A Long December

A Long December

This morning I refused the rush.

I refused the rush because if I didn't slow down the whole thing was threatening to come unraveled.  I was about to come completely unraveled.

So I resisted the urge to hurry off after I got my littles to pre-school (in what was sure to be a vain attempt to check off my holiday-sized to-do list in the 4.5 child-free hours I had anyway.)  Instead, I lingered around my 4 year old's classroom after drop-off and I grabbed his chubby little hand in mine as his class headed off to Chapel.  This mama was sorely in need of a few minutes in a room with old wooden pews, hymnals, and a display of stain-glass windows whispering the story of the gospel.

I sat in one of those old wooden pews next to my middle son and together he and I watched Father Bill light the first candle on the Advent wreath as he explained to all the three and four-year-olds how precious this season was, how it was a season marked by peace, joy, love, and hope and as little eyes watched, enthralled as that first, lone candle glowed and flickered and cast dancing shadows, I wondered how it was that this Believer's heart could be so desperately lacking those exact things.

A Sacrifice of Thanks

A Sacrifice of Thanks

This Wednesday my husband and I will load the car, buckle up the boys, and take I-45 north for four hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with my side of the family for the first time in years. 

It’s been years since we’ve done a holiday together.

I couldn’t tell you exactly why we stopped gathering as a family all that time ago, because the decision was never mine to make, but I suppose at some point it simply became less painful for her to opt out of the holidays altogether. 

Not the result of just one broken and strained relationship but the result of so many broken and strained relationships.  Perceptions were constantly conflicting, words were rarely weighed rightly, and one offense piled on top of another.  It all grew so heavy.  The remaining structure of the family, with her at it’s core, could not hold the weight of the rubble - so ties deteriorated, losses were cut, and the whole thing entered a state of disrepair.

The Things We Leave Behind

The Things We Leave Behind

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him... Genesis 12:1-4

One of the great lies that has been propagated by our generation is the idea that we can have it all. (Don't even get me started on the lie that we deserve it all). The notion that we might actually have to sacrifice one thing in order to gain possession of another thing has been rejected as a self-imposed limitation. After all, why should we have to give up anything?

He Sends the Rain

He Sends the Rain

Last week I sat in our home in the suburbs of Houston, Texas and watched helplessly as Hurricane Harvey drowned our city.  

I simply didn’t possess the mental bandwidth to make sense of the devastation all around me.  If you watched any news at all the past nine days, then I don’t have to tell you what the citizens of this city have endured.  Entire portions of the city under water.

Homes gone. 

Families lost. 

The floodwaters relentlessly rose and there was no end in sight.  Each night when I laid down to sleep, the rain beating down incessantly on our roof, I would pray, “Please God.  Just make it stop.  Please just stop the rain.”

And still the rain fell. 

On A Wire

On A Wire

I watch as this guy on tv walks a wire across the Grand Canyon, of all places. From where I sit on my couch, 43 feet above sea level, I don’t envy his journey one bit. He dangles 1500 feet above the rock hard earth with nothing but a 2 inch wire separating him from the fall. No harness. No net. Wind whipping wildly about him. He nimbly traverses each tedious step and I think, “Well, isn’t this a metaphor for life?” A series of carefully weighed steps over the great unknown, where one false move could un-do you.

That’s the feeling I’ve been fighting and it’s turned me into a make-shift tightrope walker. Only in my mind I’m balancing a stick stacked with spinning plates, too.

But the part of me that knows the truth says there’s something about my feeling that doesn’t ring true. I realize that my perspective has been tainted. I’ve been battling a lie that the enemy is bound and determined to get me to believe. “You’re fragile,” he’s been insisting. “So easily broken,” he lies. “Your situation is tedious. Precarious. Slightly off-kilter.  Careful how you proceed, my dear. I’m afraid you’re setting yourself up for a fall.”

To You, Mama, On The First Day of School

To You, Mama, On The First Day of School

My friend Becky sent me a text last week. “We have first graders” it read. I fully expect to get a similar text from Becky at this same time every year up until our oldest children go to college. My first born, Cole, and her first born, Laurel, were in Mother’s Day Out together before they could even walk. They took some of their first wobbly steps side-by-side down the hallways of that big baptist church, back when Becky and I were first learning how to be mamas. She and I, we stumbled and fumbled right alongside our babies as we learned how to walk the rocky terrain of motherhood.

And now, just like that, “We have first graders.”

