Love is Action

Sunday’s Super Bowl ads did not disappoint

You knew I would be watching the Super Bowl.

Because TV is involved. And:

I also did some adulting last weekend. We took a family trek to Pettitis to look at planters. For other “I’ve-been-living-on-a-bunk-bed-in-NYC-can’t-drive–and-never-owned-a-plant-until-35-years-of-age”, a planter is the thing you stick the plant in so it doesn’t blow over.

Let me continue this thoughtful explanation for you. The planter thingy holds the topiary thingy which is not, as I first thought, “a green Snowman thingy.”   

I have grown people. Grown.

Apparently, so has the 10 year old population of Chagrin Falls. For Seb’s birthday party next weekend I asked what kind of cake he’d like. “Uh mom, kids don’t like cake.” 

Wait, what? 

Perhaps what God meant to say was, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away cake.”

I also recently calculated that I’ve been a parent for 43,800 hours. So, according to Malcolm Gladwell (and Ryan Macklemore) I’m way past the 10,000 hours mark. I should be a pro.

I am not.

I went to the dentist last week. As my very nice sadist, sorry dentist, put a rod in my jaw bone, I had time to just sit and think.

As the late Ephraim Levy once said (nod here to my fellow Hello Dolly fans) “Money is like manure, it should be spread around helping young things to grow.” I thought about that.

And thought about how our greatest strengths are usually also our greatest weaknesses. At least mine are.

How Eric recently became an elder at Fellowship Bible. And how to reference both Frozen & The Crown with that news:

And how Brad Pitt, my husband mind you, must have it so hard being handsome and underestimated in life. Read it to believe it.

And wondered why the world puts pressure on early dating after hearing how toxic Selena Gomez found her “young love” with Bieber and how John Mayer did a number on Jessica Simpson (read this NYT profile for yourself).

I don’t think I missed out on anything by starting dating at 30. And agree with Salma Hayek who says she’s grateful she was “a late bloomer” in her personal life, because by then “she knew herself properly.”  She married at 39. See the movie “Runaway Bride” for fuller commentary on this idea.

If God brings you someone earlier in life, and you’re ready for that, be grateful. But if He doesn’t, God’s not “being mean” by withholding for a time. I wish I’d been spiritually mature enough back then to understand and believe that.

As Joni Eareckson Tada puts it, to paraphrase, “forego the instant coffee in the hotel room for a Heartwood latte later on.”

I married my Heartwood latte 5 years ago February 7th. And wouldn’t change a thing: 

And since I’m living my high school years at 40, I couldn’t resist this nod to High School Musical: The Musical Series as a love song for my Eric. As you can see, Miss Margaret Joy was just thrilled to be a part of this:

In hour 2 at the dentist I moved on from ruminating about God, Brad Pitt, and singleness and pondered Tim Keller’s January 29th “Meaning of Marriage Devotional” about marriage not being for only our private happiness but being a “public good”. 

Next, I comforted my dental anxieties by remembering that my hero, C.S. Lewis, also had a thing about dentist/sadists:

“What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

or

“It doesn’t matter when you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”

It would also help if before my appointment, my dentist / sadist has thought to tell me I’d be on a “soft diet for 6 weeks.”

I got tired of my thinking / complaining and subsequently played my “Playlist for Pain”:

Yes, love is action. It spilled from His veins and gives us a love, to borrow from J. Lo, that “don’t cost a thing.” 

Which is something to remember on Valentines Day as we sing “La Vie en Rose”, consume our Dove hearts, and remember that “there is no one like our God“, cue Ein Kolheinu:

 

 

 

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MJ cut her hair off. And thank you 23,000 viewers of my last blog! 

So it’s been a little busy around here for Lacrosse mommy. Seb’s tooth came out right before the Kenston spelling bee.

Coco spent last week majorly cramming for Mock Trial (and won “Best Attorney” making G-diddy out in Phoenix proud!) Phoebe’s home from college which means we spend Monday evenings deeply analyzing Peter Weber, the new Bachelor. E.B.’s started climbing on the pool table and can now say “lollipop”. MJ had her first ballet lesson last week

and decided it was time for a haircut.

That she should execute on her own.

At 5:30AM.

While mommy folded laundry downstairs. 

“Why?” you may ask, would one do such a thing? Miss Margaret Joy said she wanted to “look like Elsa” and, according to  her 3 year old logic, cutting her hair would actually make it grow longer. #Motherhood.

As you’re wiping your tears from watching that video, I should also mention that you can now watch 30 Rock on Amazon Prime for free. That the McDonalds steak egg breakfast sandwich is quite tasty. That my husband and I took an anniversary getaway and slept a full, interrupted 8 hours! That my sister Esther is studying nonprofit management at Columbia Business School because she’s such a smarty pants. And that I’m officially done with a certain airport car service here in the Cleve which can never “keep the reservation”

In other news, 23, 000 of you graciously read my last blog. Thank you! Thank you for reading and thank you for all the “shares”, comments, reactions, and e-mails detailing stories of how you’ve been helped, saved, and granted hope by The Salvation Army.

Many of you emailed me your personal stories and I’m so touched to hear about your dad, a WWII POW who was given his first cup of coffee thanks to an SA officer “angel”. And from some of you currently living in the ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center) rebuilding your lives after years struggling with addiction.

