Friday, November 14, 2014


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It was the summer after my freshman year of high school. Rumors of the Blair Witch Project spread like wildfire, permeating the air of my gospel-centered mission trip with ash and brimstone. We were on a remote island in Honduras—one where Army-style-showers were required and bathing in torrential downpours were optional, where no cars drove (they weren’t allowed) and the nearest “conveniences” were conveniently 2 hours away…by boat.

Night had fallen after a busy day of laborious work laying bricks and painting the broken boards of Oceanside bungalows owned by the residents. And while the sun lit the sky, talk of spiritual warfare and ghosts and all things dark and scary lit our minds and mouths. Quite predictably I was terrified by dusk. The leaders finally noticed that things were awry after the cabins of girls clung to one another like clucking chickens in a robbed henhouse.

The panic was paired with something bigger, deeper, darker. The fear of the unknown took root.

The night ended with a mission-trip storybook ending: we talked, we prayed, we debated, and then we bounced down the stairs and slept soundly beneath our mosquito nets. It was an alarmingly innocent taste that there was something much bigger than me at work in the World. Casper the Friendly Ghost had been thrown out with the Golden Books and Cinderella-dreams.

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I don’t normally struggle with anxiety, probably due to some clunky combination of faith and forced training. Maybe it is because I’ve finally made 30 trips around the sun that I consider myself seasoned enough to take life as it comes. Maybe we can equate it to the innocent fears of spiders and spindles and dark hideways, or ankle-grabbers and Monsters in the closet of the bygone days of childhood—as if those unknown’s threw callouses over my fright of that- which-is-bigger.
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The truth is that I probably don’t struggle much with anxiety because I like to hermit-hole myself away in my own little world. My corner of the great USA is quite cozy, thankyouverymuch. I stopped watching the news when Jon was deployed and never started again—I find it depressing. Aside from a few distracted glances at the stories floating around social media (all laden with fact, I’m certain), I generally miss ALL THE MEMOs on all the flashy headlines.

Like ISIS. And Ebola. And genocide. And Death with Dignity. And preventable diseases in first world, educated countries.

Because instead of those sad realities that I’d rather not think about, this corner of my hermit world is filled with pumpkin scented candles and fall wreathes and baking cookies and organic apples. Here, there are toddler giggles (and tantrums) and clean rags to wipe snotty noses with. Here, the tickle monster comes to visit each night instead of the monsters of mankind and I tuck our children into cozy beds with Downy-infused fleece blankets instead of tucking them into makeshift wooden boxes laid deep beneath the ground.
 Sometimes it is easier to hole-away than let the stinging reality of LIFE burn a hole in your heart.
In the corner of my world, the heat is from our furnace, blood is patched with Mickey bandaids, and my God is one who calls me to greater things and then “blesses” me with a padded grocery budget and streak-free windows. 
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But the World is bigger than me, darker and deeper. And the reality of the depth of despair experienced by most of the world on a daily basis has taken root somewhere across the seas, spreading its seed to my corner of the world.

Their heat is from blazen rockets, ricocheting off century-old buildings and crumbling livelihoods and memories. Their blood is shed from sword, sweat, and solidarity to religion, to race, to riches. And their God is one who bridges the gap, feeds the hungry, clothes the poor and bends low to the desperate in prison, in poverty, and in perishing.

How small I consider Him. How much I have shrunk His power.

If only there were happy endings and mosquito nets for us all. If only the world’s children could be protected by prayer, innocence saved from reality, and the ledgers of the faithful transformed from meager intentions to eager realism. The truth is that my blessings are backed by privilege and geography. Because of where I was born, my life looks very different than theirs. And because of what I have been given, my faith looks very different than theirs.  
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So we go on, habits forming livelihoods and decisions pouring the foundations of our days. And life goes on, too. Sometimes gracefully. Sometimes full of deflation and despair. And sometimes we feel all the feelings—too much, too little, or maybe just enough—just in time to let the One who is Greater lead us, mold us, carry us.

And when we all disagree—among the states and the red and the blue and the Christians and the atheists—when we all feel we are more right, more sound, more knowledgeable, maybe we the Believers can consider Him. And His Cross. And his Ghost. And we can let that Jesus who lives in our hearts find a candle to light a fire there. Let a flame burn to inspire, to stretch, to take in all the World in the shadow of All His Glory. And then, maybe we too—the ones with the birth certificates that read “privileged” and the Mickey bandaids will be the careful feet and calloused hands who mend and feed and clothe and bend lower than ever before.

The world will always be bigger and darker and deeper than us.