Just like that. I’ve noticed that ever since I became a mother (6 years, 5 months and 7 days ago) I’ve developed a very bipolar relationship with time. I’m either begging it to speed up (Is it nap time yet?) or praying it would slow down (first loose tooth already?!) It’s as if the moment that first baby was placed in my arms my entire life became suddenly consumed with the notion of time.

The One Word That Should Define Your Marriage

The One Word That Should Define Your Marriage

Thirteen years ago today, I married my quasi-high school sweetheart (there’s a long story that goes with that title). We had a smallish wedding on a tight budget, but I was never the kind of girl to be too concerned about the number of guests or number of dollars I’d be allotted for my wedding.  Honestly, I found all the planning and choices to be overwhelming and stressful. Invitations, flowers, bridal parties, wedding cake, grooms cake (we have to get two cakes?!), out of town guests, hotel reservations, photographer, videographer – it was all a bit too complicated for me. I wanted to be married without actually having to get married, but I had some sort of understanding that the wedding itself (and all the busy-ness that went along with it) was a necessary part of the experience.

When it came right down to the details of the day, I loved my dress, but had no great care for finding the perfect dress. The cake was delicious (but aren’t most cakes delicious, just by their very nature?) My bouquet was beautiful, but I don’t even remember the type of flowers I held. The wedding itself was a bigger event to our loved ones than it was to Chris and I. More than anything, I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable and undeserving of all the attention that was doted on me on my “big day”. In the grand scheme of things, my husband and I would face much bigger days together than the day we wed.

A Kingdom that Cannot be Shaken

A Kingdom that Cannot be Shaken

This week shook me. And at the tail end of it here I still find myself a bit jolted, confused and disoriented. I feel shaken. Sometimes I am disarmed by how steady and stable I can feel one moment, only to be knocked off my feet the next.

Years ago, I was in the only earthquake I’ve ever experienced. I was told afterward that it was a small earthquake, but it didn’t feel small to me as it was happening. I was on the second floor of the building I was working in at the time, when slowly at first, but then a bit more violently, things begin to move, shimmy and dance across the room. Desks migrated from one side of the room to the other and books bounced off shelves. The ground moved underneath my feet and the walls around me began to tremble and sway. It was terrifying. My perception was thrown off and I had to fight for the balance that came so easily only moments ago. I grasped for something, anything,that would hold me steady, but nothing around me seemed to do the trick. How on earth was I supposed to steady myself when everything around me was moving?

To this day, that remains one of the most unsettling sensations I have ever experienced. Objects that I assumed were solid, fixed, reliable structures, simply gave way with the strange and sudden movement of the earth, and I lost my balance in the turmoil. For several minutes after the tremors ended I remained unsteady as I struggled to regain my footing on solid ground. I wasn’t even sure what constituted solid ground at that point. Could I trust the next step I took, or might the ground give way underneath my feet? Was my perception still off? Surely I was risking a tumble with my next move.

Control Freak

Control Freak

The moment school let out for the summer we ushered our family of five straight to the beach in celebration of the best season of the year (at least as far as any school aged kid is concerned). We packed up the suitcases and headed even further south than we already reside to spend three fun-filled days in the sun, allowing our boys to do all the things that we usually say no to as parents. Stay up late? Yes! Chips, french fries and lots and lots of ketchup for lunch? Why not?! Overpay for cheap souvenir shark-tooth necklaces? Sure! Chocolate milk for dinner? Of course! We threw our usual routine out the window to enjoy the simple pleasures that come with this season of life during this season of the year.

 

Fathers and Grace

Fathers and Grace

I remember the day my father apologized to me. It was probably about ten years ago now. He and I had both been working hard at our relationship that was hard to work. It had been that way for a long, long time. Through the years, we kept on keeping on with the gritty task of restoring a relationship that had been broken. Lots of dinners and lunches out with slow conversations as we struggled to acquaint ourselves with each other. I say acquaint because although there had been no real lapse in our relationship time-wise, we had ceased knowing each other in the way you cease knowing someone when you hold on too long to an idea of who that person is that doesn’t fit them anymore. So to say that Dad and I were getting reacquainted doesn’t quite fit because neither of us were at all who we once had been. At some point during those difficult years between he and I, I had grown from a girl into a woman and he had become an entirely different type of man. During those long, hard years Dad had changed into the type of man who would look over at his grown daughter as he stood by her side and say, “Summy, I’m so sorry about all that.”

Such a simple apology. Such a sufficient apology.