Thursday, June 25, 2015

The F-Word

A few days ago, I used the F-word in front of our senior pastor.

Wait, maybe I should back up a little. Set the scene a bit so you don't think I'm totally a monster. You see, I have a real problem with the F-word. As in, it flies a little too easily out of my mouth. Casual conversations, quick email responses, phone calls, you name it. It's just all too easy to use it.

And the thing is that I know that I shouldn't be throwing the F-word out there all the time like that. Clearly, it is a blatant misuse of language. When I use that word, I am sending a clear message, giving the hearer an impression of me that could be severely misleading.

So, there I was standing at the counter, waiting for my burger with no tomato and extra avocado, and the senior pastor of our church (and my BOSS, I might add) walked up next to me and smiled.

"How are you, Sarah?" he asked.

Without even giving it a moment of thought, the word jumped out of my mouth.


Have you been there? Where that word has been your automatic response when, truth be told, you are NOT fine. In fact, you are far from fine. But when you're standing in the lunch line, checking your kids in for their appointment at the dentist, or when you randomly run into a classmate you haven't seen in fifteen years, it's not like you're just going to go for it and unleash all the not-fine things going on right now, right? And maybe you actually ARE fine. Maybe you are healthy, your kids are healthy, your job is amazing, and there is nothing keeping you up at night right now, nothing causing you to chew your cuticles or hide Oreos in the pantry.

But as I waited for my burger that day, that was not my story. Things were not fine. I used the word anyway because it is safe. It's the response people expect, the polite reply that moves the conversation along without making it awkward. Nobody gets hurt, nobody's schedule is interrupted, and we can all walk away unharmed.

For someone who is always talking about the value of authenticity, vulnerability and honesty, I fully admit to the irony that I chose the safe way out….at least at first. As soon as I had uttered the F-word, I knew I had just lied and I decided to take the risk and be honest.

"Actually, I'm not really all that fine," I stated, "Things are kind of difficult right now. My schedule is a mess, I'm stressed about work, and our marriage is in a really tough place." I went on to elaborate about these things and my pastor was gracious enough to listen.

Now, I'm not saying that every time the cashier at Target asks how we are today we should be blurting out "Ohmygosh I have the WORST cramps today and I'm bleeding like a stuck pig!" There is a fine line between being authentic and TMI.

What I am saying is that when someone who cares about us (who we trust and respect) asks about our well-being, choosing to lie to them and just say "Fine" when it is very much NOT, is harmful to everyone. Wounds go un-healed, frustrations get bottled up, and often we begin to feel very much alone, wondering if anyone would even care about what we are going through anyway. The walls go up and we become determined to defend those boundaries, not allowing anyone to get too close out of fear that they might see the mess we like to keep hidden behind closed doors.

In my experience, the F-word does far more harm than good.

Now, it's not like I expected my pastor to abandon his burger, sit down with me right then and there and invest in a deep conversation about my marital issues, but I can tell you that in the few moments it took to tell him the truth and have him listen without judging, it made me feel a heck of a lot better. Because he had fixed all my troubles and made everything hunky-dory? Of course not! (Do people even use the term hunky-dory anymore?)

What makes all the difference is when we can listen and empathize with someone without judging them or trying to take control. When we take the F-word out of the equation, we are giving others permission to reach toward us and lovingly help us carry the weight that is too heavy for one set of shoulders alone.

In Galatians 6:2, Paul writes about "bearing one another's burdens." I love how The Message translates this passage:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. (Galatians 6:1-3)

May we do just that. May we live creatively, moving beyond canned responses and apathy to a place where we can keep our mouths shut when necessary and our hearts open as we stoop down, stopping what we are doing to share the burden of someone else. We aren't called to fix it, but by meeting someone in their pain we are doing precisely what Christ called us to do - love our neighbor as ourselves.

By choosing to honest with my language and allowing myself to be authentic about my burdens, I am giving others the opportunity to be more Christ-like.

Can we challenge one another in this? Spouses, friends, family members, brothers & sisters of the Church? Let us not be deceived,  we are not too good to admit when we are NOT fine.

How's that for a reason to quit using the F-Word?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June Stitch Fix Review

Friends, this is a bittersweet moment for me. For the last two years, I have shared with you as my love affair with Stitch Fix has blossomed from infatuation to true love. 22 boxes of clothes delivered to my doorstep, chosen just for me. My closet has never been the same.

But I've realized that I really don't NEED a new box every month anymore, or even every other month. Would it be fun? Of course! I just want to be responsible with my resources, which means less Fixes showing up at my door and less reviews for me to write. In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy this latest review and look back through some of my recent reviews to find something fabulous to request in your next Fix!

Super Quick Recap of Stitch Fix:

  • Sign up and get excited because you DON'T have to go to mall to shop for clothes! 
  • Fill out your detailed Style Profile. Be very, VERY honest. 
  • Start a Pinterest board dedicated to your personal style and include a link to it in your Style Profile. This is invaluable information for you stylist to chose the best items for you! 
  • Schedule your first "Fix" and work yourself up into a frenzy as your personal stylist chooses some great clothes for you to try on
  • Pay your $20 styling fee and wait for the goodies to arrive on your doorstep
  • Receive a box full of items hand-picked by a personal stylist, just for you, based on your profile and your requests. 
  • Try everything on, keep what you want, send back what you don't. (The $20 styling fee comes off the price of anything you choose to keep and if you buy all 5 items, you get a 25% discount!)

