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Saturday, April 28, 2012


Sale. Or how a family garage sale netted us two condos, some fresh perspective and a garbage can full of pagan idols. They said yesterday was beautiful. And sunny. And busy. But I was only there today when it was freezing and overcast and dead, dandelion fluffs blowing along the driveway like tumbleweed. I think it even snowed at one point, but I can't remember. There were a few buyers who shuffled down the driveway, thumbed through the crates of books and stacks of frames and then left the way they'd come, dodging seven boys on ripstiks (all of them ours and not for sale. Not today anyway). In an effort to simplify, my parents had gone through the archives and weeded out everything superfluous, stacking boxes in the basement. Then they announced they were having a garage sale. Which meant we were all having a garage sale. Everything could be divided into two classes: stuff that people might buy at a garage sale. That stuff sold. And things that were far too valuable, too beautiful, too emotionally vested to either give away or have at a garage sale. That stuff didnt. The art dolls fell into the first category. Oddly shaped, mismatched bodies with painted faces and long braids hanging down buttoned fronts. Some were mine but most were moms. And as the morning dragged on and we found ourselves inside trying to warm up, we decided to have a go at researching the artist who has been making them for decades. And this is how we found out that these dolls we've all had in our homes for years are actually fertility voodoo dolls, which in no way explains why there were two Pegasus dolls amongst them. Mom turned ashen-she still loves them, hangs them on her walls, has a special velvet one she puts out at Christmas and thinks of Mary and Jesus, which is very clearly not what the artist intended. I had an instant and rousing panic attack. Jenn chuckled at the irony. Molly went to battle. And this is where the rubber meets the road, no? Clearly voodoo dolls have no place in our homes, but could we in good conscience allow them a place in someone else's? So many people had looked at them, fingering their soft bodies, but in the end left them lie on the table and moved on. No accident in my book. And my valiant mother, feeling sick and having consulted with two elders, bid me collect them off the table and throw them in the garbage. And Molly and I prayed over it and I renounced those nasty things and the place where they hung in my house for years because I believe the forces of darkness in this world are nothing to screw around with. Have no place in my home and in yours either. So, if you came to our garage sale and nearly almost bought a fertility voodoo doll, we're very sorry. And at the end of the day when it was all said and done and the kids were eating their way through several large pizzas, we earned enough to pay for a couple condos on Sanibel island next winter where we dream of vacationing together again. And we cleaned out our basements and purged our home of pagan idols and got to be together for a couple days eating baked oatmeal and laughing. And that's cozier than the hot bath my mom was in before we even got to the end of the driveway. Lovelier than the little flowered Spode dish I now have sitting on my dresser. Worth more than a suitcase packed with bathing suits and Liz lovelies (in case Jerry's doesn't carry them) and being checked through to fort Meyers. Warmer than me, wrapped up in the lovey my mom made me eons ago and settling into the monster bed with the newest release by a favorite author. This is me being real. Warmed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


