Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wednesdays are Stressful



The weirdest things stress me out sometimes.


  • Four and a half. There are four AND A HALF pairs of shoes in my living room.
  • The price of apples went up so much that I can't buy as many as I usually do since I still need to have enough money left over for all the organic, gluten free crap I insist on eating now.
  • Feelings of guilt that I buy grass-fed butter for my coffee (for the love) but I still buy chicken nuggets for my family because apparently kids expect to eat multiple times every day.
  • The cost of airline flights.
  • Writing. Yeah, writing stresses me out. Because I want it to be good. I am terrified that I will start clicking away at the keys only to push Publish on something mediocre or even downright horrid and suddenly that whole "I'm a writer" line I use will feel like nothing more than a bold-faced lie. 
  • Cupcakes. I had a dream the other night about a chocolate cupcake the size of a four-month old baby. It had pink sprinkles on it and I'm almost certain it was made with gluten. After eating the entire human-sized dream cupcake, I can't stop thinking dirty thoughts about a real one.
  • Coffee shops. Everything with a ton of calories is exactly what I want. When I finally order my stupid dark roast with coconut milk, I'm just pissy about it. Then I sit down and I can never quite pull off being the cool hipster mostly because I don't have a MacBook.
  • Sex. Very stressful.
  • My kid is 100% incapable of remembering to flush the toilet after he uses the bathroom. He also is frequently busted eating his boogers, digging around in his butt crack, and using his pants as a napkin. A couple days ago, I caught him chewing gum. He found out in the yard and God only knows how long it was out there. 
  • Grown women wearing leggings as pants.
  • How much glitter nail polish is too much
  • Sports bras
  • Parking lots
  • People who buy those rotisserie chickens from the deli area at the grocery store. I mean, you do see the fat dripping and coagulating into a glistening puddle while the reflection of the carcass slowly rotates on the surface? 
  • The fat content in almond butter.
  • When my kid's bus arrives home from school, but he doesn't get off. Even though I knew he was probably still sitting there, his face buried in his book and completely oblivious to the world around him, it's still a joy to start making the phone calls to try to track that space cadet down. Stress levels double when you realize that he left a pair of gloves on the bus for the third time this year. He'd better hope spring shows up right quick.
  • The cost of everything. Here are just a few things we have on our list of Things We Would Like to Buy in 2015: office chair, egress window, groceries, thong underwear appropriate for the gym so I won't have to torture people with my VPL on the treadmill, tickets to see Jim Gaffigan, many margaritas, a DVD player to go in the van so we don't have to hear our children talk AT ALL on the 6 hour drive to Michigan, a new pair of SPANX. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
  • Wednesdays. It's the first day of the week that I have to work at both jobs and it's also when we have half price bottles of wine. Wednesdays are stressful.

Happy hump day.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Clinging to Words


I took off my wedding ring to write this one, so you know I mean business.

Can we just all put on our big girl panties and get honest for a second here? I mean, we're all grown-ups and I like to think we are all friends who can be real with one another without fear. We are all cut from the same messed-up cloth and unless I suddenly because popular (ha!) with a whole new set of readers who do things like apply contouring makeup and washing their baseboards (seriously, WHO DOES THIS?), then I think I can say we are in a safe place, among friends who know what it's like to trudge through the  mud in worn out yoga pants only to face plant and pretend to be asleep when the baby cries.

I've met you through Beth at Five Kids is a Lot of Kids.
We've bonded over at The Mom Creative about scrapbooking and then wailed about not having time to scrapbook anymore only to have Jessica remind us that we absolutely CAN find time to do what we love.
Your profile photos have become voices, people I have met in the flesh and become instant BFFs - I'm looking at you, Sara.
We've cried, mourned, and prayed and then tore the gates off Heaven in celebration with Diana at Diana Wrote.
I hit my knees with you when the news broke about Baby Boy Bakery.
In one, big, collective group hug, we cheered on Lisa-Jo, Jessica, Kayla, Diana, and more as they announced their book deals.

Since this is a safe space, can I ask a very bold question?



Why do we even bother to read these mama blogs anymore?

By this point, we've heard it all, haven't we?


  • Quit wallowing in the Mama Guilt. Do what you can, be present, your kids will remember your snuggles more than your craft projects.
  • You are not defined by the number on the scale. Your body housed humans for a very, very long time and then somehow managed to eject them out into this earth and be their primary source of nourishment for the next 400 years, so who give a hoot if you have a little cellulite on your thighs?
  • Somehow we have fallen under the impression that we need to be everything to everyone and it is exhausting. We are tired. So tired.
  • Breastfeeding battles, tantrums, discipline struggles, guilt, shame, unrealistic standards with a side of unmet expectations. 
  • Trying to slow down and do less in a world that wants us to move faster and accomplish more. 
Sound familiar? 

I'm pretty sure I've written multiple posts on these very topics. Some of my favorite pieces from my favorite bloggers have come from places of frustration, honesty, solidarity in our collective brokenness. Hear me now - this is a GOOD THING.

Yes, much of it has been written before in one way or another. We may even experience a little deja vu as we scroll through our blog roll, wondering if we've already read this one because it sounds so familiar. Does that mean that there's nothing left to write? That we are all just recycling the same content that's been floating around the Internet since the blog was born? Have we reached a point where if you've read one, you've read them all?

No.

No, we have not.

Because....words.


Words have value. Words are magical. Words are what can take a love story everyone has heard before and spin it into a fresh masterpiece that takes your breath away. Words have a power beyond our comprehension and connect with us on a soul level.

How did God create the world? He spoke it into being. 
How did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? He yelled at him to mummy-hop his butt out of that tomb.
How does God call us to interact with him? Through prayer....through words.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. 
(Proverbs 18:21 ESV)

I'm sure it comes as no shock to our Creator that blogging has become the phenomenon that it has. Blogging, especially among women and I would argue even more so among moms, creates a community built upon a collective experience with words as the foundation.

As long as there are mamas awake at 3 am nursing a baby hitting a growth spurt, there will be an audience for that #zombiemoms hashtag. That Twitter feed is where I found a whole new branch of my tribe.

As long as there are babies who are born sleeping into this world, ultrasounds that include words like "incompatible with life," and unfair jerks like cancer and car accidents, there will be a need for a safe place where a mama can go and be bathed in in the healing power of words. She will need the Dianas, the Angies, and the Lexis of this world to sit down in the ashes next to her and say nothing while she weeps and grieves.   

Blogs give us that. 

Know who else we need? We need Annie, who reminds us about how to use our words to bring life. 

As long as there are stretch marks and cellulite being held up against the standards of Kim Kardashian and her attempts to break the Internet, we will need to be reminded for the ten millionth time that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). 

As long there are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches being assembled because that's all my kid will eat even though the other kid at his table comes in every week with kale chips in bento boxes, we will need to remember that God has big plans in store for us, plans to make a difference in this broken world (Jeremiah 29:11). 

As long as there are last-minute DQ ice cream cakes being held up against the fondant covered, multi-tiered Frozen masterpiece complete with blue glitter and organic Olaf noses, there will be a place for us. 

