oceans

It's been so long since Brent and I got away together, just the two of us. We've been working so hard that it seemed impossible, but we forced a break in the business with the help of a hoard of people taking care of the kids for us. I will never be able to express enough gratitude to them! 

We have had a few beach vacations with the kids that were incredibly fun, but I always wished I could just close my eyes for a second to rest. Vacations with kids are constant head counts and efforts to keep everyone alive somewhere different than home, especially around water. All parents know this. Incredible memories, but not restful at all. 

The beach is a spiritual place, regardless of what your belief system might be. The loudness drowns out all distractions, the rhythmic in and out ushers in release and acceptance, the vastness makes you feel small.

Yesterday we laid in the sun for hours (the pinkness of our skin bears witness) and played in the ocean. Brent prefers to just jump the waves while I use a boogey board to coast over them and float with the give and take of the tide. I floated for a long time on my own before Brent joined me. The waves were tame and we willingly surrendered to them. It was fun to turn my back and not know what was about to hit me because they were mostly gentle. 

Today there was a storm brewing far off on another coast, but it made the waves big and angry. We went in anyway. I got tired pretty much immediately. Wave after wave blasted us and knocked us down. I found that if you could brave the biggest ones you would eventually get to a sweet spot where you could coast over the crests before they broke. But it was far out and I couldn't touch, and the waves looked so big as they built that you just knew it was gonna break right over your head. A couple of them did and we summersaulted under the water. A couple of times I couldn't even tell where Brent had gone and stood ready to dive in after him in case he didn't pop back up somewhere. Finally, the beating was enough and we opted to just stand at the shore and get knocked at the knees. We stared out into the crashing and let our minds wonder.

I thought about how the ocean is like life. When our babies are little we protect them from life by keeping them on the shore to play in the sand and stick their toes in. I have had the pleasure of discovering some really awesome things just sitting on the shoreline with my babies. Tiny little crabs I wouldn't have otherwise noticed, the way the sea foam quivers in the wind, and of course the millions of seashells we have gathered. As they get bigger, we let them go further out. They get knocked down enough to respect staying close to the shore, but grow strong enough to enjoy the waves and play in them safely. Eventually they are heading out to the beach without us there at all. 

Some people prefer to just stay on the sand. They watch others live exciting lives, some on surfboards, some idiots going way too far out, some getting sucked in by an undertow. It's safe on the sand, but you don't really experience the ocean that way. 

Sometimes you go through a stormy season of life and you are just out there in those waves with your husband, your life partner, and you are taking a beating.  The two of you together are holding each other up and getting exhausted.You have to swim back to shore and take a rest when that happens. Some seasons are calm and smooth and you splash each other playfully and float on your back with only the occasional stifling salt water smash to the face. 

I thought of that song "Oceans" that declares a bold prayer that I think most people wouldn't pray if they really thought about what they were asking for. Take me deeper? Keep my eyes above the waves? Like I found today, if you can be brave enough to go past that point that terrifies you, you find yourself on the other side of the breaking point of the waves. It is deep, and there could be sharks, but you can float on your back. I prayed that prayer two years ago and God did take me past the big scary waves to the terrifying ocean. As I'm finding all the blog posts I lost, I'm reliving moments where hard decisions were made, things were let go of, new things embraced. The last four years have been big big waves.

For a couple of days I'm taking a rest on the sand, working on my tan. But I'll be ready to jump back into those waves with Brent, whatever kind they may be. 

a day in the life

Recently I was tagged in a facebook thingy to share 7 photos from my day, no matter how dull they are. Um, excuse me, but I don't have dull days. Sometimes I pray for a dull day, and then I get bored and find something to do.

Today's to-do list had me panting before I went to bed last night, but you know what? It turned out pretty great. First order of business was waking up on time, and Titus made sure of that. I stumbled downstairs, found coffee, made breakfast, packed lunches, broke up fights, and headed out the door to get my fourth grader to the bus.

We were halfway down the driveway when I glanced at her for the first time. She was wearing a Goodwill t-shirt that boldly stated "TODAY IS MY LUCKY DAY". I think there were rhinestones involved. "Don't you have your Honor Society thing today?" I questioned, like the responsible mother that I am. Why can't I be that mom that lays out clothes the night before important events? Why can't I even THINK about the clothes the night before? SHOOT! 

She ran back inside the house, dug through a laundry basket in the living room and retrieved the newest little cotton dress I had grabbed for Easter Sunday. Please do not think that by Easter Sunday I mean white gloves and ruffles. This is literally a sleeveless cotton play dress and I was classy enough to pick up some glitter flip flops to match. I dutifully set them outside the bathroom door so she could slip into them and run.

Now halfway down the driveway again she tugged at her dress and wondered if it had shrunk in the wash. No, she had it on backwards. We continued to walk while I held her backpack and she spun the dress around herself. There it was: a giant coffee (?) splatter stain all down the front of the dress.

Winning.  

"Just hold your certificate up in front of your dress when it's your turn. No one will ever see that from the audience." Fashion advice from someone dressed like this: 

We approached the bus stop just in time to save some poor children from mortal ignorance. "Donuts are not a nutritious meal," sneered one little know-it-all kid. I told her to quit cussing.

"Umm, no, donuts are the best meal ever for you," I schooled. "There are umm, grains, and also fats, real fruit, and BACON. Plus you eat them with coffee, which is a bean."

"No, I don't think so. There's way too much sugar in them," she persisted in her ignorance. Kids these days! Are you even kidding me?

"No way! If there was too much sugar, they wouldn't taste good. There's just the right amount of sugar obviously, because donuts taste great!" I'm here for the donuts, guys. Never doubt this. Hopefully I was able to save some of the children listening from a lifetime of carb shaming. 

My daughter picked the moment before the bus pulled up to casually toss out that she forgot she was supposed to wear black today. I swore that I would find a black top that she could slip over her little dress and that would fix the stain issue anyway.

I hustled back down the street and hopped into the shower. While balancing to shave my legs I told Titus 19 times that I could not give him gum because I was naked and wet. He didn't think these were great excuses. I slid into a black dress as my sixth grader banged on the door and howled, "We need to leave NOW or I'll be late!!!!!!" 

I hollered back that she would rather I not be naked when I walked her to the bus stop and GEEZforthelovegivemeaminute. 

Are you stressed out yet, reader? Because I sure was! And you know what my husband was doing during all this? Eating breakfast with friends! OH! To be a man! Sheesh. I sure do love him, don't I? 

I questioned whether you could see my underwear through my dress and briefly considered polling the middle schoolers, but decided against it. My sixth grader assured me that I was dressed chastely. (Can you dress chastely? Is this a thing?) Anyway, this kid made it on the bus without any surprised. Whew.

I hauled it back home (again) and turned on cartoons for Titus so he would stop demanding gum from me while I had to quickly get ready for the day. Why is my kid so obsessed with gum???

Brent came home from his leisurely breakfast and thought it would be funny to jump around a dark corner and scare me. I slammed the door in his face like any good wife would do, and returned to my mascara. He really is a nice guy though, and located a black shirt for our child while helping me put my 5 thousand bags in the car. (Midwives carry a lot of bags. Women carry a lot of bags. Moms carry a lot of bags. Students carry a lot of bags. Wrap all that up into the fact that I don't know how my day is going to go, and there you have it: Five. thousand. bags.) Oh, he also informed me that you could in fact see my underwear through my dress, in the sweetest way. Guess what? I had some emergency leggings in one of my bags.

Winning.

