November 30, 2016

Let every heart prepare Him room

They wait and look up expectantly the first time the tree is decorated, all glowing and shining, it's base barren and waiting for the promise of the good gifts to come.  They are the picture of anticipation and waiting.  Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!
There will be festive lights, family traditions, special cookies, and colorfully wrapped packages.  Yes, Christmas is coming.  But, what does that mean?  And more importantly, what does it mean to me?

I have long enjoyed this season.  Decorating, baking, gift-giving, party-throwing - it's practically all of my favorite things rolled in to one month.  Yet, almost every season, I feel drained and spent.  The season comes and goes and there is always this nagging feeling in my heart that I've missed something.  I've come to realize that it's Him that I'm missing - Jesus, the very reason for the season I love so much.

This Christmas, my side of the family has some very special things planned: A giant family sleepover.  A White Elephant gift exchange that will be a first for us to do.  And another round of family karaoke that is sure to be epic considering we will have ALL of the family there this time.  There is the promise of so much laughter, joy and beautiful glory-filled tears that  I can feel myself ramping up with emotion, hope and excitement as we plan and prepare for our time together.

Several nights ago, I couldn't sleep.  I woke up in the middle of the night, got out of bed and began to read and journal.  I did some research on advent - some of the history and traditions that surround it and as I did, I began to hear that still, small voice.  The One that has invited me to know Him and go deeper with Him again and again.  The One who always calls me to more.

I started to be curious about how I could observe this advent season differently than I have in years past.  To start, I decided to approach it with some fasting and prayer, and to purpose a quieter and less scheduled holiday season.  One that left room for giving and serving others, for being more present with my family in ways that didn't include big things or expensive family outings and one that included plenty of real rest for my soul.  I have a book to read and I plan to write of course. 

My prayer tonight, this night before the first of December, is for a heart that has prepared room for Jesus.  I want my schedule, my body, my heart and my home to be prepared for what's to come.  And not just for our big family Christmas.  But to really meet Christ this Christmas in a way that I haven't before.

Oh, how I want my heart tonight to mimic that of my boys by the tree.  Waiting expectantly for Jesus, the greatest gift that came, the greatest gift that still comes, and the greatest gift still to come.

Christmas is coming.  What does that mean to you?

November 24, 2016


Oh, it was so wretched.  The diverticulitis, the month long stay in the hospital, the blown IV’s, the lonely days and nights without my husband and family, the physical pain, the tears, the loneliness.  The immense hunger and thirst my body experienced for days, and weeks and then months.  The helplessness, the sitting in my recliner in a narcotic drugged haze as days and flew by without me.  It was so terribly awful and when I was alert enough to really feel what was going on, I would cry and ache for normalcy.  To be buzzing away at my job, folding laundry at home, sitting around the table with my family for a meal.   

Every once in a while, I have to stop and cry about it all.  There was so much I didn’t feel this year.  I was pumped so full of drugs to help with the pain, that so much of my experience, especially in the hospital is a blur.  I seem to remember the most traumatic moments the most, while I have vague memories of friends who stopped by to see me.  I wish it could be the other way around.

This journey has marked me.  It was a kind of undoing that I never saw coming.  But in the undoing, I was remade somehow.  There was so much of me that was like hard ground, cracked and grey with death and God came in with these sharp, jagged tools that hurt at first, but has brought up the soft, rich, life-giving soil that has been buried underneath.  Over the last several months, I’ve been humbled with gratitude for what He took me through.  How God loves me enough to take me through hard things, to deepen my understanding of His faithfulness and love.   

Perhaps He is still doing some tilling and breaking ground in me.  But I am hopeful about what is being planted and what will spring forth in a season to come.

Leaving our church was one of the most gut-wrenching decisions we were faced with all year.  Six years as a part of this church family and it was home to us and our boys.  As things began to unravel two years ago, we tried to cling to what we had and prayed it wouldn’t change or shift.   It took a toll on my husband more than I took the time to see.  I was so focused on trying to glue broken things back together that I couldn’t see how much he was hurting.  When he made the decision for us to leave, I was devastated, yet I trusted his choice for our family and followed his leading.  Since then, I have missed it and cried for it and grieved our leaving, wishing I could somehow go and apologize to those we hurt or tie something up with a bow and maybe that would make it all better.  I’m so thankful for that church – for God putting us in this place for the time He did, for the people who reached in and touched our lives and impacted our hearts.  Most of the friendships made there, I’ve learned, were for a season.  And while I’ve pouted and gotten angry and cried over the loss of the community we once had, I’m grateful for the time that we had it.  This perhaps is the hardest place to bring Him thanks.  Even though we were the ones to leave, it feels like He took something away.  And how do you thank God for isolating you?   

I may not be able to thank Him for the lonely place we’ve ended up as a result of leaving this church, but I can praise Him for the giving and the taking away He does.  He allows things to happen, allows hearts to callous and harden.  He allows people to come in and out of our lives for a purpose and a season.  He allows us to make our own choices too and He is faithful to show up in the aftermath of those consequences.  And if we’ve been paying attention, He will grow and refine us in the process.

