Friday, March 28, 2014


The moment comes when I slip off the bed, trying my hardest to not squeak the mattress, and make my way to the dimly lit hallway. I don't exhale. I don't blink or rustle my hair. I only pray that the child doesn't notice my exit or hear my contacts realigning or my eyelashes growing. You know, the kind of noises that wake sleeping children, right? 

Don't be fooled when I settle down on the couch. I know I still have a full ten minutes before I can be completely assured the cherub is actually asleep. I swear, toddlers' beds must come with a super sonic alarm that senses when my feet finally make their way off the carpet and onto the wood, signaling to me relief but to them: DEFCON 1 has been set in motion. 

I wonder, yet again, why bedtime is so.freaking.hard.

Bedtime routines are not some occasional, just-when-we-feel-like-it tradition that take place when mom and dad have had one too many glasses of wine and decide that all mini-beings must vacate the premises. This is not some grand idea I've spent three months preparing for, like a baby shower or root canal, where all angles are considered and every detail sorted through like we're going on HGTV. This is bed time. This happens every, single night. Without fail they are in bed within the same two-hour time frame, in the same bed, with the same lights and the same routines. The distance from their bed to mine has not grown a hundred yards or been separated by a mine field containing ninjas in big foot costumes.

I'm specifically not mentioning nap time right now because some sort of guttural sound might come from across the internet and beg you to never mention the habit to me or ask my advice. Our house doesn't do no nap time and I ain't going back to that desolate land. I will not speak of it.

I will never understand why bedtime causes such a collective hyperventilating from every parent I know. It's like food: it's important, the habits stay with them for life, and we're responsible for training them in health and happiness. Only because I'm in my right mind and a decent three hours from the madness, can I say that bedtime must be downright important. The bigger the battle, the bigger the opportunity, right? Someone with teenagers, someone who doesn't have to go get another cup of water or tuck the sheet tighter or scratch the back the other way or sing another song, please tell me that we can build opportunities to genuinely connect with each child at night, right?

Half of you are already pulling out your essential oil sample to mail me, suggesting I rub their feet and start diffusing some Valorific or Solveallyourproblems an hour before bedtime. The other half have just renewed their Wine Club subscription and are wondering why Costco doesn't sell chewable children's Benadryl in bulk. Don't worry...I've already checked.

I'm not going to tell you that you'll need practically an entire day's grace for your kids all over again at 7 o'clock because that is depressing and unfair. I will tell you, though, that when I lay in bed with my eight year old, she begs for snuggles, the same song every night, and to always "pray for no bugs." There used to be a day when I didn't see the end of those requests. I can now sense that there will be a time when some book will distract her into another world or there won't be room for both of us on the bed, and she won't grab my wrist and plead for another two minutes.

Our boys share a room, each with their own twin bed, and most nights they try to catch up on their word count for the day in the few minutes I spend winding down with them. A few nights ago, Colby would not stop his chatter while Tucker was nearly settled and I firmly said to him, "Colby. Stop. Talking." The room hushed and I cringed to think that was the last phrase he heard from me that day. Even now, my heart aches to think those words ushered him into his dreams. 

This is the moment where shame or hope will take grip of your heart and lead you down tonight's path at bedtime. You can feel guilt and fear about how you've handled bedtime and routines and goodnights and the effect it has had on your babies. You can willfully put on a cloak of determination that resolves to do better tonight and tomorrow and then it will be a new week and your resolve will putter out of energy. You can adhere to some method or philosophy and become slave to its precepts, without the heart of compassion and guidance and your child's spirit will get lost in the mix of your pride and a stranger's advice.

Instead, let's load the last dish into the dishwasher and take a quick second to pray: God, help me with bedtime tonight. Help me love. Help me finish well. Help me not scream like Xena: Warrior Princess. Amen.  

I am thoroughly convinced that if you can put a child to bed without handcuffs, duct tape, or restraints, you could lead the G8 Summit (is it G7 now that Russia has been excluded?), hike at least half of Mount Everest, and breastfeed quadruplets. Maybe even all three in the same week. For tonight, here is my Irish blessing for you:
May exhaustion guide your child's will to a quick and painless death,May their bedsheets wrap ever so tightly lightly around their bodies,May you walk forth from their rooms without the spanker in hand,May you never hear their voices again. Until morning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Candy Crush, Lent, and Rage

I'm hovering quietly around level 266 on Candy Crush.

