Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sleep Without Rest

I tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight.

My kids didn’t get bedtime stories read to them this evening because I was half-asleep on the couch at 7:30. Micah was at the kitchen table practicing writing three digit numbers and Isaiah was sitting on my head reading Harry Potter. Yup, you read that right. He was so determined to get to find out if anyone was going to show up in the Hog’s Head to learn Defense Against the Dark Arts from Harry that he perched himself right atop the pillow I was sleeping on and started to read to himself. I woke up to an exclamation of “Expecto Patronum!” and tried to sit up, but my hair was trapped under his butt. To his credit, he did feel bad about that.

Once they were actually in bed, I went to the kitchen to grab a bowl of carbs and cut of a ginormous hunk of a caramel apple covered in Reece’s Pieces. Computer open and Friday Night Lights rolling on Netflix, it was time to work.

Except I couldn’t think. I tried to write and nothing could materialize. I tried to edit a piece for the website, but I couldn’t remember how commas work. Mostly, I just sat there and got fatter while I tried to decide if I wanted Tami Taylor to be my BFF or if I actually hated her because she is so skinny and has perfect hair.

You see, today was hard.

Even though yesterday was the day Evan was supposed to come home only to discover his kidneys were once again threatening to quit on him, today was harder. Today was our staff Christmas party at the church where I work. One of the other assistants made Jib Jab videos with the faces of every single person on staff, there was a hot chocolate bar complete with raspberry whipped cream, marshmallows and sprinkles. There were carolers.

So many people with good intentions and servant hearts came to ask how Evan was doing. And I told them. Then they asked how I was doing. And I lied to them.

I lied.

I lied to my friends. I lied to my senior pastor.

I said things like, “I’m getting through” and “Well, I’m here!” and “We’re doing okay.”

Perhaps those things aren’t total lies because I guess there certainly is some truth to them. We are getting through, I have been showing up to work, and for the most part we really are okay.

But my senior pastor asked me a question that I hadn’t really considered much.

“Are you sleeping?” he asked.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what kind of jacked-up answer I gave him, but I know whatever speech I gave, it was delivered in kind of a HEY LOOK SOMETHING SHINY fashion that is meant to distract the listener.

So here’s the truth.

Yes, I am sleeping. But I’m not getting rest.

Nothing is restful anymore. Every spare moment feels like it should be spent either working or writing the dozens of thank you notes I am behind on. I feel guilty even claiming to have “spare moments” because there are laundry baskets all over the house filled with clothes that someone else has folded that I haven’t even been able to muster the motivation to put away.

My desk is covered with medical supplies, so my office now makes me think of the hospital. The place where he is. The disease that started this mess. So that space that Evan was so insistent be just MINE? The place where I was supposed to be able to shut the door and just get away? Now that’s gone too, taken over by gauze, medications and a blood pressure cuff.

I let the auto-play feature of Netflix take over until it asks if I’m still alive – Are you STILL watching Gilmore Girls? – and then I realize it’s nearly midnight. I try to write an email, schedule some tweets, do something resembling anything productive to at least trick myself into believing I’m getting through this even half as well as everyone thinks I am, but instead I stare at the blinking cursor and wonder what I’m going to watch tomorrow night because we’ve reached the point in the series where Lorelai and Rory are apart and fighting because Rory quit Yale and moved in with her grandparents and they don’t speak to one another for like eight episodes which is the absolute worst.

I just don’t have the emotional capacity right now to handle the Great Gilmore Estrangement of 2005.  

Too close for missiles, switching to guns. Back to Friday Night Lights. I really need someone to give me their Hulu+ password so I can watch the final season of Parenthood. On second thought, I heard that I am going to cry ugly tears at the finale, so maybe it's best that I wait and try something a bit less traumatic like The Walking Dead. 

So when I finally fall into bed, I lay there and my mind just spins with all the things I should have done that I didn’t. All the worries about Evan, the fear, the guilt. All the prayers for God to fix this. All the tears because I’m so damn lonely and so damn tired.

Eventually sleep comes. But not rest.

The boys have to nearly drag me out of bed in the morning. I have an entire closet of clothes that don’t fit because I’ve gained so much weight in the last several weeks. Even my yoga pants are threatening to give out, so that’s saying something.

I get my game face on. I get the kids to school. I go to work.

I do the best I can, but I am exhausted.

Emotionally, physically, spiritually.


