October 2, 2015

Behaving Badly

Have you ever had one of those moments where you lost it at a total stranger?  You chewed out your cashier or the person on the phone or your Sonic carhop because something wasn't right and something that shouldn't have been that big of a deal, escalated quickly and some random person saw your big ugly and there was no way to take it back.  And then you walk away or drive away furiously or slam something down and shortly after you are filled with regret. 

Because that was not how you wanted to behave.  That is not how you wanted to show up and that was not the version of yourself you wanted to be.  And for one reason or another, whether it was the last straw, or something on top of an already stressful or bad day, you snap.

Oh, I hate those moments.  I had one today.  I was in all my glory at the school's pick-up line - a constant point of frustration anyway. 

The line is longer than it was last year.  It moves at a snail's pace.  Several times already, Tommy doesn't hear correctly what cone he is supposed to be at, and he's at the wrong spot and no one has told him otherwise.  And my favorite scenario, where someone takes five thousand years to get their kids buckled in the car and we all wait and wait and wait behind them until they are done and we can all drive away.  Other cars have pulled around these kinds of people before, and today, I followed suit and decided to go around.

But I was stopped by one of the teachers - she waved me down as if I was about to run someone over, came to my car and frantically told me not to pull around a car.  I explained that I was only doing what others had done before, and the lady who was holding the stop-sign wasn't holding it up anymore.  I didn't understand what the big deal was.  I don't even remember what all I said, but I wasn't kind.  I was frustrated that the car in front of me sat there forever, that the lady wasn't holding her stop sign up if no one could still move, that I was reprimanded for something I have seen plenty of others do. After I gave her a piece of my mind, I drove quickly out of the parking lot feeling angry and embarrassed. 

On the drive home, I debated trading in my car this weekend for something new so I won't be recognizable next week.  Or letting Tommy take the school bus so not only do I have to deal with the pick-up line woes, but so that I can hide in my shame of my bad behavior today.  Shame's faithful invitation is always to hide.

In the grand scheme of life, waiting in a school pick-up line behind someone who takes forever to buckle their children in - so not a big deal.  And there will always be messed up orders at restaurants, cable bill issues that require exhausting phone calls, and children that keep leaving their Legos on the living room floor for you to step on.  And like anything else, we get to choose how to respond in those moments.  I'm sure today won't be the last time my ugly comes out and I lose it on an unsuspecting stranger.  But, I'm taking a cue from the regret I feel after and the shame I'm invited to feel after these moments.  That's not how I want to show up or treat anyone. 

Yes, I'm human and I lose it and can have a bad day like anyone else.  And, I want to be kind and show love and patience and humility.  Even in the pick-up line after school.  

September 29, 2015

And Both

Around eight o'clock on any given night, I have Jacob in my lap, his fine blonde-haired head tucked comfortably under my chin and my arms wrapped around him.  His fingers touch mine as I sing him the familiar lullabies I've sung to both boys since infancy.

Jesus loves me this I know....You are my sunshine, my only sunshine....I love my Jacob, oh yes, I do....

I rock a little as I sit with him.  Our nightly bedtime routine with both of the boys is one of my favorite places to mother.  Bedtime invites me to be soft.  It requires me to be gentle, tender and still.  And it's as if they look forward to the quieting down we all share together and lullabies are the last thing before bed.  They come after baths and teeth brushing, prayers and reading a story.  Jacob knows that after I sing to him, I lay him down and it's time to sleep.

A few nights ago though, I found myself holding back tears as I sang.  After I had tucked him in to bed and he kissed me and hugged my neck, I went in my room and cried.

There was something about realizing Jacob's smallness that night.  He is my littlest and our last baby, and he won't be little for much longer.  He is two and a half, potty-trained (hallelujah), speaks in sentences and very much has his own opinions about everything.  Soon, he won't fit perfectly under my chin on my lap and bedtime will look a little different like it does now with Tommy.