P.S. If you see anything pictured here that you would like your stylist to try out on you, PIN IT to that Pinterest board you share with your stylist. Make notes on the Pin about why you like it - the fit, the style, the color, whatever! The more info, the better your Fix.

Affiliate and referral links are used in this post. 

First of all, I loved the colors I saw when I opened up this box. So fresh and fun and SUMMER.

Gilli Alina Mixed Geo Print Maxi Skirt - $58
Skies are Blue Topanga Crochet Detail Flutter Sleeve Blouse - from Fix #21

I love a good maxi skirt and they are my absolute favorite thing to wear in the summer because shorts are the devil. There is nothing worse that wearing a pair of shorts, sitting down, and seeing your thighs flatten and squish together like a couple blobs of flesh-toned Gak. The worst. Skirts are better. It's like wearing socially acceptable pajamas. This skirt was so soft, the length was perfect, and I really liked how it paired with that rockin' top from my last Fix. But....I already have THREE maxi skirts in my closet. And I just got done talking about how I need to be more responsible and mindful. Whose stupid idea was that?? Oh yeah, mine.

Loved it, but reluctantly chose to return it.

Daniel Rainn Bilson Pleated Blouse - $68
Distressed Jeans - from an unknown previous Fix I blogged about here 

Funny story about this top. I already have it in a different print! I got this one way back in Fix #6!

Loved it then. Still love it now. And this floral print is so lovely. It is feminine and I love how it covers the areas I want to hide without being too billowy.

As you can see, it can be worn both tucked in and left loose and I really like it both ways.

Definitely a Keeper.

Fun2Fun Preston Open-Back Blouse - $38

Remember last time when I said I asked for something that would show off my tattoo while still being appropriate? My stylist for this Fix, Katelyn, just found it. I love the length of this top, the print, the wide straps, the fit that is just right.....

....and then there is the back.

I'm trying not to freak out about the fact that I just posted a photo of myself from behind on the Internet. Let's focus on this top. Again, the length is just right and covers my booty which I appreciate since I've been spending less time in the gym than I would like. But the open section is just enough to show my tattoo perfectly without being too revealing. And NO BRA STRAPS!

I'm in love. Keeper for sure!

41Hawthorn McAdams Beaded Neckline Blouse - $58

This top just makes me happy. Lovely beading on the neckline, perfect fit, fun color. Exactly my style. It took me all of 5 seconds to know this would be going in my closet.


Liverpool Raphael Denim Jacket - $88

The last item in this Fix was this fun denim jacket that I wish you could feel. The fabric was so smooth and soft, unlike any other denim jacket I had ever encountered. (Like I'm some sort of denim expert or something.) I liked the lighter wash, as it was something different than what I was expecting. However, I wasn't crazy about the way it fit me and I did already have one denim jacket in my closet.

Had to send this one back.

And in case you need proof that shooting these photos is slightly awkward, but still fun...I promised my assistant we would take a goofy photo when we were done, so I had to follow through!

Want to look back through my previous Stitch Fix boxes to get a better idea of what this is all about? Click on over this way, friend. It's my favorite way to not shop for clothes.

Have you seen enough? Ready to get started?

I am a Stitch Fix Affiliate, which means if you purchase anything through Stitch Fix, I do receive a little commission. But I love me some Stitch Fix and have been sharing the love long before I knew what the word "affiliate" meant so I wouldn't be telling you about it if I didn't love it. Thank you for helping me continue my love affair with Stitch Fix and keeping me from having to go back to shopping at the mall. I don't think I would even know how anymore. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

5 Promises for My Children

Dear Kids, 

I love you guys so freaking much.

Do you know that? Do you really understand how, even in the moment when it seems like I am coming unhinged and hollering about how you left your dirty underwear on the kitchen table, I still love you like crazy? I mean, it does get a little challenging  when I trip over your Beyblade stadium as I blunder into your room in the middle of the night because you woke me up to tell me that your socks came off. It's fine - no big deal. I'm pretty sure you were too sleepy to actually remember the swear word I muttered. 

But, can I be totally honest with you for just a second?

Sometimes when you bury your head in my shoulder, hug me as tight as your little arms are able, and declare "I love you, Mommy," I feel the tiniest little pang of guilt rise up in my heart. Not because I don't love you too - because my darling, I love you fiercely. No, that guilt springs up because of a far more terrifying truth.

I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

When I send you to Time-Out for punching your brother in the nuts for playing with your new Spiderman LEGOs, I spend the whole time you are crying and yelling and screaming at me behind the closed door praying and breathing, just hoping I will have even an inkling of a clue what to say to you when I come to your room. Half the time, I stand there and rest my forehead on the wood, wondering for just a moment if I'm even cut out for any of this. As my hand reaches for the door handle, I have no Bible verses on my tongue, no firm admonition of the long-term lesson you should be learning from punching your brother in the junk (other than to please NOT punch your brother in the junk), heck….I'm probably using every ounce of energy I have left in me to keep myself from either crying myself or allowing my anger to get the better of me.

