3 Things I can learn from my 8-year-old

This is Jyeva. (Pronounced Yay-Vuh.)
 
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If you look up the definition of “free spirit” in the dictionary, you will likely find her picture.
Jyeva has a fresh way about her, a caring and affectionate nature, and can offer up intercessory prayer with the best of them.
 
Jyeva teaches me something new every day, but there are three lessons that God weaves continually in my heart as I parent this precious girl.
 

1) Be yourself.

 
If you notice in the picture above, Jyeva has her own sense of fashion and style. You say rainbow butterfly leggings, lacy shirts, and athletic socks do not go together. Jyeva says, “Why yes they do, kind sir.” The year that Jyeva was 3-years-old we called her Boca because she insisted on wearing only bedazzled velour track suits every where she went. She had no taste for dresses, especially for church. She believed and still does that Jesus was meant to be honored in converse with purple stars.
 
Another year, I battled that girl to try on an Easter Sunday dress to match her sisters. All three of us huddled into a dressing room, the light bulb finally went off, when Jyeva looked at me, eyes wide open, “Why would I want to wear a dress to match Macee’s? I’m not Macee, am I?” She intended no disrespect, her tender tone cut right to my heart, “Nope, you’re not Macee. And I love you just the way you are.”
 
How often have I needed to set aside the expectations around me and embrace who God made me to be? Who am I trying to be most days? Someone who could pass for having it together on some commercial, or the broken but beautiful me that the Savior has fully redeemed and pieces together into His masterpiece, each and every day?
 

2) Embrace life.

 
Jyeva runs at life full throttle. You ask her to give you two laps, she does four. You ask her to give it her all, she gives it 150%. But the lesson she teaches me isn’t about giving it my all and being bold. Jyeva’s lesson is simpler.
 
When Jyeva was 5-years-old, we almost lost her sweet self. I remember clearly rushing her down the side of a mountain in Haiti, to get her to the medical care she needed in America. Five days later, lying in a hospital bed, the nurse tentatively took all of the needles and tubes out of her little body. Jyeva looked a me, smiled, and said, “Look, Mom, it’s me, Jyeva…Unplugged!”
 
And she’s not joking. She knows full well that life is short and your time here is like a blink, a half second, the length of a dandelion flower in a strong breeze. Jyeva’s passion is that not one person be homeless. To have a passion at age 8? She’s my hero. I want to be Jyeva when I grow up.

How often are we uncomfortable diving into something passionately? How often do we take for granted the day that God has given us today to do His work and love His people?
 

3) Allow others the same – be yourself, embrace your life.

 
As is also evident from Jyeva’s outfits, she highly values creativity. But more than her outfits, Jyeva thinks outside the box. The best way she expresses this is in the way she regards other people. Jyeva honors each and every person as a full unique individual in the Body of Christ, in the world around us. She expects no one to look like her, speak like her, think like her. In this, she is always willing to give someone else the benefit of the doubt. She’s always willing to ask a question, instead of jump to an assumption. God created each of us unique, with a unique path to walk. We are all on the same Emmaus road, trying to understand the Word and the work of Christ in our lives, but we may all do that in very different ways.
 
So often I am quick to judge, quick to assume. Praise God for a Savior who is quick to forgive. Quick to love.
 
I wonder if these lessons are useful at all in your own families, or even in our churches. The more I look around me, I wonder if we fully accept the Jyeva’s of the world in our spheres. Do we greet those who dress a little different from us at church with the same comfort we offer those who look like us? Do we invite people to share their joy and passion and ideas openly and wholeheartedly in our families and our churches? Are we careful enough with people’s testimonies, honoring their walk as valuable and interesting, worthy of sharing, even when it doesn’t look like ours?
 
Matthew 16:18 has one of my favorite nuggets of Scripture that can easily be skipped over because of the depth of the rest of the passage (emphasis added below).
 
And I tell you, you are Peter…”
 
You are Peter.You are Jyeva. You are you.
 
God gives each of us personalities and ideas. I’m so thankful for the unique journey God gives each and every one of us. I’m so thankful when these journeys cross and our lives are made better by one another. Let us honor who he made us to be today, by being ourselves, embracing the life that He’s given us, and allowing that same precious gift for one another.

 

Open People or Closed People: Vulnerability is worth it

Spring has finally decided to settle itself into the far reaches of Northwest Ohio. It is a much more patient wait here than it was growing up outside of St. Louis. But just like anything that requires patience, the wait is worth it! After the long months of winter, colors begin to protrude out of every nook and cranny, from garden beds to sidewalk cracks, vibrant greens with splashes of the happiest yellows and oranges and purples and reds.
 
Tulips are my favorite. They always have been. They seems so dignified, but also have a certain weakness about them. They bloom bright and fast, but only last so long. You turn around once and the petals lie on your dining room table, leaving you wondering what in the world happened. There’s a mystery to the tulip. She doesn’t give up her secrets.
 
I always thought that tulips were at their best, at their “peak” when they were in their tallest state, petals sharply at attention. This is the state right after the bud. The tulip has given up it’s tight grip and opened to stand straight and tall. This is the tulip we see in childhood pictures and books. This is the shape of the tulip you can draw with ease for pictionary, a semi-circle on a stem with two peaks. Voila!
 
Then, I substitute taught as an aide for the preschool class. Nothing changes your life perspective like 20 three and four year olds. Monday, we went on a walk to look for spring things.
 
