August 30, 2017

Love is not the fence we build around our lives

As we hunkered down in our homes last weekend, bracing for the worst, Hurricane Harvey took an unexpected shift and unleashed it's fury on our neighbors in Houston.  As the horrific events continued to unfold, I felt sick to my stomach.  I cried real and big tears for the families caught in rising flood waters.  Images of children laying on their kitchen counters, people sitting on their rooftop waving desperately for help, the elderly sitting in a pool of floodwater waiting to be rescued flooded my Facebook newsfeed.  


I watched my beach home-away-from-home, Port Aransas, ripped to shreds from the hurricane.  The whole little town will need rebuilding, and while I don't live there or even own property in that little port of a town, I feel like part of me got ripped apart too.  Seeing the video and pictures of the wreckage was emotionally devastating.  It's amazing how places become part of who you are over time. 

On Monday, I sent Tommy off to his first day of third grade.  As I snapped his annual first-day-of-school picture, I thought about the Houston mothers who weren't sending their kiddoes off to school.  School supplies and new school clothes that will be considered one of many losses in their homes.  I wondered what they might be feeling and I felt a heavy blanket of ambivalence between guilt and gratitude.  Mostly though, I felt grief.

I have found myself uttering small prayers throughout every day as I feel a wave of sadness wash over me.  It's so close to home, and it's Texas.  They are my people.  They are me.  And I would need someone to think of me and pray for me because I know I would be crying on a Monday morning that I was supposed to send my child to school and instead was mourning the loss of our home and belongings and our everyday mundane normalcy.

Yesterday morning, I walked outside my door to an absolutely beautiful 75 degree morning, which simply does not ever happen in August in San Antonio.  The sun was shining and the sky was nearly clear.  There was an autumn-like breeze in the air that caught my breath and I stood in my driveway and closed my eyes.  It was so beautiful and lovely and I was standing there outside of my home, with car keys in hand ready to head off to work on a normal day.  I prayed for Houston and I prayed that some wife and mom just like me could feel some measure of comfort and peace in the same moment I was taking in the glory of my morning.  I felt overwhelmingly blessed and so undeserving. 

I've taken so much pride in watching my city and state come together to help one another.  There has been an abundance of people showing up, taking care, ready to help and chip in.  Our own Texas-based grocery store, HEB, had a disaster relief team in place the moment it was clear for them to get to the affected areas to offer food, supplies, banking services and medical attention.  Friends with boats have headed there to rescue those stuck in rising waters.  The very company I work for, created a donation station and our customers and employees showed up with water, food, and stuffed animals for the kids to deliver to Houston and the outlying areas. 

Churches and schools, radio stations, musicians, banks, stores - everyone is in this.  And while what has happened to our dear brothers and sisters is absolutely devastating, what is happening right behind it is glorious.  Everywhere you go, someone is helping, volunteering, and putting something together to help everyone.  All of it feels so much like the body of Christ I can hardly stand it.  People helping others, loving on those in need - it doesn't get more Jesus than that and I see His light in this everywhere. 

Our little family is donating, volunteering, and praying together every night.  Would you join us in prayer especially for Port Aransas, Rockport, and all the small towns outside of the Houston area that have suffered greatly as well?  All of us praying, giving, doing, going - it really does make a difference.  Let's keep it up - we have a long road ahead of us to love on our neighbors as we help them rebuild.

Recently, I've been listening to Nichole Nordeman's new album, Every Mile Mattered.  She has a beautiful and tender song called "Anywhere We Are," that feels so fitting for anyone who is going through any kind of storm.  If you are in need of some comfort tonight, I hope you have a listen and that her words and melody bless your heart and soul in all the places that need a bit of tenderness in all you are facing.

August 13, 2017

Sunday Thoughts

For three Saturdays in a row now, I've made our bed.  I'm not really sure why though because I've never quite seen the point in making ones bed to only use it again that very night.  It seems silly to go through the motions of tucking in sheets and fluffing up pillows and making it look nice, only for all of that to end up on the ground.  In fact, people who make their beds on a daily basis baffle me.  Please tell me, why go through the trouble of doing that every day?