Perhaps it's knowing he is our last.  Since we have closed the door on having any more children, there is this ache I hold inside. One of want and longing.  Of wishing life had maybe gone a little bit differently and my nest would have three babies in it instead of two.  If I had been able to stay at home, or if my body were different than maybe I would have the three like I had always planned on having.  I'm also aware of where I am at peace too.  I have peace with our decision we made to not have any more biological children because of my health and medication issues surrounding my RA.  We have been dreaming about adoption too but we aren't certain on the ifs and whens of any of that.  But I am looking forward to the life we get to share with our boys, the things we can do together as a family of four. 

And so I find myself in this familiar place of holding two opposing emotions.  The ache of wanting a third and the peace I have about not having another too.  I'm okay, and I'm not.  I'm at peace and I have a deep longing.  I'm happy and I'm sad.

Sometimes, often really, I feel the "and both" of my choices, of life, of my story.  And right now, the lullabies and nighttime snuggles, is a place where where I am holding the and both of my life.  Enjoying precious moments with my children, longing for the memories and moments I don't have, and being grateful for their lives. 

And that I get to end all of our days with lullabies.

September 24, 2015

Kindness in September

According to calendars and Starbuck's pumpkin spice latte availability, fall has officially arrived.

September is depressing when you live here. Day after day of ninety-something degree heat, and then factoring in humidity that adds insult to injury, summer is long and fights to the death to stick around.  The only sign I really have that the seasons are changing is the way the sun shines through my living room window.  It happens every September and nothing is more glorious than this autumn light.

See?  Glory.

When you live in the south, autumn is a season that you have to make yourself, something that must be created.  The other day, I put out all of my pumpkins, fall foliage and warm colored decorations.  The pillows were changed, the shelf above our TV got its seasonal face-lift and my kitchen was spruced up for the season reminding us of the themes of harvest, gratitude and thanksgiving.  Even my six-year old noticed it the moment he walked in after being gone.

"Yay!  It's fall!  I love when you decorate for fall.  It's so pretty!"

My decorations signal the things he has come to count on this time of year:  Pumpkin pie.  Our annual pumpkin carving party.  Being tortured at the pumpkin patch so I can get cute pictures. Dressing up for Halloween.  Getting in the car and possibly not getting third degree burns from sitting on black leather seats.  But even he knows, autumn is something we create, something we do and make together, because it certainly does not feel like fall.

If we don't usher it in ourselves, it's almost as if the season won't come. We are in the throes of Christmas and holiday cheer before autumn truly arrives with it's quietness in December.

I was actually reluctant to decorate for fall this year, which is unlike me.  Usually, I take things out before the month begins and start it off with all of my pumpkins and ritualistic September watching of You've Got Mail.  But I've been in something of a funk for longer than I care to admit. And I knew if I waited to decorate until I felt like it or was in the mood or the weather finally shifted and cooled here, I wouldn't be true to myself or what makes me who I am.

So I decorated out of hope, that my heart would follow me into autumn.

Last October, I completed a half-marathon.  It was one of the best and hardest and most fought for things I have ever done in my entire life.  The whole experience grew my faith and love for Jesus, but after it was over I didn't know what to do with myself. I had just experienced something huge for myself and for my faith, but I felt off and empty.  Two months later, Sarah's mom died.  I wasn't able to go to the funeral and I felt like I should have been there.  I coudn't make it work and I was lost in my grief of both losing her and that I had to be absent while those I loved honored her without me.  Sandy wasn't just my best friend's mom, she was my friend and a mother to me too. A routine check up at the end of the year, left me feeling shamed and humiliated by a nurse I didn't know well as my doctor was not able to be at my appointment.  Voices of accusation and lies about my identity and who I was, or rather who I wasn't, were loud that day and I believed every one of them.  After the new year, my RA became aggressive and very active again.  I both started and failed an intense diet where I had worked up the guts to see a doctor about it.  I started out brave and ended as a coward.  I'm still ashamed of myself.  Two months ago, I started a heavy medication which resulted in my husband needing a vasectomy.  We weren't necessarily planning on more children, but the finality of closing that door left an ache in my soul.  And then our church split and God called us to stay where we were.  And this world - I feel incredibly weighed down by current events, an overall darkness and sadness of the state of our world.

