October 14, 2017

Grammy

My Grammy’s house always smells like Nivea cream and sugar cookies.  No matter which house my grandparents have called home over the years, their home is calm and bright, like a Christmas carol all year long.  Even now, the inviting aroma of her home takes me back to my childhood where she would teach me the arts of pie-crust curling and gift-wrapping and convincing me I needed to learn how to sew.  “You’ll have a husband someday and what are you going to do if he needs a button sewn on to his shirt?” she would ask me.  “I would buy him a new shirt,” I would reply.  I was quite resistant to sewing lessons.  Much to her dismay, I never did learn how to sew and she’s gasped a time or two realizing I’ve put my children’s Halloween costumes together with hot glue.
 
I spent a lot of time with my Grammy as a little girl.  She would read and color with me.  She let me try on my great-grandmother’s vintage jewelry that was kept in a wooden box with a silver latch and silk lining inside.  There were colorful gems arranged in gorgeously gaudy necklaces, beaded bracelets and sparkling broaches that made me feel like royalty.  On the best of days, she would take out her old book full of paperdolls from the 30’s and 40’s and let me play with them.  She would instruct me how to handle the old paper and to turn each page of the book she kept them in with care and gentleness. 
 
Making pies with her was my favorite.   We worked the shortening into the flour, getting it to the right consistency so it would roll out just right.  “Gold medal flour and ice-cold water are the keys to a perfect pie crust.”  She explained this every time.  I would watch mesmerized as she would crimp the edges ever so perfectly, so it curled all the way around.  She showed me dozens of times how to do it, but my fingers never seemed to get whatever magic she possessed in her own fingertips.  Store bought pie crusts were never acceptable, so I learned early on that if I were going to be like my Grammy, I would someday, have to master the art of her perfect pie crust.  I am proud to say that in my 30’s, I have finally arrived in the pie department.  Not only can I make a tasty and flaky homemade crust, but a beautifully curled one as well. 
 
Recently, I sat across from a friend who asked me a question I had never been asked before. 
 
“Jenn, where did you feel loved as a child?  Who loved you?  What did that feel like?”
 
I was taken aback.  Her question was kind and invited me to reminisce and remember pieces of my childhood where it was lovely to be a little girl.  Memories quickly bubbled to the surface of my dad and how he read me a Bible story every night and how I would dance on his feet in the kitchen.  Of my mom braiding my hair and making my favorite cake for my birthday.  My Uncle Goolie and I bouncing on old bean bag chairs together and giving me a ride on his shoulders while I would pull his hair directing him where to go.  And Grammy…..she was my very first best friend.
There have been few moments where I’ve reflected on what was good and delightful about my childhood.  Over the years it has felt like I was mostly invited to re-enter scenes of trauma and sort through pieces of my past in efforts to find some kind of healing.  My friend’s question led me to ponder something new and different about my heart and about Jesus.
 
She explained to me that, if there is any goodness at all in our childhood – that if we experience any enjoyment or delight or love, that it was Jesus loving us through those people.  Jesus uses our wounded and broken mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins alike to be little gifts of His grace, kindness, gentleness and love.  My family was no exception.  Embracing this has brought a kind of healing to my heart and story that I’ve long hoped for.  My childhood, while still full of some trauma and wounds that forever pierced my heart, was suddenly rich with sparkling and beautiful moments where I was tenderly and dearly loved by those that God hand-picked to be a part of my family.  
 
I could suddenly see my younger self dancing on the nail pierced feet of Jesus and standing over me as I attempted to crimp the edges of a pie.  I saw how He let me ride on His shoulders and laughing with me as we jumped on bean bag chairs together.  He was there in my Grammy and my Dad, my Uncle Goolie and my Auntie Laura.  My mom and cousins and all of the precious faces that make up my family.  Oh how He made His love known to me as a little girl.
 