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I've decided that being a grown up is incredibly lame.  A few weeks ago, I woke up to a flat tire which then led to the purchase of four brand new ones and a front and rear break job for my car.  I also had to buy a plane ticket and book a hotel room for a conference next month and so we basically said goodbye to all of our savings.  That particular weekend ended with a trip to the mailbox where I was lucky enough to receive a jury summons.  And I have no issue doing my civic duties, but I do feel like my name sure gets drawn an awful lot in comparison to others I know.  This is my fourth time to serve and my husband has been summoned once.  Last time, I actually had to serve on a jury and at this exact time in my life, I don't have any emotional space for a trial so I'm kind of hoping for a long day of book-reading and pretending I'm an introvert.

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It's weird how life brings people in and out of your lives.  Friendships that fizzled or failed or just stopped for one reason or another, reconnect.  I found myself at breakfast on Saturday morning with a gal who I lost touch with years ago.  We both find ourselves feeling the exact same feelings but her in her singleness and mine in my marriage.  It was good to cry together over coffee and eggs.  Somewhere between the french toast and the tears, I was reminded that we are all struggling with something, and we are only alone if we let ourselves be. 

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My son went to church dressed like this today. 
There was a point earlier in motherhood, where I wouldn't have dreamed of letting my child walk out the door in this condition.  He told me the other day that wearing pants makes him feel like a man and I'm pretty sure he feels six feet tall in a pair of jeans.   He asks to wear button down shirts and he has asked for more ties and this kid - he is something.  I'm learning to relax and roll with it, because he is teaching me how.  Isn't that funny?  We have kids and think that we're the teachers, when really, they're the ones that end up teaching us.

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I am preparing for the Brave On conference with Red Tent Living next month where I am going to sit on a panel and talk about self-care.  This comes in the middle of the year where I have battled with self-harm, depression, loneliness, pain and addiction in ways that I haven't in a long time.  And I don't understand how God even has me in this specific role, but I'm hoping to find some kind of words to share that don't leave me blubbering on stage, but not feeling like a fraud either. 

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My heart can't hardly bear the news.  I find myself sitting in disbelief that so much hatred and racism exists today in our country because I have been so sheltered from it being from where I am.  I grew up with friends of all colors of skin and only learned about segregation and prejudice in lessons in school about slavery and Martin Luther King and Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.  I'm just sick.  As a white person who has lived in ignorance for so long, I almost feel embarrassed for all that I've been blind to and unaware of.  I don't know what to do or what to say or how to be a part of something that can offer real change.  I'm so, so grieved.  I'm grieved not only that there exists such evil hatred and white supremacy bullshit in this country, but that I've been so blind and ignorant that it's always been there and I haven't ever seen it because I've grown up in my own measures of safety and privilege. 

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Here I sit on a Sunday night surrounded by baskets of unfolded laundry, and Legos that my boys didn't put away.  I feel chaos in my home, my marriage, my country.  Things feel unsettled and broken and dug open, as if a digger has plowed up our front lawn.  And I don't know what to fix or where to start, or where all of the trying to put anything together will even lead me.  But, I can make my bed.  And I guess that's a start.

August 6, 2017

When your marriage is in the garage

It was supposed to be my space.  I wanted a little nook with a comfy chair and a small table with a lamp where I could retreat to.  A space to read and write and journal and cry without policing my children’s play or having to stop and search through Lego’s to find Batman’s helmet for the 127th time.  Todd built a room divider for me and it seemed to be the best choice to make something from scratch as room dividers cost a lot of money.  We came up with the idea to use fence posts that would be screwed together with hinges so it could bend the way it needed to and give me the privacy I wanted for my little nook. 

He made it exactly the way I wanted.  The posts were painted the creamy white I liked with dark hardware on the outside.  I only got to admire it for a short time before it went crashing down to the floor and broke.  His solution was to brace the bottom of it with a larger piece of wood because the balance was off somehow.  He took raw wooden blocks and attached them to the bottom and I was immediately upset with it, because now the divider didn’t look pretty.  It was awkward and these weird stabilizing blocks on the bottom weren’t even painted.  In a matter of days, it only took a slight bumping of my elbow to the divider and it went crashing down to the floor again.  One panel broke completely off again, wooden splinters sticking out from where the screws were ripped from it in the fall. 