Blogs matter. 

They give us a place to be vulnerable and honest, to rant and rave a swear a little (or a lot), to shake our fist at God and give a name to our anger, to laugh until we can't help but pee a little. 

Oh no, friends. We are not done yet. 

Welcome to our tribe. 


P.S. Can I please get a slow clap for the amount of time it took me to copy and past all those blogger's websites and create ten thousand hyperlinks in this post? Yah, thanks. :) 




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Button Battles and Butter in My Coffee




Just when you thought you were rid of me forever, I return triumphantly with a close-up photo of my crazy alien hand trying to look all calm and cool lodged in my pocket. This is the illusion of Instagram, friends. To the untrained eye, this photo says something like

Look how casually hip I am as I show off the subtle tuck of my dolman top paired with a wispy scarf woven from the eyelashes of a unicorn. Oh, and be sure to notice the perfectly painted pale pink manicure and trendy gold necklace. #blessed

Excuse me while I gag.

If you've spent any amount of time here in my neck of the woods, you know that pretentious bovine excrement like that is sooooo not my jam. Let's keep it real, shall we?

Man, I wish it were socially acceptable for me to wear yoga pants to work.. Instead, I had to jam my abundant trunk section into these jeans that just came out of the wash because they are on the only work acceptable jeans I have left that only have a small hole in the knee as opposed to a gaping hole in the knee which I get is considered fashionable for 14 year olds who will happily pay $110 of Mommy and Daddy's dollars to purchase, but I prefer to save them for hanging around the house while I pretend to dust and sip a Malbec. So instead, I get to jump up and down and flail about on the bed while I try to cram a ten pound sausage into a five pound casing, aka my 7 for All Mankind boot cuts. After a little cursing and a whole lot of rearrangements of the souvenirs my three sons left me around my midsection, I got those suckers buttoned. Thank the Maker for whatever genius invented the dolman top. It's just blousy enough to cover the volcanic eruption of fat and skin that had bubbled up over the surface of my waistline without anyone being the wiser. I claim victory over you, jeans. Naturally, it is time for a selfie. Only, I haven't washed my bathroom mirror in 3 years so there are smudges and toothpaste splotches all over it so now the photo looks like I have some sort of ghostly tampon hanging out of my lady-parts. And hey there curling iron that is ever-so-conveniently pointing directly to the area in question. Is there a filter that just cuts to the chase and adds a blinking neon arrow right above my baby-maker that says, "Watch out! One wrong move and that button's gonna blow!" At least my nails look good. 

Welcome to the crazytown that is my head, friends.

But I did practically do an entire Zumba class in my bedroom that morning just in an attempt to get those god-forsaken pants to button. I was ready to either spit nails or go eat a deep-fried Snickers for breakfast. I got pretty down on myself; not gonna lie. Heck, it wasn't that long ago that I was flaunting my skinny-tude all over this here blog, writing about my weight loss journey and my new healthy food choices and my 27-minute 5K and other such vomit-inducing nonsense. Seriously, how did you all put up with me? I'm actually shocked nobody beat me over the head with my own running shoes. My comeuppance has arrived, y'all.

And it is brutal.

So the button incident woke me up and got my head back in the game. I figured it was high time I quit eating pork chops with sweet potato risotto cooked in butter and white wine drenched in cheese and butter and served with a side of butter and garnished with a flourish of cranberry gastrique and love. A couple days before I decided to dial my head in to my new approach to food, I went out on a date with my husband and we shared a filet and an order of lobster gnocchi that was so good I actually made noises while I chewed. You know.....noises. 

It was a gluten, butter, cheese and fat induced euphoria, friends. The Malbec was just the icing on the cake. Oh yeah, and we totally had cake later too.

Now I spend my Sunday afternoons meal prepping. Sometimes Evan helps me because it I had to do it all the time I would lose my ever-loving mind.


Those larger containers of food near the bottom of the photo were originally packaged for Evan to take to work, but he left them behind so I totally sharked them and they became mine too. I'm sure I broke them up into several meals though because I have an iron fisted grip on my portion sizes, don't you worry. *cough cough*

Chicken, fish, veggies, healthy carb. REPEAT.

Welcome to my new life.

No gluten, no fried ANYTHING, dairy in very VERY small amounts. Less chemically modified junk (bye-bye to all that chemically altered fat free, reduced fat, processed junk).  I've been referring to it as Paleo-ish because I still allow a small amount of rice, beans, and other healthy grains like quinoa into my diet.

Grass-fed beef is super expensive and it makes me want to punch someone in the throat but I buy it anyway because the Internet told me to.
Almond butter does not quite do it for me like peanut butter can.

Also, I'm pretty sure my sweat now smells like coconut.

Coconut milk coffee creamer.
Coconut oil.
Coconut milk whipped cream.
Coconut flour.
Coconut milk in my Starbucks chai.

It's safe to say that I've officially crossed over the threshold and joined the ranks of the many I have mocked as I relied on them for their gratuity. Now I'm the one trying to not be a pain in the rear as I request the gluten free menu and place my order with a super-obnoxious list of omissions and substitutions.

I haven't been to Culver's in two months.
I switched gyms and I'm back to working out at least 3, sometimes 4 or 5 times each week.
My kids usually still order chicken nuggets and french fries and quite frankly I'm usually too tired to argue with them because I spent all my energy on kettlebell swings and weighted lunges.

The number on the scale hasn't moved as I would have liked. In fact, it's actually gone in the wrong direction. But after only a couple of weeks, I am finding that I actually feel better and my body is responding well to being fed better fuel and getting forced up off the couch from time to time.

It's meant more time at the gym and in the kitchen, less time on the computer. But it's been a good thing. A really good thing. I'm feeling more confident in my own skin again. Slowly, I am remembering what it is like to have control over my body and the food that I fuel it with, rather than letting it control me.

Then again, I did drink coffee the other day with coconut oil and grass fed butter in it.

Because the Internet told me to.





Monday, March 16, 2015

Preggo? Let Stitch Fix Style that Bump!

Ladies, I will be back in action quickly with some regular blog posts about how much of a hot mess I am, but I just had to pop in super-fast to tell you about an amazing new development with Stitch Fix, my absolutely FAVORITE way to not shop for clothes.


STITCH FIX is now offering maternity styling for its preggo clients!

No, I am not pregnant.
Totally done with babies, baby.
Quickly saying a prayer that God doesn't get an ironic sense of humor all of a sudden.

Now, you know how much I love Stitch Fix. I've gotten more than 20 boxes over the last couple years of hand-picked clothes from my personal stylist that has made my life way easier and waaaayyyyy more fashionable. It's been a while since I've written a post about some of the fun things I've found in my Stitch Fix boxes recently, but here's a little sneak peek.


A lace sleeve top, black blazer, and tote bag. I was a happy, happy girl.

Now when I was pregnant, I was approximately the size of a baby hippopotamus, so looking cute was never really much of a concern. This was before the days of Instagram when supermodels could post photos of their 8 month pregnant belly that actually still resembled a washboard.

How is that even possible?

But I digress.