I squealed into the school parking lot and impatiently waited to be let in. I tossed the shirt at the secretary and said that my daughter needed it urgently. Then I signed in and started down to the cafeteria to watch her induction into National Honor Society. I guess it's kind of a big deal? I saw her sitting up front, and realized I should have just brought the shirt with me. With five minutes until the ceremony was to start, I turned and went back to the office to retrieve the shirt. 

ONLY THE SHIRT WAS GONE. The secretary told me she got it. 

I went back to the cafeteria with approximate 4 minutes to spare and questioned via pantomime about the shirt. My daughter looked thoroughly confused, but to her credit, not embarrassed. I spun around and went back to the office where a different secretary informed me that the shirt had been sent up to her class room. I tried to remain aware that half the female school administration was standing there staring at me. I always feel like they are wondering if I'm newly sober or maybe if I'm a stripper in the evenings. I don't know why I feel this way because I'm always sober and as mentioned before, chastely dressed. 

I gave up and went back to the cafeteria and i just want you to see what I saw:

Not a dang kid was wearing black. And while she may have had a stained dress to wear, my child was one of the only ones that knew to sit with her knees together on the front row. That's all I'm going to say about that. 

I managed to get kicked out of three seats before I found one next to a nice old grandpa who chatted me up for a while before telling me to "Keep on keeping on". Right on, dude. 

My girl got her certificate for being smart and well behaved, and we both got cake. 

You know that movie, 27 Dresses? My friend Sarah recently showed up at my house with ice cream and homemade chocolate fudge sauce at 10 pm to watch it with me. This is the way to show up at my house. The night when she is going back and forth between two weddings all night, changing clothes in a cab and stuff? This is how I was starting to feel at this point. 

I left the school and headed to do prenatals at my preceptor's office. I adore my preceptors and thoroughly enjoy working with and learning from them two days a week doing prenatal care for mammas. I got there a tad bit late and jumped right in. Basically I do everything I can get away with while I'm there. If they think I can do it, I'm willing to try! We saw some mammas about ready to burst and some just starting out in their pregnancies, listened to baby heart beats, cooed at a newborn returning to visit, and trouble-shooted various things. 

I had to shoot out the door to go take my final three exams for my didactic portion of my learning at the local high school where my proctor's class room is. It's fun sitting in a high school classroom labeling vagina diagrams, let me tell you. One girls curiously asked me, "Umm, lady? What is it exactly that you.... do?" She also wondered if it involved blood and needles, since she was considering midwifery as a career path and hoping it did not involve blood and needles. Bless. 

My second visitor sticker of the day. I get around.

My second visitor sticker of the day. I get around.

It turns out that I don't stress over tests, but these three tests were causing me a great deal of anxiety. Mostly because one of the instructors likes to put stuff on the test that we never actually learned in class, and considers "short answer" to be two paragraphs. The other reason is because: math for health occupations. I'm actually really good at math, i just find it really offensive that I'm being tested on "Mikey needs 60 mg of this drug, and there are 20 mg per capsule, how many capsules should he take?" PEOPLE: I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO ANSWER STUPID QUESTIONS. The questions are so entirely asinine that I have to sit there and roll my eyes for ten seconds before I even begin to answer them. This is why I dropped out of school before, but also because I want to be a midwife REALLY SUPER BAD I am willing to endure this madness. 

I finished my three exams in an hour. I tried really hard to write sloppy so that maybe some of my "short answers" would lead my teacher to believe that I got the main concept and probably knew what I was talking about. C's Get Degrees. Mixed in with this was some texting back and forth with the sitter about whether or not Titus needed a nap. God help us, he is almost done with naps! 

I "changed dresses" again and jetted out to visit a mom who I had had the immense privilege of attending her birth just two days before. My preceptor met me there to supervise me. Haven't I been saying for YEARS that I need supervision?!? Finally someone gets it. We did a check up on mamma and sweet (gasy) baby, and a small victory for me that will make no difference to most of you reading this: I got my pulse ox machine to work!!!!! It's quite tricky, actually. And when you are trying to inform parents of whether or not their new tiny little precious baby has passed screening for heart defects, you sort of want to know what you are talking about. Whew! 

Can you believe my husband texted me at this point and asked what he should make for dinner? (See? I told you he was awesome!) Unfortunately, my plan for the evening was eggplant parmesan and he absolutely does not know how to prepare that. 

I made it home in time to hug kids and cook dinner! Look at me! So domesticated! 

Yes, i did put goat cheese in the eggplant parm. Yes, it was awesome. 

I left my sweet husband instructions on baking time and headed out to Zumba toning. Zumba toning is mostly hip-hop with a lot of body rolls (abs) and squats (glutes) and we use weights. I obstinately insist on using the heaviest weights and simultaneously hate myself for it every week. We sweat so much that mascara is dripping down our faces by the end of class. I love it.

My family had saved me the tiny bit of eggplant parm that was left and the kids were following up with bowls (and bowls) of cereal. I think we all have tape worms. 

I'm going to bed with my ringer on since we have a few moms within dates, and one in particular that would really love to have her baby tonight. 

Are you tired? I am.

Edited to add: I slept for approximately 2 hours before getting called out to a birth.  

on mother's day

oday was my tenth year to celebrate Mother’s Day, since we began celebrating when Arwen was in utero.

I have hated almost every single Mother’s Day, and I really can’t explain why. Is it the unmet expectations? The ridiculous notion that moms of littles get a day off? Is it self condemnation, feeling that I don’t deserve the honor?

This year, I am super sick and exhausted on Mother’s Day. And it was the best Mother’s Day ever.

I got to sleep in because we didn’t go to church since I’m sick and a couple of the kids were looking run down.

After breakfast, the kids and Brent had gifts for me.

They sang to me and started the presentation.

Evie and Titus got into a fight over who got to carry the last gift, and Brent went to break it up. He still had his guitar on and accidentally smacked Evie in the face with it.

You can’t see him, but Titus was crying too.

Eventually they calmed down and I got to open my last gift.

Only, Titus snatched them up and wouldn’t take them off.

eanwhile, the other kids were running amuck and being berserk.

We finally got shoes and everything on the kids because Brent wanted to take me to lunch. My first restaurant choice had an hour and a half wait, so we punted it and I picked something I thought the kids would enjoy, since I felt too sick to really eat much. They all feasted, I had soup. Totally happy with it.

After a nap, I tried to go shopping with some coupons I’d been saving up, but I couldn’t stop sweating and feeling faint, so I skunked back home and Brent put me to bed.

Sounds pretty sucky, right? When I told Brent this was the best Mother’s Day ever, he remarked that he must have really neglected me all those other years.

But that’s not it at all. The difference is that I’ve let go of all the extra expectations of what defines motherhood that have been pressed into my head for so long. Those ideologies that glorify the stay at home mom over the work outside the home mom, they are damaging to the stay at home mom too. Because, what if you stay home, but you really suck at it?

When we define biblical motherhood as staying home, cheerful-excited even- about dishes, as using all of our gifts solely for homemaking and child rearing, as being beautiful soft spoken women, as having 19 children, as being the number one highest calling, as being the base of your identity….

There is no place for the mom that sucks at housekeeping, that has desires to use her gifts outside the home, that is genetically predispositioned like a bull in a china shop, that realizes you don’t have to prove that you love kids by having a million of them, or that really doesn’t like even being a mom sometimes.

It’s because that is not a definition of biblical motherhood. That’s a definition of someone’s skewed ideas about motherhood In reaction to the culture we live in today. And I reject it. Almost all of it.

I tried to fit in to the patriarchal community, and it was like jamming a square peg into a circle shaped hole. It was painful and uncomfortable, and it resulted in me hating motherhood and all of its demands altogether.