When I crumple on the floor with you wrapped in my arms as you beat your fists on my back, I am simultaneously pounding my fists at heaven and demanding why on earth God entrusted me with the lives of tiny humans when I am a disaster and have no clue how to run my own life, let alone how to steward and shepherd and all those other things I am supposed to be doing with your little souls.

Instead, I am left to wipe your tears, hold you tight, and just do the best I can. Even though I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing.

We may be figuring this whole thing out as we go, but there are things you can count on. Things that are non-negotiable that I want you to be able to rely on as sure as the sun will rise in the morning.

1. As long as I draw breath on this earth, you will be loved unconditionally for who you are. 

I want you to know this promise as well as you know your own name. As you grow up there are going to be times when you will ask yourself the big "if" questions. The answer to "Will they still love me if _______" is always going to be YES. It doesn't matter what you fill in that blank with. Hard things are coming; I know that. Things that are much tougher to deal with than messy rooms and dirty underwear. It scares me to think about how we are going to navigate those hard times together, but above all else I want you to know that you will be loved through it. Nothing you could ever do in this world will cause me to love you and more or any less than I do right now.

2. We will do the best we know how to show you Jesus. 

We are imperfect, broken, messy people. We screw up all the time. Sometimes I get angry and yell, sometimes I lose my patience, sometimes I will say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, respond the wrong way. Someday, when you are older, I will tell you all about the disastrous choices I have made in my life that caused deep wounds in my soul and in my relationships. But God has this thing about using busted people to lead other busted people toward Him. I promise to do my very best to show you how to give and accept grace, how to love God and love others. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will pick up my slack when I mess it up.

3. I will never, EVER allow you to have a pet snake. 

I get that you think they're cool and I know you think it is hilarious to make me go into the reptile building at the zoo so you can watch me squirm uncomfortably as I imagine the glass disappearing as some unsuspecting child accidentally discovers they're a Parseltongue-speaking wizard and suddenly there's a ginormous boa constrictor slithering across the floor and your mother drops dead of fear and then you have to live with that guilt for the rest of your natural life. No snakes.

4. In this family, we do second chances. 

We've already established that I'm a hot mess and I can guarantee you that your dad is too, but I've got a news flash for you kiddo. You're a hot mess too. Your heart is bent and twisted and there will be times that it will lead you in the wrong direction. Your emotions will deceive you and you will find yourself in a very painful place. Part of me wishes I could protect you from this experience. You will want to run and hide, but my prayer is that you will remember all the times I have whispered "I love you" in the dark and you will know that you can come to us. We can't promise to fix it, but we can promise to love you through it and remind you that our God is the god of second chances (Thanks Veggie Tales).

5. Someday all of this will make more sense. 

Some of our decisions, rules, and expectations may seem ridiculous. When it seems like all your friends are doing whatever that thing is that kids are doing that seems absolutely essential to your survival and your stupid parents won't let you do it, so your life is OVER and you are convinced we are the worst parents ever….well, someday you will get it. In the moment, all your father and I can do is stand on the other side of the door, pray like crazy, and do the best we can. Because, as we've established, we have no idea what the heck we are doing. But neither did our parents or their parents before them. And someday, if it is God's will to bless you with kids of your own, you will find yourself sitting on the floor outside their room, praying like crazy because you have no idea what you're going to say when you walk in the door, and suddenly it will hit you that all that stuff your Dad and I went through with you - it all makes so much more sense now. But if, in that moment, you are trusting in the Lord to give you the words to speak to your child as you navigate through how to give them a second chance, show them Jesus, and love them unconditionally…..then baby, you've got it. 

But I beg of you, don't let my grandbabies get a pet snake until after I'm dead. I would hate for them to live with the trauma of thinking they killed their grandmother. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Chopped in the Throat (aka Micah's 4K Graduation)

This one.

He wants to feel special. He is the middle brother, but certainly he is the outlier of the bunch. He feels it. When his brother introduces them to new people, he will say, "I'm Isaiah. I'm the older brother. This is Micah. He's the bigger brother."

He is always going to stand out from the crowd, I think. He's the one who refuses to wear his graduation cap with the rest of his class, the one who covers his ears because the singing is too loud. He is the one who wails that he is starrrrrving twenty minutes after polishing off a stack of pancakes.

Ok, fine. That's all of my boys. That might just be boys in general.

He's also the one who walks right up to complete strangers, flashes the smile and the dimple, and launches into conversation. In seconds, he will have told his new best friend his name, his age, what he wants for his birthday, and how he has superpowers that allow him to control the weather and fly. But his flying powers are broken right now, so he can't show you. 

He is charming, hilarious, infuriating, and intoxicating. All at the same time.

I mean, just look at the photos I took of this boy at his little 4K graduation ceremony.