Sorry I can’t respond but just remember, my full-time gig right now is to read “Goodnight Moon” to my 18 month old and dance to “Let it go”:

My biggest regret from last Sunday is that I didn’t start a hashtag #TellYourSAStory so your inspiring stories wouldn’t wind up in my Inbox but instead, live “out there” on social for others to read.

Given I worked in social media and didn’t even think to use a hashtag…well, all I can say is mea culpa

A few of you mentioned your concern with a topic I didn’t address in my blog. Leadership qualifications in The Salvation Army church.  Actually, leadership qualifications within any Christian church.

If you’re interested in exploring this issue, talk with a Salvationist more well-versed in the theology of 1 Timothy 3 or check out two book recommendations from my former pastor in New York, Tim Keller:  “Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill and “Is God Anti-Gay?” by Sam Allbery

For myself, I disqualified myself from leadership as an officer in The Salvation Army years ago for a simple reason – I’m not selfless enough to let people come up to me 24/7 when they need a winter coat or a meal, I’m not confident enough to walk onto an airplane and have people confuse my uniform for that of an airline pilot, and I’m not patient enough to walk through the ups and downs of addiction with clients of the ARC like Army officers.

Back to Tim Keller, while on my way to Walmart last week to procure Unicorn Lollipoops (yes, that says poops…) I heard Tim explain that what makes a family isn’t genetic material, it’s the commitment to covenant.  He explains: “You’re not a family until you’re stuck. Until you’re resting in each other.

He also made it clear that our primary job as parents is not to simply provide “emotional warmth” but to help our kids understand “the moral order of the universe.” To help them learn what’s worth “living or dying for.”

That’s probably the best parenting advice I’ve heard, only to be outdone by my mom’s wise words to pray, pray, and pray.  I probably listen to three Tim Keller sermons a week and recently discovered why his sermons have such impact – he bathes his sermons in prayer and study, spending 60 hours preparing each talk. Now that’s what you call excellence.

As I advise my kids on the “moral order of the universe” I hope they take away their Bubbe’s advice to “pray, pray, and pray” as well as TK’s work ethic and excellence in whatever task you undertake. I also hope they leave our home and find a church family, a place where they too can be convicted of their sin, encouraged by God’s grace, and “rest in each other” through the trials life brings.

We had some friends over for dinner recently who asked how we landed at our home church here in Chagrin Falls. I hadn’t really processed that question but reflected on how we came to that decision that night.

Two years back, while weaning Margaret Joy from breastfeeding, I developed really bad acne; painful cystic acne which necessitates an injection by a dermatologist to treat. This cystic acne is all thanks to hormone changes. #Motherhood.

It looks terrible and makes you feel terrible.  I started calling myself “pizza face” and remember very clearly one Fall Tuesday morning as I left the dermatologist thinking I needed some spiritual encouragement right then and there. A place I could walk in with gauze on my face and nurse my baby during a Bible Study. And I knew where I could go.

Our now home church.

I walked into the Women’s Bible Study, met Carol, and no one treated me differently because of how awful I looked. And then my friend Jen prayed the most beautiful prayer over my cystic acne that I still remember today.

As I thought about that Tuesday morning, finding a place where I could “rest”, I’m reminded of our tender King Jesus. Yes, He is mighty, and powerful, and able to do all things, even move mountains. But He is also gentle – a daddy we can run to, a friend we can talk to, a Healer we can pray to.  

May we rest in Him today. 

 

 

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You probably have it wrong about The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. I read some shoddy journalism which claimed SA is “anti-gay” which is laughable, untrue, and not all in keeping with the stats on how many LBTQ people are helped and supported by The Salvation Army.

I feel I need to come to their defense, not only as a board member, a volunteer, a donor, but as a recipient of the love, spiritual support, and acceptance of Salvation Army officers. Officers who’ve spent Christmases with my family, sang “Be Thou My Vision” in my wedding, helped me see beyond my yuppie lifestyle in New York by giving me cans to sort in a warehouse, challenged and encouraged me in my faith, and provided hope in dark times.

Because I have faced dark times. I have felt alone. Questioned my faith. Watched loved ones die. Waited in a hospital room for bad news.

So though I may not need food from a Salvation Army soup kitchen, and by God’s grace have all I need, I still need the Army.

I needed it back in 2013 when I first visited The Salvation Army corps in Harlem (where I sang praises, for the first time, alongside a former drug addict and a drag queen), and I need it now, 5 kids later, living in suburban Ohio.

I needed it when Hurricane Sandy happened and we lost power at our apartment in downtown NYC, and I need it now when I want my kids to see that Jesus loves everyone, especially the downtrodden.

If you haven’t met a Salvation Army officer, meet Darell:

And if you think you know The Salvation Army, you don’t. They may wear uniforms, ring bells at Christmas time, and look traditional….but they are anything but. In fact, they are the most progressive people I’ve ever met – I’ve encountered more interracial couples in The Salvation Army than I have in any other church or nonprofit organization I’ve been involved with.

Did you know women preach in their churches?

That SA fights human trafficking around the world?

And with all the nonprofits that come and go every few years with big ideas but no infrastructure, no vision, and no staying power –  The Salvation Army has been around for 150 years. My grandfather volunteered there, my dad’s on the board, I served on the board, my mom works with women and children at the shelter in Phoenix, my daughter threw a Valentine’s Day party at the Cleveland Salvation Army homeless shelter…it’s a generational involvement that you can count on.