There is a palpable heaviness in my heart lately as I give and receive news of marriages falling, families breaking up. It's rampant, this epidemic. And while I used to think it was an affliction of the unchurched, those scales have dropped and I now see it isn't. Totally isn't. Men, are there any of you who read this? If so, please hear this: fight for us. Whatever we've done, whatever you have, just fight for us. Fight for a legacy that isn't about rolling over and surrendering your family on the alter of comfort. You were never promised a rose garden, so if you are in the thick of brambles and thinking of just ditching it for some dreamed of peaceful place where you can sow wild oats in peace, just don't. Please. Because dreams of a better life unfettered by family stuff is the devils playground and he is luring you daily. Resist. Because I know this: that the more you refuse to listen to that call, the quieter it gets. And there will be a day when you stop hearing it altogether and you'll wake up some morning and look at this family you have fought for and you'll realize it's the only place on earth you want to be. That these people are your people and much more now that you've fought for them. Much more. Because at the heart of every woman is a little girl standing at the side of the roller rink watching the skaters whizz by and longing to be picked. Be that guy. And be him a hundred times a day.
 Women, you want to be picked, I totally get that. So does he. And while you're knee deep in laundry and carpooling, there is this man, this matryoshka companion who is a little boy inside and who still is looking to be someone's victor. You want him to fight for you? Good. Then give him something worth fighting for. Because if you're not telling him he's the man for you, daily telling him and showing him, then he will find someone or something that will. And there is a line out the door of willing candidates: pornography, the lonely gal at work, a stripper named Bambi, a car that feeds his ego while it empties your bank account. You were never promised a rose garden either. "In this life you will have troubles, but take heart! I have overcome the world." Remember? And there will be times when you pick him and he doesn't pick you back (and vice versa) and that will wound you deeply, but you must not nurse that wound. Have to stop picking at that scab. Because the devil will daily mix up a cocktail aimed at dulling your love and sharpening your bitterness until you are dreaming of a little cottage with peonies flanking the front door and inside is you and your children playing, i dont know, scrabble and opening up alimony checks and dreaming of how you'll spend them. This is the devils kool-aid. Do not drink of it. Women, fight for this man even if he won't, can't, fight back. Because when you do you build a legacy for your children that is about stamina and that will bless them for generations. And if that is not what was modeled for you, if weak husbands and wives were the stuff of your own childhood, then consider this the second greatest gift you can give your children. This staying and fighting and not subjecting them to visitations and split holidays thing. Because if there is a voice inside you saying that you'll all be better off, then please recognize it as a lie you are telling yourself so that you'll be ok. And then banish it to hell and figure out how to make this work. *I have to inject a disclaimer here about abuse, because there are situations that are simply untenable and if you're in one of them, if you're in danger or your children are, then you are in a different boat all together and need to find a shore that offers safety and security. I don't believe God intends for you to stay and fight for a man who is abusing you. So your job is different. Your job is to get to safety and then fight. Through prayer and counseling and with the guidance of people who know the bible and can help you navigate those stormy waters.* but if you're looking around and seeing that everyone else has just a lovely marriage and that you must be the only one who feels like she is dying inside, then have another look. Because marriages are dropping like flies and if we pretend otherwise, we are kidding ourselves. So can we all just commit to admitting how hard it is, to throwing our front doors open and admitting how darn hard it can be sometimes? And then can we commit to linking arms and falling onto our faces before Father, the great Counselor, and pleading for our families? Will you do that? Half of you have now had to go get your reading glasses because you sat down to just check in and you've been sitting for so long that your eyes are watering and your butt is asleep and I'm sorry for that. It's always like that when I write at ungodly hours, but this is important stuff. So important. I'm writing for you and for me and for our children and theirs. I'm pleading on behalf of a generation who have been taught that you chase after happiness at all costs A generation whose parents think that it's less damaging to split up than to stay together. And Please, please, from someone who has held her unraveling marriage in shaking hands, who has called the home team in countless times to pray when I was too broken in spirit to be able to form the words myself, please fight.  And I will join you as I fight daily too.  Fight against discontent and selfishness and a million other things that drive a wedge between me and my husband.  Fight to choose him again and again and let him know that's what I'm doing so he doesn't have to wonder where he stands.  Fight in front of my children so they can see that marriage is worth the battle, so that they experience security in their lives and can pass it on to their own children.  Just fight.  Will you join me?
this is me being real.