Even as I write these words, I am wrestling with guilt. Guilt that I am taking the time to write instead of trying to sleep. Guilt for even feeling like anyone will care about any of this.

There are people with real problems, the voice whispers. Cancer treatments, deaths in the family, disasters that are way bigger and way more important that anything you could understand. You are being selfish and whiny and you have become nothing but a burden. Your family needs you to be strong and instead you are failing and are relying on everyone else to do everything. How pathetic. Be a grown-up and get over yourself.

I’ve never claimed to have been strong against this kind of attack. But right now, my defenses are weaker than they have ever been and I can feel myself started to break.

So I sleep. I don’t rest.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bring Me Closer

Some of you have texted me today looking for an update, so I figure it's probably just easiest to post here because.....WOW. There are a lot of people following Evan's story and it is absolutely a testament to what happens when God get a hold of your life. I'm going to get a little soap boxy here for just a second, so sit tight.

"Church" is not a building, friends. It's not that one lady who didn't choose you to lead the small group when you felt you deserved it and left you hurt. It's not that unexpected leadership change, the worship service with not enough hymns anymore, or the committee that made a decision you didn't like. That is not the Church. At least, not as it should be.

The Church is where love collides with pain. Where the gates of heaven are shaken off their hinges simply from the sound of the prayers banging against them as the children of God hit their knees in intercession. Church is where Jesus is all there is, so everything is counted all as joy. There are challenges and struggles and disagreements because the church is made up of nothing but a bunch of sinners, make no mistake about it. But our family has been carried by our people who have asked their people who have asked their people and so on, until probably into the hundred of voices have been beseeching the Father on our behalf. And to be at the epicenter of it all? You realize just exactly how small you are....and how big this Jesus really is.

It's all true, friends. This Christmas story of a baby born to save a broken world? It's all true. When we see the news and feel the pain happening all around us, I know it sometimes feels like no loving God would allow this to happen. How could he? If it were true, why would people be murdered at a Christmas party? Why would cancer exist? Why would we be unable to watch the news without hearing about yet another senseless tragedy or natural disaster? None of it makes sense, not really. And of course no Facebook post is going to bring an answer.

But I know it to be true. I know it because no matter how much this sucks or how much the earth seems to be flying off its axis, I rest in knowing that none of this is coming as a surprise to Him. I drove home from the hospital recently with hysterical tears coming down my face and I screamed at God. Over and over, I pounded the steering wheel and demanded an answer as to why this was happening to our family. Was it a test? Some sort of refining process to make us closer to Him? Because if that's the case, He could keep it. I had no interest in channeling Job or any other such faithful servant. I just wanted it to stop and to go back to normal.

It was the first time I really remember really wrestling with God. And, like Jacob, I emerged not fully at peace and somewhat worse for wear. My problems were not solved and I had no magic answer. What I did have was the reminder that I was loved and that the One who loves me more than I will ever understand is not surprised, not taken off guard by any of this. In fact, He was pretty clear long ago that this would happen....that our world would destroy itself.

But "take heart," He said. "For I have overcome the world."

That night in Bethlehem, the Overcomer arrived. And right now, in this season as things are falling apart all around me, I need an Overcomer. On my own? I am nothing. I have nothing. I can do nothing.

So instead, I'm choosing to be held in greater hands than my own. I'm learning into my Church, the brothers and sisters who are going to battle on our behalf, many of whom I don't even know.

Church is meant to bring you closer to the cross. And that's exactly what mine is doing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Fourth Watch of the Night

I know it's been nearly three months since I posted something here. In blogger time, that's like ten years.

But today felt like the right time to return to this space, to the one I've held sacred for so many years. This is the place where my words come to rest and breathe and be themselves.

The website is growing, thriving really. It's been every bit as exciting and exhausting as I imagined and I am convinced that I am right where I need to be.

And yet.

It's going to come as no surprise to those who are wise that opposition has been forming since the moment this adventure began. It hasn't been easy.

I've woken as early as my body will allow, gotten the kids off to school and myself off to work. Then I come home and I work until my eyes will stay open not a moment longer. I wake up the next day and do it all again, except this time I go right from the desk to the restaurant where I run up and down the tables, serving. I usually call Evan to "talk me home" so I don't fall asleep at the wheel. Then I sit down and work until my exhaustion takes over. The weekends, where most are finding "family time," are absorbed by double shifts and grocery store trips.