Shopping when you are pregnant is HARD. With Stitch Fix, someone who actually knows what they are doing studies your style, your preferences, even listens to your feedback about what you loved and hated about previous clothes and then sends you things you will LOVE and that make you look cute while pregnant.

When my friend Marnia unexpectedly gets pregnant again, I'm totally giving her a Stitch Fix gift card.

Ready to style that bump?

When you sign up, make sure your due date is correct in your profile and trust me when I say that you need to be as absolutely positively HONEST and DETAILED as possible in your descriptions and feedback. The more specific you are, the better your fixes will be and your stylist will love you for it.

That sweater up there is so cute it almost makes me want to be pregnant again.

Almost. :)




I am a Stitch Fix Affiliate, which means if you purchase anything through Stitch Fix, I do receive a teeny little commission. But I love me some Stitch Fix and have long before I knew what the word "affiliate" meant so I wouldn't be sharing it with you if I didn't love it. 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Push the Pause Button





The Lord gifted me with some actual quiet time this morning. I set my alarm another 40 minutes earlier and went to be last night praying that it would make a difference and that I would actually be able to get up. Not gonna lie, I still snoozed for 15 minutes, but I was able to get out of bed and be ready to be still a whole 30 minutes earlier than usual. As I sat down at my desk, I bowed my head and braced myself for the usual whine from the other end of the house, usually something to do with needing to go potty, a dropped stuffed animal, or just a blatant plea to get out of bed and watch Curious George.


But it didn't come.

I spoke to God about how I have felt like I am chasing the wind. All around me are things that are good things - tasks around the house, things on my to-do list at work (where I work for a ministry!), getting into an exercise routine again, spending quiet time in the Word, being intentional with my marriage, meal prepping so I don't make bad food choices, goof-off time with my kids, putting away the stacks of laundry piled up in my room. All good things. But no matter how hard or fast I run after these things, I feel like they are always just out of my reach. I stretch to my limit, but my fingertips barely graze the surface before I have to pull back and I am left exhausted by the effort. As I explained this out loud, the Lord gave me the image of the vine and the branches and I realized how silly it is of me to keep trying to do all these things apart from Him. His Word makes it clear that without the vine, the branch can do nothing. Why should I think that I would be any different?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. As a gal from a Protestant background, observation of Lent has never really been on my radar screen. Growing up, I would remember my Catholic classmates giving up chocolate or swearing for Lent and quite frankly I thought it was stupid. How is not saying the f-word for a month and a half going to help you think about Jesus?

Taking advantage of this peaceful time the Lord had provided me in the dark, I fired up my computer and went to the first day of the Lent study with She Reads Truth. I had fallen behind of late and missed practically the whole study on Esther, so I was already struggling with the guilt of that. I was tired from the running, repentant of my pride in wanting to do it all by my own strength.

Lent is a pause button.

My heart dang near stopped as I read those words and I immediately wrote them down in my journal. I read on about how Lent is a quiet time unlike any other time of the year, a time to stop the running from God and pause to face the reality of our sin and why we need to pause, turn around, and go toward him.

Lent is a pause button.

The Lord was giving me a clear message that it was time to pause, to take a moment to just ignore all the laundry piled around me, the unmade bed, the growing to-do list. Turn off the Facebook notifications, worry about email later. The house was quiet and He called me to do the same.

Push pause, daughter. Can you hear me? 

There have been many times when Evan and I have been watching a show in the living room and we suddenly hear a sound that stands out, that doesn't quite belong. We look at one another for a moment and know that the only way to really hear that sound clearly is to push pause on the TV. The second we do, we can hear our son's voice calling out for a bathroom break or perhaps crying from a bad dream. Whatever the circumstance, we can't fully understand the message if it is being drowned out by the background noise.

Lent is a pause button.

I realized that Lent isn't just about choosing something to abstain from so others will know you are super-religious. I understood that, just like everything else, we have screwed up something that the Lord has provided for us as a way to draw us closer to him. I have seen so many people see Lent as a challenge, an opportunity to show how disciplined and righteous they are for being able to go 40-something days without eating a cheeseburger. This isn't what God intended for this season to be.

Lent is that opportunity to quiet the background noise so we can listen closely to the still small voice of the Spirit, reminding us of our need for a Savior. The study I read this morning pointed to Genesis 3:19b - "For you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

What can dust do? A whole lot of nothing, that's what.

I doubt I'll do the whole "I'm giving up _____ for Lent" thing, but I am grateful that the Lord opened my eyes this morning to this chance to pause. When I am tempted to open Facebook before I open the Word, my prayer is that I will remember to push pause. In this season of Lent, my prayer is that the Lord will help me to honestly identify what noise I have been allowing to deafen His voice and to help me push pause and lean in to listen to Him.

 




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Busyness of the Proud


"We must refuse to let our calendars control us."

My friend Heather is afraid of my planner. Seriously, when I whip that thing out and start color coding and flipping pages like a madwoman, she gets a panicked look on her face and runs the other direction. She has flat out said that my planner stresses her out.

MY planner stresses HER out.

It's not even her life I'm planning and she's ready to have a panic attack.

I'm so glad that I got to read Jessica Turner's new book The Fringe Hours. There are three HUGE issues that really resonated with me from what Jessica is saying.

1. No matter how scary my calendar looks, it is not the boss of me.
2. It isn't selfish for me to make time for ME.
3. There is no room for guilt in my life.

Jessica made me write down - with pen - that I am not too busy to make time to do the things I love, the things that rejuvenate my soul. What's hilarious is that I was reading this particular section of the book in the few minutes I had left before my nighttime serving shift started and I was pounding black tea to try to wake myself up before I had to take my first table, since I had come straight from my day job to the restaurant.

My calendar is booked solid. No argument from me there. I have very specific pockets of time that are available each week and I am very, VERY good at filling those pockets with things like grocery shopping, running errands, spontaneously cleaning the hardwood floors, trying to eradicate the permanent smell of pee from my bathroom, and wiping face-prints off my patio door.

I'm thinking in particular of my Sundays. Sundays are the only day that I don't have to punch in at a job. It is the one "day off" I get during the week.

My "day off" looks something like this:

6:00 am - Wake up bleary-eyed and cranky because I worked a double shift yesterday and likely didn't get to bed until midnight after being on my feet for no less than 10 hours. Snooze.
6:20 am - Finally drag myself out of bed.
6:45 am - Wake up kids to start getting them ready for church.
7:15 am - Throw reheated frozen pancakes at the kids or dump cereal in a bowl for breakfast. Half the time at least one kid still has a pancake in his hand when we get in the van.
7:30 am - Begin the process of SHOES! COAT! HAT! SHOES! COAT! HAT!
7:40 am - We load into two separate vehicles and drive to church.
8:00 am to 9:15ish - We get our church on.
9:30 am to 11:00 am - While the rest of my clan heads home to change into pajama pants, I volunteer in the church nursery. I get my baby fix without actually having to birth another baby (can I get an AMEN!!!) and it's a serving opportunity that I genuinely enjoy.