First of all, can we just all pause for a second and really ask ourselves why a bunch of 4 and 5 year old kids need a ceremony to transition to kindergarten? It's cute and all, but it's pretty clear the whole thing is much more for the parents than for the kids. The only ceremony I got to help me transition to kindergarten was a new backpack and a reminder that nobody likes a know-it-all.

First, our little graduate walked in the room, clutching his little red felt graduation cap in his hand. No matter how we tried to gesture wildly or plead with him in whispers to put it on, he refused. Strong-willed, always.

But then this happened and I pretty much lost it. After the class finished singing their cute little songs, we actually convinced Micah to put the hat on. He kept monkeying with it and ended up pulling it down over his eyes, which the kid next to him clearly thought was the funniest thing he has ever seen in his life.

I just kept snapping photos, trying to hold my phone still while my body shook with laughter.

And then while they handed out the certificates, the two of them launched into an epic ninja battle.

What graduation ceremony is complete without someone getting punched in the throat? 

But, at the end of all the fuss and craziness of the ceremony, Micah got his certificate and became an official graduate of 4K. Let me tell you, that was no small feat for this child. He is the oldest kid in his class, clearly the biggest kid in his class, and one of the kids who struggles the most. He was identified as needing some support services early in the year, so I got to attend my very first IEP meeting as a parent rather than as a teacher.

He was identified as having some significant language processing issues that kept him from being able to focus in a large group, understand complex instructions, and process language in an effective way. He started to work with a speech and language teacher and the thing I was most thrilled by was not his progress or improvement in the areas I just mentioned, but rather in his perseverance.

He worked so hard. When something got tough, he kept trying. When his eyes would fill with tears because he didn't write his name exactly right, he would get himself under control and try again. When I would ask him to do three workbook pages of homework in the afternoon, he did not want to do it, but he pushed through and did it anyway.

That tenacity paid huge dividends and it was our sincere joy to take our boy in our arms, look him in the eye and speak the truth into his 5-year-old heart that he desires more than anything else - "We are so proud of you, son." 

Not because his test scores went up and not because he improved at sorting things by color or shape. Not because he suddenly leaped up to the top of his class. We are proud of him because he busted his butt at being the best version of himself. What more could we ask?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

No Cuts, No Buts, No Coconuts

I like to listen to sermons while I exercise.

Before anyone goes thinking that this post is going to be about how I'm all holier than thou and what-not, just hear me out because I promise you there is a point that is the exact opposite of all of that.

So, picture with me a packed gym full of sweaty people on treadmills, lifting weights, reading magazines on the elliptical and the whole deal. When I started my workout, I was already halfway through one sermon, so once that one was done I clicked to go right on to the next one.

Ninety pounds on the inclined leg press, my knees bent and pushing up...down...up...down. And then all of a sudden the pastor in my ear buds introduces the title of today's message - No Cuts, No Buts, No Coconuts.

I burst out laughing, my knees buckled, dropped all the weight so it slammed down on the machine, and got a whole bunch of weird looks from the people around me.

That awkward moment when you realize you're listening to a sermon about circumcision in the middle of the gym.

But friends, this message from Pastor Levi Lusko at Fresh Life Church in Kalispell, is ON POINT.

In his message on Galatians 5, Lusko says, "Circumcision is alive and well today. In that, we in the year 2015, in our Christian expression in this cultural context, we still very much have ways that we get pushed away from focusing on the Savior to a system. Away from the relationship to rules, regulations, rituals, fine print, hidden clauses, things you gotta do, monthly payment plans to fulfill what was began at the Cross. Only now, it's not "Have you been circumcised yet?" but now it's "Oh, wow. You listen to secular music? Oh, that's cool. I just listen to Third Day and Mercy Me. I love Jesus.""

He continues on about how all these things we add to our Christian resume are ways we polish our halos and add another merit badge to our collection. Lusko is quick to point out that the works that we do in this life - serving, giving, donating our time and resources, adoption and all kinds of other things that we "do" - must always be done out of love and NEVER as a way to make God be pleased with us because nothing we do will ever cause God to love us any more or less than he does right now because when we are in Christ, He looks upon us and sees his perfect Son, regardless of whether we are in a season where we are struggling or "killing it."

Hearing this message coming into my ears after a day when our church was attacked by someone posting a YouTube video that slammed our church for playing secular music during a recent high school event....well, it's hard not to see that as more than a coincidence.

If you have a spare 45 minutes, whether you are out for a run or driving in your car or just escaping for a bit while the kids finally take a nap, I really encourage you to watch this sermon.

I challenge you to find another message where someone speaks such real truth about the gospel and grace that also incorporates circumcision, drugs, grass-fed butter and Lil Wayne. 

Grace is like drugs. Because the power comes from the purity.

Once you do anything to make yourself feel "a cut above," you cut yourself off from the power of Christ.  - Levi Lusko

Not joking. This dude can PREACH. Trust me, watch it.

I am so guilty of being the person to say, "Thanks for grace, Jesus, but I'll take it from here." May we always be about Jesus and always about His grace and not about trying to add anything to what is already His perfect plan.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Lemonade Stand

"I have to get some work done today," I said. "Two posts. At least. I absolutely MUST write at least two posts today. And I have research I need to do and another project I should get started on. Ok?"