If I asked you the same questions:  Where did you feel loved as a child?  Who loved you and what did that feel like? I’m almost certain you would share a story about a special someone, and it would sound an awful lot like Jesus.
 
I like to imagine that Jesus is much like my Grammy and her home.  Calm and bright like a Christmas carol all year long.  And smelling of Nivea cream and sugar cookies.

October 8, 2017

Watercolors and Worship

Colorful threads and the wooden wheel holding the white cross-stitching fabric still laid there on the floor.  A partially stitched outline of what was supposed to be a glass mason jar holding pastel flowers, tiny scissors and a case to hold my threading needles all reminded me of my effort to care for my heart and soul.  I remember cross-stitching when I was young.  It felt easy then and I remember my mom doing several of these growing up.  I thought it could maybe be my thing.  I needed something to do with my hands that wasn't eating chips and something for my mind to stay present as I had spent most of my free time in a comatose state watching Netflix.  After walking the crafting aisles, I made my selection at Hobby Lobby for the project and decided this was going to pull me out of whatever thing I seemed to be stuck in.

I had the brilliant idea that I would stitch this beautiful design and frame it and give it to my friend Ellen who had encouraged me to spend the same amount of money on myself in the name of self-care as I was for self-harm.  I imagined her crying and opening the lovely gift knowing all of the hours I didn't spend eating or drinking and it would be lovely and good for us both.

But then it took me 20 minutes to get the stupid fabric attached to the wheel the right way.  Another 10 to thread the needle, and then I realized how much math and counting went into cross-stitching.  I stupidly read some of the instructions and tips after I had started an outline of the jar and realized I was supposed to do that last.

"F*ck this!"  I threw it on the floor that night exasperated and feeling foolish.  How could I think something like cross-stitching was ever going to be my thing?  Would anything bring me to life and vibrancy again?  I felt like I was dying a slow and miserable death in the corner of my bedroom each night with a drink and a snack, until I finally felt sleepy enough to go to bed.

 A few weeks later, I found myself at Hobby Lobby again with my boys, perusing the craft aisles waiting for something to speak to me.  I was trying to not buy porcelain pumpkins or Christmas ornaments and found myself in the painting section surrounded my acrylics and oils, pastels and brushes, and blank canvases ready for art and beauty.  Some watercolor pencils drew my attention and I remembered being in the seventh grade, sketching out designs with those pencils and watching it come to life with water and a brush.  I wondered if I might be any good at it.  What did I know about watercolors or painting or art for that matter?

I made my purchases that day of watercolors and watercolor pencils, a thick pad made for that kind of paint, and a few brushes I didn't know much about but that looked important.  Pinterest offered ideas and tips for getting started, different techniques and some basics for beginners and I sat there in awe of others created beauties doubting I could ever create anything that beautiful.  Comparison always there to steal joy and possibility and hope and it was there with me as I sat there with my unopened art supplies. I didn't get started right away.  I was afraid it was going to end in a pile on my bedroom floor like my forsaken cross-stitching project and maybe it was better not to try again.

Two weeks later I sat at the Brave On conference for Red Tent Living and listened to my friend Libby speak about the heart and soul, how poetry has been her outlet for both pain and beauty.  I was captivated at her words and remembering my untouched watercolors at home.  I knew I needed to go home and try again.  Maybe it would be a big mess and I would have no clue what I was doing, and it would like like a seventh grader's art work and I would find yet another place to speak harshly to myself rather than speak of care or kindness.

Finally, the day came when I felt brave enough to set up all my supplies and try my hand at watercolor for the first time in 24 years.  I turned on some light piano music in the background and sat for a moment at the blank paper and colors that surrounded me.  And then I began.  Using some of the pencils and some of the brushes with my palette of water colors I began drawing out trees in the four seasons.  The golds and reds of autumns, the bare branches of winter, the new life of spring and the vibrant green of summer. 