He told me he would figure out a different solution and propped the broken panel by the other pieces that were still standing.  I suggested calling someone, looking up a video, asking someone for help, like his brother who is a pretty talented carpenter.  He wouldn’t ask for help.  I guess he didn’t think he needed any.

Several weeks went by and I got angry every time I walked into my room and saw the broken divider.  He even got the equipment he needed to fix it, but it stayed by the door in our entryway and the dividers stayed as they were in our room.  Broken. 

I got angry about them yesterday. Really angry.  Angrier than a person should get about a faulty made-from-scratch room divider.  I told him the dividers were broken and to just get them out of our room.  He attempted one last time to fix them somehow by taking more raw wooden braces to try and fix on the other side.  The fix made the piece look even more unattractive.  I told him it was a bad idea.  The fence posts weren’t going to work.  It was broken.  I wanted them out of the room.  I was done looking at them.  I was done with the idea of even wanting to have them any longer. 

He was noticeably hurt from my demands, but he said nothing, and silently took them apart and put them in the garage.  And I cried later.  I cried a lot.  More than a person should cry about a faulty made-from-scratch room divider. 

And I realized that I wasn’t crying over the divider.  Somewhere along the way, the room divider became a visual of our marriage.  It’s off balance.  It’s awkward.  It’s been attempted to be repaired with quick and sloppy fixes.  He says that he will do things or fix things and doesn’t follow through in what he says he will do and the room divider was a tangible reminder of what feels broken in our relationship.  My heart looks much like the splintered wood where the screws had been ripped out after the fall.  And I don’t know the condition of his because he doesn’t it show it to me. 

All I know, is that our marriage feels like it’s in the garage.  It’s out there with the toys and clothes my boys have outgrown, the bicycles we never ride and leftover paint from other more successful DIY projects.  If it doesn’t get fixed, it will probably get tossed out as most things in the garage usually do.

June 3, 2017

Silly String Mom

Three years ago I decided it would be a great idea to wake up Tommy with silly string on his very last day of Kindergarten.  I have no clue how I came up with this idea, but it sounded like a fun time.  Of course he loved it, even though it made an insane mess in his bed.  He woke up laughing and confused and even though we had to wash his sheets and vacuum his blankets, I knew it was worth all of the smiles and giggles from my boy.  That day, I picked him up early from school, took him to eat at our favorite restaurant and treated him to a special toy for working so hard all school year.  And just like that, a sweet mother-son tradition was born that day. 

As this last week of school approached, Tommy began bubbling with anticipation.

"I can't wait for the last day of school!  You'll wake me up with silly string and we'll go to Alamo Cafe and we'll have fun together!  I'm sooooo excited."  He told me this every night all week long that I tucked him into bed, and I have to admit, I was just as excited about it as he was, and not just because it meant leaving work early.
The last day of school came, and so did the silly string wake up call.  We shared queso  and laughed as we talked about everything from Ironman to his silly what-if questions and the things he was looking forward to about summer.  As I sat across the table from my almost eight year-old, I noticed the light and joy in his face.  He looks so much like me and he's still at the age where he thinks I'm the coolest person he knows because I share his love for superheroes and Star Wars.  Our conversation comes easily and I know that he knows. 

He knows how deeply I love him.  He knows how much I enjoy him - who he is, what he loves, his sense of humor. He knows that he is completely and utterly loved just as he is.

As we walked out of the restaurant to the car, he wrapped his arm around me and made a quiet "Hmmm" and sigh sound as he looked up at me with a small grin.  I looked down at him, though not far down, because in one more foot from now, he will probably be as tall as I am.