Repeat. Add in a trip to Indianapolis. A week to be horribly ill and still show up to work. Follow up with a trip to Dallas.

Go go go.

Things start to fail under pressure. It's just one of those things that people who know much more than me are always telling me. Not sure if that's what caused my computer to fail in the airport in Dallas, but when you own a website, that's kind of a crucial piece of equipment. So we ended up with credit card debt for the first time since 2011.

But it certainly applies to humans.

I haven't been able to get well since September.

I woke up on a Sunday morning and was too weak to go to church. Evan finally roused me at noon to try to get me to eat something. I managed to get the weekly grocery shopping trip completed, but a co-worker found me in the toiletries aisle staring at all the choices for body wash while my brain struggled to process the difference between the Dove Nutrium Moisture and the Dove Ultra Moisture formulas. I sat on the couch when I got home and didn't wake up for another three hours.

Then a friend of a friend of a friend needed a place to stay for a few days. A total stranger. We said yes.

I suddenly realized my kid's birthday was only two weeks away and I've done ZERO planning for a Harry Potter party. Also, he accidentally invited 30 kids. 

Then the bank account ran out. I hadn't stayed on top of it like I should since my attentions have been devoted elsewhere. It's my fault. My husband texted me during a meeting at my church where pastors and leaders from around the world were sharing their stories. I listened to a pastor from Nigeria talk about how his church had been burned to the ground four times and his car bombed. The man from Haiti spoke about watching a building collapse on his wife during the earthquake. A missionary from Peru told the story of seeing a woman die from demon possession. Yet, when the text came in that my husband couldn't buy lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings because the card was declined.....THAT'S when I broke down.

It's so disjointed and so nonsensical.

So as the waves keep crashing - a friend in a painful crisis searching for hope and finding none, a phone call with a difficult diagnosis for someone I love, an empty prescription bottle, an angry email from someone I have hurt and disappointed yet again, the dishwasher died, an urgent care visit followed by a trip to the ER - I am driven once again to this place. Where my words become my prayers and I hang on like hell to keep from drowning.

Praise God for words that become church. And for people who remind me of who Jesus is when the waves prevent me from seeing His glory revealed.

Through the tears today, I write. And thank the Lord for the fourth watch of the night.

And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.      - Mark 6:47-52 (ESV)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Burning the Midnight Oil

Waving hello in the dark.

Most of my time lately has been spent with my fingers on a keyboard, my eyes fixed on the screen in front of me. Since announcing the beginnings of Milwaukee Moms Blog, pretty much every spare evening has been spent learning how to make things happen in WordPress, corresponding with potential contributors, getting to know the awesome ladies that have already signed on to be part of the team, and pinching myself.

Because it's still hard to believe I am actually doing this.

The opportunity to start this site fell directly in my lap on a silver platter with a bow on it. All the cliches - they all apply. When I was still trying to find a good excuse to bail, I said to Evan "If I walk away from this and don't even try, I will regret it in five years." He was so wise in his response when he clarified that I would regret it in "5 months. Maybe even 5 weeks."

And he was right.

These late nights, the burning eyes, the sore fingers from all the clicking clicking clicking. It's already worth it. I've gone all in and I love it.

Thank you for grace and thank you for understanding that my presence here may need to be a bit more relaxed in the coming months as I pour myself into Milwaukee Moms Blog. We launch on September 21st and I absolutely can't wait to show off my new "baby" to you all.

If you find yourself awake at midnight, wave to me in the dark. I'll be up.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Good Thing Chicks Dig Scars

My husband never calls me at work. Like, ever.

So when I was interrupted in the middle of my lunch shift with the news that he was waiting on hold for me, my stomach sunk and I already knew it was going to be bad.

I got on the phone and he told me that he was taking Isaiah to Urgent Care because he had split his lip open.

Now, I have three boys and quite frankly I am somewhat amazed that we made it until the oldest was SEVEN before we had to take one of them in to have their face fixed. This stuff is pretty much required in the childhood of a boy though I think that page was left out of the most recent edition of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Still, my gut reaction was to throw my apron on the ground and run out that door to race to be at my baby's side. Evan assured me he had it under control so I asked him to send me periodic updates, but we agreed I could stay at work.

But then he sent me a photo of the damage my boy had done and my Mama Heart immediately jumped up into my throat.

