Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas for the Brokenhearted

Disclaimer: It's probably a good thing that the inspiration for this entry didn't come until late Christmas Day because this will probably be seen by most as a downer. I apologize in advance for any sort of bubble burst...however, I have a feeling most of us are going to have a Christmas hangover of sorts tomorrow so I'm just jumping a little bit ahead of you and hoping to break the fall. And if you have a bonafide hangover, grab another cup of coffee, wait for the blurred vision to dwindle, and carry on. With sobriety.

We drove away from my parents' house on Christmas Eve and I warned my husband I would probably cry all week. The tears started before we even hit the highway and I told him I was devastated that we were leaving Olivia behind. She is buried under an olive tree, made the move with us in November, and seems more like a little girl than last Christmas. I've started calling her "Liv" and she's in my thoughts more than usual this past year and all of a sudden, she was staying in Texas while we celebrated with family in Arkansas. I miss her something fierce lately. I set the kids' table last night and there were four little square plastic plates - one extra - and my heart broke as I put it back in the buffet.  

Does Christmastime feel broken for you?   

My single girlfriends are probably distracted by tinsel and a new DIY from Pinterest but I have a feeling it's another day of wondering why Mr. Right hasn't appeared with mistletoe. I think about my friends who still aren't pregnant and stare at the stockings of little nieces and nephews wondering if maybe, just maybe next year there will be an extra one, hanging with care. Were you hoping for something at Christmas of 2012 that still hasn't happened? Are you emptied of all hope? Are you becoming all too familiar with disappointment?

I'm not going to preach to you that everything is going to be fixed over the next twelve months (or nine months, as the case may be). I'm not going to flash a neon sign of happiness and elves dancing and tell you that all your greatest dreams are just around the corner. Some of us have a hard road ahead of us. Many of us will find great heartache in 2014. We will suffer loss, death, disappointment, and devastation.

Christmas doesn't solve the problem, it just distorts the mess and the glory. It exaggerates it on some sides and covers it up with twinkle lights and bows on the other.  

So in the midst of American culture during the month of December, we are confused and befuddled by a baby born in a manger. A baby boy who had skin and toenails, who teethed and coo'ed, and who taught us every step of the way that humanity can hold the tangible presence of God right alongside the worst kind of heartache. There is no need to dismiss our grief and emptiness on a day of celebration. Instead, we should find comfort in the mysterious way the glory of God presses itself up against our heartache. Some days we will find that when our grief meets the balm of His gospel, it is healed and gone. Other days, the grief will tremble and crack and remind us of pain and suffering. The hardest days will find our grief standing strong and willing itself toward independence. However we respond, God's plan of pursuing you is not offended - He is quite intent on displaying unfathomable goodness. I pray that your heart will be found more tender than usual today and I pray that you would relate to the humanity of Jesus as grief clutches your heart.    

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” 
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Monday, October 14, 2013

Parenting Advice: Funnels & Freedom

The buckle on Tucker's car seat broke a few weeks ago.  Please don't ask how long we waited to replace the dang thing - his grandparents would be horrified.  In an effort to save a few dollars, I started by replacing it with one of those belt-positioner booster seats that uses the seat belt from the van.  He'd been in the seat for five minutes when he was literally either 1. laying in Zoe's lap or 2. sitting on his knees playing with the reading light.  It was a nightmare.  I yelled from the front seat, trying to get him to sit correctly (i.e. safely) while I was driving on the highway, fending off images of crashing while doing 70mph.  I lost track of how many times he was able to unbuckle the belt altogether.  

It took less than 48 hours to replace the seat again but the damage had already been done.  He had tasted his freedom.  He knew what it meant to have a lap belt and the ability to tuck the shoulder belt under his arms.  He had seen the grass was greener and ran through it with bare feet, his hairpiece flapping in the wind. Needless to say he now screams when I click the harness at his armpits and snap the metal pieces into the lock between his legs.  I took away his newly found freedom, Lord forgive me.

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I've ever heard was given to us on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico.  (It used to be a safe place.  I think.)  This couple shared with us the "funnel" model of parenting and how most people view parenting and authority, especially preparing for teenagers, through the following model:

Younger age = more freedom ; older age = less freedom
The funnel gives us a great picture if we start at the bottom and work our way to the top, through the mindset of freedom & authority.  We tend to think that we can give our littles lots of freedom - think iPhones and iPads, the clothes they choose to wear, their ability to navigate the climate of the home, and their overall decision making and control over their environment.

Let's go down this path and see where it leads:

My two-year-old is ornery and troublesome when we grocery shop so I give him the iPhone.  He plays little kid games or watches videos on the PBS app.  I have peace of mind and can focus on my grocery list.  Which is unfortunately in my Notes on the phone so I have to interrupt him every 5-6 minutes. When he turns five, he's learned mainly that he doesn't have to actually behave at the store and wants to ride around in the cart.  He's big enough to be bored with kid apps and wants to play more aggressive and entertaining games, which usually cost money and eat up my data.  Fast forward to ten, he expects to have his own iPhone, can Google any term he learns on TV, and legitimately doesn't understand when I try to enforce boundaries with technology.