"You're the best mom ever," he said.  I felt his words hit me and I wanted to dismiss them, because I know how untrue that feels for me most of the time.  I usually feel like I'm missing everything or I refuse to play, I snap at him or lose my cool and say things I wish I hadn't.  I blow it so many times and he knows that I do because I apologize and admit when I'm wrong. 

I hugged him back and kissed his head, and replied, "I know!  I am pretty awesome.  But, you're the best Tommy ever, and I'm only the best mom ever, because I have a you."  And then he smiled and then burped a loud, obnoxious boy burp and we got in the car and picked up his brother to head out for more last day of school adventures together.

May 29, 2017

Waves and Wind

Crashing, churning, rolling.
Wave upon wave I felt my soul settle and still within me.
Sorrows that roll like sea billows.
It is well?

Breeze tangling my hair.
Broken sand dollars, shards of shells.
Seafoam coming up and disappearing over and over again.
Seagulls and sandpipers and golden retrievers running.


He woos me, knows me, romances me.
The sunshine, the horizon, the color of blue where ocean meets sky.
Sun kissing my shoulders, sand beneath my feet.
Footprints left behind and the tide coming to wipe them away.
It is well, whispered upon the waters.
The ones He breathed into being.
He must have thought of me then.  How much I would enjoy what He made.
I cried, the salty breeze dried my tears.

The sea draws me out into it.
Feeling the force of it's power, it's ability to take me under.
It has before.

He calls me to the unknown, the deeper waters.
Murky, uncertain and dangerous.
My eyes are on You....

Hearing his voice among the wind and waves.
They still know His name.
Never stopping, never silent.
He always speaks and I can always hear Him.
Here.

May 17, 2017

The Girl with the Purple Hair

We walked into a new sanctuary surrounded by strangers.  The music was familiar, but the church and the people were new to us.  I was more observant than worshipful taking in the faces and feelings around me.  Finding a church body and a place we feel like we belong has certainly come with it's challenges.  As I stood there taking in a new place, I spotted a young woman near the front of the sanctuary.  She had bright purple hair and I could visibly see some of her tattoos as she raised her hands in worship.

I leaned over to Todd and said, "Um, I'm gonna need to know that girl.  She has purple hair AND tattoos.  I'm pretty sure we should be best friends." 

You see, as long as I can remember, I have always, ALWAYS wanted a fun color hair.  Somewhere between the jobs I've held in various offices and being married to a man who isn't too crazy about unconventional hair colors, I've never had the chance to try out the bold colors like bright aqua or hot pink.  Naturally, I'm drawn to other people who so effortlessly pull off an edgy and bold look.  And while it was her hair that drew me in, something in my gut told me I needed this gal in my life.

But instead of walking up to her and introducing myself like a normal person, I spent the next three months worth of Sundays inching my way up to her row in church.  Maybe if I could sit in the row behind her, we could finally say hello during meet-and-greet and it would be then she would realize that we were supposed to be best friends.  It never seemed to work out though and I was losing hope that I would ever find some kind of way of approaching her that didn't sound like: "So, you're hair is awesome and I have tattoos and I've also Facebook stalked you a little bit already.  Do you want to hang out and be my best friend?"

A few weeks later on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the girl with the purple hair stood at the front of the sanctuary to share a brief testimony of gratitude about what she had been through that year.  I remember her saying that God had isolated her from the rest of her family and friends during a time of sudden loss and immense grief, and that in her isolation she awakened to her need for Jesus in a way she had never known.  Those words spoke to places I had been hurting and angry with God for where I felt He had also isolated me, especially in relationships.  My tears began to flow and I looked at Todd.  "Oh, now she really, really has to be my best friend.  I just love her."

Now that I finally had a reason to approach her with something to say other than a comment about crushing on her hair, I immediately found her after church and our conversation came easily just as I knew it would.  We quickly found each other on Facebook (seeing as I had already Facebook stalked her beforehand) and exchanged numbers and overnight, this beautiful friendship blossomed between myself and a Michigander with amazing hair who unexpectedly found herself in my-neck-of-the-woods Texas.

After our first coffee date that lasted nearly five hours, she sent me this silly meme:
Which was especially perfect because I had been referring to her as someone who needed to be my "best friend" from the moment I saw her.

