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! 

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