The photo showed what happens when a little boy's face comes flying into contact with the edge of a coffee table while inside a bouncy house. Yup, that's what happened. He threw himself somehow into the side of our bouncy castle in such a way that his face was propelled into a table.

I had to scrub blood out of a bouncy castle when I got home last night.

I'll spare you the photo that made the color drain from my face, but I will show you the text that I got from Evan after the Urgent Care doctor had taken a look at the injury.

Nothing like being told your child is being sent to the emergency room to make you lose focus on your work.

My manger on duty was very understanding and said numerous times that I could leave if I needed to, but Evan said all the boys were doing really well so far and were pretty content just watching TV in the exam room while waiting for the doctor. They were watching Spongebob Squarepants, a show that is strictly forbidden at home, so they were soaking in the contraband stupidity while they could.

The point finally came where I couldn't do it anymore. I was crazy busy, trying to manage seven or eight tables both inside the dining room and outside on the patio, but my brain was at Children's Hospital with my son. A four-top asked me what the desserts were and I think I got as far as Flourless Chocolate Cake before I started stammering, crying, and apologizing. With shaking hands, I explained that I just found out that my son was being treated at Children's and that I was having a really hard time not being there with him. The words were just spilling out and landing there on the table right next to their dirty plates and silverware.

Then the woman to my left put her hand on mine and gently asked, "May we pray for you?"

Friends, how does God do this? How does he orchestrate details so fine as to place that table right in my path at the very second I would need it, when my resolve had broken and I was struggling to find peace on my own?

But He did.

And the five of us approached the throne of grace, right there on the patio while I stood there holding the remnants of mashed potatoes and sauteed collard greens, and prayed for healing for my son and for peace that surpasses all understanding for him and for me. Other tables needed things - drink refills, their credit card to be processed, dishes to be cleared. None of that mattered in those moments because this was a holy moment where the presence of the Holy Spirit had descended and entered into my anxiety, providing a very real intercession to the Father.

I instantly felt more settled, more confident in the care my son would receive at the hospital, and more resolved than ever that I would go to him as soon as possible. In another incredible act of provision and grace, all my remaining tables finished up nearly simultaneously and I was able to drive directly to the hospital.

He was still watching Spongebob when I arrived.
He was also doped up on an anti-anxiety medication that had him acting slightly drunk, which was kind of hilarious.

I sent Evan home with the younger boys so they wouldn't have to watch the stitches going in. It was hard enough for me to watch, even though I knew Isaiah wasn't really feeling any pain. Seven stitches later, my boy was sewed back together and we were on our way to get him a chocolate shake and sit on the couch to watch Harry Potter.

Probably about ten o'clock at night, I finally remembered something.

That table never did get to order dessert. 

Here's how Isaiah is looking this morning, a little less than 24 hours after the injury. It's already looking so much better!

Thank you so much for your prayers and messages while we waited in the ER yesterday. I'm so grateful for each and every one of them. I also want to make sure to say thank you to my co-workers and managers for their patience and understanding yesterday. It's never convenient to adjust to losing a server from a shift, but they knew I had to go and they just made it work. Thank you, friends.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Announcing Our Impending Arrival

So, I've had a little side project going on for a while now. Let's talk about it as if it were a pregnancy. It's of course not a baby at all because #NoMoreBabies, but because it's my blog and because it's more fun, let's just pretend it's a pregnancy.

There was the one time when I was screwing around on Facebook and I discovered a friend posting photos of a baby. I thought, "Oh, what a cute baby!" so I clicked to explore further. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that adorable baby was looking for someone else to have another baby just like her so she could have a sister.

I get it, Baby. I have three boys. I've been there with the whole "we need another baby" thing, but really? Me? I'm way too busy and I can barely get out the door with my sanity and drugstore concealer doesn't stand a chance against the dark circle under my eyes. The last thing I need right now is another baby.

But....what if?

What if that baby was perfect for me?

So I sent an email, just a simple email inquiring about the need for this baby. Before I knew it, I had been on several phone calls and exchanged many emails where I tried to throw out every excuse I had about why I absolutely could NOT have another baby right now.

God just chuckled, shook his head a bit, and smiled as he provided a solution to every single objection I concocted.

And then the stick turned pink. Metaphorically.

Ok, Lord. I guess I'm having a baby.

Only, instead of a baby, it's a WEBSITE. 