Friday, April 20, 2012


In honor of earth day, the school declared a mismatch day. And while I can't for the life of me figure out what mismatching has to do with the environment, and since Al Gore is refusing my phone calls, we ran with it. While Tess and grant ran around last night, giggling to themselves, cackling really, Peter was too absorbed in Human Planet to be bothered and so swore he would willingly wear whatever I chose. Put it on this morning and declared it cool. Not because he thought it was outrageously mismatched, but because it is exactly the kind of get up he regularly chooses to go out in. Slippery clothes from head to toe and seven different shades of blue (they're all blue...they go). I stayed up way too late last night thinking I could defeat the diabolical level on my sudoku app. I've made the grave tactical error of potty training Lucy just as baseball season launched, which meant I was in the bathrooms at the ball park no fewer than four times with her the other night. It would have been more, but on the fifth time I turned to Dan with a look that clearly said, "I'm just going to tell her to pee in her pants." I think he took her after that. Now I have to find a camping website that'll ship a Lady J here before tomorrow's game. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect potty training to be part of the preschool curriculum, so I'm writing my state senator as soon as I finish explaining to Peter why he will have to brush his teeth twice a day for the rest of his life. Oral hygiene is not a pop quiz. Moving on. The rooster attacked me last night when I went to get the eggs, prompting me to run inside and shoot out a furious text to Dan declaring that I'll never, ever, and I mean it this time, take care of those darn chickens again. Only I didn't say darn. The kids splashed my new curtains, I think Lucy hates me and I have a raging headache from the organic dark chocolate covered organic raisins I ate two days ago thinking surely even my doctor would approve of a sweet treat like that. It's been a Thursday week and this weather has me longing for a fire and a good salad, but since grant has practice tonight and Peter has to get registered for Pinewood Derby at six, I'm choosing instead to sit here listening to the sweet imaginary rumblings of three little girls eating applesauce in their ball gowns and thanking Father for these bumps with the littles that remind me that I have four children and they're all healthy. And I live in this magical place with room for chickens and tree forts and friends to play dress up with. And above all that, the keen knowledge that even stripped of all those things I would still have Jesus and he would be enough. He would be enough. This is me being real. Wondering how badly you need a weekend?

Monday, April 16, 2012


We are home. Love being home. Twice a year we skedaddle out of town for a little business mixed with pleasure. Weeks of worrying about how the kids will do or if I should replace the grungy towels in the master bath now that someone else will be using them, gives way to settling into my twenty three inches of personal space, husband's shoulders vying for dominance over the arm rest, and waiting for the plane to reach cruising altitude so I can play sudoku on my iPad. And while I can hardly stand to leave the littles, would be happy with a netflix movie and chipotle take out on the couch and calling it a retreat, husband loves to travel and therefore I am trying to love it too.
So while the littles were here, having grand adventures with nana and papa, including the someday-to-be-famous ten cousin sleepover (actually only mildly different from the thirty car pile-up), husband and I were exploring south Florida. Turns out it's mostly people pushing cockapoos in pink dog strollers and wealthy clones of the old lady from Something About Mary wearing Lilly Pulitzer caftans and crooked lipstick. But what we did find, besides great food, great conversations and a wickedly lovely hotel, was each other. The ones we were before we were six. Getting away affords us time to do that. It's always my favorite souvenir (although the slip dress I picked up at a little boutique on Atlantic is a close second) and when we get home I swear I'm not going to let it slip away this time. But then laundry and baseball practice and a million other large and small things interrupt and before I know it, time has elapsed and we are us (6) again and not us (2). Which makes me ever thankful for the chance to get away again and find us (2). Thankful for a rockin nanny and papa who moved in and loved on the littles for four days. Thankful to Father for the redemption stories he's writing in my marriage and in my life. Thankful to husband for pushing it, knowing if he didn't I'd prolly never leave again. Thankful for a cozy, blustery day in which I can snuggle up with peter's lovey and write about it all. Just thankful.
This is me being real. Thankful. And wondering...ten cousins? Really?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