They’re not going anywhere.

Big names have been helped by Salvation Army. People like the hilarious Chris Rock.  Lebron (who played basketball in a Salvation Army gym growing up.)

And if you think The Salvation Army is “anti-gay” then you haven’t attended a church service or served a Christmas meal at SA. Because if you worship there or stand in a soup kitchen line, you will meet all types. Because The Salvation Army’s mission statement states it simply:

“Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

They do that.

They’re also effective. In grad school I read Peter Drucker’s description of The Salvation Army, “No one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication, and putting money to maximum use.” 

They’re inclusive. A fellow board member in NY, a prominent partner at a major law firm once told me:

I learned about Salvation Army about the same time I found out I was not poor. I was six. My parents explained to met that only poor kids could get free milk at school, and then I saw the same classmates who got the milk and their parents being given packages by people dressed in uniforms. When I asked my grandfather who those soldiers were, he told me – and I quote him verbatim – ‘They are very nice people. You can always trust them, even though they aren’t Jewish.”

So please, especially my journalist friends whom I love dearly, before you go after hard working social service workers, who provide spiritual and holistic support to all kinds of people with all kinds of problems, make crap money for doing it, and serve our communities, 30 million Americans annually, simply because they LOVE Jesus….do your homework.

Every time I hear Lauren Daigle’s song “Rescue” and she sings “I will send out an Army to find you in the middle of the darkness” I know she’s singing about the Army. The Salvation Army.

 

 

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There’s a toothbrush in our rowing machine.

Happy 2020.

Tish Warren (of the Anglican church) wrote this amazing op-ed in the Times about how we should embrace advent and “face the darkness”:

“To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime. We dwell in a world still racked with conflict, violence, suffering, darkness. Advent holds space for our grief, and it reminds us that all of us, in one way or another, are not only wounded by the evil in the world but are also wielders of it, contributing our own moments of unkindness or impatience or selfishness.”

The “darkness” of Advent leads to the “light” and joy of Christmas. And Christmas means hot cocoa, watching The Mistletones on Disney +, anticipation, and watching little ones in onesies tear through gifts hoping for a Frozen Barbie or a green toy car.

This year, Seb hoped for a phone. To which I replied:

Seb got an art set from Costco. Socks. And a taxidermy alligator head.

He also received permission to throw a post-New Year’s party since we didn’t host our annual Christmas Open House.

Sebaleb invited his entire class, including his teacher, who e-mailed to say she’s sorry to miss the fete. Because I’m sure Mrs. B would love nothing more than to spend the weekend with all the 9 year old weirdos she handles all week.

Seb also started the Peiffer Museum of Natural History. Apparently Eric & I endowed this with his $5 earnings for helping me with laundry folding. We beat the Sacklers to it.

The museum consists of a taxidermy alligator head, a bone, and a shark tooth he picked up with Uncle Wally while out in Arizona.

January has begun. Feeling tired? Recovering from the holidays?

If so, just know that John Legend’s wife, Chrissy Tiegen, revealed she has a nanny for each of her two children, two nannies during the day and two nannies for at night. Good for her. That should be comforting to us moms everywhere – we are essentially doing the job of 4 people, night and day shifts. No wonder we get tired!

Mr. Eric Boaz got his first haircut. While L’il Eric sat in a plastic police car soberly and maturely getting his locks cut, Eric & I frantically tried to beat the 5 year old who’d set the previous record on the Cuts n’ Curls basketball scoreboard. We missed it by 1 point. But we shall return.

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MJ got Disney +.

I say MJ  but actually I mean me. High School Musical: The Musical is clever, sardonic, and has some good tunes. Although I have a problem with my 3 year old child singing to “Born to be Brave” that she’s a “queen Messiah” in a purple Toy Story Pull up.

I think not.

I did laundry yesterday. Unfortunately my sweater is a “delicate genius” which must be washed separately.  And don’t be alarmed by my next statement but we had to go to the ER for a massive splinter Sebby got lodged under his toe nail.

At the ER, as my son hobbled through security, the security guy dutifully took my scissors from my purse and spent a solid ten minutes packaging up the scissors as I signed a form saying he could abscond with my precious scissors…all while I wondered if maybe Seb’s throbbing toe might not make it.

Now I need these scissors. I carry them in my purse at all times. Because Hipsters (the thrift shop in Chagrin) tags all their clothes and I don’t think it’s necessary for Seb to know that his Nautica blue shirt cost $5.99.

So I take off the price tags with my scissors in my car, wash the shirt, and hang it in his closet. What my boy doesn’t know can’t hurt him.

My efforts at hiding the origin of his clothes were recently foiled however when the lining inside his navy blue blazer read “Jordan Falk.” Jordan, I don’t know who you are. But thank you for the gift of your $9.99 blazer. Sebby thanks you as well.

And since Sebaleb just stuck his hand in the Fresh balsam candle wax for no apparent reason and subsequently wiped his hand on your blazer Jordan, it was exactly the price I wanted to pay for a blazer that would be worn precisely 4 times before getting ruined by Fresh balsam candle wax.

The kids are enjoying a box; it’s a big brown cardboard box our freezer arrived in last month. Thus far it’s been an ice cream truck. A McDonalds. And a Menchies.