So I went to my office/bedroom and sat down. I could hear the commotion in the kitchen as the four lemons I bought at the grocery store today were sliced, punctured, and squeezed to make homemade lemonade.

Perfect, I thought. The boys will be so busy with their lemonade stand that I can focus and get so much done!

Ah, the best laid plans.

Here's why setting up a lemonade stand didn't exactly work out as I had hoped.

  1. "Mommy can you taste this lemonade to see if it is good?" Sure, honey. It needs more lemon. Tell Daddy it needs more lemon. Lemonade does sound kind of good on a warm day like today. Warm, but cloudy. Wait, are those rain clouds?
  2. I should check to see if it's going to rain. I'd hate to have the kids' entrepreneurial dreams dashed by raindrops right after they open up shop. Check the weather on my phone app. Realize it is worthless so try instead. Looks like just some cloud cover but no rain in the forecast.
  3. Should I be helping set up?
  4. Do they even have change? I'd better dig through my wallet and find as many quarters as I can.
  5. Hey look, gum!
  6. I need to hide this gum somewhere where the kids won't find it because the last time they were allowed to have gum, I was finding it fossilized to the carpet on the floorboards of my minivan. Except for that one Micah swallowed right in front of us after we specifically told him not to.
  7. I should really set up both computer screens. The most productive people use two screens when they work and I wouldn’t want Evan to think he had gone through all that trouble for nothing.
  8. Better check my email.
  9. Oooo look! New official portraits of Princess Charlotte with her big brother Prince George!!! Posting those to my Facebook wall, for sure.
  10. Wind up watching the video that person from my high school posted of the senior class video she found on VHS in her basement. Cringe. Realize this video is 30 minutes long and I really need to get back to work.
  11. See an image of myself flash across the screen from when I still wore braces. When is the last time I went to the dentist? Ugh, I really need to take care of that and make an appointment. Sounds like a lot of work.
  12. Work. Know what would help me work? A beer.
  13. What's that? The kids have a customer? Cute! I run out there to see as they hand the sweet neighbor girl her lemonade and remind Isaiah to use his manners.
  14. "Isaiah, where are your brothers?"
  15. Find the brothers. Come back in the house to scold Evan only to be interrupted by him reading aloud an article about how an email proved that FIFA and South Africa struck a 10 million dollar deal.
  16. I miss football.  How many days until football starts? Google "Green Bay Packers 2015 Schedule."
  17. I wonder how much those tickets to the Bears game where Favre's jersey will be retired are running for folks.
  18. I'm hungry.
  19. It seems like all the successful bloggers are using Buffer or CoSchedule or one of those fancy pants social media schedulers. I really need to be doing that. Maybe just ten minutes researching that and then I'll know what direction I need to go in.
  20. Has One Direction released anything new lately?
  21. Wait, or is it One Republic I'm thinking of? Which one does "Love Runs Out?"
  22. Music! That's what I need! I go grab the wireless speaker only to realize the battery is dead.
  23. Pandora then.
  24. Sure enough, it was One Republic, not One Direction I was thinking of. That's really confusing.
  25. One Republic isn't really good writing music. I should probably do something like Lauren Daigle. I want to buy her whole album.
  26. And "Forever" by Kari Jobe. Gotta have that one. It makes me cry every time.
  28. I have to pee.
  29. These jeans are too tight. I should go to the gym later. And eat a salad for dinner. But Evan was going to grill tonight. Salad tomorrow.
  30. Yoga pants. Yoga pants will help me work! Comfort is everything! Keep Calm and Wear Yoga Pants. Yoga Pants for president.
  31. Where did I set down my beer?
  32. Did anyone get the mail yesterday?
  33. That's what I should do. I should write out five random notes of encouragement to people in my life. I have all this cute stationary that I never use and that's what a good friend/daughter/sister would do.
  34. We are out of stamps. We've been out of stamps for months and I still haven't bought stamps.
  35. Are stamps going the way of the cassette tape pretty soon? Could everyday digital postage be one the horizon?
  36. Overhear from the living room - "Boys, just leave it alone! It's dog poop. You've seen dog poop before." Stand up and walk halfway across the room. I turn around and return to my chair.
  37. Slam the rest of my beer. Open up OneNote.
  38. Looks like I've finally got something to write about.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hold Her Up

On Saturdays, I usually work a 12-hour shift. This last Saturday was different. I left the restaurant early, before the afternoon rush had really kicked in, and drove to my church. Still dressed in my server black, I walked in and wandered through the crowd until I found a familiar face. We smiled weakly, greeted one another with quiet hellos. Looking around, I noticed that many of us had come. A small army of women - moms who had come to know one another over hot coffee, conversation, and the shared realization that each and every one of us was a beautiful disaster. Some were already wiping their eyes. Others were engaged in conversation that might, at first glance, appear to be normal.