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, look at this! I found a beautiful rock!”
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, look at this leaf!”
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, did you see my new tennis shoes?!”
 
Joy abounded in ever sight and sound and touch. The first class took their walk at 10am-ish. The tulips were a favorite find for everyone, colorful, stately, just as I expected them. The second class took their walk around 1pm. It really was a beautiful day. There was oodles of sunshine, the temperature was perfect. The teacher led the class right by our friends, the tulips, and I was shocked to see this:
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Sheer and utter gorgeousness.
 
And then I realized – this is how a tulip is supposed to look. This is the moment in time it was made for. Bright and fresh, yes, but more than that…wide open.
 
Wide open to the sun and the life giving rain water, and the day itself.
Wide open to opportunity and the vibrancy of life and whatever was coming next. Rather it be eyes that look upon it with fascination or preschool fingers that pluck it up without thinking of the consequences.
 
There is more to this blog than tulips, I think you are probably able to see.
 
Friends, we were meant to be wide open.
 
In 2 Corinthians 6:11, Paul shares some wisdom:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.
 
Now, look at Mark 1:9-10:
 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
 
Jesus, who He is and in His work, tears open the heavens for us. He gives us a life that can be open to risk and relationship and meaning because He is in it.
 
When Jesus heals in Scripture, the language is openness…
the eyes of the blind are opened
the tongues of the mute are opened
the ears of the deaf are opened
the wombs of the barren are opened
the tombs of the dead are opened
 
We can live as closed people, and God will not love us any less, tight as a bud, fending off risk and harm. We can live as partially opened people, and God’s grace will be the same for us. Open to stateliness, as centuries, guarding our tender centers, sharing beauty, but never quite letting all of ourselves known.
 
Or we can also live as open people. We can bloom and blossom and let the sun all the way in.
 
We can bloom and blossom and let the Son all the way in.
 
We can open our hearts wide to His people. We can forgive and love unabashedly. What abundance there is in that!
 
I marched my children out to the tulip after school. I wanted them to learn a life lesson that I had embraced far to late.
 
“Children- this is how the tulip is supposed to look. It can close itself up overnight from the cold and the darkness, but in the bright and glorious afternoon, do you see it? Do you see how it’s heart is meant to be open wide?”
 
Big smiles all around. Nothing is quite as beautiful as a flower fully bloomed with the sunlight kissing each and every petal. Life is beautiful.       
 

40 Date Night Ideas to Spice It Up

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Recently I wrote a blog for Everyday Faith, over at Concordia Publishing House – 

Spicing Up Date Night (check it out here!)

Here I’d like to offer the list of fun and spicy date nights contributed by young and old alike at Sammi and Craig’s wedding. See photo of them above… #seriouslyadorable.

So, are you ready to Spice Up your date nights this summer? Dave and I are planning on using at least one of these ideas a month for the coming months. Which ones would you choose? What ideas would you add? 

                  40 DATE NIGHT IDEAS
  1. Rent a limo or car just for fun
  2. Paintball or laser tag
  3. Dance at a country hoedown & eat BBQ
  4. Take a mime class together
  5. Date night at home
    1. Grill pizzas, it tastes like wood oven pizza
    2. Have a bottle of wine
    3. A good movie or a card game
  6. Make homemade ice cream & watch a Disney movie
  7. Go to the farmer’s market & cook with your finds
  8. Go back to high school
    1. Go out for ice cream
    2. Go putt putting
    3. Go to a PG13 movie
  9. Drive In
  10. Take a sleigh ride & drink hot cocoa
  11. Roll in the hay #literally
  12. Muddin with an awesome off-road vehicle
  13. Make a dish from a cooking show together
  14. Zip line together
  15. Do a factory tour, especially any place with samples
  16. Try new candy bars and walk them off together
  17. Create your own cheese of the month club – buy 3 new and creative cheeses to share together each month…enjoy with wine! 
  18. Board games & local microbrews
  19. Go to a coffee shop one morning & get a beverage to share
  20. Ride a tandem bike & eat ethnic foods
  21. Go camping & eat s’mores
  22. Explore hiking areas or metroparks
  23. Recreate the first date you had together
  24. Go to a museum
  25. Pottery/painting or stained glass class- create something together!
  26. Sushi rolling class, followed by dessert at a restaraunt
  27. Breakfast Date
  28. Beach day on Lake Huron (or your nearest body of water)
  29. Taco Night with homemade sangria
  30. Shop for ingredients and build your own creative martini bar
  31. Build a birdhouse together
  32. Do a progressive dinner, try a few new restaurants
    1. Do one restaurant for appetizers
    2. Another restaurant for a meal
    3. Another restaurant for dessert
    4. Lastly a different restaurant for drinks
  33. Go fishing
  34. Go for a moonlight (or daytime!) canoe ride
  35. Go to the theater & watch a movie with popcorn, candy, and a giant pop! Try doing a double feature.
  36. Go to a concert & don’t leave until your feet hurt from dancing
  37. Find a magazine with the best restaurant list, see how many you can visit in a year
  38. Get some pillows, blankets and snacks for a midnight picnic & watch the stars
  39. Get a green screen & take pictures of yourselves in front of it. Then Photoshop really cool stuff in behind you. Like the Eiffel Tower, the sinking of the Titanic, a car crash, or prehistoric dinosaurs
  40. Create a Chopped basket for each other and get creative in the kitchen
 
*photo by Melissa Sue Ripke at http://www.melissasphoto.com/