When they tired of the box one Sunday afternoon we drove to Chesterland to see some Christmas lights. You know, one of those beautiful things you do as a family to celebrate Immanuel and cozy Christmas-ness.

Seb & MJ pierced the cozy atmosphere within minutes while bickering non-stop in the back seat. So I did what any wise and wonderful mother would do – I bought them fudge and stuffed their mouths with it so they couldn’t speak.

It worked.

In order to partake in these Christmas activities you do have to get them winter-dressed though:

MJ learned about making a “good choice” and a “bad choice” at preschool recently. We agreed that stuffing a toothbrush in the rowing machine would constitute a “bad choice.”

She had to explain her “bad choice” to Eric, who couldn’t quite fathom how the toothbrush found its way into his exercise equipment to begin with.

I say Eric, but I really should say Brad Pitt. Because a friend saw the Ad Astra poster and commented how much it looks like my guy. I concur. So to be clear, I’m essentially married to Brad Pitt. I just thought you should know.

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Seb finished memorizing Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena:

“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.”

In other exciting small town news, we took a trip to Party City to procure a balloon for a birthday party. They really know customer service there and by “know” I mean “know how to frustrate the heck out of you” as you stand in line for 25 minutes behind a  gentleman wearing a t-shirt that reads: “Greatest Farter ever.”

It’s a new year which means Chloe’s mock trial stuff will get going. So that one day my girl can join Harvey Levin in saying:

Pheebs returns to Miami end of January and I got a letter awhile back announcing we could purchase a paid subscription to send her care packages. Because nothing tells your child “I love you” like outsourcing her Valentines Day care package.

It’s 2020. A few resolutions:

Give up resentment. C.S. Lewis said we have to give up hate like we’d give up tobacco or alcohol – ergo, giving up hate is really hard.

Be good. Alexis de Toqueville once said that “America is great because she’s good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” Are we still good? I have to ask that of my country but more importantly ask that of myself. Because we can’t understand hate if we only view it on a macro scale. Hate doesn’t start in the Middle East, it starts at your HOA. Your office. Your home. At MJ’s preschool there’s a stone outside the door that says, “Write your hurts in the sand and your blessings in the stone.” I really want to do that. And I really want to be a better forgiver. To, as Tim Keller writes, “absorb” the cost of a wrong in the new year.

Other practical goals? Hit a Barre class (which is conveniently located next to Burger Fresh). Start practicing my violin again. Try some new recipes. Get on my Peloton bike.

As we head towards a new year, there are tennis parent meetings, orientations, wellness checks, dental appointments, Amazon boxes, and my favorite: cancelled plans.

I’m with this girl:

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There’s also some reflection. I was reading about some people in youth ministry who talked about “making God cool again.” I’m not interested in my children believing in God because he’s “cool”. I want them to believe in Him because He’s true.

 If I pass nothing else along to my children, I hope they remember this: God is good. All the time. God is true. And true to His Word.

Let that sink in as we close 2019 and start a new year.

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Why I Hurt for the Jonas Bros

“There are only 2 places we’re not accepted – the home we grew up in and the church we helped build” – Nick Jonas.

If you haven’t seen “Chasing Happiness” on Amazon Video it’s worth a watch; chronicling the struggles of brothers Nick (the youngest), Joe (the eyebrow one) & Kevin Jonas (the eldest) as they venture out of small town New Jersey into stardom.

It’s entertaining. It’s also saddening. Because by choosing to become not “Christian” artists but secular ones,  their pastor dad lost his job, they were alienated from their spiritual community, and the boys became somewhat disillusioned after being “abandoned” for that choice.

As a parent, this is an ongoing and constant conversation. What does it mean, if you believe in “common grace” to live in the world, celebrate it, contribute to its common culture, but not conform to all its shifting values? How do you celebrate the world’s plurality of beliefs, all the while unabashedly holding onto your own?

There is a common but mistaken idea that diversity is camouflaging your beliefs and slinking into the background so that everyone feels “comfortable”. Some call this “Midwest Nice.” That’s the antithesis of diversity. It’s conformity.  True diversity, based on my experiences in big cities like Manhattan and Paris, means people don’t need to hide who they are but instead, celebrate their beliefs openly and have the confidence to agree to disagree in relationships.

Friendships, even deep ones, need not rely on shared values – in fact, friendships can challenge us, confront us, help us grow. Differences need not be threatening. Debate and discussion can generate light, not just heat.

This excerpt from Tim Keller’s book Prodigal God illustrates how both the religious and irreligious need to question their inherent biases:

What bothers me about the “self-righteous” or “religious” reaction of the church to the Jonas brothers choice is that it rejects secular careers as inherently “evil”. By fleeing  “Christian culture,” the Jonas Bros were rejected by their spiritual community because God could not possibly be pleased by good art and music that speaks to a broader, global, secular audience. I wonder how these church members would have felt about Daniel (of lions den fame) pursuing a Masters degree in pagan astrology at Babylon U?

C.S. Lewis, as usual, says it best:  “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.

We’ve had a few rainy, albeit hot days here in Chagrin Falls. I call them “Norah Jones & Stacey Kent playlist days”, days to bake chocolate chip cookies, read how the story of Ruth & Boaz inspires corporate gleaning, debate Maureen Dowd’s latest New York Times editorial on AOC in my head, struggle to invent new packaging for flour (can we agree the current flimsy paper bag is a sub par solution?), watch The Loudest Voice in the Room about my former workplace at News Corp, and clean out drawers so that Eric Boaz can summarily dump out all the contents five minutes later.