With dreams of a day spent watching the Tigers crush the Red Sox spinning in his head and with his new jersey waiting on his pile of school clothes, this boy woke up yesterday and welcomed in the era of double digits.  In keeping with Vos tradition, he as birthday boy, got to choose to sleep wherever he wanted in the house and so I lay in bed listening to the rhythm of his soft snoring from the bed he'd created for himself using the patio cushions and a big pile of lovies and thinking of the last ten years.  I burrowed in with him the second he showed sign of waking and thanked him.  The minute God planted the seed, I said, it was you and I was me and then I was a mom.  You and He gave me that.  How can I ever thank you both?  Being a mom is one of my very favorite things and you taught me that first.  How great is this day?  How great are you, my brother and son?  Happy birthday.
Then there were chocolate chip pancakes tossed to his plate by his dad.  And there was a Club Lulu delivered by his baby sister along with a candy bar and a Tigers balloon.  And there were cousins celebrating with red velvet cake and Ripstiks amongst gale force winds while the moms kept shooing kids outside, we don't care how cold it is, the house is clean.  Because we are leaving tomorrow and turning over care of the inmates to the best Nana and Papa in the world, but don't get too comfortable because we're coming back in three sleeps and there will be more stories to tell and more adventures to go on.  Until then there is this boy, now ten, keeping us all in stitches and reminding me of the grace of God in the form of small people.

This is me being real.  Thankful for my Grant.  Thankful for 10 years of parenting.  Thankful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I hear the whispers breaking through jumbled sleep, inviting me to come worship before the littles wake and life interrupts and I forget.  So early morning finds me thinking of this day and the hope that springs forth from it.  And the darkness that precedes it, as darkness always does.  And it has me thinking that the story would be much different if things ended on Friday, but it doesn't because where would we be then?  A saviour lost and hope shriveled to tiny nuggets we'd carry around in our pockets but not really dare to take out.  But Easter is a life ring we throw to a drowning world; that the story isn't finished.  Death doesn't win.  Easter means that there is hope bigger than big and a risen savior who activates it by coming back, death and hopelessness and failed marriages and fear and selfishness and addiction all under his foot and in the abyss he stands over.  And though some days feel like evil is winning, like it is running unchecked all over our lives and in our hearts and through the front doors right into our family room where it throws it's muddy feet up on the coffee table, asks for a mountain dew and settles in for the handbilly hand fishing marathon, evil has no upper hand.  That belongs to the Jesus of Easter, who spent three interminable days separated from the Father and then came back.  For you.  For me.  For the sole purpose of kicking evil to the curb so that one day all of creation will once again bow down and worship as it did long ago.
And so I find myself cup overflowing with thanks for this Sunday Jesus.  This stone rolled back looking for his beloved Mary in the garden Jesus so he could show her that Easter always comes after Friday.  And it has me thinking about the Fridays I've had in my life, those dark days when hope seemed lost and me, soul weary and numb, and how that never sticks because of Easter.  Thank God for Easter.  No, seriously, thank God for Easter.  And I'm wondering what Fridays you are mired in and if you know about Sunday, when Jesus rose above that and put it under his feet so that you can too.  Put evil under your feet.  Do it every time you fall to your knees and call upon the name of Jesus, saviour of Easter, who responds by whispering to your heart to come and rest in him and let him show you that there are always Fridays, but there is always Sunday too.  And some day Jesus will come again, and then Friday will be abolished and there will be a new earth and it will always be Sunday.  So I'm clinging to the life ring of Easter with hands puckered from being in the water so long and I'm gathering my family around it to hang on too because this Jesus, he's the real deal.  What are you clinging to?
Ephesians 2:1-11
1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,b being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is me being real.  Thankful for Sunday.  Thankful for Friday that makes Sunday all the more sweet.  Asking Abba to come.  Come Lord Jesus, come.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


There are many things to write about in these days of long fun with kids and cousins and mini adventures and mysteries planned, but those can wait.  Today this is the thing I needed to hear and am praying you do too.  This sacred reminder that this job we do of raising little ones, of casting ourselves into their depths and mining out what God has intended for them, and us.  This is the good stuff I needed to read today.  I'm praying it blesses you.

The following written by Ann Voskamp.  You can find her at A Holy Experience.

Why the Kids Really Need A Little Red Hen Mama….