The rest of my day is taken up by grocery shopping (because it is the only time-slot I have available to do it), house-hold duties I've been putting off all week, meal prep for my lunches for the week plus dinner and all the accompanying tasks.

And Downton Abbey. That's crucial.

It might not sound like a lot, but it is a lot. And this whole thing goes out the window when there is a birthday party to attend, a large job needing doing, or any other number of things.

Basically, when someone needs me to be somewhere or do something that is outside of my regular schedule, the only time I have to do it is Sunday. So I offer it.

I love taking an hour out of  my Sunday to have lunch with a friend. LOVE. But I still feel guilty every time I do it. I feel guilty every time I choose to leave Evan home with the kids so I go to Target by myself. I even feel guilty taking an hour out of that crazy Sunday schedule to read or nap.

Instead, I race around the house at a frenetic pace, throwing laundry in baskets, chopping sweet potatoes, thawing chicken, unloading the dishwasher, sweeping floors and picking up rogue socks while looking on with contempt while my husband relaxes on the couch with his head back and eyes closed.

"Why does he get to rest when I have to do all the work?" I grumble to myself. "I sure would love to be able to take a nap, but somebody has to do all this!" I tell myself these things over and over until I am slamming pots and pans, sighing heavily, and holding my lips at a tension.

"What's wrong?" he asks me.
"Nothing," I lie.

Why do I do this to myself? Jessica devotes a huge section of her book to ditching the guilt that we women tend to put on ourselves when it comes to setting aside the things that "must" get done in favor of the things that feed our souls. Where did this come from? How do we make it stop?

One of the suggestions Jessica gives in The Fringe Hours is to enlist the help of someone who will champion you and encourage you to invest in yourself. She writes about how her husband Matthew is so supportive of her going to get a massage or scrapbooking instead of cleaning the bathrooms or folding laundry. As I read that section, I realized that I already have that person. Evan is really great at encouraging me to take a break and relax and offering to help so I can get some reprieve.

My problem is that I often don't let him.

When I get right down to it and I am very honest with myself, I find that my struggle is not really with guilt, but with pride. I love to see the reactions I get when people see all the writing in my planner, it makes me feel important to talk about how busy I am, and my ego just grows bigger and bigger when I refuse to delegate something because I am convinced that it absolutely cannot get done correctly unless I am the one to do it.

Ouch.

I hold on to my busyness with an iron grip, raising it aloft like a trophy, displaying it so all can make sure to take notice.  Is my schedule pretty packed? Yes, it is. Do I work a lot of hours in a week? You bet I do. Is it my sole responsibility to make sure that every single thing gets done? Nope. But I act like it is.

This is something I need to work on, releasing my grip on my schedule and allowing the Lord to fill it in for me instead. I need to be ready to say "No" to some things and be ok with that and I also need to step out in faith and say "Yes" to some things I have convinced myself I don't have time for.

Without even realizing I am doing it, I have been slowly stealing away the joy from my own life.

Finding those next steps can be just as challenging as scheduling that pesky dentist appointment. What do I get rid of? Do I get up earlier? Stay up later? Work less? Join a gym? Quit the gym?

It's all something I'm still trying to figure out.




The Fringe Hours by Jessica N Turner releases on February 17th, 2015. You can pre-order your copy HERE and you can also check out www.fringehours.com for more information. I can't wait to read this book a second time and just highlight the heck out of it. :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

What's it been, like 24 Days?

The snow is falling on our street, but it's hard to tell if it is really sticking or if the coasting of white is just a layer of salt coating the asphalt. My older boys are sitting next to me, snacking on yogurt and nosily trying to figure out what I'm writing about them. It's so cold in here that I have to wear fingerless gloves to be able to work and not feel like my hands are going to freeze up.

It's been far too long...again. Mondays are supposed to be my night to write and instead they have been filling up with things like events, committee meetings, late days at the office for Evan (that means late days minding the young 'uns for me), but also the occasional spontaneous at-home movie night where we blow off homework and wearing real pants in favor of fluffy socks, soft blankets, popcorn, and Despicable Me 2.

Let you think things are too idyllic, I would draw your attention to the dried pizza sauce and pepperoni that I had to scrub off my sub-woofer earlier today. Things like this just happen around here, friends. Yesterday, I had a sit-down serious conversation with my five year old about why I'm really going to need him to quit digging around in his butt all the time. I swear, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard his brother exclaim, "Micah, your hands smell like poop!!" Gross.

The other thing that had me MIA was the time-suck that is experienced when I am engrossed in a good book. Sometimes I find a book that just grabs me and latches on so tight that it's almost like I'm having an affair with the story. I find myself sneaking around just to have some alone time with the pages, making up excuses, sometimes just flat-out lying. True confessions: at least five times during my reading of this book, I claimed to have to "go to the bathroom" and spent a solid 15 minutes in there....even though I really only had to pee.

Like I said.

But this book was worth it. No, I haven't seen the movie, but I can tell you that the print version of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption had me absolutely riveted. The pages told such incredible tales of Louis Zamperini, the young man who went from track phenom to POW. There were many times that I had to stop and remind myself that the story I was reading was real an that these things really happened to this one man. It was like Forrest Gump on steroids. Highly recommend this one. Never have a read a story that better illustrates rejoicing in suffering than this one, outside the New Testament, that is.

This one gave us a scare this weekend.


He woke up at midnight Friday night throwing up. While I cleaned up the scene, Evan cleaned up the kid. I'm certain I got the raw end of that deal because this boy is a champion puker. As for who's brilliant idea it was to give Captain Yak the top bunk, I don't know. All I know is that in this situation, gravity is most definitely not your friend.

We relocated him to the couch and covered everything with towels before tucking him back in to get some more sleep. Unfortunately, nobody was going to get much sleep that night because that poor boy woke up every hour to hour and a half to vomit again. Even after I left for work the next morning, he kept it up. Eventually, Evan had to call me at work and have me come home to bring him to Urgent Care because we were starting to get really concerned about him becoming dehydrated. As you can see from the photo above, my baby was probably more tired that day than I've ever seen him. He was monitored for dehydration for a while, making sure that it wasn't necessary for us to go to the hospital to get him an IV. We dodged that bullet and he spent a couple hours in the Urgent Care exam room watching Men in Black 3 and sipping orange Gatorade. As I write this, he is slowly working on eating some yogurt which is the only food he has eaten all day apart from the single piece of toast he had for breakfast. Slowly he is coming back around and I'm certainly grateful.

Can we all just join in a collective prayer that nobody else in the house gets to share that stomach bug with him? Prolonged vomiting does not sound like something I have time for right now.

A few things I want to make sure I write about soon, so I'm writing them here so I have no excuse to blow them off:
  • The No Regrets Conference and how my job is going
  • Mornings and why I have a love/hate relationship with them
  • Everyone at the restaurant is dieting and I hate it.
  • Isaiah accepted Jesus as his Savior and then promptly forgot about it
  • My terrifying summer schedule that resembles some chart an intern would be dragging to an important board meeting without any clue whatsoever about what all the crazy colored lines and codes mean
  • Why I hate the Super Bowl this year, but I still feel obligated to watch it despite the physical pain it will cause me to experience
  • I'm on the launch team for a new book releasing in a couple weeks that I am really excited about. I need to tell you all about it and make you realize you need to buy it.
I think that about does it for today.  Isaiah says hello too.