A website that is part of the City Moms Blog Network, a national network of Sister Sites run by women just like me. It's going to be a resource for Milwaukee area moms to find information on what's going on in the city, but so much more than that. We will have events for moms to get out and have fun, neighborhood groups so women can get together for playdates or coffee (or wine!) with the moms that live near them, and provide resources and encouragement for the moms of our area.

We want to create a real community - both online and in "real life."
We want to inspire the moms of Milwaukee to love on one another, regardless of age, race, economic status, or otherwise.
We want to raise awareness and really talk about the tough issues affecting the mothers of our city - racial tension, human trafficking, poverty, and violence. We want to become part of the solution.

Welcome to the Milwaukee Moms Blog. 

To say I'm excited is an understatement.

After several failed attempts in my younger years to start my own business selling things I didn't really care about, I have the opportunity now to go into business for myself, with the essential help of my partner, the owner of the Madison Moms Blog. The difference this time is that this site is a fantastic and terrifying mixture of so many of the things that I love.

A Few Quick Questions: 

Does this mean Arena Five is going away? 

No way, man. This place is my heart and my home. I've poured out my guts to you all and I'm not going anywhere. Here I can be honest about how tired I am, how I screw up, how I am absolutely terrified about all of this. I will continue to write here as I have always done, hopefully with just as much snark and sarcasm as ever. I just might not be able to post as often as I would like, especially during this launch process as we build this site from the ground up. But I look forward to taking you all along with me on the journey!

When will the site be launching? 

Ummmm....I don't know. Soon. Soonish. I have a pre-launch checklist the size of War and Peace sitting on my desk right now and I'm trying not to let it paralyze me and just take one thing at a time. From what people tell me, it should be around 8 weeks or so, which puts us in mid-September. Don't worry - when we nail down the launch date, you will know!

Don't you already have like eight jobs? 

Three. I have three. Ok, now I have four. Plus that whole Mom gig, I guess that's kind of important. And then there's that Wife thing too. Do those count?

The hope is that this new direction will lead me toward a career that is more accommodating for spending time with my family and actually going to bed at a decent hour from time to time. In the meantime, I'm just going to not sleep very much. As I said earlier, it's like I'm having a baby!

How can we help?

So kind of you to ask, thank you!!! Actually, I need a lot of help. The whole point of this new site is that it is going to be a team effort. There's no way I could do it on my own and frankly, I don't want to. Here's how you can help:

  • Connect to Milwaukee Moms Blog on social media and then share the crap out of it. Here we are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Bear with me as I try to fill these with content without having to stay up all night pinning clothespin crafts. 
  • Pray for me. Seriously. As in, on your knees, sackcloth and ashes, rending of garments, storming the gates. Alternatively, you could just add me to your list of people who are a hot mess and need an extra dose of grace, mercy, stamina, and encouragement in this particular season. That works too. 
  • Spread the word that I'm looking for contributors. As I mentioned, I can't do this by myself and I need a team of writers around me who are ready to use their gifts to bless the women of the Milwaukee area. Do you know someone who would be perfect? You can even steal the graphic below to use it if you want - that's fine by me! 

  • If you're local and you own a business or are connected to one, think about how you would like to partner with MkeMB. Isn't that a cute abbreviation I made up just now? Maybe you are a photographer - I'm going to need at least two or three of those on my team who want to take photos of our team and our events so they can promote the snot out of their business. We're going to need restaurants, dentist offices, play places, medical clinics, you name it! Email me if you have something in mind and let's talk about it! 
  • Cheer me on. Second only to prayer, this is what I need most of all. I need positive feedback, motivation, reassurance that this is going to be successful. I need cheerleaders to keep me out of my own head and looking forward. 

Thank you for being here and for joining me in this adventure. Love ya. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

5 Adorable Things My Kids Do That are Actually Super-Gross

My husband and I often joke that God made little kids so cute to keep us from tossing them out the window. I don't know how things go down at your house, but that certainly holds true when I just spent the last 30 minutes cleaning the kitchen and wiping the patio door only to have a kid come dump his bowl of blueberries all over the floor, stomp on them and then go stick their sticky palms all over the door when I holler at them calmly ask them to go outside while I clean it up. That's why I gave up on trying to clean my kitchen. Overrated, if you ask me.

Anyway, when I'm done picking up squished blueberries from the floor and wiping fresh fingerprints off the glass, I look out on the patio and see that little stinker walking around in his "toadies" and using a stick to chase the ants. He follows one around, tries to poke it, then heads off after another, talking to them as if they were his best friends. He catches me watching him, looks up, and gives me a wave and that goofy grin that makes me forget all about the rotten apple core I found in the laundry basket earlier that week.