My daughter tends to be strong-willed around the age of three or four when it comes to picking her outfit for the day.  I'm tired of the battles, hate having to say "no" again, so I let her choose whatever she wears, while silently being more than a little annoyed at her control.  She's outgrown the toddler section before I can say "modesty" and then she's telling me exactly what she wants in the junior department.  She's a teenager and earning her own money so she's buying stuff at the mall and then I try to explain why the miniskirt and low-cut tank top aren't appropriate for the Sunday service.  

Now the dreaded "c" word: chores.  My kids aren't required to do much around the house when they're developing their work ethic, between ages 3-5.  Mom does all the laundry, clears all the dishes, loads and unloads the dishwasher, while we hope the kid knows how to make his bed and change his underwear daily.  Until the day where a couple days' worth of outfits takes up a whole load in the washing machine and I'm drowning in Downy and fluffing the contents of the dryer again.  I battle with them over putting their clothes in their laundry basket and try to keep their attention for the 90 seconds it takes to learn how to start their own load.  

It is easier to maintain control (authority) than regain control (authority).   

Let's flip the funnel and talk about how we can practically implement boundaries in the same scenarios so that we give our kids more control as they get older.

Freedom is gained as the child approaches the teenage years

It's hard to grocery shop when you're a toddler who hates the grocery cart.  But Mom brought some books, and maybe even has the foresight to print off two lists and bring a jumbo crayon so baby can help with the list.  Discipline problems in aisle seven take priority over the peas melting and the sweet little cherub learns that he cannot control Mom and her responsibilities.  His little fingers get flicked behind clothes racks and he might cry but Mom is confident in her methods.  When he's getting ready for first grade, he picks items off the shelf at the store and helps place cans on the belt in the checkout line. When they get home, Mom and boy will sit down on the couch together for ten minutes and play one of the new educational apps she found for free.  They'll snuggle while learning and he'll have a little bit of freedom, but think that he's gotten the world of it.  Technology is a privilege - not a right and certainly not a behavior modifier - and this will lay a phenomenal foundation for the years to come.  

Until the age of 3 or 4, I pick out the diva's clothes.  I lay them out, I make sure the tags don't bother her, and we thank God for providing us with such pretty things to wear.  When she turns 4, she can choose from two outfits that Mom picks out.  She is empowered to make the choice herself but Mom is setting the boundaries.  By age 8 (maybe sooner for most), she can pick her outfit out and bring it to mom for approval, maybe with the exception of special events.  She doesn't know any different than getting Mom's okay with what she wears and how she presents herself to the world.  We cultivate a heart of modesty and thanksgiving when we realize that God provides everything for us.

At age five, the boy is unloading the silverware and the girl, age eight, is unloading the dishwasher. The girl knows how to fold everything in the dryer and can put clothes in their place.  They work together to scoop the poop in the backyard.  The toddler gets to have a lot of fun with the vacuum and is learning by example that everyone participates in running a home, that chores and work are a part of life, and that "jobs well done" honor everyone. We talk often about complaining and having joy in the midst of things that aren't fun. The expectation is built early that we all contribute - it's really just the norm.  So when my boys are big enough to eat four plates of spaghetti, they'll be able to mow the yard and clear the table with the ethic of grown men who find pride in their work.

Parenting is like our car seat problem.  We absentmindedly give our kids freedom and do what feels easy for us - cheaper - less stressful - keep them quieter - avoid battles - etc. etc. - without realizing that we're giving up our authority over their lives.  Once we realize that things aren't the best for them or the family structure, we try to put them under tighter restrictions and they scream, rebel, whatever.

When these things seem hard I try to imagine giving my teenagers more authority and trust their decision-making.  I picture fewer arguments and battles over what to wear, how to clean, without being naive that, of course, we'll have disagreements and tension. But I like to think of this as an investment, a sowing of sorts, where we will reap a harvest of responsibility.  We'll have kids who appreciate their control and decisions, and don't demand it.

This path requires hard, hard work.  Firmness matched with kindness is a difficult skill but this kind of parenting will create healthy relationships in our homes and usher in a kind of peace that comes with the protection of boundaries.

If you're already on the wrong path with all this stuff, don't be afraid to look squarely at your habits.  Take a quick and honest assessment of your coping techniques.  Are your kids in charge? Are you relying on all the wrong stuff because the alternative is just too hard?  Don't dismay - be thankful that you can make changes, whether you have a toddler and a newborn or kids in elementary school.  Get a plan and make small changes.  Set your kids up for success and don't get bummed out when you fail.  Think long-term goals and apply short-term habits.  You can do it.  

Buckle your seatbelt and let's ride this thing together!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Right now she's playing with her stuffed animals and the boys are sleeping soundly. A warm forehead and stuffy noses have made for a peaceful afternoon and I'm listening to Keith Urban's new album. Peace comes where she's welcome. She is welcomed here with tiny arms and my deeply desperate heart.

My fingers often graze her forehead and remind me of the warmth that comes from her growing spirit. His dirty fingers wrap around my legs and leave marks from breakfast and brown dirt from the backyard. He limps from growing pains and I rub his back while he snuggles on my chest. "Will you scratch my back, Mama?" I grieve for an instant that one day he'll stop asking but for now, I am elated at his deep need for me. Their deep need for me is something that I carry with all my heart and it often brings me to a kind of prayer that quakes mountains.

The air in our home quietly whispers their need for the four walls that provide their shelter, contain their breath, and witness their extraordinary. There is nothing common about our children because they were created to change the world. But first they need their home, they need healthy & developed roots, and they need inner peace.  