With every stroke of color, I could literally feel something inside of me both settle and come to life at the same time.  I realized how forgiving watercolor is.  The whole point of it is to be a little messy and unfinished.  There are few hard lines and little structure as the water and paints bleed and run into complete loveliness.  I felt like a girl again, creating something beautiful for no reason other than because I could.  As my trees took shape and color, I remembered that I am an artist.  I may be a bookkeeper for a living, and be a little obsessive about meal-planning and scheduling our calendars, but I am an artist.  My days might be full of work and mothering, and tending to a home that never stays tidy or clean, but I am an artist.  I may have dreams that died long ago and part of me that died with them, but I'm still here and I am an artist.


My beauty and brokenness painted all over a page and I didn't want to stop.  I called my piece Sunday Morning Worship because it felt like just that. Offering my heart up to God in both my praise and heartache, of thankfulness and longing.  Remembering how good He is in every season, even if I forget that He is.
My friend Libby said something that stayed with me and makes me smile every time I remember it:

"Take your shame and your pain, and turn it into a freaking work of art."  And I did just that.  I plan to do it again.

How could you turn your shame and pain into a work of art?

September 27, 2017

Anxiety and the next right thing

A few weeks ago, I noticed a joke I had been making about myself a lot.

"OMG," I would say.  Talking like a text message or a Facebook comment.  "OMG.  I mean, my anxiety is so bad right now, I should probably be medicated!"  And then I would laugh and leave the other person wondering if they were supposed to laugh too or if they should maybe be concerned for me.

I was sitting with those questions myself.  Is this funny, or should I be concerned?

After several months of dealing with anxiety and PTSD like symptoms, I heard myself say the same joking sentence in a group of women I met before the Brave On conference with Red Tent Living.  And maybe it sounded differently because a woman who sat across from me at the table has seen me before.  Her eyes showed compassion and concern and I think I heard myself say it seriously for the first time.

My anxiety is so bad right now.  
I should probably be medicated.

At the conference, a fellow Red Tent Living writer talked about doing the next right thing.  I have heard the same truth spoken from one of my favorite bloggers turned authors and activists, Glennon Doyle.  I wrote down in my journal that evening asking myself that question.

What is the next right thing?

Immediately I knew that going to the doctor about my anxiety was the next right thing.  Self-medicating and ignoring whatever was going on for me has not been working out well.  I needed help and it was okay to ask for it.  I made an appointment with my doctor the following week.  The day of the appointment, the nurse was attempting to summarize why I was there and what I had been experiencing.  I started crying and I couldn't talk.  Her eyes grew wide and she said, "That's okay.  I'll just let you talk to the doctor."  She proceeded to type several sentences into the computer which left me feeling like she was writing up some kind of assumption or judgement of me and how crazy I was.

I wanted to run out of the room.  I almost did once.  But, I sat there and waited until the friendly face of my doctor came into my room, sat down and handed me a box of tissues.  "What's going on Jennifer?  Todd has told me a little bit, but what's been happening for you?"

Through my tears I began to share what my anxiety has looked and felt like over the last few months.

The insomnia and nightmares.  Waking up when I do sleep because I think I hear my children screaming in their bedrooms.  Bursting into uncontrollable tears about small things, like messing up the sauce that went with my Greek Lemon Chicken recipe.  Screaming and yelling at my boys all the time and about everything.  And overwhelming moments that I assume are anxiety or panic attacks that feel exactly like my body felt when going through withdrawls from the narcotics I was on for almost half a year.  I wring my hands and arms and legs and I feel like I'm trying to escape my body and I can't begin to describe how awful it feels and how crazy it makes me. And I confessed that if I sleep, I can only sleep with alcohol.  I knew that was a habit that I desperately and quickly needed to break.

