had giant pipe cleaner spiders climbing the windows and a mini graveyard in the corner of the lawn. Abigail instantly wanted to return home and finish putting up Halloween decor at our house (pumpkins and gourds on the table apparently aren't enough... she wants the skeleton and Dia de los Muertos stuff out from Oct 1. I can only tolerate it Oct 20-31). The gravestones stopped me; despite their obvious cartoonish quality, the gravestones caught my breath this year.

"Honey, we don't put up decorations like that. We have no reason to fear death as Christians, but the real day to celebrate is the day AFTER Halloween: when we remember those who have died before us, who believe in Jesus. They are with him now. One day, we will be, too."

Death stalks us all from conception. Death sometimes seems to win long before anyone is ready to receive a body that is free from illness in eternity. As creatures who inhabit a body, soul, and mind that are inextricably connected, we still try to play (cruel?) tricks on ourselves. Modernity shines like a victorious weight lifter: give illness and death a heave-ho through technology, vaccinations, surgery. Our mind dwells on the ways in which we 'triumph' over death and disease, on lengthening quality of life and lifespan. All these have a place sometimes and can be true advancements, but no one escapes death. Someday, each one of us will die.

My oldest daughter is five years old. Already, she can fill one hand with the names of people of all ages who have preceded her to Jesus. We talk about death, but more than that, we talk about the 'why' of death and the 'after' of death. Clearly, Nick and I don't believe in keeping kids "innocent." I remember vividly the great-grandparents who died when I was four and five, the time of mourning, the explanations of death and Jesus' death, and the funerals... but I also hold dear the pictures and stories that were shared as I grew up. Their lives have been an example to me. Adding it up over the last 31 years, someone close has died every three years: family, high school friends, college friends, children of friends. Death is actually very present.

Yet the gravestones caught my breath.

This is due to thinking actively and specifically about death for the past 8 weeks. It's fitting that as our time in Saint Louis comes to a close, Nick and I are revisiting our final wishes. Times of transition, of leaving and concluding, should bring to mind the ultimate concluding that is death. We journey towards it each day. Coincidentally, by October 31, we will have:

  • executed and signed our wills, powers of attorney and medical power of attorney, and guardianship of our children. It's made us think through all kinds of scenarios from one of us dying, to permanent injury or incapacitation, and both of our deaths.
  • revisited our funeral and memorial service preferences. Mostly this is which Bible verses and hymns have mean the most to us or accurately communicate the hope of eternal life that we have in Jesus. We want our children or family to begin a journey to healing after our deaths (not scramble to make arrangements and choices); this helped. The journey starts with Scripture and hymns that point to God, our rock.
  • researched how and where we want our remains buried. We've come around full circle over the past eight years. Ultimately, we don't want to be "possessed" or not given back to God by grieving family. We want our remains buried (not cremated, to show respect to the body that God created), in a respectful, appropriate cemetery (not possessively kept at home, or irreverently scattered to the wind), with a simple marker that both honors our given names and reminds visitors of the hope to be found in Jesus. It's our goal to buy a plot before this year's end.
  • helped our children memorize the basic tenants of faith in Jesus. We want the Lord's Prayer, Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed, the 10 Commandments, how to praise and glorify God, and that God hears and answers prayer, the significance and meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection planted deeply in their hearts.

The Burial of Christ by Carl Heinrich Bloch

That last point was really driven home to me on Monday this week.

A local hospital offers free flu shots over three days in early October. We've gone each year. With age, Abigail has actually coped less and less well with shots. It would be cruel to spring it on her, so we do talk about it the morning of, and in the car on the way to the shot: the how, the why, and the how long. Nick held her on his lap, wrapping his arms around her. But in the moment, frantic fear brings our her best fight and all her energy goes to her muscles to escape. She wasn't the only kid at the clinic who cried, but I'm certain that she was the loudest screamer that hour. Good thing that Nick held her since she pretty much tried climbing him to get away. Did I mention that the clinic is about 10 tables in a hallway in the cancer center lobby? She knew what was coming, having witnessed it for 20 minutes.

On the other hand, Evan did not get a flu shot (they won't give it to him at the free clinic, since he has an egg allergy and it's cultured in egg). He sat against the wall, watching the four of us get vaccinated.

So, why did a flu shot screamer make me think long and hard about teaching our kids the basics of faith? Well, because of the shooter in Oregon who targeted Christians.