I’m also having Seb read Les Mis. How better to teach my son about grace, about not being, as Jean Valjean explains: “a slave to the law.” In my own reading I love David McCullough’s take on Teddy Roosevelt’s family: “I always believe in showing affection by doing what will please the one we love, not by talking”. So to show their father love, the Roosevelt children would “improve their handwriting or learn to swim or memorize a passage from the Bible.”

When Chloe wants to discuss “enemy combatants”, Phoebe picks up Liars Poker, or Seb reads the newspaper it truly thrills my heart.  I see why my own mom is so honored that I look for discount deals at Big Lots.

I’m becoming her.

I’m also learning to “drool.” Joni Eareckson Tada writes of a Stanford grad, mother of 4, who developed a disability that caused her to drool like a 2 year old. She prays constantly for God to remove this embarrassing, socially humiliating condition. God doesn’t remove it.  And this mom, in a level of spiritual maturity I’ve not achieved, learned to thank God for the humility her condition brought about in her heart.

Will I ever be so soft and mature before my Father that I could view every humiliating, shameful, hurtful thing He’s allowed in my life to make me more teachable? More empathetic? More grateful?

Like my mom and as a mom to my own 5 children, God smiles when He sees we are slowly attempting to become more like Him. And He may use “drool” (suffering, correction, tough stuff) to accomplish that very purpose.

 

 

 

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“An organic squirrel gets a bike helmet”

That’s an Andy Sandberg line from Bedtime Stories, a new family favorite. In other television news – did you see the Dem debates last week? That’s what I call reality television at it’s finest. Save yourself a few hours and just watch Seth Meyers’ synopsis:

In animal news, we saw a turtle meandering along Flintlock Ridge. I asked Eric to pull over so I could haul the little guy home and make my own little guy (lil’ Sebastien) happy. We soon discovered that seemingly cute turtle was demon possessed and abandoned our grandiose plans to make me mother of the year.

One thing I have not abandoned is flashing my lights at oncoming cars when a police officer awaits. Is that ethical? And am I just cynical, assuming everyone is speeding? Probably so. But at least I married an optimist. Eric bought white carpet for MJ’s room. She’s 2 and 1/2. And we were potty training.

I have also not abandoned The Bachelorette. If I were to proffer advice to Hannah I’d suggest she heed the words of one who said “it’s better to be with a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.” Luke might believe in God but he is still a scoundrel. There should be more criteria than faith alone. 

This summer thus far has been about volleyball (thank you Fellowship team!) and prayer. Lovin’  this quote I read in Dirty Glory: “Pray to God but continue to run to the shore.”  I’m pretty good with the “running to the shore” part, not always so good at the stillness part.  Those quiet moments when we have what Carrie Underwood calls “a heart to heart with God”:

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Okay, I admit it, I was reading People magazine. But just so you don’t question my IQ,  I’m also reading Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming and plan on reading Barbara Bush’s. Thankfully, being a mother crosses partisan lines. 

July 4th is upon us. A day to remember my older brothers who stuffed me in a garbage can and rolled me around the pool before doing ROTC and graduating from West Point (Go Army!).

Thank you men and women of America who fight to make us free. As Elton John shared recently on NPR’s “Fresh Air”:

” I get very moved when it’s Armistice Day in England, which is November – or Veteran’s Day in America – or anytime you see someone who’s fought in a war marching to remember the ones that have fallen. Bernie wrote this song about his father, who didn’t die in the war. My mother fought in the war – my dad didn’t, but my mum did in the Second World War. And they fought so that I wouldn’t have to. And this song is really about those people. They should never be forgotten. They should always be remembered. I’m a great believer in the old being very wise. And sometimes, they get treated very badly, and we discard them too readily. And this song is about paying tribute to what they did. And let’s not ever forget them. Let’s never forget these people and the countless people that died – millions who died on our behalf in World War I, World War II and subsequent wars after that.”

And though this comes as a surprise to no one, MJ is a little me. She loves See’s Butterscotch lollipops, waking up early, eating burgers without the bun, scrambled eggs, and singing songs loudly around the house – including The Doxology.

E.B.’s first birthday last week was special – replete with rainbow cake, giggles, his daily pushing of the remote to random channels, and special sibling / cousin time.

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Sebby’s video for his little bro was also a hit, although at one, I’m not sure E.B.’s quite “growing into a man” yet.

Two weeks ago after a dental appointment, Seb and I had a date night. He got to choose where we ate and lil’ Sebastien chose the finest culinary establishment he’s aware of – Subway.

My spinach and steak salad was surprisingly good. I’m not shilling for Subway nor am I dissing them, just surprised. He wanted to talk about life tragedies – the hard stuff, the sad stuff. And Seb is 9 so he understands that when stuff goes down with his friends, we can all get down about it.

While watching Dave Letterman’s series of interviews on Netflix, I love how Tiffany Haddish took her own tough stuff – bouncing from foster care family to family, to now give back in a real way to kids in that same situation. That’s called overcoming.

So as Seb sipped his Sprite, I told him that our only hope, our only chance of overcoming, comes from finding help outside ourselves. 