 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Our Real New Year's Eve

If you're anything like me, you sometimes find yourself rolling your eyes as you scroll through Instagram and see beautifully poses photos of flower bouquets next to a fresh lipstick tube and sparkly stilettos. Maybe it's the barrage of selfies or perhaps it's the account that only shows her perfectly coiffed children as they read above grade level while they feed the homeless organic food they cooked themselves. Sometimes I make it a little game I play with myself where I look at one of those seemingly perfect photos and I try to invent the "real story" behind it.

That's probably why I enjoyed this piece so much - "What I Instagrammed Vs. What Was Really Happening, or My Entire Life is a Lie." A fashionista and Instagram-addict shares how all the seemingly idealistic photos she posts on Instagram are a total sham and she compares the message the perfect photo sends to what was actually happening in the moment she took the photo.

I had tears in my eyes I was laughing so hard.

Since I still had this little gem on the brain, I wanted to take a "real" photo of my New Year's Eve and tell the very real, very common story behind it. While many others were sharing their favorite moments of 2014, their goals for the coming year, or adorable selfies with liquid eyeliner, glitter nail polish and clutch handbags....I shared a different kind of selfie.

My husband was home from work. I was home from work. The kids were blissfully occupied in the bounce house we got them for Christmas that now lives in our basement so that when I get frustrated and holler, "Thats it! Go to the basement!" I don't have to worry about someone overhearing and thinking I have a dungeon down there or something.

My mind spirals off to weird places sometimes.
Where was I?

Right, so we had the day off and I looked around at the state of our living room following the removal of the Christmas tree and I thought I might barf. I am certainly NOT a clean freak, but my eyeball starts to twitch when I can't walk around barefoot in my own house without wondering if my Tetanus shot is up to date.

My hair was still a hot mess. I still had on my PJ pants. There were snot smears on the sleeve of my sweatshirt because I couldn't find the Kleenex box and Thomas had just experienced what can only be described as a "snot emergency." Definitely was not wearing a bra.

After sweeping ONLY THE LIVING ROOM, this is what resulted.


Not pictured are these items, which I had already extracted from the pile and either thrown away or returned to their rightful homes:
  • Minecraft sword
  • Boba Fett LEGO torso
  • Missing camel from the nativity set
  • Instructions for LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles set
  • One sock
  • A pool noodle that had been converted into a sword sheath using duck tape
  • A Batman motorcycle

I wish I could say this was more of an exception than the norm, but I'd be totally lying if I did. Remember that time I wrote about the 10 Simple Strategies for a Clean and Organized Home? Clearly, I am still an expert on the topic.  

After Evan mopped while I sat on the couch and played Trivia Crack, I felt much better about life. 

Cheers.






 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

See and Bear Witness - John 1


Do you have a favorite book? I've been asked this question many times and I always respond that is is akin to asking me if I have a favorite kid - there's no way I can choose, but certain ones are definitely more appealing at different times! Let's be honest. When one kid is quietly reading a book while the other two are waging a booger war by the patio door you just cleaned, it's pretty clear which kid is the favorite in that moment.

I would argue that the same concept can be applied to books of the Bible. Not the booger war part, because I'm pretty sure the armies of Israel would have been stomped out pretty quickly. I'm thinking of how different books of the Bible can really jump off the page in new ways and become our favorites in different seasons of life. The Spirit is really quite amazing this way, wouldn't you agree? Am I the only one out there who has jumped into a particular study or opened up to a certain book of the Bible at a seemingly random time only to find that the Word we find there is exactly what our soul needed to hear at that moment?

This is why I want to make time in the Word a priority in 2015. It is a living, breathing, dynamic conduit of God's truth that provides a lifeline to us.

As I mentioned previously, I am starting off this year studying the book of John along with She Reads Truth. We launched on New Year's Day with the first chapter, a familiar chapter that I've read many times before. That's why it was so exciting with something special jumped off the page at me and brought exactly the word I needed at the beginning of this new year.

I first noticed it here, in verses 14 and 15 (emphasis mine):

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)

It popped off the page all over the place, this partnership of "seen" and "bear witness." They went together like peanut butter & jelly.



29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.

This section of the chapter really got me excited. The partnership of sight and witness is repeated, but that last verse is incredible and challenging. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.

Friends, I have seen that this is the Son of God. I have experienced his grace and know his truth. I have acknowledged Jesus by faith to be the true Son of God, the atoning sacrifice for my sin and my only hope for a life of freedom from sin and an eternity in the presence of the Father. I know this to be true. I have SEEN.

But do I bear witness?

Like I said, these two things are tightly linked in this chapter. Seeing and experiencing Jesus Christ should be immediately partnered with witnessing about him. If I really wanted to, I could lock myself in my little Christian bubble and never really have to bear witness to anyone who wouldn't already understand. There would be a lot of "Amens" and "that's such a God thing!" but would there be the potential to introduce someone to the Son of God for the very first time? Perhaps not. But here, in John 1, that's what John the Baptist is doing! He's basically set up shop by the river to bear witness about seeing Jesus - telling everyone he could!

Lately there have been several times where non-believers at my night job have asked me seemingly random questions about my faith out of the blue. Heck, on New Year's Eve I walked up to one of the computers to ring in an order only to be met with the loud inquiry, "Sarah! Do you believe in speaking in tongues? Is that a real thing?"

I completely forgot what my table needed, but I did engage in a conversation about this question and shared what I know from Scripture about this gift of the Spirit. Other issues have come up in the past at this job - the authenticity of the Bible, tithing, the second coming of Christ, among others. Every time a door opens for me to talk honestly about the truth of Jesus, I am both excited and intimidated. The stakes are so high - what if I get it wrong? What if I don't know enough about the Bible to be able to quote something correctly? What if I don't have enough evidence to back up a claim I am making? 

But when I look here in John, the man baptizing in the Jordon didn't worry about all that. He saw Jesus, recognized him and the Son of God, and bore witness. He told about what he had seen, what he had experienced, and then directed people to Jesus so that they too could see, experience, and then bear witness themselves.

Why should I think that God would ask more of me than he did of John? 

So there, in the first book of John on the first day of the new year, I received a word of assurance partnered with a clear directive: 

Bear witness to what you have seen. Let me do the rest. And when you miss the mark, my grace upon grace will be there to catch you. 




I'd love to have you join in on the John study or maybe the #365DaysofTruth with me over at She Reads Truth. There were so many ladies trying to get started right away on the morning of January 1st that the site and app crashed! (Yup, that is indeed spiritual warfare in the technology age!) So if it doesn't work right away, just try again later. I promise you won't regret it.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Seeking His Face

New Year's resolutions are hard, aren't they? I think I read a statistic once that something like 80% of resolutions made after the ball drops are dropped themselves before March rolls around. Maybe that's totally off base, but it sounds about right to me. I'm not sure what makes it so hard to adhere to the decisions that we make in January to make adjustments to our life that will be beneficial to us. I mean, when is the last time you heard someone lamenting about how their resolution to eat more birthday cake for breakfast had crashed and burned and they were back to the old habit of organic oatmeal?