The keys hang by the door, sometimes for days, and we reach to the back of the pantry for tonight's dinner. Pillow forts take over two rooms because the afternoons are still heavy with warmth. The pace is driven by whatever they need in the moment, not by my errands or social visits with grownups. Loneliness cannot survive here because they are surrounded by the best and deepest kind of love. I find my need for conversation and relationship met by ever-present and always-helping Jesus.

Tempting this way of life are my selfish heart and long-forgotten priorities. It's only a thief who robs my children of their childhood and their home and I'm convicted to my core when it's me who opens the door. So I set my eyes on the vision of a home where my husband will flourish and where my children will thrive. There I can be fulfilled and satisfied and find genuine joy.  I stop chasing race car pace and drive-through lines and buckle-unbuckle and "everyone in this town needs me but the three in my backseat."  

The markers are easily identified, mostly by my poor planning and credit card statement.  So many cheeseburgers and Sprites, stops at the gas station for yet another fill-up, and other random wasting of money. I cringe at the thought of not honoring his paycheck.

I'm not driven by shame towards this future; I'm driven by hope. Hope for contentment in the simplicity and a sense of identity in the beauty of family. Hope that my home holds the honor of refining my character and provides a haven when the world is cruel. Hope that my children get to witness the bettering of my skills, love, and vulnerability through the very tangible gift of nearness.

Are you ready to come home?

Thursday, September 12, 2013


"Sexually abused." Sex." "Intercourse."

I made an inward gasp and felt the floor disappear from my heart. My eyes fluttered to the seat beside me to look at her little frame. Is her back always so straight? Do her eyes usually pay such attention to the front of the room? She was this morning and, of all mornings, why wasn't she buried in her coloring book or looking for the next crayon?

The room was dark but enough light came through the back windows that I could make eye contact with Brad. He looked at me with casual surprise but mostly had his eyes locked on her face as she listened to the story of redemption. My heart leapt without reservation from the screen to my girl and back again as the story wove thick and colorful threads throughout the room, like a net catching our hearts. Her bravery was noble, that girl on the screen. To share such wounding that would one day be met with such mercy and compassion. The gospel gave me goosebumps that morning and my watery eyes burned as my heart overflowed.

I couldn't catch the words before they landed on her innocence but it was acceptable because she sat with a pillar of parent on her right and her left and she learned - again - that life is not safe and that Jesus always pursues our pain, like catching the pieces of a puzzle falling in slow motion. Her whimsy returned two minutes later, she immersed herself in the busy bag, and we exhaled with relief that she didn't ask questions.

The fullness of Christ is found in the church.  (Ephesians 1:23)

As I processed what we had watched, with our daughter at the age of seven that morning in our church service, I was surprised at my comfort and relief. If you had asked me the night before what I thought, I would have erred on the side of caution and suggested that children leave the room before the clip was played. Sometimes it takes being blindsided to realize the deep truths that need to take root in our parenting philosophy. It should not disturb us that our children can (and should!) hear the ragged stories in our churches and city groups. Have you considered the work of the Bible lately? Have you scanned the breadth of sins that the blood of Jesus covers? Sunday school messages that teach our children to focus on the colors of the rainbow at the end of "Noah's Ark" are making light of the genocide that drowned men, women, and children and how a man who "walked with God" was saved. The story of God is not a safe one.

The fullness of Christ, for my children, is found in the church. 

Our children walk with tender, open hearts and accept what they hear as absolute truth. Every single attitude and perspective and response is created by the words that are planted in their minds. They listen, they watch, and they absorb. And the voices, oh, the voices. As much thought as I give to what my children hear, so I give to whom they are hearing it from. I pray that my children will be surrounded by men and women who tenderly hand them pieces of God's story and remind them that God is glorious and good. This is what it means to raise our children in community. This is what it means when we say it takes a village. This is what it means for the church to preach the gospel to our children.  

Because there is no place, besides my home, that I would rather them hear truth and love and light than the church. The glorious and aged church that has the opportunity to speak into our children's lives, before culture turns on its loudspeaker and before the playground steals them from our laps. We must insist that our churches take back the responsibility of equipping families for the work of the gospel, for the love of the King, and for the sake of our salvation. It's a daring and hard work but this partnership is the most effective way to disciple our sons and daughters in the kingdom.

She wouldn't remember that morning if you asked her about it. The words planted something deep below the surface, a seed that will be nurtured over time by the displays of vulnerability she witnesses and words that appear to miss her comprehension. She will, however, develop a love for broken stories that surround each of us and she will have the courage to embrace the hurting. She will learn it from me and she will learn it from us and she will impart it to her children. What a legacy.

Image courtesy of Go Forth Creative

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Prelude to Home School

Good morning, dear friends!

Many of you know that we home school and, while this hasn't always been the case, I am just loving it lately and I am finding thriving rhythms for both me and my kids.  I will be hosting an intro to home school morning in November.  If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, please email me if you're interested in coming out.  My plan is to go through a broad overview of the why's and encourage parents to shift their philosophy from education to parenting & home life.  I will also have a lot of resources, practical advice, and encouragement straight from the heart of God.  I'm praying for clarity for each of you, breakthrough in vision for your home, and wisdom from God for all of us.  

