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. 



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.


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.


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


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! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday and Apostrophes

It’s Black Friday, so that means one kid has already watched his Curious George Christmas DVD twice, another kid has already ripped a hole in his snow pants and come inside wailing for hot cocoa because he is soooooo cold, and the other kid has played puppet-master to a Lego rancor and a Star Wars action figure who engaged in an epic battle fit for J.J. Abrams.

Speaking of epic, have you seen the trailer for Episode VII? Right after I pushed Play on the video I said a little prayer, “Please don’t let this suck.” After the disasters of Episodes I – III, I’ll admit I’m a little skeptical. Not gonna lie – the trailer left me impressed. Can’t wait for next December when “the force awakens.”  

We try to remain very hermit-like on Black Friday. I have no desire to wrestle with anyone wearing Tweety Bird pajamas over a flat screen TV I don’t even need. The idea of standing in line for hours in single digit temperatures for a cheap Barbie doll that looks like Queen Elsa sounds insane to me. Nope, I want nothing to do with it. Quite frankly, I really wish I didn’t have to actually put on real pants at all today, but I’m pretty sure my boss would frown on that if I showed up for work in my pajama pants and the fluffy pink slipper/socks I’ve been shuffling about in all day. I probably should wash my hair at some point, huh? 

I like to use Black Friday to start the decorating for Christmas. Usually we would have used the time when both Evan and I were home to get out the tree and start shaping it to look real-ish and hanging the ornaments. Instead, he sold me on the idea of a real tree this year, so the plan is to find a local tree farm and go cut our own on Sunday. In the meantime, I was still able to bust out the totes of the rest of the decorations and get things looking a little festive. That’s the way I love to do Black Friday – in the comfiest clothes possible, listening to Christmas music, “decking the halls” with my kids. It was great. 

The other big goal for today was to get our TV mounted on the wall so we would have more room for the Christmas tree when we brought it in. Evan had redeemed some airline miles to get a wall-mounting kit and started tearing the electronics apart while I pulled out stockings and the Little People nativity set. He suddenly realized that our HDMI cables weren’t going to be long enough and that he was going to have to make a run to Target…

On Black Friday.

Is it bad that the thought in my head was, “Better you than me!” 

Long story short, a series of frustrating events including a forgotten wallet, poorly labelled packaging and a failed Google search ended up with us putting everything right back where it was – no TV mounted on the wall and a very frustrated husband.

So if anyone is looking for something to do tomorrow and wants to come over and mount our flat screen on the wall, I’m sure Evan would appreciate it.

Oh, and since I know many of you may be using your vacation days to stuff and address your Christmas cards, I want to take a moment to issue a very important message. Please, for the sake of my sanity, take a moment to review how to make your last name plural. I swear, I have almost unleashed a stream of obscenities not even suitable for HBO in past years when filing through my pile of mail only to find an adorable photo card ruined by a rogue apostrophe. 

Friends don’t let friends use unnecessary apostrophes.

I tell you this because I love you.

For a much funnier post on this very important topic, I invite you to venture over to Kate’s blog to get all your pluralization questions answered. This is especially important if you are reading this post and there is a pile full of holiday cards and envelopes spread across the table in front of you. 

STOP. NOW. Please don't make me have to give myself a sound face palm when I open your well-intended Christmas card. I won't be able to bring myself to hang it up on the pantry door with the others if that cursed apostrophe is there. I'm sorry, but I just can't do it. It would just be there all December, mocking me, heckling me, taunting me.

Please accept my many thanks...and also my apologies if I just offended you.

But you know what offends me? Apostrophes used to pluralize last names.

Wishing you love and appropriate apostrophes,

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Waving Hello!

We just wrapped up our first Thanksgiving meal of the week and most of us are indulging the tryptophan by lounging in the living room and watching The Wizard of Oz. I figured now was as good a time as any to make my re-entry into the world of blogging. So this is me, waving an enthusiastic "Hello!!!" to you through cyberspace! 

 The break has been good. It’s actually been nice to not feel the guilt when I’ve gone a few days without posting. And you know, I’d really like to keep that going. I need to write, that’s certain. But whether I post every day, every other day, or if it ends up being a week or so in between, I need to be ok with that. I’m going to do what I can do and I need to learn to be content with that and not feel guilty if it’s not up to par with what the standards of the rest of the blogging community.
I’m going to try to go back a bit and sometimes just write regular old family updates, posts that originally built this blog. Well, that and posts about how angry I was at Brett Favre for signing with the Jets. But I refer to the Green Bay Packers with the pronoun “we” so I think that totally counts as a family update.