In all seriousness, this girl, is the dearest to me. While so many of our conversations and banter is various levels of shenanigans and nonsense, her friendship was exactly the one I needed and had been praying for.  She has said the same and we both agree that our friendship was a divinely orchestrated by God.  And He must get a kick out of the two of us together, because how could He not? 

Ya'll.  Making friends is hard isn't it?  I watch my boys walk into a new place and sit next to another boy and they start playing together like they've always played together.  It seems like somewhere between our youth and growing into adults, something goes awry in the friend-making department.  We can probably blame middle school for that, because everything awful happens then anyway.  But, making friends - finding someone you click with and enjoy and want to be around and who understands you - it's not something that comes easily, at least not in my experience.

I've learned a lot about myself and my flaws as a friend over the years. I am quick to write people off if I don't feel an instant connection.  I usually won't invest my time in someone if I know they aren't sticking around long term and sadly, I check out and try to fade away from people that feel exhausting to maintain friendships with because it requires too much of me.  So much of my actions in friendships in my adult life hasn't been kind or loving.  I suppose it's human to find it hard to always be kind and loving in relationship with another person 100% of the time, nevertheless, how I have behaved or treated others in the past isn't the kind of friend or person I desire to be.

In the blossoming of new friendships to those that fade or sometimes sadly dissolve and break all together, I am discovering that there is something to be learned from every friendship.  And so, I keep learning and messing it up along the way.  All relationships require a significant measure of grace to succeed and I know there have been times I have been slow to extend it.  I have let friendships go without telling someone how I really felt - mostly because it feels risky and vulnerable to fight for a relationship that you're not certain the other wants to keep.  I am sad for the places where instead of putting up healthy boundaries, I simply withdrew.  I may have some epic failures in the friendship department, but I hope to grow into a woman full of love, grace and kindness.  Because all of us desperately need those things - especially in relationship.

God is rich with grace and continues to put new friends in our paths to grow and stretch us, to minister and encourage us, and to give us a talking to and speak hard truths.  And when He brings a friend along who loves Star Wars and quotes "The Office" and shares your love for bright-colored hair, and her heart is literally shaped just like your own, then you count yourself especially blessed.

May 8, 2017

May the Fourth

At some point in the last few years, "Star Wars Day" has become a thing. And if you know anything about me and my little family, Star Wars Day is the day of our people.  In the past, we've worn our favorite Star Wars tees on May 4th, but this year, I decided to make it a more special event.

We turned on some Star Wars music.  Thanks to the wonders of Pandora, we found a Star Wars inspired station and listened to our favorite theme songs.
I put the boys to work making "Obi-Wan Kebobi's," which were really just grapes on skewers.  They decided they looked a lot like light sabers and let's just say that these don't fare well for light saber battles at all.  
I made up a fun menu for us to have on display.  Our food included:

Boba Fettucini Alfredo
Greedo's Green Beans
Dark Side Dinner Rolls
Obi-Wan Kebobi's
Wookie Cookies
Jawa Juice
I got a little carried away with decorating the table. I put some of Tommy's little action figures in one of my glass apothecary jars and it made me squeal with glee. 
If Star Wars tablescapes aren't a thing, then I will definitely make them one.
With our fun spread of food, Star Wars tunes and amazing table, we invited some new Star Wars-loving friends to join us for the evening.
Todd had to work late that night, so only the boys and I sported our shirts together without dad.
My new friend Melissa is a boys mom and she loves Star Wars too.  And the day was even more awesome because I got to spend it with her.  She's literally my favorite non-related human on this planet and her friendship has been the biggest blessing of this year so far.
I've been working more and my time at home to spend with the boys feels few and far between.  Whenever I can steal some precious, every day moments to make a couple of fun memories, it makes me feel like I'm not missing them entirely. 
The evening ended with lightsaber wars in the living room like any Star Wars dinner party should.  I tucked away our silly family memory in my favorite sentimental pocket, grateful for days like May the Fourth and the boys I got to share it with.