My identity is not found in my current role as mother. My identity is found In Christ. And He calls me to serve Him, love Him, BE loved by Him, and to love His people.

Motherhood is not the greatest calling. Following Christ is the greatest calling, and that affects the kind of mother that I am.

It means that I administer grace and mercy in my home. It means that I serve others, including my children, first. It means that I consider the lowly, in this case the young, and meet their needs. It means that I do all to the glory of God.

So, how do you have the best Mother’s Day ever?

Be loved by God.

Know that you are His delight, His joy, made for His glory. Know that the gift of children that He has given to you is a reflection of His creative nature, and we get to partner with Him in that each time we give birth. Women are greatly favored in this way.

God loves you, Mamma. When your floors are filthy, when your children misbehave, when your kid can’t read, when you yell because you have had enough, when you pick up fast food (again), when you complain about it all on Facebook (again), when you fail over and over, He loves you. His love is not contingent on what kind of mother you are. His love is contingent on His nature that never changes. He.is.love.

Yes, God loves you.

Even when you let your kid play with knives.

growing up unrestrained

This is part two of my story. 

The days before child restraints were awesome! We laid in the back windshield or the floor board of the car. We piled up pillows between us when my mom wanted us to hush and stop fighting. My big brother, Matt, and I would sit in the back seat of our Chrystler New Yorker and see whose feet could touch the floor board. I carved his name into the hood of that car with a rock. Yes, I did. That car talked. It would tell us “a door is ajar” or “your fuel is low”.

I don’t remember being told, “Don’t get dirty,” or “No, you can’t help me.” From what I can remember, my childhood was wild and free. We didn’t have to go to school on our birthday! Sometimes we’d skip and all go to the beach. My mom took me places with her and skipped in the parking lot with me, holding hands. Lots of time outside, lots of time playing imaginative games with my brother in our underwear. (I realized recently that my kids don’t let loose enough. They’d freak out if I told them not to wear pants while they watched a movie!) We watched Mighty Mouse and Tom & Jerry, but never He-man, because “Only God is the Master of the Universe.”

My mom helped me remember that at some point I started to come home everyday from school crying because I felt left out. I had all kinds of social awkwardness and it all stemmed from the feeling that no one really wanted me there. Rejection. I don’t know when it started or if there was a specifically traumatic event that sparked this, but I would go on to struggle with it my whole life. To this day, when I make a phone call I worry that the person I’m calling will feel disappointed that it’s just me, and I will definitely assume that if they don’t answer it’s because they didn’t want to talk to me or had something more important to do. Even as a child I felt this. I felt like every time someone whispered they were talking about me. (I don’t feel that way anymore, for the record.) Every giggle was because I had a booger on my nose that I didn’t know about or because my clothes were stupid or…

I had to take speech therapy at my new school when we moved. It worked! Although once Brent convinced me I had a speech impediment still, for like a whole day. When I was in third grade my great-grandmother (my Grandad’s mom) passed away. I was really sad about it, and I think this was the first time someone died and I really understood that they were gone and not coming back.

Sometime around this I had a birthday party that involved a slip n slide and wrapped up with a Petra concert! Rockin! 

My fourth grade year ushered in a very difficult decade for my parents. The church they pastored was experiencing a real, legit, revival. People were actually getting saved and sticking around. I can remember hearing testimonies from drug addicts being set free. A “rock band” was playing the Sunday morning worship. The church elders were not happy. I guess they were much like the religious elite of Jesus’ time. Details are foggy for me, but I do remember that they stopped paying my dad. (My parents were about to buy a house that sat right behind the church.) A smear campaign involving lies and secret meetings was difficult for my parents to bear. They stayed for the sake of the work of the gospel that was being done in that small Florida city. I saw my dad weep a lot. Not cry. Weep. This was perhaps the greatest work of his ministry, and some old nasty jealous men were just sending it all up in flames. Maybe this is when my fear of rejection really set in. What makes me the most sad now, is to imagine the confusion that the new believers must have felt, and how the lies that these men spread about a good pastor tarnished the testimony that could have been.

Matt and I got sent away for the summer to Virginia to stay with my Mamaw and Papaw. There wasn’t much to do there, but that summer was probably one of the funnest of my life. We sat outside under the kitchen window and listened to Mamaw fuss while she did the dishes. We watched Papaw work his garden. Matt would sit and make up funny stories to make me laugh when I felt sad.

I can’t remember when we came back home, but I’m pretty sure we moved to a house on a big hill. About 100 people left that church and came with my parents to start a non denominational church. My parents were hurt and not the same for a very long time.   Am I going to slow? I’m working up to big big things that I realized as I was writing all of this out (in much longer format) in my journal. Write your story, people! 

when life is painful, part 2

I owe you an apology. In this space I try to be raw and unveiled, but also inspiring and hopeful. I had to end yesterday’s post abruptly because of a little one’s needs, and I feel like I left everyone dangling in hopeless pain. Let’s finish the story.

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (Jesus- John 16:32-33)

There you have it. Jesus promises that life is going to be difficult. Hard. Disturbing. Any preacher who tries to sell an abundant life full of riches and comfort is not following the Jesus that walked long miles, dealt with extreme hatred from his own people, forgave freely, and died a painful death.

So let’s all just give up and die, right? But, wait! Jesus has overcome the world. I don’t have to. Whew. Thank you, Jesus.

Rend Collective has a new album out called The Art of Celebration and you need to go buy it as son as you’re done here.

The first song, Joy, says this:

The pain will not define us

Joy will reignite us

You’re the song of our hearts

The dark is just a canvas for your grace and brightness

You’re the song of our hearts!

In the shadows

In the sorrows

In the desert

When the pain hits

You are constant

Ever present

You’re the song of my heart!

You can hear the whole song here.

People, if you ain’t got Jesus I hope you get him soon, because this life is dang hard and unless you have some super powers, you can’t save yourself from it. Being good doesn’t help avoid the pain or save us from it. Thinking happy thoughts is only temporary. Jesus promises life beyond this temporary world and he is the one constant never failing hope.

Jesus is the joy in the pain. Trusting God means that I know that while life is painful, he’s working it out.

My sister-in-law wrote a book. You should also go get it now. It’s called Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God

Oh my heck, you will laugh. You will cry. You will reminisce about Kris Kross and maybe even want to get out your old Michael Jackson albums. I have read and reread it because it’s encouraging. Today I picked it up and read the chapter called The Rhythm of Fighting. She’s just finished describing a period of her life that was particularly painful.

In some cases the change in our rhythm that comes with the beat down breaks us. We’re left puzzled, stuck and sometimes without motivation to begin again. But you don’t get to quit because it’s tough, uncomfortable, or inconvenient. There are some times in life when you need to fight to the finish. Each time you do prepares you for the next time you feel like life is closing in on you and teaches you to trust the One who knows all things. The beat down is, sometimes, a means to breaking rhythm.

Breaking rhythm is about change, about dealing with delay, pause, surprise and all of the moments when life doesn’t unfold the way we want or expect. God always knows and always has a plan. A friend of mine use to pray, “Thank you, God, that nothing occurs to you.”

As I drove Charis, quickly and gently, to the emergency room, having left all my other children at home while their Daddy quickly drove over, Charis was freaking out in the seat next to me. And rightly so. So I prayed out loud and tried not to cry, ” God, you knew that Charis was going to break her arm today. You go before us and behind us, and you knew we would go to this hospital at this time and you have put those doctors there today and whatever is going to happen, we trust You.”

My life rhythms have been MESSED UP, y’all. I can’t tell you everything. (I swear I’m not being vague for the sake of drama.) I went to Austin for IF, I read Jesus Feminist and Freefall to Fly, after weeks of asking God to help me surrender so that I could be free.

