Looking for the Somethings

This past weekend my family, including my parents and sisters, went to Geneva, NY for the day. My dad grew up in Geneva and even though it is only about an hour from home, we had never spent the day there all together seeing the various places of significance in my dad's childhood. We kept referring to Geneva as my dad's old "stomping grounds", which was humorous and fitting for me, mainly because my dad is not a small guy (6'5) and he is not exactly what you would call fleet of foot. In fact, God love him, my dad is probably the noisiest walker I know. I can still hear the rapid, booming thump-thump of his dress shoes down the front hall when he came in from work each evening. Or what sounded like a rock-slide when he ran down the stairs.

We all have the sounds of our childhood. Mine included my mom screaming at the TV during Syracuse Basketball games, the echos of which weaved all through the house and curled up the stairs to my bedroom while I drifted off to sleep. Who needs a lullaby when you have that? And who needs an alarm clock with you have a an entire men's varsity rugby team and the cast of "Stomp" going up and down the stairs outside your bedroom.  As an added bonus, my has a habit of leaving his shoes everywhere. His size 14 shoes. In the most random and hazardous spots. I don't even know how many times one of us has tripped over his shoes growing up. Conservatively I would say, at least 12 million times, because that seems both accurate and fair. Somethings don't change because now my kids will regularly collide with one of his giant sneakers and go flailing. My sisters and I are eternally indebted to his hazardous shoe placement because without having to stick those landings we would never have grown into the graceful, coordinated women we are today... So yes, the idea of his former stomping grounds made me laugh to myself, because I can just picture my dad as a kid and teenager tromping all around the streets of Geneva, leaving giant footprints (and shoes) wherever he went.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. We walked all afternoon as my dad pointed out the landmarks of his life. The house he grew up in, with his bedroom window in the top left-hand corner. The front door is a different color now. The rectory he moved into when his dad became the head priest at the Episcopal church in town. That house was his favorite. It was big, like a maze, perfect for exploring. And his best friend Billy Summer's house, right across the street. We saw "Dead Man's Hill": the story behind one of his scars, where he went sledding head first into a guard rail. The florist shop where one holiday when he was in elementary school he bought his mother a cardboard flower. My dad had saved up his money but couldn't afford a real flower. Timidly he offered up what he thought was a meager gift to his mother, my grandmother, and to his delight she pinned it right onto her fancy dress and showed it off to everyone at their high society holiday party. The college where his dad taught. The frat house my dad lived in when we attended the same college. The store his mom used to shop at for knick-knacks. And the grassy area overlooking Seneca Lake where he first learned to hit a baseball.

It was strange and pleasant to put a "face" to all these places, from all these stories I had heard. I had never envisioned Dead Man's hill to be snack dab in the middle of some cheery 19th century row houses. The church was ornate and grand, one of those old grey stone main street churches I would have commented on if we had driven by on any other Sunday afternoon drive. As he spoke telling a story about being woken up by the sound of car accident below, I could almost see his five-year old face peering out the window under the street lights.

When we came home and in the days afterward I have felt a restless feeling in me.  It's nothing new, really. Often times I find myself wrestling with some event or circumstance, searching for a metaphor.  I scrolled through pictures from our day looking for some lesson to come from the day, some inspiration. I toured over the the streets of Geneva again in my mind. What symbol held deeper, spiritual meaning? You might think it's a little strange at best, and down right pathetic at worse. And you'd totally be right. I'm just a girl with a weakness for symbolism and deeper meaning. A good metaphor is my Kriptonite. Along with apple crisp.

All the Septembers

For the past two Septembers, right around the time the leaves change color and begin to fall, I've felt this lump begin forming in my throat. It seems to reach all the way from my throat down to the pit of my stomach. Sometimes I will just be washing dishes or sitting on the floor playing with the baby and I will feel tears rolling unbeckoned, unannounced down my face.

It's like my body remembers before my consciousness what happened three years ago- that at this time in 2013 the writing was on the wall, and as each leaf fell from the majestic trees I felt pieces of my life breaking apart and cascading down too, just out of reach, only to get crumpled under the feet of a world that just kept moving on.

I knew it was coming this year too, but yet somehow even though I expected it, grief snuck up on me. I am still not sure how. I posted a guard. I even prepared a place for this unwelcome guest, but he must have snuck in the backdoor of my heart because the other day I felt a familiar lump rise up in my throat and I had to remind myself to breathe. I sat on the couch with my kids piling on my lap for a bedtime story and I had to dig my fingers into my thigh in a feeble attempt to hold back the sobs. Yesterday morning Titus and I took a walk while the other three kids were at school. One single leaf dropped down from high up in a tree. It fell slow but steady and landed among others in a muddy pile along the side of the road. I found myself down on the concrete rescuing leaves. Gathering them up, washing them with my tears and trembling fingers. I brought them home because I just couldn't stand the thought of them laying there in the mud, without a meaning, without anyone noticing.