Until then, I wanted to pass along some websites & just a book or two that are excellent resources.  

Consultant & Speaker Carole Joy Seid
My mentor Carole Joy Seid has done seminars in Dallas that have radically impacted our home school philosophy, vision, and method.  Her website is here.  She has recently uploaded some cooking videos and just seeing her face and hearing her voice makes my heart soar.  You'll see her schedule (she's in Dallas this weekend!) and you can purchase her seminars, which come with her .pdf book lists.  Find "Listen to Carole" to hear an excellent radio interview and consider listening to it when you're prepping dinner tonight.  

Authors Raymond S. & Dorothy N. Moore.
This couple has written several books, most of which were published in the 1980s and 1990s.  My favorite is Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home. (Amazon or FW Library)  Easily followed by Better Late Than Early. (Amazon or FW Library)  Hard to find but the Fort Worth Library has both available on request.  

Home School & The Single Parent
I've had three interactions in the past month with single moms who are struggling with school options for their sweet children. This article includes links to 105 resources, websites, articles, and more to encourage the single mom or dad on their home school path.  It can be done!

I am looking forward to catching up with you soon and I would love to hear if you check out these resources!  Email me to get more details about the Prelude to Home School morning on November 2nd!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dear Miley

You're probably rolling your eyes at me and already putting up a defensive front. I mean, who cares what a thirty-something, homeschooling mom has to say about your life. I guess that's my problem: I care a lot about your life. And not for the reasons you may assume. 

My daughter, who turns eight on Friday, has never heard of you. She doesn't know who Hannah Montana is, hasn't listened to your music, and I'm not the least bit worried about your influence in her life. It's nonexistent. But that doesn't diminish my downright, heart-breaking love and compassion for you. Because, you see, God loves you and created you for something bigger than yourself and I can see a glimpse of it. I hope for you, right now, that you could be sober and lonely enough to be desperate. Truly amazing things just might happen.   

My people - Christians - would probably take this chance to lecture you, shame you to another cigarette, or point to some bigger "Hollywood culture" problem. Forget them. You are just a girl who wants to be loved, find a purpose, and change the world.  Let's do it together. I might decide to wear jeans and a T-shirt over my bra and panties, tote a purse with diapers, and drink less than once a week but our hearts are the same. They are simply scandalous apart from grace.  Did you know that you shouldn't expect anything good out of your character except what God gives you grace to find? Sorry if Christians make it sound otherwise.   

You are a very popular girl right now. This afternoon, the lady at the coffee drive-through was talking about you. To me. In a minivan. I can't even imagine how you handle the pressure, attention, and fame. Maybe you *don't* handle it as you navigate the course of identity and security. Those waters are rough under the most idyllic circumstances. Add a famous dad, fortune, and a lot of funk and you have a recipe for struggle. Your pillows must have mascara stains from the tears you cry at night. I wish I could give you a big hug and look you straight up in the eyes and say:

You are loved. By a big God. An intimate God who chose you and still chooses you. 

I pray that you find relief. I pray that you find peace. I pray that in the SHOUTING FOR YOUR ATTENTION, OVER HERE, WE PROMISE YOU EVERYTHING AND GIVE YOU NOTHING madness, that you would see that grace will carry you and sustain you. It will redeem you with swift rescue.  Don't ever believe that you don't need rescuing. 

As one who can simply point to the greater Someone and with all my love,

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Mrs. Depression"

Before we dive, I want to make it clear that Brad has read and approved of every word in this post. His side of the story is painted in different colors with different techniques but it shares the same canvas. This is my side of the story and written for the women who recognize my journey. Take a deep breath, friend, and embrace my vulnerability as a gift.

We fell in love over cheap meals, ridiculous hopes, and a break-up. His larger than life personality and popularity made it easy to be his girlfriend and his genuinely humble heart made it easy to say "I do."  He loved me well, the way a thunderstorm takes to parched land and replenishes. He settled the dust and brought calm like thick humidity.

I didn't know he was slipping away from me until he had been gone for years.  Then one evening he said he needed help. "I have to do something, I can't live like this anymore," so I shrugged in agreement. He was medicated just a couple weeks later and even quicker, found his way back to happy. Engaged. Smiling. More grace and patience. More whole. More himself. Our house brightened with noticeable beams from a man satisfied with life. 

While he was finding his happy heart, I began trembling at the changes. I hadn't known the unbearable weight until it started lifting and settling at my feet. Gradually I began to see my filters for pleasing him, hiding my kids from his darker days, and inwardly condemning myself for every failed attempt at making him happy.  

Clean, clean, clean. 
Just a cleaner house would make him happy to be home. 

Spank, spank, spank. 
Well-behaved children would make him happy to be a dad. 

Sex, sex, sex. 
Just initiate often and he'll be a happy lover.  

All those things, at one time or another, would be in great working order but he still lived half-like. Turns out I was exhausted and cowering in the corner of inadequate and less-than.

Surely, since he had become like this after marriage, it was because I wasn't good enough, capable enough, trophy-wife enough. Surely, since it escalated after children and was made worse by children, it must be a reflection of my awful mothering skills.  It's crazy how we don't even recognize our surely thoughts as wicked distortion.  I was so sure about my not-so-sure self but didn't know any of this until I started breathing easy again. Little did I know I had been holding my breath for years, slipping in and out of consciousness. I was not surviving.  