John 1:14 (The Message) says it best: “The Word became flesh & blood and moved into the neighborhood.”  God is with us. He’s in our neighborhood. He’s in our lives. All of it. Especially the messy stuff.

And if you’re going through it right now, if life’s got you down, just know how much God loves you.

A friend who lost a child a year ago shared that “God knows what it’s like to lose a child”. And that just broke me.

And for fellow homemakers out there, as we face a long weekend replete with pool parties, diaper changes, and flag themed July 4th cakes, excerpts of a prayer from Amanda Lindemann (Esther’s friend from New York):

Oh Lord, our Father, we come to you on our knees and ask that you make your depth and height and extent of your love known to the homemakers’ industry, one of the invisible and unacknowledged occupations in the world. We praise you and thank you that our worth is not in what we own or our success measured by the sound of the world’s applause. In all of our service, oftentimes we have an audience of one, you Rabboni Messiah who sees us, who sees all the priesthood following you.

Make us effective fishers of men for our children. Help us sow generously to the children around us too, in our communities. We sow and plant, and trust you not one word goes void. We plant mustard seeds, all over the world, to the next generation because these little feet will grow up and go all over the world. 

Hedge us from the evil one who seeks to devour. 2 Chronicles 2:17 we claim: “Take your positions, stand, and watch the LORD deliver you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! Tomorrow march out toward them; the LORD is with us.”

 

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C.S. Lewis & Ariana Grande disagree

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I’m having a hard time getting 7 Rings out of my head.

It is such consumerist, materialistic drivel, an anthem to the worst aspect of America – greed. Which, according to TK, none of us think we struggle with:

But the song is catchy.

And if you’re reading this in the year 5020, studying, like my generation studied Shakespeare, the words of old – a few explainers.

Ariana Grande was engaged to Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson. The pair got matching tattoos and then abruptly broke off their engagement, sending Ariana and 6 close friends to Tiffany’s to return her ginormous diamond ring.  

At Tiffany’s, Ariana, worth $50 million,  subsequently purchased 6 matching engagement rings for her friends. And her mom. And her grandma.

Yeah, that happened IRL. So these lyrics are shockingly autobiographical.

Class of 5020 note: Ariana’s lyric “Happiness is the same price as red bottoms” is a reference to Christian Louboutin shoes. These designer heels have a distinctive red under sole and retail for roughly the cost of a year at Harvard Business School.

A Scottish Parliamentarian once said that if you want to know a culture don’t look at its laws. Looks at its songs. So what does this song say about America?

Yeah, breakfast at Tiffany’s and bottles of bubbles
Girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble
Lashes and diamonds, ATM machines
Buy myself all of my favorite things (Yeah)…
My wrist, stop watchin’, my neck is flossin’
Make big deposits, my gloss is poppin’
You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it
I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it (Yeah)
I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it
I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it
You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it
I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it (Yeah)
Wearing a ring, but ain’t gon’ be no “Mrs.”
Bought matching diamonds for six of my b—-
I’d rather spoil all my friends with my riches
Think retail therapy my new addiction
Whoever said money can’t solve your problems
Must not have had enough money to solve ’em
They say, “Which one?” I say, “Nah, I want all of ’em”
Happiness is the same price as red-bottoms”

 

C.S. Lewis and Ariana Grande are, not surprisingly, coming from different points of view on the issue of limits.

If retail therapy is Grande’s new addiction, Lewis talks temperance – aka “knowing when to stop”. And by “temperance” we’re not talking about the one you’re thinking of.

Lewis believes teetotaling is a uniquely “Muslim” idea, instead, he’s looking holistically at the topic:

“Temperance referred not especially to drink, but to all pleasures, and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no farther. ….one of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way…”

C.S. Lewis even ties this idea of excess and obsession to good things like health. “Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imaging there is something wrong with you.”

So true.

Other developments chez Eric Peiffer Industries?

MJ loves dancing to this scene from “Sing”

Chloe’s giving tennis lessons to her 2 year old cousin and is off to speech and debate camp at Princeton in a few weeks. Phoebe’s gotten into rock climbing and takes MJ to the car wash – Miss MJ’s version of Disneyland.

My version of Disneyland? Following Bachelorette tweets:

Seb enjoyed horseback riding camp for all of 5 minutes until discovering he was the only boy. I told him “it’s The Bachelor for nine year olds!” but he still wasn’t interested.

Give it 2 years.

Oh, and I turned 40.

To celebrate, Eric took me for two of my favorite things: a movie and a burger. Chagrin Cinema is now less of a dump, replete with La-z boy seats. Speaking of La-z boys:

As part of my birthday week celebration I even replaced my old burnt oven mitt and took the kids to the zoo.

That sounds a lot less exciting than it was. Trust me.

MJ got to feed lettuce to a giraffe and Seb got in a heated argument with his friend. While half singing “Old Town Road” they were also half arguing about Alexander Hamilton’s hair. “You wouldn’t even have that $10 bill if it weren’t for Alexander Hamilton!” Seb yelled – shutting down the conversation for real.

People ask me “do you feel 40 now?” and the answer is yes and no.

Like the late David Carr of The New York Times, before God “I often feel like a fraud”. Which makes me love His grace all the more.

The last 40 years has also shown shown me that disappointments are His appointments. And witnessing heartache and pain all around me, especially in my neighborhood this past month, I’ve become ever more aware of how truly helpless I am.