I can hardly breathe writing all of that out.  I've been spinning in all of these places, taking horrible care of myself and having little regard for what my heart, my body and my soul are needing.

The day the light came through my window and I sat in its familiar warmth and glow, I felt like I was able to calm down.  All of these things I have been living and believing and struggling with suddenly halted in a few quiet moments with the beauty my Savior gave to me.  I realized how I could always count on this moment to come.  This silly infatuation I have with the light and my window in September.  I count on it.  It always comes.  And how many things can we always count on?  How many things really don't ever change?

He doesn't.  He never changes.  Yesterday, today and forever.  Jesus is the same whether I'm training for a marathon or if I'm lazy on my couch.  He is same whether I choose to have a salad for lunch or a cheeseburger.  He is the same if my friend lives or if she dies, whether my disease is active or in remission.  Even if our world changes or grows darker or scarier - He is the same.  And I forgot this.  I forget His consistency.  I forget that He is faithful and unchanging and unwavering in His love and presence and affection for me.

I give my feelings more room and space than they deserve.  I give them so much power that they take over and dictate what I'll do, where I'll go and how I'll show up to others.  And for the last ten months, I've let my feelings rule my everything, forgetting how much they deceive me.

Maybe it's a silly analogy, but if I waited to decorate and usher in fall until it felt like it outside, I would miss the whole thing.  If I wait until I felt ready to pick myself back up again or when everything that felt out of place in my heart was tidied up, I might never get back up.

Sometimes you have to do things because it's time, not because it feels like it.  Sometimes you have to do what is necessary and trust that your heart and feelings will follow.

That's where I've been this week as I've made my green smoothies for breakfast.  Last year, it was a small and easy way to add greens and other nutrients to my diet and something I can easily do again that doesn't make me feel like I'm dieting or being punished for where I'm at right now.  I'm choosing to take the boys outside and walk the block and play in the sunshine in the afternoons, even if I'm slow and my back hurts from the weight I've gained.  I'm choosing water over soda and taking my vitamins.  I'm saying no to the things in church that I really want to say no to.  I'm being honest with my friends about where I've been and where I would like to be.  I'm discovering again who my really, real friends are - the ones that stick around after changes and hurts and awful church splits.  I'm accepting my husband's pursuits of me when he leans in to kiss me and invites me to intimacy.  I'm choosing to write over watching TV because I can't numb out when I'm writing since it's one of the places I feel the most alive in.  I'm choosing to cry and let feelings pass rather than inviting them to stay.

I often mistake violence for pleasure, and indulgence for need.  I'm discovering how to choose kindness for myself all over again.  It's amazing how quickly you can forget how to be kind to your own soul and body and heart.

I decided not to wait until I feel better or until I've somehow graduated out of this ten-month long funk.  I'm trusting the One who doesn't change.  The One who always sends magical sunshine through my windows in September.  The One whose kindness is so great, it leads me to repentance even if I don't feel like repenting.

That's the thing about God.  He can be found in every season.  I'm grateful where He reminds me of His faithfulness in something like autumn colored leaves - even if I bought them at a store and put them in a vase to look at.  I'm thankful for where He continues to invite me to Himself, using September skies lit up to remind me that He really is always there.

I am choosing kindness for myself, in hopes that my heart follows me into autumn.

September 21, 2015

My Big Mama Moment

Big Mama was one of the first blogs I ever found.  She is hilarious and she lives near me and for the last nine years, I've been hoping I would run into her at Target or Alamo Cafe eating queso and we would share some kind of magical moment and talk fashion.  Or about our love for cheese.

Over the weekend, I finally got to meet Big Mama live in person.  Though she's a distinguished author now and is all fancy with her real name and everything.  Melanie Shankle, a.k.a. Big Mama has written three books.  If you haven't ready Green Sparkly Earrings, The Antelope in the Living Room, or Nobody's Cuter Than You, than you are missing out.  They are hilarious, heart-warming and touching reads.  She spoke at my friend's church for a ladies thing.  And not only did I attend a churchy ladies thing, but I set my alarm on a Saturday morning and everything.  There are few people  I would get out of pajamas and miss my morning viewing of the Pioneer Woman for - but Big Mama is totally one of them.