I cried more in those medicated months than in most years of our marriage.  Seven years of covenant commitment but not an ounce of preparation for what felt like a restart.  It's simply amazing how hope infiltrates and bleeds through our lives like a drop of blue in an ocean of clear.  While I felt the burning of charcoal rip from my heart and soul, I stood on the shore of hope and healing.  I watched as years of wrong-thinking and the motions of desperate wife-ing were quietly and quickly exchanged. God wrapped his arms of mercy around my marriage and embraced my bleeding heart.  

He brings and gives beautiful freedom because He is Himself freedom defined.

This story goes on with more words than anyone needs in a blog. So I want to open the door for you to a place where not many are willing to travel. Can you relate? Do you have a husband or a wife who walks on a blurred path with lead shoes? You aren't alone. We are an anonymous tribe of certainly brave men and women who suffer with the suffering. There is hope for us and for them and there is reaping for the required sowing of the smallest seeds. Sow goodness and patience. Tend to joy and hope. Your harvest will be magnificent. Pray for the impossible when you feel timid and tired and when hope seems lost.  Sunlight is coming for you, at a fierce speed and with jealous determination. Can you feel it?

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, 
She laughs at the days to come."
Proverbs 31:25

P.S.  I'd love to hear from you.  Comment below or shoot me an email.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The New Motherhood

When I had my first baby, nearly eight (8!) years ago, the word "Pinterest" didn't exist and "organic" referred to a movement of Christianity.  Granted, I was the first among my friends to have a baby and so the culture of motherhood hadn't begun for me.  I was naive with all things bebe and when I look back with the information I have now, I sigh at the experts and trends and THANK GOD that I'm not fresh on the journey.  Don't get me wrong.  I still really struggle with this "mom thing" and my own thoughts are usually own worst enemy.  Do you find yourself feeling totally inadequate... overwhelmed... lost... empty... skeptical... ineffective... and just plain befuddled when it comes to raising your kids?  I'm secretly hoping it's not just me.  

Wow.  If you're a new-ish mom, you've got it harder than I think our country has ever made it for us.  There is more pressure and comparison and that's-the-wrong-way-to-wear-a-baby and high fives for home births but don't give that baby rice cereal and keep them rear-facing until they're six, when they'll be just two years from their first taste of sugar.  Sheesh, ladies.  I can promise you that these things are new to the scene and were not around when I was stocking up on jarred baby food and store brand formula for my firstborn.  It's like a floodgate of knowledge broke open about three or four years ago and turns out that everything our mother did is dangerous, the FDA is a bunch of idiots, and the air we breathe is toxic.  The rug is always being yanked out from underneath our sore feet (that are either wider or longer than pre-baby) because someone with a megaphone (or Facebook newsfeed) read a supposedly helpful article about childrearing.  It's a subtle shift from just thinking "I'm a bad mom" to our society actually telling us "Every decision you're making as a mom is wrong." 

And it's ripping the heart out of motherhood.        

We've just recently found a church home (consider any organized group if church isn't your thing) and I'm working on developing relationships with other moms.  It's the first time, in a long time, that I don't know where she's coming from.  Will inviting her and her kids to Chick-Fil-A offend her because they use peanut oil?  What if vaccinations come up in conversation and we have opposite viewpoints?  What if she sees me pull out a disposable diaper & scented wipes?  I'm recognizing that all the information I've received over the past few years has written the word "divided" on my heart.  The font is fear, the ink is bold, and the message is clear.  War.  This is the war on motherhood. That rather than standing beside each other and FOR each other, we would disagree to the point of broken relationships and hesitation to start new ones.  We begin to believe that we must isolate ourselves in order to feel confident about our choices and styles of raising our sweet children.  We dread the debate, the conversation, and ultimately the intimacy of disagreeing but still loving and fighting for the greater cause.     

No wonder we avoid hate community with other moms.  

Dear friend, let me boldly remind you or tell you perhaps for the first time that you cannot do this alone.  You cannot imagine the sweet encouragement from the times I've been most vulnerable and honest with other moms about my impatience, failings, and fears.  When the tension and pressure to recoil from opportunities to truly share our heart with another mom pulls us, we must consistently choose to move forward.  I can almost guarantee that you will find compassion and relief that she feels the same way.  It will probably feel very awkward at first: you might be speaking Crunchy while she is speaking Silky, you'll pull out Pampers while she pins the cloth, and she'll occupy her child with an iPhone while you pull out your boob.  Get over it.  You both speak Mother and you bleed love and hope for your littles. You'll need each other some day and your kids need to see you being a friend.  Model boldness and courage and let them see "how big your brave is."  Watch this if you need some inspiration (or click here):  

And let me know how it goes!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


She died a year ago and I have no words.

I have tried for weeks to find the opening line, the "post title," the anything that would tribute her well. But I am speechless. Speechless and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because the dissatisfaction, the grasping at words leaves me squirming in my seat.

Usually I can dig and dream and find the words and write the story but not this time.  And this is the very most important time.  It's the time to honor her and remember her because I don't get to talk about her anymore and her birthday is Saturday. 

So I weep.