Would any of my children confess to being a Christian, if they had just witnessed fellow Christians being executed? Or would fight/flight response take over?

It's hard to say, since Abigail is five and Evan is three. Ariel has just begun to know Jesus through his love in us. We've started not just teaching the older kids the words of the creeds or prayers, but leaning into scenarios. Ones like,

  • Can anyone take God's word out of your heart? Does God ever leave you?
  • What if you were alone and scared? Which parts would your heart remember?
  • What does God promise in this life? (adult hint: it's both "take up your cross" and "it is finished" in tension)
  • How was Jesus' life hard? What was his strength?
  • When Halloween comes up, I turn back to the kids with questions like "What happens after we die?" and "What are demons? Are ghosts real? What roles do angels have?" I want to know how developed their thinking is.

Nick wants to soon focus on martyrs when we read the Bible, and then move on to others who died because of their faith in Jesus.

Christ and Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt

So Jesus became human like them in order to die for them. By doing this, he could break the power of the devil. The devil is the one who rules over the kingdom of death. 15 Jesus could set people free who were afraid of death. All their lives they were held as slaves by that fear. 16 It is certainly Abraham’s children that he helps. He doesn’t help angels. 17 So Jesus had to be made like people, fully human in every way. Then he could serve God as a kind and faithful high priest. And then he could pay for the sins of the people by dying for them. Hebrews 2:14-17 NIRV 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NIRV 

Live under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you do, you will think about what the Spirit wants.The thoughts of a person ruled by sin bring death. But the mind ruled by the Spirit brings life and peace. Romans 8:5-8 NIRV

How about you?

How do you talk about Halloween with your kids?
When do you talk about death together?

How have you prepared for your death?
What would you like your kids and surviving family
to know about faith in Jesus?
How do you live that out today?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

78 days

Seventy-eight days remain until our Saint Louis lease is up! In days it doesn't seem long. Writing "11 weeks" has a long feel to it. In other words, we have reached a hurry up and wait period that feels oh, so familiar as we've navigated life together since marriage. Here is a fun, distraction list.

78 days until our lease is up
60 times my daughter has asked about the paint color of her future room
55 is the Interstate highway we drive so much
64/40 the Missouri highways that signal home is near
31 was the birthday milestone for me and Nick in 2015
25 boxes for all our stuff,... Or was it a 25' truck trailer?
18th of September will be our next Chicagoland visit
10 weeks of being social media-free, is my goal for sanity
4 weeks since back-to-school began for Abigail (Evan and Nick now, too)
1 last grad quarter before a turn in our journey's road

In the meantime, I'm trying to be present and focused... being available for Saint Louis friends (and keeping our kids with their friends) to wrap up well. So, I will be taking a social media break for at least a month but really with the goal of for our remaining STL season. You are welcome to email me or call/text! It would be great to hear from you :-)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Home Economics

Weekend grocery shopping? Lines are inevitable. Parents of toddlers have been in that hard spot of being almost finished with the grocery list just when meltdown occurs. Families living paycheck to paycheck have been in that hard spot of watching the total tally carefully and holding certain items at the end of the checkout belt... and handing them over to be reshelved in order to stay on track with the budget. But since most readers of this blog are suburban two income families, I want to ask you a question: when was the last time you waited patiently in line behind someone paying with SNAP (food stamps) or WIC (Women, Infants, and Children nutritional program) benefit checks or debit cards?

That person is me.


In the past five years, our family has bordered on the gross income threshold for WIC assistance. Specifically, we've been about $200 annually from qualifying more than one year in a row. The first question that usually pops into others' heads is: couldn't Jenny get a teaching job?

Yes, I could but the numbers are hard to break even with when kids aren't in full day kindergarten. The year Abigail was born, my hourly net pay was $13/h given all the hours actually spent on work; if a daycare or babysitter were paid even a low $5/h, about half of my net income would have gone to childcare for just one child.

Moving to Saint Louis two years ago, I was offered a part-time teaching job. I had to decline after I talked to HR and did the math on my net salary minus childcare for two kids. I took the risk of growing a tutoring clientele for equal pay and much better weekly hours. With three kids ages 5 months to 5 years, we ended up valuing the time and sanity we recoup with me "working" as a full time mom and tutoring or providing childcare to other families.

Future seasons of life will likely change our choices and outcomes. I do pray for a job once the youngest child heads off to kindergarten (or just the right mix of job and time with my kids before that!). The past five years have only been one season.