And that great Deejay in the Sky responded by scratchin my records all up.

No. He scratched them all up and changed the direction and played some hits backwards and now I think He has decided to skip to a new album completely. But He always makes beautiful music, so I’m okay with it.

I hope all of these things inspire you to be hopeful too. I know that everyone has pain. Not everyone is as transparent about it, but we’ve all got it. Everyone is fighting a battle, but Jesus has conquered the world.

So, take heart.

in which life = pain

On any average week, you could say that we are Rolling with the Punches.

The punches somehow went from minor annoyances to great big bruising blows lately.

The first pain was when somehow the lack of rest my body gets in contrast with the amount of use it gets caught up with me. For weeks, I’ve been walking around like a granny, when I could walk, with hip pain. I’ve done every weird physical therapy exercise on YouTube, except the one where this man sticks his fingers up his rear (you know you wanna click it. Do it!)

I even had to stop running for the last six weeks! But I think the chiropractor and I have worked it out, so this pain has ended.

The next pain came more around the posterior region when an errant cop pulled me over and I proceeded to lose my crap all over him. Not literally, although he probably needed to be knocked down a few notches.

Anyway. Junior Cop had the nerve to write me up for a misdemeanor when all I was doing was driving out to the country store to buy chicken feed for my illegal chickens.

And I’ll just insert a rant here. Would the entire UNIVERSE just leave me alone? Let me birth my babies where I want, feed my family food I grew myself, and drive down the dang road crying. Seriously. There are actual criminals out there, people littering even. Live and let live, people. There has got to be a bumper sticker for that.

Back to the pain In the rear. It was a clerical error at the tag department, and I showed Junior Cop this evidence, which he verified himself before writing the ticket.

Luckily the solicitor for Podunk City, Georgia was smart enough to see there was a law suit brewing and dismissed my case.

Case: Dismissed. Thug Mamma OUT!

We had a bit of pleasure thrown in for Easter because my mom saved the day and did everything for me. (I did make the carrot cake.) (Strike that... Charis made the carrot cake.)

And I swear this is the only picture I got of my kids in the only pair of nice clothes they own. I am that mom.

Finally, Charis fell out of a tree and broke bones in her arm. It was freaky weird looking. I won’t post pictures of it because I don’t want you to throw up. You just need to know that it was all There Was a Crooked Man and they tried various torture devises before finally inserting a very large needle and injecting lidocaine so that they could come back later and torture her some more. Her back arched, her eyes got wide, and I went into doula mode, beckoning her to relax and breathe with me and look into my eyes. “Melt into the bed” really works for a variety of pain circumstances, FYI, including having your bones snapped and crackled back into place.

We came home and scrubbed the MRSA off of ourselves and I cried what I couldn’t cry because I was being strong for her.

Pain. The normal response is to run from it, to escape it. But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to press into it, stare it down, absorb it, and blow it away. Sometimes you just gotta call out to Jesus for help. I’m doing it all.

in the beginning

"If women aren’t empowered to cultivate their uniqueness, we all suffer the loss of beauty, creativity, and resourcefulness they were meant to inject into the world.” Freefall to Fly, Rebekah Lyons

At this time, 33 years ago, my mother was nearing her due date with what she had been told would be another boy. Chasing a two year old around all day while pregnant with a good sized baby, she would have been devastated to know she still had a couple more weeks to wait.

Finally, on April 28, 1981 in West Virginia (they had to drive over and around mountains to get to the hospital in Maryland where I was born. My poor mom needed a mountain midwife!), my mom went into real labor. I would be the fastest to arrive of all her babies. I gave her a four hour labor, spent with leather cuffs to hold her wrists to the bed (to ensure she was in the most convenient position for the doctor) with no pain meds, even when it wasn’t popular to do so. My parents took a cassette recorder into the delivery room, so I know well the doctor’s exclamations of, “Big girl! BIG girl!!” And comments about how my mom nearly launched me across the room as I came out. My mom wept in unbelief that she’d finally gotten a dark haired baby girl. Never mind I was the size of a two month old at 9 lb, 15 ounces and two feet long!

My older brother tried to run away he day they brought me home from the hospital. I slept so well that they put me in a crib in my own room that very night.

I have vague memories as a two year old at Christmas, and toys that now would be considered “vintage”.

Shortly after that we moved to the Myrtle Beach area as my parents graduated to the Senior Pastor position at an Assemblies of God church.

I had surgery to remove my tonsils and adenoids and put tubes in my ears, after an early childhood of ear infection after ear infection, with antibiotics failing at every turn.

We moved two or three times around that town, always going from small rental house to small rental house. No matter where we went my mom made it pretty. No matter where we went, we played in neighbor’s yards in a safe little world, where children could go down the street and you could count on the kindness of others to look after them. People weren’t distracted so much then that they didn’t noticed the small people.

When it was time for me to start four year old kindergarten, my parents started a private school at our church, and my mom was my teacher. I didn’t much like having to share her with all those other kids, so I performed many antics which frequently landed me I the principal’s office for a spanking. (Guess who the principal was. Yep. My dad.) I would lay out prostrate during the middle of class, or dramatically prop my feet up on the desk or make as much humming noise as I could while mom tried to teach. Sorry, Mom!

It was sometime after this that I sat in time out and felt conviction of sin for the first time. Silently, and all alone, I prayed for God’s forgiveness and committed my life to serving the One who could free me from sin.

I remember always having other kids follow me around. I was always the boss when we played, handing out imaginary roles and they dutifully followed my lead.

My birthday parties were always crowded because my mom had many people to consider when she made the guest list. Everyone wanted to come to the pastor’s kid’s parties. So there was usually a separate party for immediate family and real friends.

Halfway through my second grade year, my parents went away to Florida to interview for a church there. I got the mumps while they were gone and it was terribly painful and miserable without my mamma. They came back with announcements that we were moving.

to be continued….

start here

I’m going to try to sneak back to this space where I write things.

Hold on. Let me get some milk for Titus.

Okay, I’m back, and I just bought myself at least ten minutes.

You know I used to write, like, a lot? I enjoyed it. Making lists, writing poems, thinking thoughts. But I don’t get the opportunity to think very often, so when I do, it comes out like an overflowing torrent like the, ahem, last post.

I woke up thinking so many things this morning, but life got in the way and there was a possum to kill (I’m pretty sure it ate all the eggs I was going to cook today), and now Sesame Street rings out from the living room and there are people, real people with real needs, that need me so very much.

I’ve been in a funk. The good kind of funk where you just get fed up and stand up for yourself, sometimes against your very own self, and put to death what needs to die so that new life can spring forth grow. (Seriously, I might die if I hear the phrase “spring forth” ever again. Y’all feel me?)

Anyway, my mamma has been faithfully watching over me and worrying herself, and cautiously starting conversations with me during this funk. And the other day she reminded me of how I use to write. I use to think things.

Mothers are frustrated. Some of us are angry. Most of us are depressed. We are carrying heavy burdens of what the world says mothers should do (everything), what the church says mothers should do (only be mothers), and what our hearts say they want to do (if we can remember).

I reject the notion that mother’s have to relegate themselves to a life of brain inactivity. Sure, for a time we are so sleep deprived, so food and water deprived, so time deprived, that we may have trouble remembering what day it is. And for the love, no one can spout out seven individual’s birth dates at the drop of a hat. But, we are smart, and we are strong, and by golly, we think things.

So let’s stop joking that we are stupid or crazy or brain dead. And if you feel that way about yourself, wake up! Drink some coffee, read a book/magazine/blog while your kid’s watch tv (I give you permission), turn your brains on.