Never, that's when.

Resolutions are for our benefit. We resolve to eat better, manage our time better, get a better grasp on our budget and stick to it, give more, save more, lose weight, quit smoking, pursue a dream.

All good things.

So why is it so hard to make it last?

I remember the year that I sat on the couch on the evening of New Year's Eve and was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of resolve and dedication to lose weight. I had tried so many times and failed, but somehow this one felt different. As the clock struck midnight and 2011 passed into history, I knew that 2012 was going to be a turning point year for me. And it was. I locked my eyes on the goal and fixed my mind on the next step, the next milestone, the next challenge. I didn't let anything get in my way and by July I had hit my goal weight.

Your typical Weight Watchers success story, right?

At first glace, sure. The truth of the matter is that the weight loss I achieved had much less to do with my efforts and everything to do with gradually learning more and more about trusting God. I would listen to sermons while I ran and spend my cool-down time in prayer. The solitude and the cool night air became my place of worship. I came face-to-face with so many truths about myself and about God through my headphones as my feet hit the pavement that I gradually leaned harder and harder into Him. It was through his strength that I persevered and got healthy.

I need to rekindle this.

Not because my weight has rebounded. (Yes, it has rebounded quite a bit and I'm not exactly thrilled about it.) I am far less interested in the number on the scale as I am about the condition of my heart. The sense of intimacy I felt with the Lord as I spent those nights running with his Word in my ears is something I miss desperately. I have tried to reclaim it time and time again, but to no success.


I start a new prayer journal only to wind up with blank pages after two weeks.
The devotional from church goes unopened.
Distractions draw me away from his presence and suddenly I find myself seeking the latest news on  Facebook rather than seeking his face.
My Bible is reduced to little more than light reading before bed or an accessory I carry with me on Sundays.

This is unacceptable.

Years ago, God gave me the determination to get moving.
This year, I'm asking him to make me slow down.

Psalm 27:4

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

Teach me to seek you, to dwell and rest in your presence, and to gaze. I don't just want to glance at you from time to time, but I want to purposefully go to you throughout my day - every day - and to see you in every aspect of my life.

Psalm 27:8

You have said, "Seek my face."
My heart says to you,
"Your face, LORD, do I seek."
Hide not your face from me.

May this be the prayer of my heart this year, LORD. Your face, LORD, do I seek.

Of course, no not-resolution would be complete without an action step, right? One of my favorite places on the internet is She Reads Truth. It's a community of women God has called to draw women into the Word and to help them to seek after the Lord. I sometimes get so caught up in the whys and hows and the "Ohmygosh I need my Bible study PENS!!!" that I suffer from analysis paralysis and I never make it into Scripture at all out of fear I will do it wrong. The ladies over at SRT have created a wonderful tool that is perfect for people like me.

On January 1st they are launching #365DaysofTruth - an initiative fueled by their website and app to walk women through the entire Bible, one day at a time. Here's how they describe it:

Our prayer for you is the same prayer we pray for ourselves, for our spouses, for our children and our friends—that, like Jesus, you would “grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)
 
This year, instead of resolving to finally get it right,  let’s resolve to walk with Him as He makes it right.
Instead of determining to get better,  let’s determine to get closer to Him through His Word.
Instead of making a list of all that we will do on our own, let’s notice all that He is already doing  AND LET’S JOIN HIM IN THAT.
   
I love this.

#365DaysofTruth will run simultaneously with the more focused studies SRT has come to be known for, including a study on the book of John that also begins on January 1st that I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into.

This is the perfect opportunity to use the resources we have at our fingertips to cultivate something with eternal significance. The other insanely cool part about this is that the She Reads Truth app is FREE and this #365DaysofTruth plan is also FREE so anyone can join in at any point and get guided into the Word of God. Think of how helpful that would be to someone seeking the Lord, asking questions, or maybe a new believer who is trying to figure out this whole "reading the Bible thing" or maybe...just maybe.....for even the more "experienced" Christian who is looking to figure out the exact same thing.

Not a New Year's resolution.
More like a change of direction.




Monday, December 29, 2014

Dirty Floors and the Books on my Dusty Nightstand

The on-top-of-things mom would have the Christmas tree on the curb by now. The stockings stowed in the rubber tote and the Elf on the Shelf carefully smuggled back into storage, I mean....the North Pole. Most likely, she already moved the Valentine's Day stickers and pink glitter to the front of the craft closet so she is ready to get the kids in the lovin' spirit as soon as the glittery ball drops.

She also has probably showered today, make dinner that didn't involve something from a can or jar, and can see the floor of her bedroom.

As for me, I am thinking about how much I really should be doing something far more constructive with my time than rambling on a blog - like maybe....taking down the Christmas stuff - but instead I am over here puttering away while the kids watch Curious George and Evan takes his turn in Trivia Crack. Anyone else addicted to that game?

My dinner was an apple smeared with peanut butter and a fun sized Almond Joy.
I brewed a new pot of coffee at 4:30 pm.
Not entirely certain when the last time was that I vacuumed my floors.
There are four books on my nightstand that I have started, but not finished.
The cute "Scripture of the Week" board hanging on the wall in my kitchen hasn't been updated in over a month.

I just glanced into the living room and I see a pair of Buzz Lightyear undies on the coffee table, one finger in a nose, a random clothes hanger, and stray LEGO pieces that would be in danger of being lost forever if I ever actually took the vacuum out of the closet.


One of the books on my dust-covered nightstand is The Fringe Hours by Jessica N Turner. I have known Jessica through the blogging world for a few years now and her book (set to release in February 2015) is all about being mindful and reasonable with how we use our team and making an intentional effort to carve out pockets of time every day to do things for ourselves, things that feed our souls, give us rest. I'm only in the second chapter and there have already been several moments where I have been tempted to chuck the book across the room in frustration. Not because the book isn't good (because it really is!), but because it is challenging me and pushing buttons in my heart that are uncomfortable for me. The previous book I had started (and not yet finished) is The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst and the one-two punch of these two books has really made me think about the things I am doing with my time and wondering if there is any hope for me!

Did I mention that I'm only in the second chapter of both books?

There is a lot left for me to learn from the wisdom of these two women and I really value how both authors use Scripture as the anchor for their discussions of their respective topics. These books are really holding up a mirror for me and helping me to work through the hows and whys of my busyness and to develop a plan for making it more manageable.

With any luck, I'll get to read a little more after the kids go to bed! 

Any books you've read lately that were uncomfortable to read because of their truth?


Friday, December 19, 2014

Looks Like I'm "That Mom."

I have a very important question for all of you working parents out there, especially the mamas.

HOW DO YOU DO IT??!!

I am quickly finding out that I might be the worst working mom in the history of the world. If I had been around during the initial feminist movement, they would have thrown up their hands and said, "Forget it! Back to the kitchens!" and abandoned this whole plan.

