February 17, 2015

Family Valentines

With Valentine's Day falling on a Saturday this year, I thought it would be fun to make a family day out of it.  And honestly, all I really want on any Valentine's Day is some pretty flowers.  I'm easy like that.

Lately, Todd and I have been in pretty major get-out-of-debt mode so we are watching our expenses more closely.  We opted out of a big fancy date this year and decided to save what we might have spent on dinner.  I knew though that if I wanted to do something for the boys, I couldn't go too crazy either.  So, I went to the store, spent about $20 on paper hearts and candy and cups and made a special Valentine's breakfast.  I was proud of myself for being able to create something fun and exciting for the boys and have it be so cheap!
Conversation hearts as a filler for a candle holder is a total Pinterest hack.  Also, do people even actually eat them?
Tommy's valentines included candy, new markers and a drawing pad.  I think he has drawn on every single page already.
And Jacob got a cute monkey since stuffed animals are his favorite thing in the universe.
Holidays are the only time I ever even think about letting my children consume candy at the start of the day.
For breakfast, I cut out hearts with a cookie cutter and made french toast.

Super cute right?!

We also had bacon and strawberries and cinnamon rolls since cinnamon rolls were the one thing Tommy had asked for.  I had some questions on the table too for us all to answer while we ate breakfast together - and Tommy thought it was the best "game" ever.  What do you love most about Tommy/Jacob?  What do you think it means to love someone?  How do you know Jesus loves you? What things do you love most?  It was fun having love-centered conversation around the table that morning.   Jacob wasn't into it though seeing as he started throwing conversation hearts at us and needed a bath after consuming lollipops and chocolate and syrup and frosting - oh goodness, he had a sugar fest.  But it was a sweet, chaotic, lovely time.

And because we all had some sugar to burn off, we spent the afternoon at the park. 

Tommy finally learned how to pump his own legs on the swing that day.  His smile says it all.

And next to stuffed animals and eating sweet things, swinging is his favorite thing to do.  The kid basically had the best day of his entire short life.  Sugar, stuffed animals and swinging all in one day?!

We ended our day with homemade burgers on the grill and watched a movie together.  It ended up being one of my most favorite Valentine celebrations ever.  So, so much love and sweetness to go around.

February 16, 2015

Foolishness, surrender and rheumatoid arthritis

It's easy to feel foolish.  Like when you make that one mistake that leaves you feeling like an idiot.  Or when you assume something to be true and it ends up not being that way.  We can make asses of ourselves and say dumb things.  (I do this frequently).  Or in my case, thinking that this thing had gone away forever - when it hasn't.

I guess you could say, I am feeling foolish.

When pain consumed my entire body head to toe, and then suddenly disappeared, I decided a miracle happened.  And whatever my blood-work had said before or whatever the diagnosis had been, I claimed that something miraculous took place.  And maybe it did.  It was miraculous that my Rheumatoid Arthritis, diagnosed as a severely aggressive case, went dormant. 

Well, until now that is. 

I've been in denial for months.  It started in October of last year.  I remember waking up with that familiar feeling, though at the time, was only a slight discomfort and stiffness in my fingers.  And as the months progressed, pain came with it, spreading to knees and elbows and ankles.  I was keeping it "at bay" with over the counter pain relievers and after the morning time, I was fine again.  I guess I kept hoping it would go away as miraculously as it had before.

But, it hasn't.  It's only gotten increasingly worse.  And I've been left sitting in my foolishness.

The last two weeks have been especially terrible.  My hands were taking longer to stretch out from their deformed state in the morning - these frozen, stiff fingers curled under.  And the pain was so bad in my hands that it would wake me up at night just shifting in my sleep or adjusting my covers.  And I realized that it was my choice to be feeling this pain - all I needed to do was go see my doctor.  But in going, I would have to admit that something was wrong again.  That my body needs help.  That there is damage happening in my joints and I need to have all of this checked out again so I still have a chance to live and thrive even if it means medications and treatments that, honestly, scare the hell out of me.

Calling my doctor felt like surrender and defeat.  Like this thing has beat me and I lost.  I couldn't heal myself enough or do something right enough to make this auto-immune thing go away forever.  As if I had made it go away on my own the first time.  But I've been beating myself up, going to shame and self-contempt.  Feeling broken and diseased.  And again, feeling foolish.

I recognize this pattern.  I do the same thing anytime I feel the need to see my counselor.  Or when I need to go back and rehash a piece of my story that is making my heart bleed out all over again.  I have these expectations of myself to have my shit together all the time because somehow I believe I should have arrived and have all of the answers for all of the things and be able to live fully and whole and alive all the time. I hate asking for help.  And I have a love-hate relationship with the feeling of surrender that comes with it.  Both great fear and great relief at the same time.