Together, we walked up the stairs and took our seats in the balcony. I noticed Megan was wearing a suit. I complemented her on it even though Megan looks stunning in everything she wears, even if it's exercise pants and sneakers. We chatted quietly about her husband's new job while people filed into the seats around us and the piano music gently played. She even joked about how her husband brings his business associates out to eat at the restaurant I work at all the time and that she has warned him that he had better make sure to be nice to his server or she will blog about it and the entire church will know. I laughed and promised not to create a scandal.

We looked down at the main floor below us where the casket was draped in a floral arrangement of bright oranges and blue. Nearby, the young woman in the black dress pulled away from a hug, wiped her eyes, and looked up at the balcony. She made eye contact with us, our entire section of her sisters sitting together, and gave us a little wave and as much of a smile as she could muster.

She is so brave.

I did not expect the next hour to be as hard as it was. The friends and family who took the microphone spoke about a man I had only met a few times. I didn't really know him. But I know his wife. She and I would see each other every other week as we gathered with other young moms at our church. When I stood up in front of all those women and told my story, she sought me out and told me how much it resonated with her. Her words reassured me that my story mattered and that God was going to use the broken pieces I held in my heart to build something beautiful.

Her three young children, kids the same age as my boys, fidgeted restlessly next to her as the rest of us sat quietly and listened. My eyes often went to her. I saw her do so many normal things during her husband's funeral - hug her daughter, take a drink of water, scratch an itch on the back of her neck, laugh when the video of her youngest daughter played on the screen.

She is so strong.

The worship leader asked us to stand, but I found I could not sing. The tears had choked out my voice. All I could do was whisper my praise and attach my prayers to the sweet and clear voice of the woman next to me in the cute grey suit.

There in the ground, his body lay, light of the world by darkness slain. Then bursting forth, in glorious day, up from the grave he rose again. And as he stands in victory, sin's curse has lost its grip on me, for I am his and he is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.

So I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the one who gave it all. I'll stand, my soul Lord to you surrendered, all I have is yours.

I've never had to worship through pain. Not that kind of pain, anyway.

But there she was, her pain immeasurable and her grief bearing down on her. She stood and she sang, her hand raised in the air, palm facing up in surrender to the One who gives and takes away while the tears rolled down her face. Every ounce of bravery, every bit of strength - it was all flowing from the vine.

We all descended the steps together after the service and waited among the throng for our turn to love on our girl. When our time came, in an instant we decided that individual comfort wasn't what she needed. She needed all of us. In one motion, we enveloped her in our embrace.

She crumpled under the weight of her grief. But, she did not fall, for her sisters were there to hold her up.

I drove back to the restaurant with a paper plate of pork and mashed potatoes on my lap, wrecked and grateful to be a part of this group of women who know what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ when the need is great.

For Jamie, in honor of Clay. We love you. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer Reading is the BEST.

The subtitle of this post should probably be "My Overdue Stack of Library Books." I get all excited when I go through my list of books I want to read and then I find myself on our library website pushing buttons that lead down a road of HOLD ALL THE THINGS! And then suddenly there is a stack on my desk, my nightstand, in my purse. It's a great problem to have, I suppose - too many great books to read - but then again the whole free aspect of the library does lose its luster when you keep racking up late charges.

But I digress.

One of the best things about summer is BOOKS. I don't magically find myself with more time to read during the summer or anything, but there is just something about a warm day, a gentle breeze, a cold beverage and a comfy seat in the backyard that makes me want to get lost in a book and never come out. I know I'm not alone in this. Summer is a bookworm's paradise because all the other bookworms come out of hiding and start to go buck-wild with sharing their favorite books that they are also reading by campfire light, or on a beach, or in the car while road tripping.

Summer is prime time for finding your next favorite book.

Here are some of the books currently on my reading list that I am excited to dive into this summer.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - set in WWII France, this is the story of two sisters who are about as different as God ever created two people. I started this one about a week ago and it is really lovely so far. Looking forward to seeing where this one goes! 

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott - I wish I could remember where I first heard about Anne Lamott. I think it maybe from Glennon Doyle Melton, but I can't say for sure. I read Bird by Bird by Lamott and I absolutely LOVED it. It was like food to my writer's soul. Then I was reading a totally different piece by a totally different writer whose name I also cannot remember (honestly, the kids are ruining my brain) and she talked about how this book was pivotal in her writing career because her favorite writer was writing about faith and all was good and right in the world. I knew I had to read it. (Someone please tell me whose page I was on.)

Do Over by Jon Acuff - A friend of mine who is the kind of friend everyone needs in their life, sat down with me for a chat about the hopes and dreams I have for my career and how I imagine using my gifts in a way that blesses others and allows me to earn a living too. I figured I was nuts to dream such a thing. She showed up to that conversation with a fresh copy of Jon Acuff's new book. I dove in and I am not even kidding you, I need to write a whole other post on the magic of this book. Thinking about a career "do over?" This is your book. And I'm only a few chapters in!