Recently I asked myself, “Who is Missi?” The name felt foreign on my “lips”. I realized that I didn’t know. Listening too long to the traditions of man, the opinions of others, my own guilt, I have lost Missi. Missi! The girl who changed her name in fourth grade to Lisa. Missi! The girl who finally decided to keep her real name, but only if she could spell it her own way. Missi! The girl knit together by the very mind of God, the creator of the universe!

Find yourself. Beyond diapers, beyond vaccine debates, beyond second grade math or seventh grade history. Why? Because you are uniquely created to bring glory to God. Mamma, you are as beautiful and deep as the ocean! You are smart! You are strong! How do I know? Because you are made in the image of God!

Now that I have begun to give myself permission to think, to have ideas, and thoughts…. I am finding freedom to enjoy the restrictions placed on me by my brood of little people. My guilt is lifting. In an ironic sort of way, knowing that I was made for more has set me free to enjoy where I am right now. (And you know good and well that I am not talking about enjoying explosive diapers or getting throw up in my ear at 2 am. I’m talkin’ ’bout enjoying the season.)

Find yourself. Who were you when you were 8? What were your dreams and plans? What about when you were 12,15,20?? What major turning points have happened in your life, besides having babies? Can you remember? I almost can’t, but I’m going to try. Why? Because your story is important. It’s part of His story. It’s what our children and grandchildren will want to hear one day. But mostly, because it’s part of what makes you uniquely you.

I’m going to start at the beginning of me. I’d love it if you’d join me! Start your story, from the beginning. In a journal, on a blog, wherever. In the process, I suspect we will face fears, let go, find forgiveness, remember our gifts, reignite our passions, and be free to be who God made us to be.

Sesame Street is over now, but I got way more than ten minutes anyway. 

If I am singing your song, I highly suggest you read Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons.

IF we can be free

This is my attempt to regurgitate what I learned at the IF: Gathering a couple weeks ago. I quoted directly when I could, but most of these truths came from the mouths of the likes of Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, Shellie Giglio, etc. I see the same movement, the same call being put out there in many circles. Which was, in fact, the goal of the IF:Gathering- to pull in all people from all denominations and get real.

Can we get real with one another? It feels a bit like asking y’all to get naked with me. But please do keep your clothes on. 

Can I ask you something?

Are you free?

What does that even mean?

Do you cost anything? Does your life cost something?

Or

Are you available? Not tied up?

Or

Are you not enslaved?

Close your eyes and imagine, what does your free self look like? What does a free life look like? If God is real, then what? What does that mean in your life, in my life?

Contrast that with your life now. Really, stop and think about it.

Are you free? Or are you weighted down, in bondage, your life isn’t costing anything, tied up, unavailable, enslaved.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galations 5:1

It’s possible to be delivered, and not free. It’s possible to continually go back to what previously enslaved us.

It’s possible to continue sticking our feet back in the mire that God pulled us from. It’s possible to shackle ourselves back up. After all, didn’t the Israelites beg to go back into captivity? We do the same.

I want to be free. Weightless, aware of what my life costs- a payment I did not have to make, available, untied, unbound.

Christine Cain said, “If hurt people hurt people, free people free people.” I couldn’t help but think about the movie, The Matrix. And I see that in the church. Like fish that don’t know we are wet, we are walking around bound because we are still.not.free. We don’t live like we’re free. We get stuck, tied down by the same sins continually, when the victory has been won. We trifle through silly debates, we defend the gospel like its a sweet little kitten and we are bound in fear like we don’t know that we belong to an indestructible kingdom. We don’t live like we believe God is real, that heaven is real.

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Hebrew 12:12-13

Rebekah Lyons pointed out that we struggle to be free because we struggle with healing, and we struggle with healing because we struggle with confession.

On this path to freedom in Christ, what do you need to confess? What strongholds in your life need to be brought into submission to Christ Jesus? (Is it an addiction? Is it pure unadulterated selfishness? Is it loving this world more than you love Him? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it refusal to fully surrender? Is it not believing the truth of who you are in Christ? Is it unbelief? What is holding you back from peace with God? From living in total joy and peace through Him, despite your circumstances? )

Ps 84 describes the life of those who are free, who have peace with God:

- they are dwelling in the presence of God, and enjoying the heck out of it. (V 1-2)

- they are being useful and doing their work in His presence. And Mammas, how precious is verse three? “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.” Build your nest in His presence. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we are all free to be in His presence.

- their strength is in God (v5)

- they go through dry places (there is no promise of an easy life here), and they make it a place of fresh springs (v6) {How do they do that? I want to know!}

- they are doorkeepers to God’s presence (v 10)

What does your life invite people to? Are you a free person freeing people?

Are you broken by sin or are you being broken and poured out for others? Do you want to be free? Are you ready to love God and be loved by God? Like really, for real? In a way that liberates you to freely love and serve others. Is this world your home? Is it all you’ve got? Then what?

I don’t have all the answers. But I have tasted and seen. I know there is freedom to be had. I know that overcoming is a possibility.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I know that this overcoming is possible, because it is not by my hand or through anything I can do.

Come with me on this journey?

birthright gifts

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts- then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them, ” (Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)

 

So, here we are going into my fifth grade year and my parents have started a non-denominational church and we are pretty much poor. My dad took up whatever side jobs he could get- even delivering photos for Olan Mills Photography. (Side note: They set up and took photos in hotel rooms. Does anyone else find that creepy weird?) Mom taught at the private school that Matt and I attended, which is good because I got my period in the middle of taking SATs that year. I had just turned 11. I wore gigantic plastic framed welfare glasses, and I was pretty sure everyone was talking about me all the time.

Boy, that sucked.

At the same time, my mom noticed an abrupt absence of her monthlies, and so my parents took Matt and I to the fanciest restaurant we could afford- Olive Garden. They had an important announcement.

At 40 years old, with her youngest child 11, my mom was pregnant. My parents were freaking out in all kinds of ways, but all I knew was that I wanted a baby brother.

Matt and I had our rooms on the opposite end of the house as my parents. One of those cool transparent phones was mounted to the wall between our rooms, and it had a really long cord so that we could take the receiver into our rooms for conversating with friends. We had a tiny 12″ black and white tv- WITH NO REMOTE, CHILDREN- that somehow we had gotten cable onto. I don’t ask questions about this. But Matt and I were each allowed to pick 30 minutes of television to torture the other with each day. I usually picked Kids Incorporated…

K….I…..D….S….YEAH!

Matt got caught stealing a neighbor’s hood ornament that year. We also would sneak to the cul de sac to play Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer on the boom box.

Mom taught that whole school year, and the doctors were very strict about how much weight she could gain and how far overdue they would let her go because of her age. We walked a lot. I found her birth books at some point and could not stop reading . I think I mostly did it in secret, but that birth stuff fascinated me. I was particularly struck with the water birth pictures and details.

The new school year began and since mom wasn’t working at our school, we went to public school. This was our first time outside of private schooling. Florida was still very segregated during that time, and I went to the “white” middle school, and Matt went to the “white high school” as a freshman. He always had an urban flair though, and I think he got beat up for it. I don’t remember much of my sixth grade year there, so it must have been uneventful. I do remember playing a lot of Oregon Trail in computer lab. 

Eventually they decided to induce my mom at the big fancy hospital with its birth suites. The plan was that I would get to watch  my little sister be born. My mom was adamant about not wanting an epidural (both my older brother and I had been born with no drugs, and she meant business), so they sent the anesthesiologist home several hours into her induction. The Friday night line up of television shows came on (remember that? Remember all the fun family sitcoms that would come on Friday nights?), and my mom’s doctor headed down the hall to chill. Mom started screaming and hollering, and Matt and I headed up to another floor because we couldn’t handle it. No one believed her at first, but her baby was coming really super fast and she had changed her mind about that epidural.