In the last few days, when I've allowed myself to slow down enough to be still, I have found myself spinning in anxiety.  Traveling down the what-if roads of my past and future, and afraid of what will be diagnosed in the present.  It is always hard to fight to stay present in these moments instead of jumping into the next season prematurely. 

When I can quiet my heart enough, I hear Him though.  He is faithful to speak to my heart even when I've done nothing but doubt and question and distance myself from Him.  His sweet, soft voice that whispers the familiar truths - My grace is sufficient for you.  My strength is made perfect in your weakness.  Be strong, be courageous - for I am with you.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  Don't worry about tomorrow.  Come to me with your heaviness and heartache and I will give you rest.  I love you.

He never calls me foolish.

I go in on Monday and in the meantime, she gave me some meds to help with the inflammation and pain.  Tonight, I am sitting in that middle ground of surrender where I am greatly afraid and so incredibly grateful for some rest and relief.

January 16, 2015


She was always in some kind of love affair with the sun. Sunshine had a way of making her come to life.  Of reminding her that He was there; that He saw her and remembered her and heard her heart.  Whether it was setting or rising or shining bright and high in the sky or glaring off her windshield, peeking through her living room windows or turning her skin a shade of pink - any way it was, she thought it was lovely, perfect. 

But always.  Always the sun made her feel alive again.

 Melting away anything that was frozen over inside of her heart.  Calling her to play, to run, to live.

It was His "Good Morning."  His "I see you darling." His "I know this one will take your breath away."  He had a way of romancing her, wooing her with His warmth and brilliant light.  And she was like His sunflower - bending, stretching, moving towards Him as He made His way through the sky.

And on this day, this January day that came after days and days of gray and cold and wet and dreary, she found herself thankful for them. It made her love the sun and all of its glory even more.  It made this day, this light of the sun, this blue sky all the more special.  Because it meant that once again she was seen and remembered.  He sent it to her when she needed it most.  And He always did that.  Always came through. 

The Son.  Her truest of true loves.  Kissing golden sundrops onto her eyelashes.

January 9, 2015


If there is anything I enjoy about January, it's that it invites simplicity.  After nearly two months of indulgence and celebrations and full schedules, January comes with its desperate need to be quiet and still.  To slow down all that has been moving at rapid pace.  I need the calm and slow that comes with the beginning of the year, with winter.  And I am recognizing an even deeper need to simplify.

I have this tendency to fill all of me with as much as possible - whether it's stuff or activity or commitment or friends....or brownies.  And it leaves little space for the unexpected, whether the unexpected is a gift or a welcome change or a hardship or crisis.  Anything "extra" from the normal pace of life going as it is currently planned, sets me over the edge and instantly overwhelms me.  And it's terrible because once I've reached capacity and things spill over, I begin to spin and create chaos.  I'm not kind to myself or to others and I'm definitely no fun to be around.  My December made me see this over-filling that I do.  For a long time I used to do it with food, and on occasion I still can.  But now it seems as though I do it with many, many other things.

So, I've begun the uncluttering process.  I have been purging closets and cabinets and clothing and I'm well aware of how I hold on to things, or even get them in the first place because I think it will fix something that is broken inside of me.  And they never do of course.  Yet, I am still dreaming of new throw pillows for my living room because maybe that will do the trick. 

We made the decision as a family to get rid of cable for awhile.  It was becoming a place to check out, I think for all of us, and I realized how  much time any or all of us spent in front of it not engaging with each other.  Last night, with the absence of the noise coming from the TV, I sat on the couch with my boys and we played and acted silly and read books and giggled and laughed so much that Tommy declared me to be the "funniest girl he's ever known in his entire life."  It feels good to eliminate some of the distraction and noise from every day life that was adding to the fullness and leaving room for little else.

For the last four months, we have asked some friends of ours to hold us accountable in the area of our finances.  We have been foolish in making choices and spending our money and can't seem to get where we want to be.  And though I dreaded asking for help here, it is quickly becoming one of the best choices we have ever made together.  Our purchases, whether for groceries or clothes or Christmas presents are becoming more mindful and purposeful.  And as a result, I have been less stressed.  We are accomplishing things and this one choice of having someone help us here has made me curious what other places we could ask for help.  Because it seems that asking for help always provides some kind of clarity to a situation making life more simple. 