“You must do this. I can’t” – C.S. Lewis once wrote. I believe that. And fully endorse C.S. Lewis’ take on what matters:

“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

Better to be neither. That’s good.

Lastly, I’ve learned that you will never truly know yourself until you wrestle with the question of who made you. And why.

Happy summer!

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Reckless Love

Summer’s begun. I know this because the swimsuit MJ’s been putting on all winter is now a legitimate outfit here in Cleveland. It was all of 69 degrees here the other day.

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I also know it’s summer because MJ is eating corn dogs. She got turned on to them at Blossom Fest; our very Stars Hollowesque (for you Gilmore Girls fans) town fair.

MJ now insists on eating a corn dog every time we plop on the couch to watch Peter Rabbit for maybe the fiftieth time. PR now rivals Shrek on my list of top 10 movies ever made. It’s hysterical.

So no, I’m not the parent boasting here of my child’s sophisticated palate for sushi and filet mignon. Miss Margaret Joy wants a corn dog.

It makes her happy.

And don’t we all want to be happy?

We do.

I know this because schools seem to give awards for all sorts of things these days in efforts to incite happiness in kids and their beaming / clapping parents.

At Kenston there are awards for the highest grade in Physics (go Phoebe!), awards for perfect attendance, and an award for “Hey, you’re 17, got up each day, and put your pants on.”

Know what makes me happy? Getting organized and clean. So while my older kids are off glamping in Jackson Hole, I’ve been categorizing my cards, polishing silver, and sorting through holiday decorations in our basement. I even washed my car. Like all of it.

Eric Boaz had a granola bar lodged in the side of his car seat from three months ago and a very sticky Costco fruit snack from last year stuck in the seatbelt. That is all totally and completely clean thanks to me.

It should surprise no one that as a woman about to turn 40 I’m cleaning my car with the same gusto and dutifulness I had cleaning our family mini van when I was 11.

Because I was the kid who took out the little vacuum accessory parts stuffed in a drawer somewhere and cleaned our “sorry excuse for a car”.

Our “sorry excuse for a car” was a bluish gray Plymouth minivan in which we’d change from our ballet clothes into horseback riding clothes every Saturday morning. The minivan in which my mom drove us all to Mercer Island to see my cousins, a roughly 40 hour drive from Phoenix. I remember that ride because we listened to Psalty tapes, I got car sick, and my older brothers used my back as a footrest on the journey.

Over the years our “sorry excuse for a car” morphed into a transformer like box with 4 wheels but 0 side view mirrors. Thank you teenage brother drivers. We’d even ask mom to drop us off a mile from school so no one had to see our “sorry excuse for a car” with smashed mirrors and a big swipe of peeled paint on the door.

But let me tell you, that bluish Plymouth mini van with no air conditioning, fabric from the roof caving in, and a side door that didn’t exactly open without a karate kick, was perfectly vacuumed inside because Miss Marcia Larson did that.

So yeah, clean makes me happy.

So does TV. I treat my TV shows and TV watching with the seriousness some reserve for politics. And with only two kids at home the past few days, I’ve been learning from master writer Shonda Rhimes via Masterclass – learning from the writer of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and now the phenomenal “For the People” (the best show on TV, hands down) how to write for TV. I just love it. TV makes me happy.

But by happy, I don’t mean fulfilled.

Seeing my kid get an award, cleaning my car and dislodging fruit snacks from hard to reach places and yes, watching The Bachelorette with my girls Monday nights…those get me about 25% “there.”

C.S. Lewis once said “don’t let your happiness depend on something you can lose.” And you can lose awards, clean rooms get messy, and TV shows veer off course and leave us disappointed. Even the big things we think are our “everything”, the stuff we count on for happiness like family, ultimately can’t fulfill.

To be frank – these are dark days.  “Become My Mom Again” in The New York Times just breaks me. Because hopelessness is on the rise. Suicide rates are up 13%. Last week the most widely read piece in the New York Times led with “You accomplished something great. So now what?”

So now what?

Women face dark seasons for chemical and biological reasons we don’t even fully understand. In fact, there’s a term for that now:  “mastescence”: the “hormone-addled transitions of pregnancy and parenthood. Rhyming with adolescence, both are times when body morphing and hormones shifting lead to an upheaval in how a person feels emotionally.”

Hurt is everywhere. Defying gender, racial and religious differences. We are all human and so we must all hurt.

So when I read MJ’s book last night – The Garden. The Curtain. And the Cross. it moved me to tears. Because we don’t have to wander around looking to our awards, our cleaned up car, or our DVR queue for answers.

This simple book delivers a simple message. And that message is this: God took down the “Keep Out Sign” when He sent His Son to die for us. And we can live everyday with hope that as bad as life can get.

When our babies die.

Our house burns down.

Our parents get sick.

Our jobs get taken away from us.

God says “come on in friend” and bestows upon us His undeserved and reckless love:

“There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc6SSHuZvQE

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Seb got a recorder. EB got a haircut.

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Seb came home with an exuberant note from school announcing a spectacular new initiative involving my 9 year old son, a recorder, and his entire family in Saturday 7AM renditions of “Old McDonald”.

 

If you’re not familiar with the recorder it’s a beautiful Stradivarius of black plastic, just breathtakingly beautiful, like Yo Yo Ma’s cello.