I weep for the things that are not and the things that should have been and for the brokenness and ugly and all the "gone wrong" that surrounds me.  The disappointments and failures and mistakes and I cannot turn away.  I cannot ignore the hurt and pain and the deep-down-to-my-toes wrenching emptiness.  Who knew there were dark corners in shadows, tucked away from all light and hope.  Have you noticed how much further pain seems to be going?  It's in all directions, to heights and depths unseen, and to places we didn't know pain could reach.  And yet...  

I cannot forget that the brokenness is taken into tender hands and covered by tender love.  I cannot forget that His tears cover my brokenness and the gone wrong.  Because it has been, more than anything this year, the fact that His tears cover my tears.  His sweet mercy carries my grief and reminds me that more than blood to cover, it is Him that covers.  He befriended me in my grief in the most lovely way. He gently opened the gate for me to have Him and all of Him.  All of His goodness chased the faith in me until it found its rest at the most broken place so that it could be the most restored part of my heart.  So that the faith in me would be like valuable treasure and costly, like a pearl of great price. And now a tiny voice can say with great conviction and hope and trust that God is good and He is close to the brokenhearted.  He will stop at nothing for us to want Him and all of Him.
Olivia, you are the very best thing to ever happen to me and the mark you left on me is undoubtedly the most radiant.  Thank you for every second of life and death, of joy and pain, and for introducing me to the Healer. In the words of Pink, who I think you would have loved:  "We're not broken, just bent, and we can learn to love again."  ~ Your ever-lovin' mama

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Thompson, party of five, your table is ready."

You might as well say "party of 20."  Or better yet, just give us a party room, preferably outside where the birds will eat our mess and where screams won't echo off the rafters.  We are like a circus in constant motion and I feel like a ringmaster most of my minutes.  Clean up the mess we just made (meal time), get ready for the next act (craft/creative play), prep all costumes for performances (laundry), and make sure the animals children are not mauling each other.  Now, where did I put my whip...

Seriously though.  I'm talking to my mama friends who have three kids.  And I'm talking to my mama friends who have friends who have three kids.  And I'm talking to the wide-eyed observers who stare at families with three kids as we shop at Wal-Mart or take up a whole bench at church.  We know we have a big family.  We know how babies are made.  And we are not stupid. We might be tired, stretched thin, in need of a date with our husbands, and staring at a mountain of laundry but we are not stupid.  Or regretful.  Let me explain by sharing some secrets of the trade:

Something inside our dreamy hearts can see ourselves in 20 or 30 years and it makes us really happy to know we'll have a big family.  *This* is what drives us - not the need for constant confusion, chaos, or chatter.  We know that one day we'll pack up the diaper pail, trade in the minivan, and Craigslist the double stroller.  It's the vibrant crazy of having grown-up kids that motivates us to stop buying condoms.  We'll sit at movie premieres of PG-13 movies with our slew of teenagers, relieved that we don't have to learn the name of another Disney princess. We dream of a thirty-foot-long dining room table to accommodate all our kids and their girlfriends & boyfriends...then one day their spouses and children will have a seat there, too.  We are gonna rock the grandparent thing because anything and everything is easier than being a mom to three kids.  It's our dreams & visions for the future that pull us out of the mundane and remind us that we are building a legacy. A very big legacy.

We're also guaranteeing ourselves the biggest amount of stress. I caught a few minutes of a segment on The Today Show that shared some not-so-surprising information:
"Mothers of three children stress more than moms of one or two, while mothers of four or more children actually report lower stress levels."    
My first response is "Duh." but quickly followed by "Here's why & give me grace."

1.  It's hard for us to ask for childcare.  Three kids is a lot for a doting mother to handle and we know what it takes to be in charge of our kids for a couple of hours.  Even when people offer to help, we hate the idea of being a burden to anyone.  So we grocery shop with our kids and we make returns with our kids.  And we unload all three to go into Hobby Lobby for one frame that is 50% off this week.  We're having a hot flash by the time we're in checkout and contemplate leaving the kids in the car with the windows rolled down so we can run into Ulta to buy mascara.

2.  Our every hour is broken into 10-minute increments so our day feels loooooong.  If each of my three kids only "needs me" twice an hour, that's six times an hour - every ten minutes - that I'm responding to basic needs.  Sippy cup refill.  Diaper change. Snack time.  "I need help buttoning my jeans."  "He stole my toy."  "What does this word say?"  "Can we watch a show?"  It's basically non-stop and nobody's fault.  Just so y'all know, my kids need me a lot more than just twice an hour & it's usually at the same moment.  Do the math.  Getting dinner on the table is a bona fide miracle.

3.  We've seen most of the worst sh** when it comes to parenting.  By the third kid, you've probably had at least one unexpectedly hard labor & delivery, one bad sleeper, one strong-willed hellion, a picky eater, a screamer, a bully, one kid with rage problems while another has a sensory disorder, an early talker & a late talker, and definitely a kid that is hard(er) to love than your others.  We have loads of compassion for other moms, new moms, and struggling moms.  We don't have all the answers but we are so willing to listen and cry with you.  In some ways, we probably make the best of friends so don't be scared of us and don't be afraid to crawl inside our lives: there's always room for more.  

4.  We crave conversations with girlfriends.  We used to meet for playtime at Chick-Fil-A, eventually moved to parks, and finally just gave up.  You should see when just two of us moms get together with our six kids.  We stopped trying to talk and just started drinking margaritas at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.  Don't worry, our kids are safe in the backyard with the door locked and ice pops in hand.  We'll tend to them in 5, 4, 3...