Melanie spoke on friendship and how we as women should engage with one another.  I wasn't expecting to cry but there were tears galore.  I also went with Sarah, the one person in the world who has known  the ins and outs of my life for the last 20 years.  And if anyone knows what it's like to be a friend to me, it's that girl.  So, we got lost in the feels and the memories we have shared over the years and at one point were blubbering over our coffee and a chorus of You are My All in All because sometimes life presents you with these full circle moments and you can't do anything but cry at the glory of them.

My finest moment came when I was first in line to meet her.  I behaved myself and did not bring all THREE books for her to sign, but I had seriously considered it.  Before I knew it, I said something about being star-strck and began blabbering about how long I've read her blog and this one time she left a comment on my own when she held her "Fashion Fiesta" and I nearly peed my pants because I was so excited.  And she said, "Oh, you're so cute!" but I think she really meant to say "Bless your heart," because I mean, really.  I also told her I kept waiting for the day I ran into her at a Target at some point and I'm sure she's now hoping that day never comes because I did not stop talking the whole time I was in front of her.  I'm one of those fans.  Sorry, Melanie.  Amazingly enough, I quieted down long enough for a picture.

I now have pictures with two New York Times Best Selling authors and something about that feels brag worthy.  (Also on my list - Anne Lamott, Jennie Allen, Glennon Melton and Kelle Hampton - a few of my other favorite writers/human beings). However, my mouth starts working long before my brain, causing me to use words like "ass" when talking to Jen Hatmaker about how her book had kicked mine, and then the word "peed" to Melanie.

I'm so eloquent. Bless my heart.

August 31, 2015

Summer Road Trip

Vacation was vacation.  It was relaxing, and fun, full of play, naps, good food, and a measure of hard and stressful too because real life happens even on vacation.  We had our share of misadventures and unexpected hiccups, like having to replace the steering on Todd's new truck the day we were supposed to make the drive back home.  Let's hear it for warranties!

I was unsure about the road trip idea from the beginning.  It was Todd who thought we could do it, even with two young boys.  And to my surprise, it was great.  Fun even.  The boys stayed occupied with sticker books and Disney Pixar movies on repeat in the backseat for hours on end.  Apparently, junk food and movies will make any long trip bearable.

We traveled first to North Dakota to spend a little bit of time with Todd's extended family and Todd's parents who were also vacationing there.   We stopped for a day in Minnesota to see the Mall of America and spent the rest of our time in Michigan to catch up with our dear friends who moved there a few years ago.  We got to do life and have dinners and share adventures with Darin and Bethany and their boys Wyatt and Sawyer.

As I get older, and my boys keep growing, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the memories we are getting to make with them.  The stories we make together as a family and how experiences and times away together will shape their hearts and minds.  There were some days I had nothing better to do than read a book or take a nap.  One afternoon, I laid down with Jacob and watched him sleep and felt myself enter into a kind of rest I have not known in a long, long time.  As all vacations go, it had to come to an end but we made so many fun family memories and were so grateful for the time we had with our friends.

Below are the highlights of our trip, and in no particular order whatsoever.

August 3, 2015

Finding home away from home

Over 1,300 miles away from home and I have found pieces of my soul along the way as we have journeyed through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas.  Somewhere in waving fields of corn as far as the eye can see, in red barns and blues skies stretched wide and long, something about North Dakota feels like home.  Maybe it's because my husband feels at home here.  Maybe because we are one flesh - I am part of him and he is part of me - maybe there is part of me that is supposed to feel at home here too.  Perhaps it's God's way of tangling a couple together so intimately and deeply that when something fits for one, it can certainly fit for the other too.

But this is definitely his place, much like the crashing waves of the ocean's shore is mine.  And it's fitting for him I think.  North Dakota is much like Todd.  Quiet and calm, gentle and easy, rugged and down-to-earth.  I can literally feel a different pace of life here.  Nothing is hurried or stressful.  Things green and grow in a way that the heat of Texas' summer sun never really can.  And something about this places invites you to slow down.  I've needed that slow down.  We both have.