There I said it, and now you can judge me. Maybe instead you're standing in awe of my candy crushing awesomeness. I only play a few minutes a day but in the spirit of vulnerability, I'll admit that somedays it's a lot more than a few minutes. I was even one of the last people to jump on the sweet ol' wrapped candy band wagon because I couldn't believe the obsession - or Facebook requests. Now I understand and it's embarrassing. One website says "it's both the best thing and worst thing to ever happen to you." Bless it.

Yesterday was the first day of Lent and while I'm making all sorts of confessions, I will tell you that I have never participated. I have never fasted during Lent, marked my forehead, or done a study alongside the weeks leading up to Easter. Fat Tuesday means nothing to me. Ash Wednesday seems to me more a day for finding out who's Catholic and thus, I don't identify. This year feels quite a bit more inviting as my church is providing us with a great resource that's guiding my prayers and focus. I'm observing Lent for the first time as a 33-year-old mom who drives a minivan, struggles with menu planning, and hasn't showered since Tuesday. Or maybe Monday, there's no telling. 

So the big question is what are you giving up? I'm not giving up Candy Crush, although I'm sure I will be playing quite a bit less. I'm not shutting down Facebook or unplugging the television or dumping desserts in the trash. I'm giving up excuses.

The more I think about the things that hold me back and keep me from seeking the heart of God, the more I realize that it's not the things in my hands that keep me from Jesus, it's the things in my head and heart.

It's ironic to me that on the first day of Lent, my day was marked by a full-scale, hormonal rage attack that nearly ended the lives of most of my immediate family members. I screamed like never before at each of my kids, cussed at my husband over text, and yelled at drivers on the road. Chipotle was out of chicken and I nearly drove through their front door. Over chopped meat, y'all.  I was legitimately mad and for legitimate reasons. I overreacted at every turn and hurt each of my kids and my husband. I laid in bed with a migraine for the entire afternoon while my kids ate cupcakes and bell peppers for lunch which undoubtedly led to Colby's horrible headache that evening. The hearts of my kids slipped through the cracks of my selfish, bleeding heart and I justified it because I was PMSing.

Oh wait: No excuses. No justifying.

My hormones didn't hurt people - I hurt people. I sinned over and over again.  I chose sin, I chose to offend and hurt, and there was damage left in the wake of my wicked behavior. There might be a good explanation for yesterday's destruction but I'm still responsible at the end of the day for what I did.  I stared the ugly straight in the face last night, repented to my kids & husband, and am asking God for forgiveness this morning.  He will rebuild, He will tend to their wounded hearts, and I can stand unashamed because He is a good God who redeems and restores, both them and me.

Our excuses cannot hide our sin from God. The ways people have hurt us cannot protect us from taking responsibility for our sin. Our busy schedules are not shields of protection that justify why we don't serve the poor, love our neighbor, and care for the orphan. Sometimes I look back over the past few years of my life and see more a string of excuses than I care to admit. It's enough to make me fall to my knees and cry for the things lost.

Because those excuses have had a dramatic effect on my life. They keep me from writing because "I have three kids, home school, and don't have a house keeper." They keep me from eating healthy because "I don't have the budget or resources to eat organic or Paleo." Excuses are keeping me from losing weight because "I don't have a gym membership or time in the day to walk around the block." Excuses keep me in bed in the morning because "I'm tired and sleep is more important than being filled with the life of God for my family." Excuses lead me to Candy Crush and Facebook because "I'm bored and lonely and my kids are annoying me." Excuses are keeping me from all the things I really want, mainly Jesus himself. 

For Lent this year, I'm catching the excuses as they enter my mind and fighting hard against the damage they create. Any ability to choose is all grace and what I believe matters, too. So I'm opening up Luke 14:16-24 and imagining the feast that God invites us to.
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’  
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 
Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” 
What if we really believed that everything is ready? Would you be willing to leave behind the excuses, no matter how valid, and pursue your banquet? Would you be willing to train your mind against the thoughts that keep you from what you know is waiting for you? During this season of Lent, where denial and sacrifice and fasting train our hearts and minds, I pray that you find a feast that satisfies.

"Quarry me deep, dear Lord, 
and then fill me to overflowing with living water." 
(Prayer from The Valley of Vision)