Anywhere but here: What about when God says "Stay"?

It's our last week of summer, and we are spending it just how any suburban family dreams to: being struck down by Hand Foot and Mouth Virus...aka Leprosy. (See also: the plague.) Two of the kids have it for sure and at the time of writing this Peter just called up from giving the baby a bath to tell me he is pretty sure there are sores forming around Titus' mouth. So that's awesome. I think I will just shimmy out this third floor window and run away. Think anyone will notice?

This might be the right time to confess something. I am a total quitter. When it comes to fight or flight, I think I was skipped over for the fight gene. I am a runner. And I don't mean exercising. My running consists more of hiding or useless coping mechanisms or flat out quitting. When the stuff of life piles on, I slink down under it. So I guess that makes me a slinker too. Whatever that is. Quitting gets a little harder when you have a brood of kids, so I have had to learn to fight a little, but its mostly done dramatically, sulkily and with no shortage of martyrdom. 

At different times in my life the stuff has gotten so thick around me that the tension of it is palpable. I feel a desperate need to escape it all. The pressure of it all is squeezing me so tight, that I just want to pop myself out of its grip and scurry away, like the poor Rabbit my daughter almost strangled. That bunny waited for just one more tight squeeze around the middle, used the force of her throttle to propel itself and then jumped head long. That bunny bolted for some greener pasture. There are moments or seasons where I just feel overcome by the need to escape.

When Depression and Anxiety were holding me captive. This past year when things were kind of horrendous at Peter's job and we had no idea how we would pay for our life. When my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Anywhere but here. 

Hard Dreams: Olympic and Otherwise

We are pretty big Olympics fans in our house, in case my posts on social media have not made that clear. We have trained for the the last four years to get ourselves in condition to sit on the couch for five hours straight every night like a true American, and occasionally during the day if the right events are on...or if there is a sink full of dishes to avoid. We in the sports world call this "two a days". And guys, its not for the weak. This is where it is important to stay hydrated, take stretch breaks as you fast forward through commercials (a DVR is one of the perks of being a wife of a cable man) and make sure you are eating Olympic size snacks. Gotta fuel up. Our training also includes time invested in reading articles about returning athletes, newbies and obscure athletes in obscure sports that have backstories that may make you shed a tear. Education is key. We aren't super political ( as in we hover somewhere around "let's never talk about politics ever or I might pretend to be choking on an imaginary meatball just to skirt the conversation") but we earn big patriotism points by doing our part in supporting our athletes. Its the least we can do, really.

We promised our kids we would have an Olympic viewing party. Since NBC gives us a little snack of the events we actually want to see and then ropes us into to staying awake until the wee-hours to watch tape delays of the other half of said desirable events (its like they have some marketing gurus over there at NBC or something!) we knew the best way to do this would be to use the trusty old DVR and watch the gymnastics final a day late with the kids. (Peter and I watched it live. I mean what are we, communists?!)

Last night was the night. Since you weren't there to witness it, let me paint a picture of the scene for you. We went shopping for red, white and blue themed snacks. We busted out the glow sticks leftover from the 4th of July debacle. We ate pizza on beach towels on the floor in our PJs. Real classy stuff because #merica. Let's just say that for a moment in time Peter and I were gold medal Olympic fans and gold medal parents. Watch out Michael Phelps. You might be an okay swimmer but we can watch you swim with the best of 'em. And Boomer might have some snazzy noise canceling headphone thingys, but my kids are wearing almost clean pajamas and sitting on not at all clean beach towels...which, strangely enough, might be cleaner than the floor they're on. So yeah.

As Peter and I climbed onto the podium there were kids clamoring at us, waving hands up at us like something out of a 90's R&B song. There were tears. Signs made in our honor complete with hearts and pledges of undying love. Guys, Peter might actually have enough supporters to run for president on a third party ticket. (That is my only political mention. If you try to engage me further I will find the nearest patriotic party meatball and gag myself with it.) The kids were making bold claims, ones I may have documented to rub their faces in later  look back on fondly. At the mere mention of pizza we were dubbed "the best parents in the whole world". As ridiculous as that title is, it felt good for a minute. And all it cost us was a cheap pizza and some stale bulk gummies in patriotic colors.