And God will always be bigger and brighter and stronger than It. 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

catching that ball.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop for the first time in 7 months. I’m kid free, laundry-free, and appropriately care-free for the next hour. And although my mouth is most certainly silent, my mind is yelling loud. It has been this whole time, actually. Rarely does it get the chance to be heard through the drumming of keys, the black and white of paper. That’s not to say the words aren’t there.
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This transition has been better—that life-shock that rattles when a new lump-of-a-pooping-baby joins the family. Adley’s entrance was much more predictable, more mellow. In many ways, it was more surprising too. Like the 6 day hospital stay after birth while she glowed in bili lights, fighting off the knife of hemolytic anemia (hello life, surprise!). But we finally got her standardized and bundled, blessed by the signature of discharge from a trusted community pediatrician; we finally got her home.

And since then, we’ve had expected ups and downs. The transition, when all is considered, went rather smoothly. Some days it feels like we’ve blindly navigated our way through sleepless nights (both kids, thanksforasking), the woes of two-year-hood parenting, and that sticky mess that follows family change in any marriage.

But we are in a better place this time. I’m in a better place this time.
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I don’t feel like I’m sleeping better. The last two mornings I’ve woken and felt rested after six hours of broken sleep; which happens to be an improvement on the three-something hours I was raking up each night before. I thought the sleeplessness would end with residency, with a second birthday, with the two-year-molars. IT DIDN’T. I got tired of talking about it, thinking about it, living it. I got tired of people asking how we were doing because I got tired of saying that nothing had changed. In a rare “we are in the car for 4 hours so lets talk” opportunity with Jon, I finally was able to put into words that sleeplessness felt dysfunctional to me. *I* felt dysfunctional to me.

No wonder.

Perhaps it’s the magic of the second child—the bottle sterilizer is packed away, the special infant-has-sensitive-skin extra loads of clothing have been caught in the stormy sea of laundry, and the concern over choking and perfectly blended baby food has been replaced with whatever we are eating. I’ve brushed up on the Heimlich just in case.

Adley is a happy baby. After we figured out her guts didn’t like dairy, soy, or beef--and after we gave her time to heal, we’ve been amazed at how go-with-the-flow she is. A joy, really.
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I think most importantly, among the post-partum body adjustment and mental fortitude it takes to endure those first months, I’ve realized that life goes on. It goes on despite the sleepless nights. It goes on despite the 16 time-outs in one day, the 4 cookies Thatcher snuck from the counter, the mismatched too-short pants both kids are wearing. It goes on through job stress and boss struggles and disappointments that visit in the most vulnerable of places.
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It’s funny, actually. Life throws curve balls at the least convenient times. And somehow, whether it is a spouse or friend or our own last-stave effort of contortion, the balls always land in laps and hands and hearts after a wayward journey to the plate. Seemingly triumphant, we can say with confidence that we are making it, doing it, catching that ball.

I’ve put away my phone. We’ve warded off most technology--and I’ve noticed a significant difference in my parenting, my patience, and my praise of our kids. We’ve walked in the rain, splashed in some puddles, picked autumn “weaves”, and raced Little Tikes plastic cars on the sidewalk (the ride-able kind. Just imagine the Tin Man riding a matchbox car. You are welcome.). And instead of idealizing other moms who seemingly have it all together (you know them too, eh?), instead of looking to the past with fondness because I wasn’t there and didn’t know the charm of being a 1950’s housewife serving microwaved beans for dinner, instead of tearing into my own skin criticizing my faith-life because my Bible is dusty and the pages of If You Give  A Mouse  a Cookie are curled and torn from wear, instead of comparing all those things, I’m realizing that I am, in fact, catching that ball, too.

I have 7 loads of laundry waiting for me at home. I just cleaned my floors for the first time in 3 weeks (I wish I was joking). Our vacuum spits dirt everywhere, so I’ve just sworn off the task entirely, cringing at the thought of emptying our fun-account to buy a new one. I have stains on my shirt. And even bigger ones on my heart from the hugs Thatcher gave me this morning and the sideways glances Adley throws my direction in a “just making sure you are there, Mom” when nursing (ouch, by the way). Instead of rolling the other direction in bed, too tired to talk and too distracted to listen, I’ve actually found Jon’s hand a few times and held tight—praying through closed eyes and exhausted voices from discipline and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” sung 47 times that day. I’m giving my kid Mac and Cheese for dinner tonight and will probably find a package of PopTarts to call mine after the kids go to bed.

But you know what? It’s all good. We are all catching that ball—or at least making our best attempt at it. In the midst of the mommy-wars, the upward battle to the best #checkyourselfie, and the photoshop attrition invading our perception of reality, I would presume we are really all just doing our best to don a catcher’s glove and move toward the fast-pitched object flying in our direction. My “homemade dinner” is probably different than yours—as are my standards of a clean floor and an acceptable inseam for shorts and cute throw pillows and good music. We might be able to agree on a good wine, though—maybe share a glass sometime over talk of stepped-on lego’s and missing puzzle pieces and the good old days just like every matronly generation of the past has done over quilting looms and mulled cider, hook rugs and martinis, and jazzercise tapes with celery sticks.

We are all on the same team, sister. 

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