Unfortunately it was too late, and just before 10 pm a little boy was born. God had heard my prayers apparently, and my parents also apparently had a whole bunch of pink stuff to return. David Paul joined our family on October 16, 1992. The doctor was so touched by my parent’s love for the Lord that he covered the entire birth. They paid nothing.

We were still pretty poor for a while. There were times when we didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, and mom or dad would find a check in the mail box or someone left some groceries literally on the doorstep. I learned a lot about trusting God to provide during this time. I can’t imagine how terrifying it was for my parents, but they always displayed complete faith. Since David was a baby, we qualified for WIC food stamps, and took full advantage.

Before we knew it, it was summer time and my parents had been ordained with Foursquare Ministries International and we were being sent to Atlanta to plant a church! Shortly before 4th of July weekend, we packed up and moved. My job during the move was mainly to keep David happy, and I was much obliged to do so since he was so cute and stuff.

We moved  in to a rental house in Morrow, Georgia and got all set up to start attending the local public schools there. Matt integrated fine into Forest Park High School as a sophomore, but I struggled at Babb Middle School as a seventh grader. On top of the culture shock of being moved to a South Atlanta middle school, it just down right sucked. Most days the teachers just yelled over the students, there were lots of fights, and I kept getting sick and having migraines. By Christmas break my parents could see that I couldn’t take any more and withdrew me.

This is me, Matt, and David around this time, with our Papaw. It was around this time that we started to teach David to call the Easter Bunny the “Easter Monkey”. We had a lot of fun taking care of him and helping raise him.

more than a midwife

“518….517…516…515………..514……..513,”  I counted down the room numbers in my head as we passed. My legs felt numb, like they were carrying me against my wishes.

Only a couple of hours earlier we had gotten the call that our very dear friend and midwife had suffered cardiac arrest and was in ICU. Her situation was very grave as she had been without oxygen for too much time.

We had just happened to be in town looking at houses. So excited to get to live near her again! Later the realization would hit me that if Brent had gotten the job weeks earlier, when we thought he should, we would not have been in town to be with someone we love so dearly.

Crinkle… Crack… Crack… As I crush and peel garlic for our soup for dinner I think of Terri and how she was the first person to introduce me to raw garlic instead of “garlic powder”. Who knew you could use the real stuff? You can bake your own bread? Every meal doesn’t have to involve meat? How much vitamin c can i give the baby? Should the umbilical cord smell like that? Do you think this wound needs stitches and can you come do it? Can you come make my baby come out? (x 5, y’all. The woman is patient!) She was the first to introduce me to a lot of things.

As one of her other friends put it recently, Terri singlehandedly shaped the way that I view pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, health, wellness, food, herbs, medicine, and life… and death. Terri and I have shared tears at funerals. I’m not a good enough writer to pen the profoundness in experiencing the circle of life come to an end for a soul with someone who has personally ushered in hundreds and hundreds of lives. The similarities are many. The ushering in and ushering out of lives. The compassion and tender touch that that requires is not lost to Terri.

As I cuddled Ezra and read his bedtime book I realized that Terri had given us that book. And boxes and boxes more children’s books. Every time she visited her arms were full of books because she loves my children and knows how much they love to read.

At those moments throughout the day when I hold my little ones close and thank God for another moment with them, I think of Terri who was so pivotal in their arrivals and I thank God for her through each moment of the day too.

I have spent the last few days reflecting on the last 9 years with Terri. I can remember almost every single interaction because Terri threw her entire self into it. She loved hard and wholeheartedly. She never sat down! (Unless it was to hold a baby.) She was always laughing. Even when I was in excruciating pain, and it wasn’t even annoying.

To see her laying so still in a hospital bed is just unnatural.

Yesterday I stopped a nurse who was about to bathe her. “I want you to know this woman delivered all five of my babies,” I wept. As I told her about the exceptional care that Terri had given to me and h u n d r e d s of other mothers, Terri opened her eyes and stared at me, blinking occassionally. I don’t know how much she heard or understood what I was saying but I stared back and continued to tell anyone who would listen that this woman spent her life caring for others and we really appreciated every little action they did to make her more comfortable and get better. I rubbed her feet as much as I could. How many hours has Terri spent rubbing my feet, my back, my arms, my head…holding my hand during my most uncomfortable moments e v e r.

She’s seen me naked more times than she could ever want to recall. The woman knows my body just as well as I do. Which is why she was able to diagnose me and prescribe treatment over the phone last summer when I was sick, after two different doctors had seen me in person and run many tests and not had a stinking clue.

Personally, I am holding Terri with open hands. As Ann Voskamp says, “Joy’s a flame in the palm of the open & humble. Clench the hand tight, point fingers to self and this snuffs out joy.” I thank the Lord repeatedly every hour that passes for the time we have had with Terri so far and humbly petition Him for more. I believe very strongly that the Lord numbers our days and He will fulfill His purpose for Terri. I can trust Him. Haven’t I been learning that along the way so very recently?

I can trust Him. We can trust Him. You can trust Him. He.is.good. He gave us Terri. 

'splain, Lucy!

Before I launch into an explanation of how everything fell through and then… didn’t, let’s review the journey so far:

  • In March (MARCH, people! That’s 6 months ago.) I first felt that the Lord was getting ready to do something with us.
  • In April we decided we’d move somewhere local since we were bursting at the seams in our current house. We started making lists of home repairs and slowly checking them off.
  • We had a normal summer of farmers markets. Evie pooped everywhere.
  • In late June we decided that Brent would apply for a position in Atlanta. Here’s what you need to know: previously he had been asked to apply for a position on this specific team. But he always turned it down because we didn’t feel our time in Alabama was done yet. (Regardless of how badly my heart ached for the Promised Land. Even I knew it wasn’t time.)
  • In very early July we began trying to sell the house. It immediately generated a lot of interest, but mostly renters and leasers. We made a list of things to do to get the house sold.
  • I began packing.
  • Everyone but me got really sick. Then I cracked my head open with the hoe. Then Brent and the big kids went to Atlanta while he worked hard on getting the new job and I worked myself silly packing, painting, painting, and painting. And also getting myself stranded over night with the babies while Brent was out of town. This was a big week.
  • In late July we had a terrible time crashing my parent’s vacation.
  • Early August found us showing the house and the truck breaking down again.
  • Mid August I started to feel a little scared.
  • We finished up our farmers markets, expecting that they were the last.
  • Late August. Brent interviewed and did not get the job. See, what had happened was…. at the very last minute a dude that works in another region decided he wanted a lateral move. The interview panel logically chose him since he’s been in the industry a good ten years longer than Brent. (Incidentally, almost every time Brent has interviewed he gets knocked out by someone with more experience. How do you get experience in this scenario? It’s been frustrating to say the least. And we were so.close. And then lost.)
  • We spend the next two weeks trying to deal with the confusion of hearing God so clearly say “GO” and then slam the door shut in our faces. What the what?! It was depressing. A lot of chocolate was consumed. I gained 10 pounds, I’m sure. We sort of shut ourselves in as a family and tried to decide what to do.

And here is where the explaining begins…

I was literally unpacking boxes and praying lots (and crying intermittently) on Brent’s day off that week when he got a phone call. The phone call.