Cutie patootie. He probably just thought "laundry basket" was a distant cousin of "waste basket." An understandable error.

Come to think of it, there are plenty of cute things that kids do that are actually pretty gross when you really think about it.

1. Announce and describe their bathroom behaviors

One kid has developed a habit of providing play-by-play commentary when he goes to the bathroom. It could be titled "Adventures in Defecation." He will come out of his room at 4:30 in the morning and quietly close the door behind him, only to stand in the hallway and yell at the top of his lungs, "I NEED TO GO POOOOP!" Then after we yell back in our bleary voices to go ahead and go for crying out loud, he waits a couple minutes before announcing, "Mommy! Daddy! I got a LOT of poops! Dat's a BIG poop! Oh boy, dat's a DADDY poop!" Adorable? Yes. Disgusting? Absolutely. Next thing you know, I'm laughing in my sleep.

2. Sneeze

I have three kids who all sneeze in very different, yet very cute ways. Isaiah scrunches up his nose like a bunny with allergies before sneezing with a very textbook "Achoo!" When Thomas sneezes, it's like a kitten snuck up on a chipmunk. But Micah....his sneezes attack him. He will let loose three to five sneezes in a row, each one ripping through his entire body like a lightning bolt and shooting snot and spit all over the place as if someone had stuck their thumb over the opening of a garden hose and suddenly released it. Sometimes he looks like a pirate after he sneezes. There have been times when Micah has sneezed and I have turned around to find him wide-eyed and screaming, panicking as he tries to find a Kleenex to wipe away the snot that is currently hanging down below his chin. Is it wrong that sometimes I just watch the show for my own entertainment instead of pointing out the Kleenex box?

3. Pulling out baby teeth

We all get excited about this, don't we? I remember one particularly stubborn tooth I had as a kid that I could actually spin around in my mouth without it detaching. If I had yanked even just a little bit, the root would have let go, but I took a sick pleasure in spinning that tooth with my tongue. Our oldest has lost four teeth now, the most recent just tonight. At breakfast this morning, he would put his finger on top of it and pull it so far forward that it hung out like a saber-tooth tiger tusk. And he was ecstatic. And when he yanked it out of his mouth later, leaving a gaping bloody hole behind, we all smiled and cheered and high-fived while he soaked up the blood with a tissue. See? Super-cute yet super-gross.

4. Burping and Farting

Admittedly, this one might be more of an issue in my house considering that I have three stinky sons running around. When a belch sneaks up on them in the middle of dinner, it explodes out of their mouth like a cannon and they immediately bust out laughing. We remind them to say "Excuse me," of course, but they don't hear us because they are too busy basking in the afterglow of their gastrointestinal foghorn blast. And then there is the farting. Doggonit, I just can't help it but it's freaking cute when my kid is just trying to pick up his toys and it sounds like the entire tuba section of the Wisconsin Marching Band got drunk and moved into his butt.

5. Naked Time

This part is going to get a little weird because I need to choose my words carefully here so that I don't inadvertently add a bunch of search terms to my content that would attract the super-creepy weirdos to the blog. I've got enough problems, thankyouverymuch. So, again I would like to remind you that I have BOYS. All boys. When they get it in their sweet little heads to go au naturale, there is precisely zero I can do about it....because my husband eggs them on and because their little tushies are just so freaking cute. Once, I got a photo of one of my kids doing a back-bend turned flip over the arm of the couch in this particular state. And then there was the time THIS happened:

Classic and totes adorbs. That is, until they sit on my lap and I smell a little something-something an I realize that a sub-par wipe job from an escapade related to #1 on this list just took place and suddenly I find myself wanting to burn my clothes, get new furniture, and take a nap until my kids are grown-ups.

So, yeah. They're cute little boogers, but they are freaking disgusting. If I hadn't really wanted to get into the living room at a reasonable hour to be able to watch an episode of Friday Night Lights on Netflix, I probably could have come up with more.

But I'd love to hear your stories! Any tales of adorable/grossness to share? 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Face Down in the Rain

There are plenty of good days - days when the sun is shining, patience is generous, laughter is bright. Days when the little things remain little and the blessings loom large.