The grain mill whirs loud, crushing a stream of kernels. 
I stand in the kitchen by an open sack,  grinding the wheat to bake the bread, to break the fasts. Since the beginning, since the dawn, this, the work of women, the feeding of children. 
 The sun rises.
And I have to ask it straight out….

Why do I feed my kids scraps off the floor?

​I think this, line the loaf pans with sheets of parchment paper. Our youngest, still sleepy, pulls a stool up beside. Shaping the warmth of the bread dough between the palms, I murmur it, laying dough down into loaves “… then tuck the babies into their wee trundle beds…. “ I say this every time we make bread.
“Those pans aren’t really trundle beds, are they?” Littlest laughs, her nose crinkled, ringlets bouncing.
“Yes, they are!” I wink. She shakes her head happy. “And then we spread the blanket up over the cribs and let them rise in sleep.” I pull a warm damp cloth up over the bread pans. I tussle her hair.  She giggles.

Bread for babies.

Or scraps?
Littlest peeks under the corner of the damp dishtowel, check on dough rising, and Jesus peels back a bit of me again:
“Stand in line and take your turn.

The children get fed first.

If there’s any left over,
the dogs get it.” ~ Mark 7:27
She turns to me, face framed in tendrils tangled and I look into that upturned face, freshness with a dash of freckle. I brush her cheek:  Who gets fed first in this house?
Do the children get fed first, before phone calls and dishes, before errands, emails, ministry, to-do lists, hobbies, cyber-surfing, before all things seen? Does life stand in line behind the young and the needy, take its turn after their hungry souls? Are my children deep nourished?
Nourished with me. With laughter and hugs and shared stories, with music and dancing and poetry and literature and art and nature and wind and sky and all of the God-Glory.​

Or do I feed them scraps off the floor?

Some do. The couple who spent all their waking hours in an Internet cafe, gaming in cyber-space — that digital world where they really lived, where they felt most alive — and their baby lay at home starving. And on a day last September, after 12 hours of nurturing their avatar daughter named Anima, pixels on a screen, they came home to find their very real daughter, whom they had never named, dead.
Some children don’t even get scraps.
I wipe off the kitchen counter, the flour dust from the grain mill. The Littlest lays bowls out around the table. And I’d like to keep stories like that on the other side of the planet, the far side of the world. But I catch my reflection in the kitchen window.
And every time an email’s dashed off after dinner and the web lures away from the family, every time a text interrupts a real face here and the work day ebbs away in mindless surfing, who is the one intentionally exiting this worldThis place where God’s placed. I abandon people here. Toss them scraps, left overs — or nothing at all. Children can die slow, soundless deaths.
I check the loaves. Turn on the oven.
It isn’t that technology is bad or even that we’re sinful, fallen people. It’s the serpentine forces from the Garden, always seducing to other worlds, worlds that seem better than ours. It’s always the war of the worlds. Virtual reality may seemingly offer the holy grail, but it’s our physical reality that is the holy ground.
She clatters spoons into bowls and I slide loaves into the oven and I’m done with giving life’s bread — time, skills, mama moments — to the dogs: to obsessive housecleaning, to non-encouraging, escapism net-surfing, to empty, temporal busy-work.
I’ve stood in line and this is my one glorious turn to be a mother and the real world is one mighty beautiful place, a place to feed the children first and go hug our men and squeeze-tickle the kids and run free down back lanes, gathering up wildflowers and sun and smiles to nourish the all starving along the way. Dogs can go find for their own bread; ​

Life’s too exquisite to serve souls discarded left overs.

When I slip the golden loaves out and cut one wide open, the slices steam, whisper of warmth rising.
“Can I get the butter?” the Littlest asks. She’s already running.
And I lather the butter on, and hand her food from my hand.
“You’re the Little Red Hen, Mama!” She laughs. And I close my eyes in smile, me, in this moment, all here.
The work of women matters, a winning for the eternal, and the Little Red Hen Mamas gather chicks, and I stand in the kitchen sun watching butter melt into a slab of whole wheat, even the bread right satisfied.