She made a plan for me and my care.  While these things are mostly trial and error as we figure out what works, I felt a glimmer of hope that the ball was rolling.  I had shared with someone the hell I've been living with inside of my head, what I had been doing to cope and live with it, and I asked for help. She scheduled several different blood tests in addition to starting me on some new medications.  She recommended a sleep aid that isn't addictive or habit-forming.  And ya'll - by the grace of God, it has been working.  I get sleepy and fall asleep and sleep.  ALL. NIGHT.  LONG.  While I wake up groggy, I'm grateful to have slept at all - and without having to drink myself to sleep.

Realizing that anxiety was becoming a prominent and ongoing problem for me felt like defeat.  I've always thought I should be stronger or to somehow manage all of this on a spiritual level.  I've heard growing up in church my whole life that we can do all things through Christ!  And we are more than conquerors!  And to cast all your cares upon Him and not to worry or be anxious.  I thought that knowing Jesus, meant not struggling with anxiety like I was.

I've been learning though, that knowing Jesus means living with anxiety and seeing that He meets me in the middle of it.  Knowing Jesus and living with anxiety means admitting and owning my own frailty and weakness because that is when He is strong in me.  I've learned that being strong here doesn't mean I won't have anxiety attacks or insomnia.  Being strong here means asking for help and getting myself the care my body and mind desperately needs.

It's easy to feel like a hot mess. It's easy to believe I am hopeless especially when health or life seems to roll from one struggle to the next.  And it's easy to get overwhelmed when I see how long the journey is ahead of me for all that I am facing with health and wellness.

But the wise words of wise women I deeply admire are resonating deeply within me:  Do the next right thing.  

Aren't those words both motivating and comforting?  Not thinking about the 34 steps that need to happen after this first one.  Just stay right here, the next right thing, this day.

So, I'm trying to have those five simple words be my current life mantra. Not just with my anxiety and overall health, but in every facet of my life. Do the next right thing.

What is your next right thing?

September 23, 2017

Happy Septembering

I am very predictable in September.

My fall decorations go up. Pumpkins, silk leaves, cozy pillows and golden colored hydrangeas replace my every day decor.  This year I added twinkle lights, because twinkle lights should maybe not only be saved for Christmas.  See?  (I was watching The Force Awakens when I took this picture.  If you can't recognize Supreme Leader Snoke on my screen then you should probably question our friendship.)
I celebrate the highly adored pumpkin spice latte's return at Starbucks.  I take mine as a grande with an extra shot of espresso in case you would ever like to purchase one for me. 

All of my scarves come out of hiding, though I just stare at them longingly in my closet, because there won't be much use for them until at least November.

I craft.  It's inevitable.  September makes me glue-gun happy and I have the insatiable desire to create something.  Right now I'm working on a yarn wreath.  I haven't made one in a couple of years and I wondered how on earth I forgot that.  (Serious post about this later.)

I watch You've Got Mail, because that "bouquet of newly sharpened pencils" line gets me every time and it's not officially September until Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks kiss in Riverside Garden and Brinkley approvingly barks.

And then I wait for that enchanting moment that always happens through my living room window.  I swoon and take a dozen pictures and sigh a happy autumn sigh because even if it is still 95 degrees outside, it means fall is here.

I always feel a shift in September, and not just the way sunlight pours into my living room.  In all of my predictable September practices and autumn traditions, something inside of me feels like the season we enter into.  Fall is about letting dead things go, and somehow my heart, which is usually keen on holding on to everything for dear life, is more apt to letting things too.
I'm not really sure why this is, but if it's good for the trees to have a season where they let things go, then it must certainly be good for me too.  And I wish I did it as beautifully as a maple tree turning fiery red, separating from it's branch and floating gracefully to the ground. 

In real life, letting things go often requires ugly crying - you know, the kind that comes with snot and puffy eyes and 17 tissues.  It also requires change and the starting of new things.  This season for me looks like scheduling doctor's appointments, taking new medications, beginning marriage counseling, painting with watercolors, and reading books on white privilege. 