 

The school heightened my excitement by announcing that my child could keep track of this recorder and bring it to and from school each day in his backpack.

 

Because who better to keep track of a recorder than my 9 year old son who can’t find the TV remote.  Calls me to help him find it. And then finds it.  In his hand.

 

This is a fabulous school initiative. Heroes of yore all played the recorder.  When Abraham Lincoln penned the Gettysburg address, he actually played “Old McDonald” on his recorder for inspiration. Gandhi? Same.

 

Every day the recorder brings new joys. “Mom, I can’t find my recorder?!” “Mom, I have a recorder test tomorrow?!” “Mom, have you seen my recorder book?!”

 

Meanwhile, I can’t keep track of E.B.(who got a haircut compliments of his 2 year old sister last week) let alone Seb’s recorder. It’s been lost three times. It’s been found 3 times. Once in Seb’s desk. Once in Madison’s desk. Once in his backpack.

 

Third grade ends next week. So does our relationship with this recorder.

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A counter-fundamentalism of love

My family has a problem.

A serious one.

We can’t go anywhere without turning into McKinsey-like consultants.

Take, for example, Pinecrest (for non-Chagrin Falls residents it’s a new open air mall that just opened up nearby).

I love it. BiBiBop food is amazing. Who doesn’t love a Shake Shack burger? The store that sells whales on your pants. The Whole Foods French macaron & acai bowl bars. REI which inspires us to think, and yet not actually go, camping.

But why isn’t there a coffee shop there? And why, when you enter the Silverspot Cinema, do you enter through a cement staircase, walk by the bar with your 8 year old, and have to arrive 30 minutes early to get dine in service?

See what I mean?

Despite our consulting proclivities, here’s the news at 7460 Faraway Trail: Phoebe’s been in the garage figuring out drill bits for a Physics catapult project, Chloe starts competing her Amy Poehler Harvard address for Speech soon, Seb informed me (like the Spielberg director he hopes to one day become) that the script on the first Goosebumps was better than the second, and MJ is a worship minister in the making:

And let’s not forget the little guy.

E.B. is a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon’s hilarious “thank you note” segment. He’s also completely enthralled with this doctor who knows how to make even Polio immunizations fun. 

And Mr. Eric Boaz and mommy chuckled out loud at this very 1990’s scene from Grey’s

Just last week, E.B. got mommy into The Alec Baldwin Show. Apparently we are the only ones. Have you seen the ratings?

I digress. On the new show Baldwin interviewed Kim Kardashian West and we found Kim to be surprisingly insightful for someone with perfect makeup who lives in Calabasas and uses the F word in casual conversation with her mom.

E.B. was particularly struck, at 4 months of age, at how Kim worries about how money could impact her children and how she struggled with being independent and then marrying a successful man (his name is Kanye if you’ve been living in a cave somewhere) and is learning to submit her schedule and needs to his. 

I kinda liked KKW (although I wasn’t prepared to) because she’s being intellectually honest.

What I don’t appreciate is how Christian women can be intellectually dishonest at worst, disingenuous at best in these matters. I was reading a book the other day by a female evangelical writer who was comparing two historical dates and wrote, of a 3 digit subtraction problem,for me all this math stuff is hard.”  

What bothers me about this statement is twofold. One, she sells a lot of books so I’m guessing she kinda figured out addition and subtraction to strike a lucrative publishing deal. 

But second,  I have daughters. 3 daughters. And I’d like my three daughters to be successful, which usually requires one to be good at math. Because, well, math is pretty important if you want to be a lawyer, a marketing executive, or manage a family budget.

Which is why Meghan Markle’s speech in Fiji last week was so compelling. The Suits  actress turned Duchess went to Northwestern University, where, ostensibly, she took a math course or two before becoming part of the Royal family.

I know about Meghan Markle’s speech because I got United airline miles last month to put towards free high brow magazines like People. Here’s what Meghan said:

“It was through scholarships, financial aid programs and work-study, where my earnings from a job on campus went directly towards my tuition, that I was able to attend university….and without question, it was worth every effort.”

Girls can be good at math. Put in lots of effort to work their way through school (I worked 2 jobs at Vanderbilt and am thankful for what that taught me). And girls can and should be successful in the workplace and at home (not necessarily at the same time as in my case.)

Girls can also be strong.

At Propel (my mom’s group on Thursday mornings), the main speaker, Christine Caine, said something powerful last time.

That “Jesus didn’t come to make us nice”.

God did not command Joshua to be trivial, weak and fearful in chapter 1 verse 9 but rather, “strong and courageous.”

Joni Eareckson Tada (paraplegic and my spiritual hero) says it best:

“We refuse to present a picture of ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’, a portrait that tugs at your sentiments or pulls at your heartstrings. That’s because we deal with so many people who suffer, and when you’re hurting hard, you’re neither helped nor inspired by a syrupy picture of the Lord….when your heart is being wrung out like a sponge…you want a warrior Jesus. You want a battlefield Jesus. You want mighty.”

I need to hear that. Because I’m still reeling from Pittsburgh. By the hate.

Which is why Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book To Heal a Fractured World, offers hope: “the only force equal to a fundamentalism of hate is a counter-fundamentalism of love.”

I pray a counter-fundamentalism of love pierces the darkness of our fractured and broken world.

There is hope. Compliments of Sebby’s verse:

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