My BFF left my house a couple weeks ago (right after remembering the pack of Straw-ber-Ritas she'd brought) and I texted her to tell her how much I love our crazy lives and crazy times together.  I keep telling myself that some day, we'll meet for brunch wearing white pants and carrying purses that don't have diapers & wipes, and we'll complain about our wrinkles and 401(k).  We'll reminisce the days when even a minivan seemed too small, no washing machine was big enough, and no amount of coffee (or wine) could get us through the day.  But we'll also be sharing stories of choosing colleges, engagement rings, and bragging about our first (of probably twenty) grandchildren.  I'll drink to that.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dirty Thirties

I remember my twenties fondly. I was skinny, fell in love, drove a fuel-efficient sedan, and had perky boobs. The hardest decisions revolved around owning a *gulp* minivan and whether reading the "Twilight" series would affect my salvation. I was a newlywed, then a young mom with her "accessory baby." My twenties disappeared and I was still a smiling mom, pregnant with the third, and naively hopeful I would quickly slip back into pre-pregnancy jeans. Clothing for the kids could still be found in the toddler section at Target and my grocery budget was manageable. Unless I needed extra wine coolers that month.

Easy. My twenties were easy. I certainly felt like I had it hard some of the time and there were definitely ups and downs. But when I look back at the life happening to us, it was mostly normal and, best of all, predictable. Love. Marriage. Babies. Mortgage.

Then something changed when thirty blew in like a sneaky old lady with a carpet bag of hot coals. She was supposed to bring Werther's Originals. Or at least peppermints and a Red Bull because I don't sleep well and forget to brush my teeth most mornings.

My thirties have brought the worst kind of heartache and a buttload of perspective. We lost our daughter in the middle of a hot, sticky summer when the hardest struggle should have been picking out a good watermelon. I wanted to be stressed about whether I should buy 50 or 60 SPF, not grieving till my heart fell out.

Then I was taking flowers to my best long-time friend who had a hard and disappointing miscarriage while out of town. She should have been debating whether or not to take her kids to the next JBF sale, not heartbroken that there was no longer a baby to buy for.

I still have the text that reads "The ER doctor made it sound like cancer" from my best friend about her husband. And just like that I'm watching the BFF talk about radiation, oncologists, surgery, and scans.

Thirties, what the hell?!

Should I have seen it all coming? That the glitter of life must eventually wear thin and ugly would start to peek through? Did I somewhere start believing that human life...American cushy and protected? Or that I would be immune to hardships because I love God and gave my life to Jesus a long time ago?

These trials make me feel a soldier sisterhood with the women I'm honored to call friends. We face these shadow-days with a reservoir of faith and hope and remember often that joy is always before us. We embrace Jesus through the lessons of life, when the lessons themselves aren't worthy of our strength and fighting hearts. We stand. We fight.

And we heal.

The thirties have brought scars that add to our compassion and wisdom. They've taken more than most of us thought we had to give. We stand, older and darker, sunburnt and broken, but we stand with a stronger vision and better sight. We know how to fight for our husbands and children and their futures. And we are learning what matters and what is waste. Very much is waste and very little matters.

I think I will look back at my thirties with the most gratitude and deep affection. For it is in my thirties that I discovered the depth of my strength and character.  It's here that I've watched beautiful - no, glorious - light emerge from friends as they process loss and trials and hardships. Our compasses are fine-tuned and our anchors hold steady in fiercer storms.

And besides, I found Pinterest, BB cream, and great bras.  Hallelujah.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Advice for Moms, part 3: 10 quickies

1.  Tell your daughter about the magic of Brillo pads and Magic Erasers.  No girl needs to ruin her manicure for burnt-on spaghetti or soap scum in the shower.

2.  Never, ever test whether a pair of underwear is clean by smelling.  Assume it's dirty and wash.  

3.  Repeat after me: Sharpies will be placed in locked box or at an elevation no less than 6 feet off the ground.  All other markers & crayons will be washable.  Period.

4.  Make a rule that you will always say "yes" when a child asks you to read to them.

5.  Spend a lot of time around your friends.  You will yell at your kids less frequently & be a better mother in general.

6.  Make messes, milk mustaches, and burp often with your boys.  They will (probably) keep your secrets.

7.  Boys will have B.O. earlier than you think and girls will be hormonal before they're pre-teen.  Prepare yourself.

8.  Read often.  Read deep & read light; read fiction & read non-fiction.  You'll be so glad you did.    

9.  No matter how overwhelming a moment feels, it will pass in 20 minutes.  Just breathe.  

10. __________________________.  Insert your advice here - you always have something to offer another mom, sister, or friend.  What would you say?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Advice for Moms, part 2: Heartwork

This time around I'm not talking about cleaning products or candles or really anything that can be bought.  My advice is simple and directed toward your heart and mind.  My world can be spic and span, organized and sanitized, but if my heart is overgrown with unwelcome vines, everything is wrought with burden and I quickly collapse under the weight.

The weight of comparison.  

To list every single way we compare ourselves would take months.  The list would be long and, frankly, ugly.  Clothes.  Body size.  Homes.  Cars.  Eating habits.  Budgets.  Nail color.  Ability to handle pressure.  Ability to take great photos.  Being photogenic.  Capacity for kids.  Free time or lack thereof.  The list goes on and we haven't even talked about our children.  Are they trendy enough? Are they as obedient as they "should" be?  How well are they reflecting my parenting skills?