 As I heard the absurdity of "best mom EVVERRRR", I may have smiled coyly, blushed and fanned myself a little, but inside I was thinking "what about all the other stuff I do for you? The things you don't even notice, or worse yet the things you fight against or whine about? The things that are really way more of a sacrifice of love than a floor pizza party? I mean I didn't even let you on the furniture for goodness sakes! You are only saying these things because right now the gift feels and tastes good!" 

To Be Still or To Slay (and a question for you)

Lately I have been working on something that has me giving a lot of thought and research to seasons of suffering and waiting. There is so much to say about these topics, from equally as many perspectives. I would love to hear a little bit of yours! (Read on for how you can help me and earn my undying love.)

The hardest thing for me about waiting, you know other than the whole impatient "I want it now and I hate not knowing when it is coming or even if it is coming" thing,   is the constant tension between being still and doing something.

It appears to be most obvious to me as I peruse social media. I scroll down my feed and read hand scripted verses like Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God" or Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still". Like. Like. 

Then I scroll a little further and I see bold, italicized quotes that tell me to get it done, live a life of purpose, dream big, hustle, give excuses a round-house kick to the face, drink 5 gallons of water a day, be a warrior, be fierce, slay. Like. Like. Like.  

You guys. My feed is straight up confusing. I mean, I don’t know if I am entirely sure I know what "slay" even means. I am pretty sure that I don't slay nearly as much as I like to use the word in conversation, just to see people's reactions.  But other than not being up on pop culture, I am confused because now I am wondering, am I supposed to be still and let God fight for me? Or am I supposed to get it done on purpose without excuses but with lots of hustle like the fierce fully hydrated warrior I am?  And for the love of chocolate covered pretzels, how can I slay if I am stopping for as many bathroom breaks as 5 gallons of water would require? 

See? Confusing right? 

This isn't a a new struggle for me. I have been trying to figure this one out for years. It is not just the Internet that seems to contradict itself on this one. I can back up both the thought of being still and thought of doing with scripture. I already mentioned two verses for team "Be still" (Psalm 46:10 and Exodus 14:14). Team "Just do it" (not sponsored by Nike) has plenty of scripture to support its side too. There is imagery of war and commands to take action throughout scripture. 

Ephesians 6:11-18 tells us  
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the Devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, Stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. In addition to this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God. And pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind; be alert and always keep on praying for all of God's people."

I think we all feel more comfortable suiting up for one team or another, especially during seasons of waiting. also think sometimes we end up on a team for the wrong reasons and if we are not careful we can use scripture to defend our sinful tendencies. More on that later. 

So, my question for you is this:  Especially during seasons of waiting, what team do you find yourself on most naturally- "Team Be Still" or "Team Just do it"? And why do you think that is? 

Okay, I guess that was two questions, but I would love you forever, maybe even more than chocolate covered pretzels, if you would let me hear your thoughts! Email me, Direct Message me, Comment on the blog or on Facebook, whatever you gotta do. I promise to keep your words/identity confidential, unless given permission. Thank you in advance for trusting me with your hearts on this; you will be such a help to me! 

Spewing Waterlemon and Tears, Summer Fevers and When Rest is Best

This year we had a 4th of July we won't ever forget. Peter and I were trying to be all patriotic and make memories for our kids and stuff, so we dressed in our red white and blue, snapped a family selfie (of course) and went to the parade down at Town Hall. Even just saying it makes me feel all Americana. We were late (also of course) and Royce was moody (ditto again on the "of course"), but we were making the best of it, ya know, getting way more excited than the event warranted in an attempt to raise family morale. "Look guys! I know its a bazillion degrees and we can't find a spot in the shade, but there is POLITICIAN riding in the back of some guys pick-up truck!! And they're waving at YOU! Whoooaa! I am so glad we came to this parade! Isn't this AWESOME!??"

Royce was still complaining, this time that her tummy hurt, so Peter took her to the bathroom. On their way back to our spot of sweaty death prime parade watching real-estate, he decided to cut through the parade in between two "floats". Why? I'll never know. But it was hot, and Royce and porta-potties were involved, so we will just chalk this one up to "Dad brain", (not to be confused with "Dad Bod").

And that's when it happened, perhaps my most surreal parenting moment to date. Royce started throwing up everywhere, right in the middle of the parade, literally-the middle, you guys. Right in between a judge throwing tootsie rolls and a Kid's Bible Sports camp squirting the crowd with water guns. Peter was carrying her and they were walking towards us in slow motion and she just started spewing and couldn't stop. Now, I don't want to brag or anything but she attracted more attention than any of the politicians I saw there. She didn't even have to throw tootsie rolls. To make matters even funnier worse, she picked her spot right in front of the town's video tripod set up to document the whole thing for public television. (We have since spoken to Royce about the dangers of downsides of reality television and about finding more appropriate means to get her 5 minutes of fame.) When it comes to public displays of sickness we go big or go home. And in this case we did both.