Today I took in a giant sunflower field.  It was nothing but pure yellow sunshine and joy as if it was created simply for me to delight in. 
I have to say - North Dakota totally gets me.
Even when we were ready to pack up and move here two years ago, me - sight unseen - it never sounded like an exciting destination or a place I would ever choose.  After all, there are so many other showy-offy places to live.  The grand mountains of Colorado Springs, the painted deserts of Arizona, the trendy, fast-paced excitement of New York City, and Florida with beaches that put my gulf coast shores to shame.  And of course Texas - there is no greater place to live than Texas.  But North Dakota?

This place has surprised me.  I wasn't expecting to fall for it and I have a little bit.  Much like I fell for Todd almost 10 years ago - I was surprised that I fell for him too.  He was different than any other man I had known, but I was drawn to him.  I still am.  Even now, in this place that feels like home to him, he feels a bit more alive and vibrant than his normal at-home-in-Texas-self. 
And I'm sure North Dakota is just trying to romance me.  It's showing off with stunningly perfect weather - 76 degrees and breezy.  The grass is so soft you could literally fall asleep in it.  And the neighborhood where his uncle lives feels like something I have read out of a story book where neighbors don't have fences and everyone grows vegetables in their back yards and goes to a family fish fry on the weekend like we did yesterday. Plus, it's summer and I'm not here during blizzard season.  Snow would not be the way to my heart.
Somewhere between the sunflower fields and evergreen tree-lined streets and taking a break from my normal routine and pace of life, I've found rest for my heart.  My mind is alive and buzzing and everywhere we have gone, I'm writing some sentence, some story, some piece of poetry in my head.  Even now, I feel as though I'm spilling over.

My soul feels at peace here.  I'm curious about how at home I feel when I'm so very, very far away from it.

July 23, 2015

And then he turned six

We all know I love me some birthday parties.  Celebrating, parties, organizing get-togethers - it's my jam.  And when it's for my kids, there is no exception.  This year, there was no theme or over-the-top party.  But that didn't mean Tommy's sixth birthday went un-celebrated.

Also, can we pause for a moment and say SIX out loud and really slowly.  S-I-X.  How do I have a six year old?  Thanks to Facebook and sharing memories from years past now, I got several reminders of those first moments that we had our Tommy with us.  Those eight days he spent in the NICU, his tiny body covered in tubes and IV's.  Getting to bring him home and what an amazing baby he was.  And my precious baby is my six year old son now.

In ten years, he will be driving.  Oh, lawd.

His birthday kicked off with a small pizza party with some friends after church the Sunday before.  I made cupcakes (with Star Wars wrappers of course). 
On his birthday I put streamers outside of his door so he had to break through them to get out.  He requested a silly string wake up call like I had done on the last day of school, but streamers are far less messy.

 He woke up to Star Wars toys from us and then we were off to breakfast.
We met Oma and Opa for donuts where he got to open MORE Star Wars toys.
  Seriously, the dude owns all the Star Wars things ever.

And after our sugary breakfast, we spent the day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.  It felt appropriate to take him there for the big six.

He rode rides and played games and we ate some really overpriced, mediocre food and paid $38 just to stay hydrated at the park in the hottest day we've yet in San Antonio.

Jacob went with us and did surprisingly well.  We also may or may not have bought a GIANT lollipop though to occupy him to buy some more time at the park.  But when we left, they were both pooped.
We ended the day at Alamo Cafe (his choice), which I was totally okay with, because queso.

I'm raising him right.

All in all, it was a great day.  We enjoyed being together as a family and celebrating our boy who keeps getting bigger and older and smarter.

Our Tommy is one of the sweetest and kindest hearts you will ever meet.  He is incredibly smart, curious and inquisitive.  He is logical and matter-of-fact and sees things very black and white, right or wrong.  Star Wars reigns supreme in his interests, but he also enjoys reading, playing Legos and listening to music.  He still invites us to play (usually saber fighting) and wants to snuggle and talk with me before bedtime.  He is an incredible kid, and I get to be his mama.

Happy Birthday to my big boy.  I love you so, so very much.