My afternoons at home, or in the evening after the boys have gone to bed, have looked like warm mugs of coffee and putting puzzles together, which has been strangely calming and therapeutic.  Next to being more present with my children, the quiet activity has been soothing for my soul somehow.  Apparently there is rest in a good jig-saw puzzle.

Currently, I am thinking about other places that take up space in my life, wondering how they might be simplified.  How the simplicity can create the room I'm needing to breathe.  In my job, in my body, in my friendships, in my current places of commitment.  What places are too full and have no room.  Where and how I can ask for help.

Perhaps simplicity will be the theme of my year.  I am hoping that I can create some room for the unexpected, so when waves of surprise come in, good or bad, I won't spill over - there will be space to carry it and walk through it all. 

On this gray, winter morning, I am hoping that some of the quiet and simpleness of my January carries on throughout the rest of 2015.  I think it's exactly what I need.

January 4, 2015


I am most certain I could not survive winter in any other place in the world. If it actually snowed where I lived, if we had blizzards or ice or any kind of frozen precipitation day after day for months on end, I am fairly certain I would not be able to endure it with any amount of sanity or grace.

It is barely winter here.  South Texas is fortunate enough to only receive the tail end of any fronts or freezes or arctic blasts.  Yet, standing outside in a windy 52 degrees today, I told my friend our conversation was over and I was getting in the car until summer came back. 

The cold despises me.  Or I despise the cold - I'm not exactly sure which statement is more accurate.  Either way, it doesn't fit or feel right and every winter, I find myself wishing it away.  January has always been the month I get through and survive.  As soon as the holidays are gone and Christmas is boxed back up into the attic, I am ready for spring and the warmth of the sunshine.  I find it rude that the newness of the year has to come with the winter.  I happen to think that the new year should be in the spring when everything is green and lovely.  And alive.

This particular season makes me want to hunker down.  To hide even.  To stay indoors, covered in blankets with a warm mug of coffee and a good book.  To isolate and retreat.  Winter makes my very social self, anti-social.  I listen to different styles of music - like soft, lyric-less compositions.  I live in my warm comfy pants and Todd's wool socks, which sadly isn't acceptable work attire.  Getting out of bed in the morning and showered and ready to take on the day is a chore - partly because it activates my Rheumatoid Arthritis and partly because staying in bed sounds more appealing than any other possible thing.  I become almost hermit-like, craving the quiet, and surrendering to the death I am surrounded by outside hoping to just get by and get through it.

Just like the seasons change and winter's arrival comes every year, I go through the same cycles and patterns within myself and even with my faith in God.  If the sun is furthest away from my part of the earth in the winter, than I also feel that God is the farthest from me then also.  That I am furthest away from the truest version of me.  Nature goes to sleep, it rests.  Likewise, I do the same, but usually in unhealthy ways that involve consuming too many warm baked goods and sitting on my couch so long I leave a permanent dent from my lethargy. 

I feel like God is distant and small in winter.  He becomes a faint memory of some fabulous summer vacation we had together.  And I wait for Him to return in all of His glory and sunshine and show off with making things new in the spring.  God isn't as show-offy in winter.  He seems to be quiet much like the winter that settles in around me in gray skies and barren trees. 

Just today I journaled the words, "I feel like you left me.  It's winter and you leave me every winter."

Tonight, as I sit here in my familiar comfy pants and Todd's wool socks and black hoodie because we refuse to turn on the heater, I am curious about what it might be like to winter well.  Where I might find God in this season if I were to look for Him.  And if I might be able to rest, really, truly rest in a season that does nothing but invite that very thing.

December 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye to 2014

On the very last day of any year, you can almost always find me in a quiet place, feeling both sentimental and somber. For as long as I can remember, the New Year's holiday is  a day combined with reflection, self-loathing, and pep-talks about getting all the things I got wrong, right in the next year.  As appealing as fireworks and champagne and sequined sweaters sound on such a night, I am usually feeling more sullen than celebratory. That's one of those things I wish weren't true about me.  I wish I were the fancy New Year's Eve party-thrower type, but instead I'm the "I don't even feel up to going to the party I was invited to" kind of person. 

True to form, the last few days I have been my usual, quiet end of year self thinking about the year behind me.  The highs, the lows, things accomplished and achieved.  Things, moments, people - some found, some lost.  An extraordinary journey with God.  Memories made, tears cried, laughter and so much goodness that I'm ashamed that I don't only feel grateful on this day.  Because there was so much goodness.