Royce ended up being fine. We chalked the whole big scene up to the fact that the day before she had eaten enough "waterlemon" to feed half of North America and swallowed enough pool water to hydrate Africa. Girlfriend was full to the brim and couldn't hold it in any longer.

I can sympathize.

"I need to schedule time to cry". That's what I told Peter the other day.

Life has been coming at us so fast and hard for the past year, and even more so the past few weeks, really heavy stuff, one right after another where if I wasn't living it I wouldn't believe it could be possible. I have felt no space because of the pace and weight of it to ever take a few minutes and just process it all. Every time the feelings start surfacing and my eyes well up with tears, I look over my shoulder and someone needs a reassuring cuddle or a juice box or a shoe tied or a 'pankin. A 7 year old artist wants to show me her latest chalk drawing, 5 year old man-child is hungry...again, a 3 year old needs her butt wiped and the baby is up from his nap. The phone is vibrating with another text bearing a bad news update or a request to add to my to-do list. I look at the clock only to see we have to be out the door in 10 minutes and nobody has had a potty break and even knows where there shoes are, or has brushed their hair today, including me...and the 5 year old is hungry again. So I twist the cap back on the tears, like a fizzy bottle of coke about to explode, and press on. One foot in front of the other. No tears right now.

I knew a breakdown was coming. If I didn't schedule it in, it would erupt at an inoppritune time.

Then I woke up yesterday to another day scheduled to the hilt, only to find poor Royce was sick again. This time with a fever, nothing waterlemon induced.  So the plans were canceled and new plans were made. We rested.

Yesterday we let rest settle down deep in us, as we settled down into it, Royce to a little Disney Junior and me to my own rest-to let it speak honesty to the parts of me where the Truth has gotten twisted up, to let it rub grace over the calloused places in me, and give space for held in tears and laughter. We settled into rest to let it cure what ailed us.

I am not going to pretend there wasn't an untimely meltdown mixed in there for good measure, but it was a long time coming. Girlfriend was filled to the brim and couldn't hold it in any longer.

I took time to process some of the crap-ton of stuff that has happened the past couple weeks. Life has left my soul screaming for some truth, but my heart aching for a hug of grace.

Suffering is brutal, but it is also a teacher in lessons of truth and grace. Sometimes a bit of the grace offered in that place of suffering is learning to take time for deep, holy rest. Summer fevers suck. But without that being on our docket for yesterday, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to add the rest I was craving to the docket either.

Sometimes, in a twisted way, suffering gives me just what I need, if I will just take it.

Yesterday it was a little space to process and grieve and be okay with not being okay. Sometimes the gift in suffering is encountering God in ways I never would have otherwise. Sometimes it is learning to trust farther than my eyes can see, or to experience comfort and peace that transcend understanding, or to grow in compassion for other people who I see suffering. Other days suffering shines the light on the sinful crevices inside me that need to be cleaned out, another gift of truth and grace.

There are dozens of other gifts I have found in suffering, gifts of hard grace. Suffering doesn't always take, although it robs us of so much. I never want to minimize that, please believe me. But I have been in the place that only wallows in what suffering takes and its no where I want to stay. I am allowing the suffering to hurt, not pretending that it doesn't, but I am trying to look for the gifts in it too. I have learned, to my great joy, that the gifts are always there if I am looking for them. They might sting a little. They might need to be brushed off and shined up a bit in order to really look like the gift they are. They might not be the gifts on our wish list. But they are there. The gifts are there in suffering because my God is there too. And He has promised to never leave me or forsake me. He has promised to bring all things together for my good. That's truth and grace, sweeter than any waterlemon.

Who do you follow? {Walking in Freedom}

Recently I have had the opportunity to be involved in some exciting things, good Kingdom building things. But like he tries to do with anything good, Satan is trying to use these things to start a storm in me and keep me bound up in things that either don't matter, or matter less than what really matters. I have felt tangled up in the comparison game, which if we are being honest is often more of a competition than a game. I look around and it seems like other people have been given such an audience, such a platform to shout truth about the glory of God. I vacillate back and forth between shameful envy and shameful guilt thinking that I must not be putting the right message out there, or God would be blessing me more in this area.

{Isn't it ugly when we treat God as if He is a puppet on our strings?}

Worrying about who is following you is a bound up place to be. While I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given lately, the greater opportunity that comes from this seems to be the chance to look inside myself, see what I am bound up by, and begin to let God untangle me. Once again, His grace is more.

{God isn't the one tangled in the puppet strings, I am.}

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