 We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride - Have you ever grabbed a book off the shelf simply because the cover was cool? That's what I did with this one. Unfortunately, I added it to my pile of books only to allow it to slip down the priority list until I had already renewed it twice and had to get it back to the library before I was completely broke. Of course, the very day after I returned it, Stephanie Howell started a new Instagram account devoted specifically to the books she was reading and this one was her very first post. (Check out @whatstephreads on Instagram for her wonderful book suggestions.) Of course, now I absolutely MUST have this book back in my life.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker - This one doesn't even release until August 18th and I am already chomping at the bit to read it. But first, a little background. A while back, Jen Hatmaker put out a call to her people that she was building a launch team for this book. She would be accepting 500 people onto that team and the applications started to pour in. When all was said and done, the 500 person launch team was chosen and super-sweet emails were sent to the other 4500 applicants to let us down easy. Yup, I'm a proud member of #the4500. Now, because Jen is awesome, that rejection email included four sample chapters from this book in PDF form and OHMYFREAKINGGRACIOUS. All my dreams of ever writing a book went flying out the window because This is the book I have always dreamed of writing. Only, Jen beat me to it. She discusses the rules about wearing Leggings as Pants and about how our kids' homework is rapidly becoming like another job for parents and that we need to stop the madness. I was laughing so hard I was crying and many times I wanted to shout out, "Amen sistah!" August can't come fast enough.

A few others on my Reading Radar:

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - Seriously. This cover. I can't even. 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - Because clearly I'm the only one left on the planet who hasn't read it.  

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - After the rave reviews this one got from Jessica, it jumped up a few notches on my list. 

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans - People are saying amazing things about this book and considering I work at a church, and the conversations I have had with people about how they have been seriously wounded by the Church, I really want to read it. 

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill  - Another one that sat on my nightstand until I ran out of time. Never got to even start it. Sad face.

Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg -The idea of all those famed characters from the classic literary masterpieces texting one another is both ridiculous and genius at the same time. Word on the street is that this one is hilarious and every summer needs a good, light-hearted read.

Make it Happen by Lara Casey - Spoiler Alert: I'm on the brink of a pretty big leap of faith and it's kind of scary when I sit still long enough to think about it and allow doubt to penetrate my mind. The subtitle for this book is "Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose." YES. 

By the way, I'm not sure where this has been all my life, but I recently discovered that a lot of my well-read friends were hanging out on an app called Goodreads where they can keep track of the books they are currently reading, create a list of books they want to read next, rate books, and get recommendations from friends. It is fantastic. If you're not already using it (which I doubt), definitely check it out.

Do you have dreams of reading stacks and stacks of books this summer? What would you add to this list? What have you read recently that was so fantastic you just want to shout it from the rooftops? Shout it out in the comments! 

Disclosure: Affiliate links used for these books and some screenshots from Instagram. All thoughts, opinions, and book obsession all my own. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

5 Things Your Server Wants You to Know

I've written a lot about serving. In fact, someday when I finally write a book there is going to have to be a whole chapter devoted to my time in the food service industry. So many stories to tell, my friends. Everything from the behind-the-scenes secrets to unexpected encounters, like the time I waited on an MLB All Star catcher whose last name rhymes with Brucroy. Yes, that actually happened.

Recently, I've written about 5 Ways to Bless Your Server and about how The Customer is Not Always Right, so check those out!
One of the coolest things about serving is that every shift is different. I may work with the same group of people each day, but the people I encounter at my tables are always different, which means there is always the potential for the unexpected. Earlier this week, there may or may not have been an incident where I accidentally yanked on a guest's chest hair because I thought it was a loose string.


It's been an interesting couple of weeks at the restaurant, so I've come up with 5 things we servers would like our customers to know. All five of these have affected me or my co-workers in the last week, so they were on my mind to share.

Five Things Your Server Wants You to Know:

1. Writing a scathing Yelp review does not make you a powerful person. Plus, I'm pretty sure the only people using Yelp anymore are the same people who want happy hour specials in the dining room so they can get their glasses of White Zinfandel for half price. We've seen reviews from people who have given our restaurant one star, but have rated TACO BELL with five. *insert wide-eyed emoji here*

2. We probably haven't had a break today. They aren't built into our work days like "normal jobs." We probably haven't eaten, and if we have it was likely stone cold and we slammed it down our throats standing up. Plus, we have to hide somewhere to inhale our food because it's not cool to allow customers to see us eat. It's important that we maintain plausible deniability that we might be robots. Oh, and it's very possible I haven't even had a chance to go to the bathroom. Breaks of any kind don’t really exist to servers. Remind me to tell you about the time I wet my pants at work. True story.

3. If a customer takes both copies of a charge card slip, we get nothing. In fact, we end up paying to serve that table if you take into consideration that we are having to tip out the busser who clears the table, the bartender who made the drinks, and the expo who made sure the food was perfect before it came to the table. Oh, and we also pay taxes. Don't look at me like that; we do! Anyway, can you please do us a favor and double check to make sure you are leaving us a signed copy of that credit card slip so we don't have to chase you into the parking lot and awkwardly ask you to fish it out of your wallet? Thanks a million.

4. We tend to pick up weird side jobs to make a little more money because serving isn't likely to be our lifetime career goal - Sure, some of us have normal day jobs like teaching, office staff, students, or retail. But many of us try to fit one more thing on our plate so we are exploring every legal income avenue possible. Some examples might be nannying, blogging or beard modeling. Yes, I work with a guy who tried to get into beard modeling. This is real life. 
(He hasn't given up, by the way. I'll be his agent if you're interested.)