Many days start out like this and then can change in an instant. Sometimes it feels like the anxiety is waiting right on the other side of the door, crouched and ready to make its move at precisely the perfect moment.

It might be a photograph, a news headline, a text message, an announcement on Facebook. Just a little drop of rain that sets off a storm. 

That day, for me it was a song lyric.

"Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal."

Sometimes I listen to Spotify while I work and I had been lost in a playlist created by Lauren Daigle. With the notes of Hillsong and Kari Jobe floating through the headphones, I clicked over to Facebook. Not that surprising considering I am in charge of my ministry's social media. There's a good chance I was going to find some funny Buzzfeed quiz and share it on my timeline though. I scrolled quickly down the page and I stopped when I suddenly saw her lovely face.

Have you ever found out something terrible via social media and felt a fresh kind of powerlessness?

On that night in February, I was simply checking Facebook quickly before going to bed. No big deal, same thing I do nearly every night. But there was something very wrong. The posts from my friends and colleagues from the community we last lived in in were laced with grief and disbelief. It took me about 3 minutes to dig a little deeper and find out what had happened.

A former student of mine had committed suicide.


The girl with handwriting that looked like it should be a font, the soft-spoken voice with ambitions and large opinions, a gift for dance, empathy and doing hard things.

She had been my student, yes. But she had also become my friend over the years.

She had become a writer, using a blog to work out her feelings of darkness and depression. Roxie had sent me a Facebook message about a year ago, inviting me to read her words and meet her in that place.

And then it defeated her. And as the truth of the news hit me, my knees buckled and I hit the floor as the cries of "No! No!" started to fly out of my mouth.

So there I was at my desk, more than 5 months after Roxie's death. Scrolling down my timeline once again. Someone had posted a video of her dancing along with a link to this news story that was released after her death.

Reading about Roxie, remembering her and grieving for her once again, I found myself starting to cry. For Roxie, yes. But also for the dark places I have found myself in, sometimes afraid I wouldn’t be able to find my way out.

Then Come as You Are by Crowder began to play in my ears.

Come out of sadness
From wherever you've been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

There are times when I feel so broken and hurting that I wonder if rescue is possible, if it is even worth it. Days when I can't even explain why I'm so sad, so angry, so defeated.

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't cure

Exhaustion weighs on me and I often have to fight the urge to stay in bed and hide for days. It's a tired that goes beyond just needing sleep.

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

Then come the moments when the ghosts I thought were banished come back to torment me one again, whispering lies to my heart with increasing intensity, convincing me of things my head knows to be false, but yet I somehow keep crawling back to believing them.

Run home, sweet girl.

I often find myself face down in the rain, breathing heavily, tears mixing with the raindrops. My fists pound into the ground and I scream out in frustration, wondering how on earth I wound up here again. 

Sometimes I linger there a bit too long and it becomes more difficult to get up.

But if I'm willing to look up, to lift my head up out of the mud and show my face, He is always there. Waiting. And though I am ashamed of my mess, tired and beaten and brought low, I know that I will never be left there in the darkness alone.

And as I think of the mud, the darkness, and Roxie….I find this piece from Ann Voskamp.

The best way to tend to your open wounds is to open your arms.

So this is me, Lord, opening my arms. Coming just as I am, busted and broken.

Ann says "sometimes you just need someone to storm Heaven for you."

I wonder if someone pounded on the gates for Roxie.

It should have been me. She invited me in, reached out to me with what strength she has as she lay there in the darkness.

I saw here there. I met her there. And then I left, expecting her to follow me.

I should have stormed Heaven for her. I should have shook its gates until the hinges broke.

I didn't understand. And I'm so sorry, Roxie.

So very sorry.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Stall Talkers. Or, the Post Where I Write about Jesus and Poop.

The way I see it, there are two kinds of women in the world.

Stall Talkers and Stall Sitters.

Everyone knows we ladies like to go to the bathroom in packs. We chat the whole way to the door, chat while we wipe the smudged mascara away from the creases around our eyes and then complain about said creases as we smooth the flyaway hairs down and try to get our bra straps to stay put. We share stories about our kids while we wash our hands or maybe even give feedback on one another's outfits while we pick remnants of spinach out of our teeth.

I don’t know what goes on over in the men's room, but I will tell you this much. Bathroom time is prime social time for ladies. And there are some who choose to take advantage of it to a higher degree than others.