Health Clinics

We've used the state and county health clinics every year for the past five years. The year that our oldest was less than 12 months old, we were still on my public school teaching health insurance (pre-ACA). At two months of age, she had reached her maximum allowed benefit... well-child exams were partially covered but vaccinations were not. I remember well a $100 bill for one dose at that two month visit. From then on, I took her and Evan to the county health clinics for vaccinations, which had only a $10-15 subsidized cost per shot. We've bounced around on four different health insurance plans in the past five years, and the clinics were especially helpful as our benefits changed.


In the past twelve months, I applied for financial assistance at the YMCA. And for preschool tuition assistance. And for public school summer preschool. And the public school PTO covered our daughter's required school supplies. And for WIC food assistance for me, Ariel, and Evan.

When I mention this, I usually do so cautiously. Stereotypes abound about the kinds of people that "live off of" state and federal assistance.

Today, I'm writing about it so you can be more compassionate.

This is also an opportunity for you to see into the world of state-run clinics and assistance programs. It may be tempting to dismiss my experience because I'm light skinned with dark blond hair and green eyes; but while I wait, there's not much to do except people-watch. The staff are equally courteous and helpful to all people there for care. Additionally, I've seen clients help each other out, like when my name was called while I helped my son in the bathroom or a child needed to be entertained while mom called for a doctor's office to fax records over. Although friends have encountered system tangles when trying to apply for or cancel certain benefits, I would consider my county health clinic, my experience at free flu shot clinics, and my experience at the WIC office no different than if I were at a private practice doctor's office: everyone has been professional.

What is hard is the stigma. It was hardest to walk into the health clinic the first time. It was hard to submit our bank statements for WIC, sit across the counter while numbers were entered, and then answer that I do indeed have a bachelor's degree. It was hard to write out a letter asking for assistance to the YMCA and schools... mostly because of what other people say, without knowing that our family has been helped.

So, if you notice someone paying with SNAP or WIC benefits in line ahead of you and the transactions are taking longer than you anticipated, please be patient.

Stay in line and pray silently for the individual or family ahead of you.

Watch your words when discussing assistance programs in our country.

Be open to a stretched heart and stretched generosity towards others.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Memory: it's the best of times, and the worst of times.

It plays tricks on us by way of our emotions and prior expectations.

For the third time in five years, I am going through files and purging. The extra has already been long recycled and this time the purge is reducing what started as four file cabinet drawers (five years ago) to two folders that could fit into a three inch binder (today). Ouch.

It's tough to let go of hard work. It's hard to come to terms with the changing fields of my life and the teaching profession.

At the bottom of one box were journals. Yes, those had already been reduced to the ones from the most important time spans of the past 20 years.

One brought a smile, with teen crush details.

But the third journal began on Christmas Eve 2005: the first Christmas Nick and I were dating. Eight weeks later I departed to study in France for five months.

On the second page, I wrote about one of the bleakest times of my life. At the time, emotions and my soul had such turmoil that my body felt like it had the flu, or like I was drunk with confusion and shame. My memory at age 31 had painted a scene in which I was alone. But reading through my journal from 10 years ago, I had written down that Nick came with me.

He was there at that awful moment.

For many of us, keeping a journal for our own reflection helps focus thoughts. We're extroverts needing a conversational partner in order to even discover what we're thinking. For others, keeping a journal is setting down thoughts that we've ruminated on and decided upon. We're introverts needing a concise, precise place to curate what we're thinking.

Tonight's digging and discarding, and especially tonight's sidetracked moment to skim a few journal entries reminded me of more. Keeping a journal and going back to review it helps us see moments where God was with us.

My memory had narrowed a moment and gotten it wrong from 10 years ago. Have you done this with bitterness? Sadness? Depression? Anger?

Memory had also made some circumstances larger than they had been in the moment. Issues of importance had gained high relief over the years.

Memory had pushed aside small daily thanksgivings and prayers. But there they stood in black ink. God's faithfulness recounted.

Ten years later, I can see where God was in the good and the bad moments. Now I can see the enlargement that he's grown in our marriage and lives.

It's hard to journal in this present season of being a mom of little ones. So, I'd like to hear your ideas.

How do you curate and file memories, good and bad? How do you take time to notice and remember small daily thanksgivings and prayers? I'd like to learn from you.