5. When we ask to see your ID, we aren't trying to insult you. We are trying to stay employed and not get sued. - Here's the thing. If you order a drink and I don't card you and it turns out that you are actually only 20 and then somebody who happens to know your mom sees you as she's going to the bathroom and she stops to chat and realizes you are drinking, she might be so inclined to let the manager know or - better yet - make a phone call right to the owner. Next thing you know, the restaurant is subjected to a HUGE fine and I'm fired. Sorry. I would rather risk offending you by carding you than risk my job by not. 

Here to help, friends. 

Your friendly neighborhood server


Monday, June 1, 2015

Crack Monkey

I want to be able to be honest here. I don't try to hide that I struggle with anxiety from the people in my "real life," but I tend not to get into too many of the ugly details either. As it turns out, casual conversation gets a little awkward when you happen to mention that you cried the whole way to work this morning because you couldn't find a clean pair of socks and the scrambled eggs were overcooked. Let's just say it's a real mood-killer. Sure, I have certain people in my life that are well-equipped to handle my particular vintage of emotions, but many have no idea how to deal with it. And I can't say that I blame them. Anxiety doesn't make any sense, but it is so dangerous because in the moment….it makes all the sense in the world.

It is dangerous irrationality masquerading as truth.

But here I can type freely. I know my family reads this, as do many of my friends and co-workers. For all I know, there are neighbors scrolling these pages or maybe even people I went to high school with who are now CONVINCED that I really am the weirdo they always suspected I was.

There are just some times when I have to ignore any impulse to save face and write what is real. And right now - I am tired. I am hurting. And I'm angry.

What really pisses me off about anxiety is how horribly irrational the whole thing is. Hearing a police siren will trigger a fear in me that will compel me to make sure the garage door is closed or that I remembered to empty the lint trap in the dryer. Evan and I will be talking about going out to dinner and I suddenly will be slammed with the fear that we shouldn't go because we might get into a car accident and we haven't even started a college savings account for the boys and suddenly I'm off on a tirade about how we are the most fiscally irresponsible parents in the history of EVER.

Speaking of fiscal irrationality, my favorite thing to do after I have a money-induced Tweak Sesh is to head to Target or TJ Maxx and shop.

So here I sit, hunkered down in my neighborhood coffee shop, sipping on an iced raspberry chai when I probably should be down the street at the gym. I haven't been working out as much as I want to lately so I'm feeling frumpy and frustrated with my body. But, it's too hot to wear pants and I haven't shaved my legs, so it's blogging and raspberry chai instead. Obviously.

When my anxiety is bad, my brain won't shut off. My counselor calls it "monkey minding." I like her analogy well enough, but I think the monkey in my brain must be jacked up on Ritalin or something. I suppose it could just be from all the coffee. It certainly would explain the irrational, erratic and downright jacked up craziness that my thoughts were up to the other night when I wasn't able to fall asleep until after 1 am because I was too worried about my kids getting picked on in high school and whether or not the turkey in the deli drawer was spoiled and doggonit I forgot to buy more notecards again!

Today my son asked me to fill up some water balloons for him and his buddies to play with and when I pulled the first one off the faucet and it exploded all over me, the Crack Monkey went wild. I was yelling, and ranting about how it's not even warm enough for water balloons and that the filtered water cost too much to be using so irresponsibly and then I remembered that the water and sewer bill was probably overdue because I forgot to pay it the last time I did bills so I had to start tearing the counter apart to find it.

If you've ever seen a chimp at the zoo going bonkers in its cage, you'll have a pretty good visual of the situation. Only, there was no throwing of feces, only snot-covered Kleenex that certain toddlers failed to throw in the garbage.

It's stupid and it sucks and I hate that I have to come to the blog and vent about this. There are bloggers I admire so much who never vent about anything because they're too busy making Pinterest-perfect images for their next DIY project or shooting photos of their newly decorated family room that looks like it belongs in the pages of a magazine. There are others who are incredible writers who vent like crazy, who rant and rave with conviction and purpose about the atrocities of ISIS, the grief of losing a child, the struggled of infertility, the injustice of racial inequality. They have real, legitimate, world-altering reasons to vent and they do it with such power.

Meanwhile, I type away about an imaginary crack monkey.

It's actually quite hilarious, the more you think about it! Is it inappropriate for me to make references to illegal drugs and their effects on hypothetical monkeys? I need to know these things because I should probably start preparing now if I'm going to have to deal with a volatile comments section.

Thank you for letting me blog randomly about monkeys sometimes. I'm feeling much better now. :) 

P.S. If I was at Hogwarts, my patronus would be a chimpanzee.

P.P.S. I understand that the photo above is NOT a chimpanzee. Thank you for grace.  

P.P.P.S. That IS about how hairy my legs were getting to be, which is why I'm sure you understand my decision to sip raspberry chai and type about monkeys rather than subject my fellow gym-goers to my Amazon woman legs.

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