That’s what makes walking with Jesus so wondrous.  We go through awful pain, we make bad choices, we wrestle with addictions, we struggle, grieve, rage and pout.  And He is faithful to show up.  He brings His light to every dark place in our life and somehow, He makes it good.  He always, always makes it good because He is good.   

While the year feels plagued with death and loss, I find myself thankful for the places He continues to invite me to stretch and grow because of it.  And if I could some up anything that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s for Him, always Him.  For His love, patience, forgiveness and unending, sufficient, amazing grace that I would be so desperately lost without. 

November 19, 2016

Mothering the Wild

He still crawls up into my lap each night after his bath and brushing of his teeth.  He sits there with his soft blue blanket and ragged white puppy and asks me to sing to him.  I sing the familiar lullabies softly in his ear, my chin on his head, cradling his little boy self in my arms.  Sometimes he sings with me, others he lays quiet on my chest reminding me of his infancy when he would finally still in my arms after a long day of what seemed like endless fussing and crying.

Jacob is a wild mess of sweaty blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes full of mischief and a wonder, and he has a smile that could light up a whole room all on its own.  He is adorable and he knows it.  Most days, he is running from one end of our house to the other dressed as Captain America or Batman off to save the day and take down the bad guy.  I’ve lost count of the walls and surfaces he has managed to color on, the remnants of his scribbles still found in my kitchen and our dining room table.  Dark, black permanent marker and bright red crayon, sharp jagged marks and hard lines that reflect his aggression and intensity.
He is my second born and couldn’t be more different than my older son both in looks and spirit.  He pushes back against every rule, feels everything with intense and strong emotion and requires much one-on-one time and attention.  He needs a large amount of activity every day to get out all of the energy he has in his tiny little body.  And he throws fits – big, large nasty ones that involve throwing, hitting, scratching and kicking, though now he has at least directed that aggression into objects instead of people.  Progress!

Many labels have already been put on my Jacob.  Strong-willed.  Passionate.  Spirited.  Energetic.  And more negative labels like defiant and hot-tempered.  Lately, I’ve gotten into the habit of calling him my threenager as I’ve endured some pretty dramatic episodes that I couldn’t make up even if I tried.

It’s funny to laugh about sometimes – the things we as mothers of young children say, experience and witness first hand.  When we dream about these little “bundles of joy” coming into our lives, we don’t imagine ourselves having to say things like “Please, don’t lick the table” or “No, we don’t taste our pee.”  We hope it will never be us that has to escort our screaming child out of Target while everyone looks at us wondering what kind of awful parent we are that our child is behaving that way in public.  
And all mothers have a poopy crib story.  I still shudder remembering my own.

But moms, we imagined things didn’t we?  We had dreams and sweet visions of what it would be like to care for and nurture our children.  Like reading stories before bedtime and making precious memories on summer vacations and Christmas holidays.  And even the basic everyday things like feeding and bathing and clothing our children – of course without any incident, because what incident could there possibly be?  

But, my world right now?  If you give my child a piece of toast and the butter hasn’t melted all the way into it, he will scream at you until the toast is fixed or you break down and let him have a popsicle instead.  And if a drop of water gets on his eye in the bathtub, we reach DEF CON 5 freakout level.  And long pants are a terrible, terrible idea and mine throws himself on the floor because I had the nerve to pick out jeans for him to wear.  Or the socks are wrong.  Or he doesn’t like how that t-shirt feels on his tummy.


Recently, we went to a restaurant with my family and Jacob was laying on the floor as we waited in line by the counter to order.  Everyone was looking at me and giving me these judgmental stares that said, “Um, your kid is laying on the floor and that’s gross and why aren’t you making him behave more civilized?”  And all I was thinking was that my kid isn’t screaming at me in public and he can lay on the damn floor all he wants.

This is not the motherhood I imagined.  I am not the mother I imagined I would be either.  I lose it.  I scream back at him.  I slam doors.  Sometimes I let my anger match his and later when I’ve calmed down, I regret it and feel horribly guilty. 

Motherhood is rough ya’ll.  I mean, it’s gnarly.  Between the shit (literal and figurative), pee, puke, sweat, tears, and blood, the verbal assaults add insult to injury.  Jacob has already screamed that he hates me on several occasions and I suppose I assumed that these words wouldn’t come until at least teenagerdom, but here we are.

I have actually and for seriously cried every single day for the last several weeks.  Earlier this week, what was supposed to be a fun family cookout around our fire pit turned into another dramatic screaming session because the marshmallow inside his s’more was too gooey and he couldn’t eat it. Todd took him inside and put him to bed, while I sat there and sobbed as I threw his blasted s’more into the fire watching my motherhood dreams melt and burn in front of my eyes.  

“This isn’t how it was supposed to be!  It shouldn’t be this f*cking hard!” I shook my fist to the sky and threw my hands in the air.  I’m not sure if I was yelling that at God or myself or my own mother.  I know for certain that my imagined mother self didn’t say f*ck as many times as I have in recent days either.