Have you ever found yourself comparing the "worst you" to the "best ______" (insert a friend's name).  I've noticed that on particularly hard days - yelling, impatience, mess & chaos, hours of TV babysitter, and zero productivity - I picture one of my best friends in her home, making homemade breads and jams, while fully-showered and dressed, her children reciting Latin, laundry neatly arranged in drawers, classical music in the background, and spending an hour alone with Jesus because she woke up at 4am.  No joke.  I really compare the worst of me to the best of her and it makes me feel so damn inadequate.  Stay with me for a moment and press deeper into this thought because it most certainly doesn't end there.  

That inadequacy quickly turns into the shame that I'm just not a good mother and therefore, must not be qualified to be great in my own home and with my own family.  So I disengage and stop trying.  As a first-born, perfectionisty-type A, I find that it's better to not attempt something I might fail.  Stick to the things that can't be failed - Facebook, Pinterest, watching TV, shopping for clothes or running all over town but not really doing anything.  Those things in horrifying (not healthy) quantities and I suddenly realize that I'm not leading my life and I start to see the fruit of an untended garden.

So I guess this advice all boils down to this, taken from Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead written by Brene Brown.

"When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive - it turns parenting into a shame minefield.  The real questions for parents should be: "Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?"

Let's take measure of how much comparison dictates the way we're functioning in our role as mom and wife.  Tend to your gardens, mama.  Press into the difficult and uncomfortable.  Lean into the challenge and the unpredictable and the risk of failure. Don't be afraid of the unknown - it might just be your greatest success.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Advice for Moms, part 1: Housework

The next few blogs will be short with just a few pieces of encouragement for making life at home with littles...well, maybe a little "brighter."  I know it's hard to stay at home with your kids and I know it's hard having little kids but there are a few things I've learned along the way.  So first let's tackle housework.  Mopping.  Keeping your kitchen sink clean.  Washing dishes & unloading the dishwasher.  Oye vey.  

1.  Buy a candle you love and burn it when you clean.  My personal recommendation: Volcano from Anthropologie.  Ask your hubby to pick it up instead of flowers next time he's in the mood.

My favorite candle: Volcano

2.  Splurge Invest in cleaning products you enjoy.  Maybe it's just me but something that smells good and looks good will probably end up in my shopping cart at Target.  Lately I've been enjoying the Method products, like cleaning spray and hand soap.  Below is my current favorite.  You'll find that it's a few cents more than the boring stuff but well worth the motivation.
Orla Kiely for Method - cute!

3.  I swear I do enough laundry to employ a full-time maid.  I often have to re-wash a cycle (or at least put it through rinse again with fabric softener) because it sits in my washer a little too long.  Done with a little Downy Infusions (seen below in Citrus Spice) and my job gets a little more delightful.  It makes me happy just thinking about it.  

Now this isn't a blog about saving money or going green.  I'm not going to tell you to get over your boredom/frustration/exhaustion and just do your work.  I'm just going to tell you that there are a few practical things out there that can help us find a little joy in the mundane things we do around the house.  

Happy houseworking!  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Story of Olivia, part 3: My Best Friend

I owe you a blog.  I told you months ago that I would follow up with the rest of our sweet Olivia's story.  I don't know if I've been avoiding this but there's something I have to tell you.  Something I *must* put in writing.

Grief was my best friend and my worst enemy in the days that followed Olivia's death.  But thankfulness saved my life.    

It had already been the anthem for my 2012.  It had dug deep into my pores for the kind of cleansing that bleach and fire can't provide.  It was becoming second nature and first instinct.  Utterly, genuine thankful - a bursting heart that saw everything as a gift.  Every trial and error, every gift and possession.  Health and home.  Marriage and children.  Thanksgiving gave birth to faith so my walk with Jesus was deeper than ever and I found myself oh-so-near to the heart of God.

And then my daughter died.

Because her umbilical cord strangled her to death.

Even in those shadows, there was a flame that stood there waiting for me.  It was there, in the grief and for the grief, and didn't lead me out of the shadows.  It stayed with me in the shadows because the grief was all I had left of our baby girl.  It was the oddest comfort because it was something.  And the grief was not dangerous because it was lit by the flame of a thankful heart.  An ancient and old heart that had weathered through small rain storms and was well-stocked and prepare for the storm of the century.

I'm so thankful Olivia was with us for nearly 22 weeks.  I'm so thankful we had seen her on June 6th and learned she was a girl.  I'm so thankful that I didn't miscarry in the first trimester when the placenta tore.  I'm so thankful she was my fourth baby and not my first.

I am thankful she died only knowing the warmth of my body and sound of my heart's rhythm.  I am thankful that, as time passes, I am moving closer to her, and not further away.  I am thankful that God, and not my enemy, wrote the days of her life and determined the day of her death.  

Simply put: thankfulness is a choice that must be practiced when it's easy so that the habit will overtake when it's hard.  Cultivating a lifestyle and mindset of grateful is like a shield in crisis.  It will protect the most damaged and violated heart from bitterness and anger.  It will light your darkness and carry your heart through the storm.  And you might even find that, one day, it will save your life.