Y’all listen to this madness and tell me that it wasn’t the Lord’s doing: Through the interview process one of the other team members realized that she didn’t have the passion for the job that Brent so obviously exuded. (He really is suited for this particular position rather well.) So she quit. Who does that in this economy? Quit your job? Because you think someone else is more awesome for it?

So now the same position was open again. (Remember it’s a team of people. The other guy that had interviewed against Brent was still on the team… and super excited about the prospect of getting to work with Brent. Because my man is the bomb. Just saying’…)

We had cancelled the pending contract on our home. We had deleted our list of Atlanta houses we’d found available. I was unpacking boxes. In the middle of trying to cope and get a grip, everything got switched up again.

And we still had to wait one.more.week. A formality, they had to internally post the position for seven days. In case someone else wanted to apply.

I know. Ridiculousness. Only two people applied last time. They hired one. There was another spot on the team and one guy left to take it. Duh.

We chose not to tell anyone except a handful of people that we knew would pray with us and understand what we were going through. We didn’t tell the kids. We didn’t start looking for houses. We did nothing but pray. And stare at each other a lot. Because we were determined not to talk about it and get our hopes up. It was a quiet week.

And then they made us wait one.more.day. More protocol. Everyone on the interview panel had to be emailed and given the chance to state any reservations they had about giving Brent the job. (Of course, no one had any reservations.)

On September 7th, almost one week ago, we found out that Brent got the job! For sure! The Lord was granting me the desire of my heart. A desire that had been so strong, yet denied for so long. A desire that I let die and lay buried, forever as far as I was concerned. And also a desire of Brent’s heart… a promotion, a spot on a team that he really wanted to work with.

In our heart break we had rashly reserved a spot at our favorite beach spot for this week. Brent’s birthday week, and a new family tradition.

What a perfect place to be to reflect. To let go of things, like the tide washes away the old sand. To receive God’s good gifts, just like the tide offers treasures of shells and creatures in return. 

I’ve been studying the book of Deuteronomy and here are the take aways from this whole journey so far:

  • My lot is secure in the Lord. What He has promised, He gives. In Deuteronomy he told the people of Israel to leave three different people groups alone on their way to the Promised Land, because He had given that land to those people.
  • I don’t need to fight the battle. If it’s His battle, the Lord will fight for me. All I have to do is trust, obey, and wait. If I’m fighting, it must not be His battle, and it’s probably not worth fighting for.
  • God has been faithful to us along the way in our journey through Alabama. Hard times and good times, He is always there. Always carrying us, always answering prayers, always loving. Always, God is faithful and loving. Working on our behalf, even when we don’t see it or feel it or know it.

People, you can trust God. He is real, He is sure, and He is Lord whether you acknowledge it or not!

Boy do we have a lot of work ahead of us. Finding a house, buying a house, getting loose ends on our current house tied up, and moving. The journey isn’t over yet. 

either I'm crazy or I'm on to something

After a long stretch of physical, spiritual, and emotional unrest, things have been peaceful.

I’ve been practicing The Liturgy of the Hours. It’s a Monastic and Benedictine practice of pausing for prayer at seven appointed times during the day.

{Best Valley Girl accent} I’m, like, totally praying all day long.

I’m not a great pray-er. I get distracted approximately 3.5 seconds into bowing my head, my words are jumbled, and I just can’t think of what to pray about. Pretty pathetic.

To make matters worse, when my world comes crashing in around me, it never occurs to me to pray. Freaking heck.

Don’t get me wrong, praying seven times a day has not been magical or easy yet. I’ve only been doing it a few days with some sparse information I got online. And let’s be real, I’m at home with five kids all day. My prayers often go like this:

Lord, thank you for this day… stop licking the table… Uhhh, Lord…err…

Which is why I ordered a book with guided prayer topics and suggested scripture readings. Because prayer is a discipline. And carving out time to pray is something of a fast. Once you are done working out the logistics you find actual communion with God.

I’m already seeing results, even though I’m probably doing it “wrong”. Last night’s Property Virgins episode was in the Promised Land. In our price range. And instead of packing to move into one of the homes parading across the screen like I thought I would be, I’ve been unpacking. All the anger, disappointment, feelings like something had been promised and then stolen….it all started to rage.

Mercifully, my phone alarm clock chimed. It was time for The Great Silence, a time set aside for letting go. Gently evaluating the day and setting aside struggles to welcome rest and new mercies for tomorrow. I was forced to pause. Forced to acknowledge the Lord’s presence and hand in my life. Forced to commune with the Maker of the Universe as I was created to do. What a ridiculously wonderful blessing.

The first stuff we got out of storage was the school stuff. Our home is so complete with the massive black shelf with books and such weighing it down. Attitudes changed immediately and we haven’t even officially started yet.

They were like pirrhanas (I’m too lazy to spell check that.) attacking the books and demanding that I give them work to do.

We will start back to school when we get back from our 8 day beach vacation. You heard me. Since we ruined the last vacation, we are trying again.

Edited to Add: I had abruptly ended this because my kids were begging me for lunchI had nothing more to say. And later I checked in at Ann Voskamp’s blog. Her blog post today brought it full circle. Is it any wonder that two weeks into a vacation from Facebook that it occurred to me to pray more? She has such a way with words and said it better than I could have. I am being blessed by the ceremony of pausing to pray that is being squeezed into my schedule. I am being blessed by checking out of social media for a time and checking in to the moments happening in the present. Even the hard ones. 

when God's grace screams

I had big plans for today.

I spent most of the morning chasing down chickens while stressing out at everyone about a house showing we had later on in the afternoon.

And we had some places to go.

First, we had a meeting for our home school cover school. We, being the kids and I. Even though we will only be here for a month and a half of the school year ( unless Brent doesn’t get the job), we still had to sign up for a cover school.

After that I was prepared to brave the long lines at Chic fil a for their appreciation day, but we got a little bit later start than I wanted because we were enjoying ourselves at the home school meeting so much.

We had been in line at the light to turn onto the street that our Chick is on for thirty minutes when the AC of the truck went hot. I glanced at the engine temperature gauge and it was all the way hot. And lights were coming on and stuff on my dashboard.

ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?! My mind raged. Didn’t I say I was never leaving home again???

I threw on my hazard lights and gave up on the line for Chic fil a. Careening into a parking spot at Panera Bread, I called Brent and proceeded to unleash the crazy. Brent brazenly stated that I should be good at this being stranded thing by now. The man has guts. He did marry me, after all. He was just encouraging me to let the engine rest for a bit when my friend Sheryl pulled right into the spot next to me!

“Girl, don’t tell me you are broken down again,” she teased. Then she saw the look on my face. I was so happy to see a familiar face!

I restrained myself from squeezing her too hard. She and her daughter helped us all inside and even bought our lunch. They headed back home with food for their own family and we made spectacles of ourselves in a booth inside Panera. At one point all you could see of Ezra was a pair of cowboy boots in the air while Titus refused to nurse with the nursing cover on. In between biting me, he was happy to flash the crowded restaurant his “lunch”. Evie was wandering around the restaurant, I think looking for a responsible adult to take her home.

Another mom in the restaurant recognized me from home school circles and asked if she could help. She supervised some of the kids while I took others potty. We chatted for a while and made our way back out to the truck, which I assumed had cooled down.

We all sat in the hot truck while Titus finished nursing. I assured the kids that the Lord was just preparing them to be missionaries one day. I mean, there isn’t AC in Africa, right?

No sooner had I gotten back out in traffic than the dang thing went blazing hot again. Again, I threw on hazard lights and pulled into the Target parking lot this time. If I was gonna be stranded again there was gonna be Starbucks involved, that’s for dang sure.