I’m scared that I’m failing at this.  I’m scared that I’m screwing him up and I’m not doing something right and that I’m failing his precious little heart because I can’t handle all of the screaming about all of the things all of the times!  I want to be the patient, loving, gentle mother he deserves but those words don’t describe my mothering most days.

The truth is, I want him to always be a little wild.  I want him to push back sometimes and question the rules.  I want him to discover things on his own, form his own beliefs and vocalize his thoughts and feelings because they matter.  I want him to be the kind of person that feels deeply and engages this world with the passion he clearly possesses.  But for the love of all that is pure and holy, I want him to stop screaming about everything.  Every day.  All the time.  
I know this season will end.  I am anticipating the shift that comes with him turning four.  And please God, let there be a shift when he turns four.  

But I guess what I really need, is for my own mother to look me in the eyes, cup my face and tell me I’m doing well.  That yes, this is hard and no, it's not possible to enjoy every moment.  That God picked me to be Jacob’s mama and no one could do it better than me.  And that I’m doing a good job.  Because a mother needs to hear from her own mother about mothering and it’s another place I don’t have her that feels like a loss.

So I’ll say this to you, mama’s.  The weary ones with the strong-willed children.  The ones whose children scream at you or lay on floors in public.  The ones who have to escort your fit-throwing threenager out of the store while keeping your game face on.  The one who exhales deeply after they are finally in bed or a trip to the grocery store alone is your happy place:  

I see you.  I’m with you.  You’re doing a good job.  It’s going to be okay. You’re not failing.  It’s hard and it’s not what you imagined.  Let's grieve that together.  To you, I raise the box of tissue for the bad days, the sweet ones, and the gloriously easy days that take you by surprise.  

Let’s mother on.

November 12, 2016


I like definitive beginnings and endings.  Clean slates.  New calendar years.  Crisp, empty planners waiting for entries. A grandiose finale at the end of a musical piece like Nessun Dorma or the Hallelujah Chorus.  I want my loose ends tied up, my mental and emotional shelves neatly organized, and clarity on where I stand in every relationship.

But it's the in-between, messy, unfinished tension where I reside and live most of my life.

October and now November have been unseasonably warm, even for us.  We are still in shorts and flip-flops and our air conditioners are humming away.  It seems we are stuck in some awful in-between season where it's not really summer, but it's not anything else but humid, sticky, warm and miserable. There are no beautiful autumn colors to wonder at, no crisp fresh air that breathes new life into a new season.  It's a weather purgatory and it's reminding me of all of the other places in my life where I feel stuck in a season of life that doesn't seem to end.  I find myself craving some sense of finality on things ending and some new thing to begin, but I feel as if I've been composed into a melody that seems to be playing in a minor key and the dissonance is getting to me.

My body is healthier and stronger than it's ever been, but still so far to go at the same time.  I eat so differently and exercise five times a week, and I even own "skinny" jeans.  Trying to find kindness in my maintenance of what I've lost, the progress I've made is easier on some days than others.  Even with the 85 pounds of weight that's no longer on my body, I struggle with who I see in the mirror and I don't often speak kind things to her.

Motherhood.  My threenager takes all that I have and I keep wondering if anything with Jacob will ease up.  I'm tired and weary and I just want a break from the screaming and fit-throwing.  Even as I write this, there is screaming and I want to lose my mind.  I'm ready for him to be four.  Or 18.  I can't decide.

Oh, how I miss our church so, so much.  I miss what it was two years ago when our community was rich and deep, our lives so full of ministry, fellowship and this wonderful feeling of really belonging - when we had a group we called as "framily."  I think of the people I've hurt and walked away from, and those who did the same to us, and I am filled with sorrow.  Most every Sunday at the new church we've been attending, I stand there during worship and cry.  It makes me wonder if I'll ever be able to stand on stage and lead worship for a church again.  I don't know if I can even trust church people, if I'll ever let myself be vulnerable enough to dig into it again.  I want to safeguard my heart and yet I miss deep connection with those who share my faith.  I'm stuck in a place of needing to forgive those who hurt me, and to ask others for forgiveness too.

I'm trying to survive my long, lonely days in a season where I am figuring out where I am supposed to be or who I'm supposed to be because nothing fits anymore - literally.  Church. My clothes.  Politics.  Friendships.  Nothing fits like it used to and I've become acutely aware how much this year has changed me inside and out. 

As I sit in the reality that I'm in the last several weeks of the year and the holidays are approaching, I am feeling myself ready to wind up the year and welcome in that familiar clean slate.  I want to wish 2016 good riddance!  As if January 1st will change my body and Jacob's challenging behavior or the new year will suddenly usher in new and perfect friendships and take away all the emotional aches I bear.

Maybe the fresh start of a new year is only an illusion.  If anything it gives us a starting point to measure our successes and failures, but it's really just another day of wrestling through life and struggling through the darkness inside of us. 

Perhaps there are no clear definitive beginnings or endings when it comes to our lives.  Just breathing and going and doing and seasons folding in and on top of each other.