It's been a difficult, blue, gut-wrenching December and I am ready to pack up my decorations and breathe some of the new year air into my house and start over again.  I am also very aware though, that I'm not finishing my year as I had hoped I would.  And perhaps because I'm in this familiar place, it's why I never feel up to partying and celebrating at the end of any year.  It's like the ending of the year means I ran out of time for something or that I failed because it didn't get done or finished or fixed.  So I punish myself instead of celebrating progress or beauty or small moments that made up one incredible something.

Because my December has been full of enough self-contempt and sorrow, I am trying to pick myself up on this very last day and in these final moments of 2014 and celebrate some of what this year was - it's beauty, it's precious moments, it's places of progress and goals achieved and pieces of my story lived well.  Perhaps there will always be unmet goals, unfulfilled desires and failures in every year.  Maybe I need to be more accepting of that, accepting of myself as I am. 

Some visible reminders to me of a year full of all of those things....

Much to celebrate.  Much to smile about.  So, so much to be thankful for. 
Tonight, I will be ringing in the new year with my little family.  We'll make a yummy meal, play Twister and count down the seconds until midnight when we find ourselves in yet another new year. Another beginning and a continuing of where I am.
Wishing you a Happy New Year.  May you find many, many things to celebrate as you say farewell to what was and welcome in 2015.

December 28, 2014

December's Ending

It's already that time of year again.  The time when I do my usual end of year self-evaluation.  If you've ever had a job review for work, I can almost guarantee you that it's got nothing on how I tear myself apart and scrutinize, criticize and obsess over all I did or more importantly, didn't get right.  And each year, I promise myself I won't do this because I know it's this horrible thing.  I look for ways to beat up on myself or give myself this stern talking to.  All because I want to be better, to get better, to do something, everything better.

This is a familiar pattern for me.  One that goes back to high school, maybe even my pre-teen years.  It's as if I give myself this report card.  I'm graded on my appearance, my performance, my spiritual growth, the status of my relationships, my finances, my home, my job.  I could go on.  And up until November, I thought I would be finishing my year "on track" for once.  And then December happened and I was kicked down hard by grief and sorrow and anger even, and at the moment, I still feel trapped under the weight of it all.

I can literally feel this shift within myself as the end of one year approaches and the beginning of another is about to start.  I look forward to the feeling of a fresh start every single year.  But I realized it's because I'm looking for another chance to get something right.  I am never quite satisfied enough with my progress or where I am at on my journey because I feel like I'm still missing something.  Like I'm not where I belong or I'm running late in life.

Just today, I did a major toy-purge and deep cleaning of Tommy's room.  He received every Star Wars toy under the sun for Christmas and I went through his space trashing the junk, making room for the new, and giving him the choice on things he was ready to let go of.  The result was a well-organized, clean room.  A place for everything and everything in it's place.  I realized that his room was a reflection for how I want to both end my year and begin a new one.  I desperately want to create some order out of the chaos or to have something to show for myself for what I've done or achieved or gotten right this year.  Unfortunately though, a person's life and heart are much different than their bedroom.  Sorting through feelings, addictions, struggles and every day life isn't as easy as going to Walmart and buying a plastic bin and throwing those things in a box where they belong.  Oh, how I wish it was.

Earlier this month, my best friend's mother died after a two year battle with cancer.  But she wasn't just the mom of my best friend.  She was a woman who impacted my life greatly, someone who loved and nurtured me when my teenage heart needed it most.  She made me a part of her family and my life was literally changed because of her care. 

With her death, I found that the usual cloud of sorrow that normally comes for me on Christmas day, came weeks early.  I didn't expect it and the very first weekend I found myself in this horrible place, Todd was gone on a hunting trip and being alone turned into a weekend of bad choices and attempting to cope with food even though I know it doesn't work anymore.  One weekend alone turned into two more because Todd has the crappiest work schedule ever and I sat alone and with food and with hard feelings.  I became angry and bitter and other life things stirred up more of the same. 

I tried writing about it, about her, the impact she had on my life and heart but all of my words felt stale and I decided that sometimes words simply can't do some of the things that happen or the people in our life, justice.  As carefully and thoughtfully as one can compose a sentence, there are some things that just can't be written until much later perhaps.

But it's the end of December and I'm sitting in this familiar place of self-grading and evaluation and looking at this year that is nearly behind me.  In so many ways, it was a great year, an epic one even.  And yet, all I can see are the failures and disappointments of my December, and how I am ending my year in the last place I wanted to be at.  Fat, angry at God, discontent, broken.  I'm finding it hard to rest and even harder to give myself a break.  I guess I don't think that I deserve one.