Isaiah – We just had his parent/teacher conference a couple weeks ago and he is really doing very well in school. He is reading above his grade level and excelling in so many areas, including math and art. He has the incredible gift of a mind that can both compute and create. From what we can tell, he continues to be a real ladies man who charms and befriends girls easily. This is the kid who came home from Kindergarten with a girl’s digits No joke. Lock up your daughters, friends.

Micah – This kid continues to surprise us at every turn. He knows most of his letters and is actually ahead of most of his 4K class when it comes to this. Where he struggles in with several speech sounds and few processing situations. His teacher works with him one-on-one quite a bit because he has a hard time focusing and understanding instructions when he is in a group setting and she described a situation where the kids all had a little pile that consisted of a number of pieces of three different objects – candy corns, acorns, and pumpkins. The students were instructed to sort them into collections of like objects, but Micah just lines them up end to end. We have started the referral and evaluation process so we are looking forward to seeing how some additional services will help Micah learn more effectively.

Thomas – Thomas is such a hoot. He has developed this very mischievous laugh that lets you know he is either plotting world domination or preparing to poop his pants. We’ve tried four times to potty train this kid and he is having none of it. He just turned three at the very end of August so I know it’s not something that’s a now or never kind of thing, but I certainly would be in favor of sooner rather than later. His teacher is just as impressed as we are with his knowledge of letters, numbers, and shapes and his vocabulary continues to grow every day. Sometimes the things that come out of this kid’s mouth make us laugh and shake our heads.

As for Evan and I, our lives have been busy but fulfilling. Evan interviewed for a new position at work and landed it shortly after, so he is currently filling two roles at work until someone is hired to take over his previous position. It’s been an interesting transition for him to move from the quality department where he has worked for the last ten years over to the operation side of things, but I know he is going to thrive in his new position as a project manager. I got a teeny taste of what I might be like to be a wife of someone in upper management a couple weeks ago when Evan invited me to come along to a business dinner when two guys were visiting from one of their plants in China. I found a last minute babysitter and Evan taught me the names and positions of everyone who would be there as we drove to the restaurant. I got to put my schmoozing skills to the test around a hibachi grill and I'm fairly certain I didn't embarrass Evan too badly.

My job at the church has really been wonderful with the exception of that one day when I took a wrong step and fell head-over-heels down an entire flight of stairs and smacked my head on the floor upon landing in full view of no less than a dozen people in the Chapel lobby. I tried to play it off and save face as best I could, but when I limped my way down to my office and found the door locked and nobody around to open it for me, I just crumpled into a heap and cried. If I’m being honest, that day wasn’t so great. I may or may not have jumped down my office-mate’s throat as soon as he walked in the door because CLEARLY my misfortune was all his fault! Other than that one day, I have nothing but great things to say about this new position. We have really exciting things happening in the ministry as we enter the months before the big conference; auditorium tickets sold out in only 13 minutes this year! I’m working hard on designing the apparel collection for this year, writing a intro-level Bible study for men to download after the conference, filling in all the details for the program, and setting the groundwork for some cool new projects and products for future development. It’s really a whole lot of fun. The best part has been the incredible group of people that God has placed in leadership that I have the privilege of working with every day.

Of course, managing all this craziness continues to be exhausting. To be honest, I’ve had to write this very blog post in three shifts. Shift number one came right after our Thanksgiving guests had left and the kids were quietly settled in to their movie. I had to quit about ten minutes in because I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I blew it off and went to go take a nap. Two hours later, I tried to write again, but it turns out that those same kids needed to eat AGAIN. I mean, hadn’t we just fed them at lunch? Am I the only one who sometimes gets legitimately surprised at the fact that my children expect me to feed them actual meals multiple times a day, each and every freaking day? After I had prepared them a home-cooked meal of organic produce served with wild caught fish and they sat quietly, savoring every bite. Whatever, so I spooned some Greek yogurt in some bowls, threw some raspberries on top, and called it dinner. One of the three may or may not have had a bowl of dry Kix. But here we are! Happily clicking away at the keyboard for the third time this afternoon!

But now I’m going to have to call it because it’s getting to be bedtime already and I can almost guarantee the kids won’t do it on their own.

It’s good to be back.

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