And watching Netflix less.  Or at least, trying to watch Netflix less.  I'm being realistic about my binge-watching goals, because let's face it:  Fuller House season 3 just arrived and I can't not watch it. #teammatt
September is fleeting.  The days are getting shorter and my heart is settling into it's familiar shift of letting things go and embracing what is to come.

Happy Septembering friends.

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?

~~~~

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.

~~~~

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. 

~~~~

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.

~~~~

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. 

~~~~

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. 

~~~~

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.

April 27, 2017

Early morning stream of thoughts

Four o'clock this morning, Jacob came into my room sniffling quietly.  I called him over to my bed and asked him what was wrong and between my grogginess and his quiet whispers, gathered that he had some kind of bad dream about Oma (his grandmother) leaving him and that he had also fallen out of bed.  I tucked him back into bed with kisses and prayers and went to lay back down except that my mind was already alert and racing.

I need to look for a new home daycare.  He's not happy there and I've got to find something different for my boy.

Is Tommy's field trip next Thursday, or is it Friday? I've got to make sure to put his lunch in a brown sack and not his lunchbox that day.  I need to remember to text his teacher.  Ugh, I feel so out of touch with what's going on for him at school.  

Did he do his reading homework last night?  I didn't check it.  I wonder if his handwriting is better and if he is slowing down to write like I've been instructing him to do.

I can't believe school will be out in a month.  I still have to figure out what to do with Tommy on Wednesdays and Fridays.  What am I going to do?  I'm so bummed I won't have Fridays off in the summers like I used to at my old job.  I'm going to miss that time with the boys.  They're going to miss me.  I'm missing everything.

Gosh, summer is right around the corner.  Where has this year gone already?   Oh crap, I need to mail out that 941 form for my boss.  I need to get that done by Friday. That's tomorrow, shit.  So I'll do that today.  *sigh*

But yea, summer.  

Bathing suits.  

I've gained weight.  Damn bathing suits and bellies and double chins.  I hate my body.  Wait, no, I don't hate my body.  I can't say that to myself anymore.  I need to say kind things to my body.  Oh, I suck at this "being kind to myself thing."  Why does it have to be so hard to take care of ourselves and our bodies and minds?  

Oh I'm so tired, I wish I could fall asleep for another hour before it's time to get up.

I need to remind Todd to call the mortgage company to find out where to send our payment to.  How did I lose the bill?  Did I accidentally throw it out?  I'm such an idiot sometimes.  Oh and I need to pay that other bill online because if I mail it out now, it will be late.  I hate money.  I guess I don't hate money, I hate the lack of money.  We need to get out of debt.  Always feels like we're getting nowhere because we get hit with something else like Todd's new tires.  

I'm going to need new tires for my car this year too.  Ugh.  And I'm just waiting for our AC to break.  Dad made it sound like it may not make it another summer.  If I have to pay for tires and I still need a plane ticket for the conference in September and we still haven't replaced our fence, and what if Todd's truck breaks down again?  Or my car?  My car isn't under warranty like his is.  I feel like it's just a matter of time before that happens. 

Why do I always think that way?  Always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I guess I think that because the other shoe always ends up dropping.  

How is that a saying?  Who drops shoes?  What does that even mean?  

Shoes.  What am I going to wear to work today?  I don't want to wear my sandals with that outfit because I need to paint my toenails again.  Can I wear flats with that?  I need to get some new brown ones.

Ugh, I'm tired.  This is stupid.  I'm just going to get up.

And so I did.  I made a cup of coffee and perused Facebook at 5am.  It offered me to the usual counterfeit for connection and gave me another list of things to do.  Another stream of thoughts flooded in about wanting to try a new facial product because my skin is gross and then wondering if everybody in the world is selling stuff on the side now and using Facebook to promote their products.  Why does that annoy me so much?  And who is Ann Coulter again and what side is she on?  And what side am I on?  I don't even know anymore.