Stall Sitters will talk like crazy right up until the moment their stall door closes and locks. Then they shut up. They like to have a little quiet time to take care of business before commencing social hour upon their emergence from the stall.

Stall Talkers see the walls of bathroom stalls as physical barriers only and will continue their conversation long after the lock has been secured on the door. It doesn't matter that they can no longer actually see their friend's face or that they are now adding inadvertent bodily sounds to their prose, the show MUST go on!

There was a pretty significant phase in my life when I was a Stall Talker. I grew up in a house with only one bathroom and sometimes you had to multi-task a bit. If my mom was in the bathroom but I really needed her to agree to drive my friend and I to the movies because I was on the phone with said friend at that very second which meant I had stretched the spiraled cord (yes….the CORD) out so far that it now looked like a strand of my curly hair when I'm stranded outside on a humid day, I was NOT about to wait until she was done in there and then risk trying to call my friend back and getting the dreaded BUSY SIGNAL.

I'm betting there are kids I work with right now who have never actually heard a busy signal. In other "make you feel old" news, the movie Clueless came out 20 years ago and the twins Chandler and Monica adopted would be turning 11 this year.

I cannot even tell you the number of times growing up that my mom would march right into that bathroom with no concern whatsoever for a closed door or a person on the toilet. If she needed to get something done in there, by golly she was going to do it.

I grew up a Stall Talker.

Then I had kids and I became a Stall Sitter - simply because it was suddenly impossible to be one.

Once I had babies who grew into toddlers who could walk and talk and open door handles, I came to truly appreciate the beauty of a closed bathroom door. There was a solid five year period there where I rarely got to conduct my bathroom business in solitude. I always had some sort of company - the door handle jiggling, shrieking and crying, fingers crawling from underneath the door, a kid who has suddenly become a home invasion prodigy picking the lock and marching in to play with the toothpaste.

I have one particularly vivid memory of a nursing newborn, a clingy toddler and a bladder that couldn't wait. I made it work. One kid ate while the other kid emptied a box of tampons all over the floor.

But now that the boys have mostly moved beyond this stage, I confidently close and LOCK that door. When I'm in public, I prefer to push the pause button on conversation during stall time because I can't help but find it a smidge weird.

It's just that somehow I managed to make friends with a whole gaggle of Stall Talkers! All the time, I find myself awkwardly trapped in a conversation with someone who wants to just keep plugging along while the Tinkle Tune plays and I wind up offering little more than the obligatory "Uh huh" and "Yeah" until I have safely flushed, zipped and emerged. What's even worse is when the Stall Talker waits for you to come out and just keeps on a'talking to you while she and her empty bladder and freshly washed hands wait for you to get 'er done.

And then I come out and she looks at me all like "I know what you did in there."

There are plenty of situations where I work well under pressure.

This is not one of them.

Know what's really fun though? When I, a Stall Sitter, find myself inadvertently sandwiched in a stall in between two Stall Talkers. Suddenly these gals can't just use their normal speaking voice to carry on their conversation anymore and have to kick it up a notch. So now I'm trying to use muscles I didn't even know existed to keep my presence as inconspicuous as possible while the women on either side of me are straight up yelling at one another about the cute striped skirt they found on clearance and the concerns about whether or not it would go with that pink top she got last week and is it too skanky to wear to church this weekend?

Honey, if you have to ask your bathroom buddy if that skirt appropriate for church…'s not. I can tell you right now from my isolated bathroom stall, it's just not. 

So let's agree to disagree on this one. If you are a Stall Talker, I extend to you grace and acceptance. 

(Custom suggests I add a "in the name of Jesus" at the end of that last sentence, but I'm not sure what his stance on the issue of toilet talk is because I suspect that must have been recorded by one of the disciples whose work never made the final cut for the Bible. Pretty sure that guy was a Stall Talker who just couldn't get enough grace and gospel talk so he just kept on going and likely wrote down stuff that Jesus said while pooping. I'm sure it was great and all because, hello, he's Jesus. It's just that I think it's kind of a violation of Jesus's privacy to record his bathroom banter. Just my two cents.)

(And yes, I'm positive Jesus pooped. Fully human and all that. Although I might argue that even though it's not explicitly stated in the Bible, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he was the one person EVER who could actually say for real that it didn't stink.) 

(If someone actually HAD written down stuff that Jesus said in the bathroom, I'm pretty sure it would be recorded in the Gospel of John.)

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