Allow me to illustrate what I mean.



The other day, I dropped Micah off at preschool. That sentence sounds simpler than it actually is, so let's back up just a little bit more. Usually, I drop Micah off at a friend's house whose daughter attends the same preschool as him because the classroom doors don't even open until 9:00 and I'm technically supposed to be in my first meeting at 8:45. Anyway, I drop Micah off and then proceed on to Thomas's school where I hover like an annoying mosquito outside his classroom until they finally take pity on me and open the door at around 8:47 despite that they aren't really supposed to until 8:55. I smile and wave at my kid before turning and sprinting to start my work day.

That craziness is a NORMAL day. This particular day was even more ridiculous because my friend/taxi was on vacation for the weeks leading up to Christmas so I had to figure out how the heck to get my kids to school and get myself to work all at reasonable times.

The best I could do was bring Micah with me to Thomas's school and then drag him along as we ran like heck back up to the van. We drove well above the speed limit, reaching Micah's school at a mere 8 minutes late. This particular morning, I noticed that all the kids were dressed up and looking very festive. Little girls in Christmas party dresses, boys in their clip-on ties and Sunday best. I realized that my kid was the only one in slightly-scuffed jeans and a dinosaur t shirt that I had originally counted as a victory because they met my only three qualifications for an acceptable school outfit:
  1. He hadn't worn them yesterday.
  2. They'd been washed since the last time they got peed in or crapped in.
  3. They fit.
Panicked, I scanned the room and my heart sunk when I noticed the announcement board that let the parents know that the class Christmas performance would begin promptly at noon and to make sure to be present and seated by that time.

Well, frick.

I knew for darn sure that I wasn't going to be able to bail early on what was already going to be a crazy busy day at the office to go catch the show. Furthermore, being at Micah's school at noon to whenever wouldn't allow me to be on time to pick up Thomas when his school let out. So I asked his teacher if pick-up time and place today would be the same as usual and she assured me it would be.

Later that afternoon, I worked right up to the last minute I could before hastily closing Outlook and shutting down my computer. I threw my stuff together and placed myself in a primo position to be the first parent in line so I would get Thomas right out of the gate. We hustled as quickly as one can hustle with a three-year-old in tow and managed to arrive at Micah's school only 2 minutes past his pick-up time.

Every coat hook was empty.
The classroom doors were shut tight.
The hall was quiet.

Thomas and I walked up to the door and peered in the window. There was Micah, sitting alone. His teachers had collected all his stuff and had it ready to go on the front table. They noticed me and came to open the door.

"I thought his pick-up time was the same as usual today! Was I mistaken?" I asked, my voice laced with embarrassment. Thomas had already wandered over to the carpet to play his own little version of hopscotch on the letters.

"Well, the rest of the children just went home with their parents after the Christmas show, that's all," came the reply.

The rest of the kids. Went home with their parents.
Only my kid was stuck there waiting.

I had done everything I possibly could and it still wasn't enough. I didn't dress him in red or green because I misplaced the cute little class calendar because I was also trying to sort through the reindeer craft, the reminder that I still needed to return that homework from last week, the notice about re-enrollment beginning next month, and a half-eaten piece of string cheese. I didn't come to listen to his class sing Christmas carols, so he was left behind, watching as every single other kid in his class got to go home early with the parent that had been in the audience, laughing and smiling as they sang goofy versions of Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman.

I was "that mom." The mom that makes the teachers shake their heads after the doors close behind her. The mom that makes more excuses than pipe cleaner crafts.

Do I regret accepting a day job earlier than our original plan? Absolutely not. I have loved this job from the first day I arrived. It was totally the right move and I believe that with my whole heart. God prepared the path for me to take this job and who am I to question his plan?



What I did not plan on was how difficult it would be to navigate the rest of my life outside the office. Drop-offs, pick-ups, conferences, doctor appointments, remembering all the papers and permission slips and dress-up days. I think I might be the only parent that is NOT clamoring for a chaperone spot on the field trip to the petting zoo or signing up to volunteer in the classroom for the entire month of January.

I know I'm a good mom. No, I'm a great mom. My kids light up brighter than our Christmas tree when I walk in the door and scream "Moooommmyyyy!!!!!" I know they miss me a little more now than when I used to be home during the day, but that does not mean that I love them any less or that they are disadvantaged in any way.

I find myself straddling the divide between the "working mother" and the "stay-at-home mother" and identifying with the struggles of both, feeling the pressure put on both, and wrestling with the guilt the world wants me to feel because I can't seem to do either well enough. 

It's no wonder I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Lights on Glen Cove

Writers block has been a killer lately so I've started and erased a new post about five times already. I blame sleep deprivation or maybe the spontaneous diabetes I've surely developed from all the sugar cookies, buckeyes, and truffles I've consumed in the last couple days. I was really, REALLY trying hard to put the kibosh on all my sugar intake and avoid it all costs. That whole breast cancer scare kind of sent me into a bit of a tailspin where I wound up eating my feelings a lot so I fell off that wagon pretty hardcore.

That's what January is for, right?

Well, rather than ramble on about something you're only mildly interested in reading, I thought I'd share a video instead.

Last night after dinner I told the kids to drop what they were doing and to go get their pajamas on because I had a surprised for them. They raced off to change and I told them all to grab their favorite stuffed animal. Five minutes later, all three boys, Luis the bulldog, Gabby the tree frog, and George the monkey were piling into the van for a spontaneous bedtime field trip. As we drove, I told them to point out to one another as many houses decorated for Christmas as they could. The twenty minute drive was filled with exclamations of wonder and awe and things like, "Did you SEE the size of that snowman?!" and "Dat is the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my LIFE!"

It was pretty spectacular.

Isaiah eventually caught on that I was taking them to see a famous light display in a neighboring town. The brother of a friend of mine goes ALL OUT with the Christmas lights on his house and even designs a show around four different songs that play on a specific radio station. He then uses the attention the lights draw to his house to collect donations for the local food pantry.



We pulled up to the house, flipped off our headlights, tuned in to 87.3 and were immediately amazed. I was so focused on the show that I nearly forgot to turn in my donation! I hopped out of the car to put my bag of canned goods in the donation bin on the front lawn and got back in the car just in time to take this video.

You can hear the boys singing along in the background, especially Isaiah. He just loves to belt out some Idina Menzel.



And you know what? They wouldn't stop talking about how this surprise was one of their best Christmas moments ever and how they would remember this forever. I'm pretty sure I will too.

(Thank you Stark family!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lumps, Prayer, and Funbags



"What does one even wear to a mammogram?"

I flipped through the items hanging in my closet, experiencing a strange cocktail of frustration and fear. They had told me to wear a loose-fitting shirt, but it has been so freezing around here that I couldn't imagine leaving the house with less than three layers on. But, ever the rule-follower, I wanted to make sure I was following mammography protocol.

"I don't know what to wear."

My poor husband looked at me and asked with a certain level of "well duuuhhhh" in his voice, "Aren't they going to have you take your shirt off anyway?"

I wore a sweater.