I called Brent again, and he concluded that I just shouldn’t be messing with things under the hood. He was going to leave work and come fix it, since AAA can’t be trusted. Unless I wanted just enough coolant to NOT run my truck. Humph.

{{ Of note: I was supposed to go get all fluids checked before leaving town for vacation, but getting stuck in Tuscaloosa had changed all that. So, follow me… Because AAA didn’t give me enough gas and I lost a whole day, I didn’t have time to get my coolant checked, and now… Well. Here I was. }}

We bought some nice cold bottles of water and headed for the dollar section. Y’all. The dollar section at Target is awesome this month! Flash cards, work books, children’s classic books, stickers, and cute Dr. Seuss totes to put it all in?! Yes, please.

At check out I explained to the cashier that I needed to group specific items together to go into specific bags. I could tell by her expression that she was less than thrilled so I explained that our car was broken down and desperately needed to create a silver lining for my children. She was more than happy to help.

I also had to explain that I had a receipt for our waters, but Titus ate it. For real.

It was the longest checkout process ever.

Brent arrived just as we were finishing up and we herded ourselves into the in-store Starbucks. I handed each child their bag of activities.

Voila!

$35. That’s what some emergency peace and quiet cost me. Worth every penny.

Brent purchased some coolant and requested my car keys.

“Uuuhhhh.” I couldn’t remember where they were because by the time we had gotten to Target Titus was screaming and Evie was having a nervous breakdown. The child cannot cope with any sort of stress. I don’t know where she gets it from. Eventually we found the keys. In my back pocket.

I’m so glad we had bought all the books and crayons and activities because he was out there for a while. I glanced out and saw a kind stranger was out there under the hood with him, despite the heat.

And a friend texted me and said she was on the way in case we needed a ride or just for moral support.

Oh yeah, God’s grace was screaming.

Eventually the truck was all better and we were on our way back home. I had barely two hours and not a thing done to be ready for showing the house. My plan had been to clean during nap time. But we had just spent nap time at Target.

I put the kids down for majorly late naps anyway. And of course Titus took f o r e v e r to nurse and go down for a nap. By the time I was done I had less than an hour to clean.

I did what any respectable mom with a large vehicle would do. I put everything into laundry baskets and shoved it all into the Suburban.

I instructed Charis to turn off the clothes dryer when our guest arrived, and Arwen and I were just finishing sweeping when the door bell rang. Charis jumped up and ran to the laundry closet like her life depended on it. Then both girls settled on the couch with books like we hadn’t just been rushing around. It was just like that scene in Pride and Prejudice. Only our guest wasn’t Mr. Darby. 

I sure did show the house with three sleeping children.

And she LOVES it.

I think the soap sealed the deal too since I gave her a free bar. The lady can’t wait to move in. Seriously? Is the first person we show it to gonna take it?? We’ll see. 

Brent had offered to stop by Chick fil a on his way home, for dinner. I hesitantly suggested it might take too long. I was impressed when he shook it off.

Until later when he called to tell me it was “Chick fil a appreciation day or something.” Oh, really?

He doesn’t get out as much as I do. And it’s probably a good thing. I need someone on standby to rescue me. He even tracks my iPhone by an app on his. Can you blame him?

So, what sweet things has the Lord done for you today? Did you find His grace everywhere? Cause I’m telling ya… It was there.

rodeo!

We’ve been a little down in the dumps around here lately, and several weeks ago I saw an advertisement for a rodeo that benefits Rescue 1 “an abolitionist movement to end sex trafficking”. I tore it out and stuck it on the fridge for a back up plan, in case the unthinkable happened and we were not in Atlanta looking at big beautiful houses with trees.

And, we weren’t, so we went to the rodeo.

And it was awesome.

You might have correctly assumed that I have never been to a rodeo before. While the Promised Land is in the south, we are more of city people. People here in the Home Land? They are for real about their horses and cows.

And I was the only person snapping pictures right and left with an iPhone. I also wore inappropriate footwear. I completely understand now why everyone else was wearing cowboy boots instead of cute strappy sandals.

The girls quickly bought themselves some hats.

After about ten different tributes to the USA, the rodeo got down to business with bucking broncos.

Um. Ow.

Most of my pictures from the actual rodeo are of blurry horses, cows, bulls, and rodeo clowns. But the kids got cotton candy for the first time ever!

We were a little disturbed about the calf roping. But thankfully it transitioned to the grabbing the bull by the horns part. Somehow that was exciting and not disturbing at all. Don’t over think that. I tried.

Our citified selves stuck out worse when they called all the kids into the thing rink big circle. We missed the garbled instructions and suddenly all the other kids took off running through the dirt (and horse poop?) with Arwen timidly trailing behind. I don’t blame her. So far we’d only seen people get trampled by horses and bulls, and cute baby cows thrown onto their backs and tied up.

Turns out they were chasing a cow. One kid actually tackled it. This was obviously not his first rodeo.

Exhausted, we took our gringo selves home.

what's next?

The last two days have been really hard. Wrought with disappointment, frustration, and anger. Filled with lots of tears and painful feelings.

I have done the equivalent of donning sack cloth and ashes: I have sat around in capri yoga pants with unshaven legs. I have sported a neon blue tank over a pink sports bra and layered bobby pins on my head for lack of washing my hair.

In some very real ways, there were some losses to mourn. I’m not ready to delve into that right now.

Mostly I’ve just been asking God to help me be content again. Once I let my mind roam into the possibility of more, it’s been hard to go back to less. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Just normal. And less isn’t a bad thing either.

So. At nap time today I curled up with Charis and chatted about her new Wednesday night class at church. They had learned about church plants and she wanted more information.

I recalled when I was 12 years old and our family left sunny Florida to plant a church in the Promised Land. It must not have been easy on my parents. Our current circumstances in Florida had been very hard for them. People were being malicious and unkind. I remember watching my dad weep and my mom struggle to make everything happy for us kids. We were poor. We received government welfare, even though both of my parents worked two jobs. It was just hard.

So I was recounting these events to Charis, how the Lord led my parents to Georgia on a wing and a prayer. How we lived in a rental house for many years until I graduated high school. I remember that house. It had a whole wall that was 1969 era marbled mirror. I bet my mom hated it. Did she have friends in fancy houses that made her squirm with wanting more for her family? I don’t know. I cant remember her complaining. I can’t remember anything except that my mom could make a shack beautiful. And she made that house pretty.

Then I told Charis about how my parents bought their first home, their current home, just as I was taking off for Bible college in Texas. At that same time, her daddy was leaving Arkansas for Texas too. And then her Papa and Nana moved to the Promised Land, where her Grammy and Grandpa already were.

She giggled. If you’ve heard Charis giggle, you can appreciate how comforting that was.

Then I told all about how eventually mommy and daddy fell in love, and with Arwen in my tummy, we moved back to the Promised Land. To Grammy’s house, where Arwen was born.

Then we moved to a rental house in Tucker, Georgia where Charis was born.

More giggling. 

Then we moved to Pell City, Alabama to another rental house, and Ezra was born.

Then we moved to our current house and Evie was born. And then Titus was born.

“…And now we are still here…” my story trailed off.

Charis smiled and looked into my eyes like an old soul and said, “I know what you’re thinking, Mamma.”

She turned to a page in a little book she’s been working through for fun.

"Give this page to an adult"....

"Give this page to an adult"....

What’s next?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing? Maybe this is it. We stay here, we continue to work hard.

I know one thing for certain that is next: I lay it down. All the hoping. I just.lay.it.down. And I repent for longing for more than what Christ has already done for me. Because what Jesus did is more than I will ever need or hope to accomplish on my own.

I will always hate my kitchen though.

And that’s where I’m at.