Nine weeks ago, I never thought I would be sitting in the waiting room by the Breast Care desk awaiting my first mammogram at the age of 31, surrounded by ladies who would likely be heading to Denny's after their appointment for their free cup of coffee and discounted eggs and toast. Feeling like the toddler in the room only added to my mounting anxiety.

Can I just make a suggestion? I realize that hospitals have to be very vigilant about costs, but I think the robes in the mammography locker room need to be cuter. It's not like a labor and deliver robe where we just accept they're ugly because there's a very good chance there will be blood, mucus, vomit, and goodness knows what other kinds of fluids being strewn about like a rogue sprinkler with a loose hinge. And furthermore, the robe doesn't really matter anyway because you become so focus on the holycrapthisistheworstpainintheworld stuff that you don't even realize that your personal appearance is starting to resemble someone getting ready to be an extra on The Walking Dead.

But the robe in the mammogram room is only covering the top half, so I still had on my dark wash boot-cuts and heels. It's a bit comical when you see the ensemble being finished off by what looks like a jacket made of Quilted Northern.

Outfit issues aside, I did make it through what was one of the more nerve-wracking days in recent memory. I submitted myself to a thorough fondling by a delightful woman named Jean who I'm pretty sure has given breast exams in her sleep. I mean, chica was efficient.  Usually I need at least a glass of wine before something like this happens, but it was only 8:00 in the morning and I had to go back to work at my church job after the appointment, so I figured that was probably frowned upon. Not that alcohol is unbiblical. It's not. I'm just pretty sure it says something in Proverbs along the lines of "only the foolish woman partakes in excessive libations before rigorous breast manipulation." That's probably not in there. If it were, how else would so many children have been conceived?

I'm a terrible person.
I'm probably going to get in trouble for making jokes about the Bible. 

Back to the boob story. The weird thing (only one?) about the manual exam was that darling Jean couldn't find the lump that had caused all this business. Nine weeks ago, my doctor found it during my routine check-up and had me come back several weeks later to follow up to see if it had gone away. Instead, we found that it had stuck around and made a cozy little home in my breast and we even discovered a second little friend he had invited along to the party. The look of concern on my doctor's face was for real.

The "c" word came out.

Sweet heavens, not THAT "c" word. How vulgar do you think I am? I like my doctor very much! And I would never, EVER use that word in any situation. Anyone who uses that word deserves to get back-handed.

Speaking of, I felt like I had been back-handed when the words "cancer" and "possibility" came out of my doctor's mouth in the same sentence. She was recommending a mammogram and ultrasound, but was also quick to point out that she was being cautionary, not reactive. There was nothing she found in the exam to lead her to believe that I had some mack daddy aggressive tumor in there that needed treatment ASAP, but there was enough to lead her to believe that we needed more information, that it was better to err on the side of caution. It could easily be nothing. But cancer was in the conversation.

So there I was, a week and a half later, standing idly by while Jean arranged the girls into the right position on the machine so she could flatten them like a panini press. You know how when you have to take out the garbage and the bag is really full and heavy? It's hard to just toss it up into the big garbage can or dumpster, so you have to swing it a bit like a pendulum to get a little momentum going?

Yeah. It was like that.


I felt like even more of an idiot during the ultrasound. I had to keep fighting the urge to look at the screen and ask, "Is it a boy or a girl?" Every time I glanced over there, I just saw images that looked like what our TV used to look like back in the day when signal went out and you were stuck with a bunch of wavy lines and junk. Super not-interested. I caught a glimpse of a cover of a magazine on a rack on the far wall and I actually found myself interested in what Kim Kardashian was up to these days.

Y'all, that is what we like to call a "warning sign."

In my case, however, it was a sign that I was in a good place. I wasn't freaking out. Last weekend I was thinking about how I should make sure to buy some life insurance before my appointment just in case the news was bad and now here I was in the exam room, exposed and at Jean's mercy, thinking more about celebrity gossip than the possibility of a mass in my breast.

It was a "peace that surpasses understanding" alright. I highly doubt it's what Paul had in mind as he penned his letter to the Philippians, but I still maintain that my lack of panic was an answered prayer. I had so many people praying for me while I was there. They were praying for clear scans, for strength, for courage, and for a peace to come over me so that I could trust God with whatever resulted.

I felt it.

And I haven't even told you the best part. My scans were CLEAR. Neither the tech nor the radiologist could find the lump that had sent me there in the first place. There was a little inflammation on a lymph node and some fibrocystic tissue hanging around in there, but the actual large, hard, tender lump that had tormented my thoughts for more than two months was NOT THERE.

Now, I'm not saying that all those prayers caused that lump to disappear. I'm well aware there are a good number of explanations for why that lump went away like it did. All I know is that one day it was there - I could touch it and feel it - and then suddenly it was not.

Do I believe that the God of all creation could have maybe, just maybe, heard the prayers of a few of his kids and done a little mini-miracle in the left boob of one of them?

Yes. Yes, I do.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Squeaky



Evan and I met when we were in high school and both of us were involved in the performing arts – forensics, choir, theater. I still remember a day when we had Mock Trial practice after school and the two of us nearly got into trouble because we were focusing more on writing notes back and forth to one another on the chalkboard than we were on the witness testimonies and cross-examinations that still needed a whole lot of work.

It was my sophomore year and becoming involved in these activities was like discovering a hidden corner of my heart that I never knew existed. The thrill of being on stage was like nothing else. Some struggle with stage fright, but when the house lights go down, the faces of the audience all fade away. It’s just you – as that character – shining in the light. It’s downright intoxicating.

I could sing then. There were never any moments of delusion where I thought about auditioning for American Idol or anything, but I could hold my own. I was “painfully shy” Princess Winnifred and Lucy the therapist, giving advice for a nickel per patient. I competed in competitions with the Madrigal choir and as a soloist.

Singing was part of something that made me special.

And now it’s gone.

My voice started to deteriorate in my later years of college. I attributed it to just getting older and my voice dropping, but each passing year brought more significant vocal failure. After each child was born, even my speaking voice dropped further and further.

I’m starting to forget what it once felt like to speak and have it be heard in the back row. I’m losing the memory of throwing my arms out wide and singing in full voice.

At least twice each month, my voice weakens and then quits. I will squeak through about a day or two of complete vocal failure before it returns. My children will ask me to read books to them at night and I usually can only complete one book before Isaiah takes pity on me and relieves me of the duty.

If it were just my speaking voice, I would chalk it up to nothing more than an inconvenience. After all, I’m not under any delusions that the world wouldn’t be a little better off if I didn’t talk quite so much.

What’s hard is when I’m trying to sing in church and a note that should be right in the middle of my range comes out as nothing more than a breathy squeak. Sometimes I can drop down an octave and sing along with the male baritones of the congregation, but it is much more common for my voice to just quit entirely.

This week I am seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist to see if we can figure out what’s going on. I’m pretty certain it won’t end up being anything too serious, but I would certainly appreciate your prayers. It would be wonderful if an easy fix could give me back the ability to worship without sounding like I’ve swallowed a pack of razorblades.

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful! 

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