Thanks to the Coffee Maker

coffee

I would like to thank my oldest for waking me at 5 a.m. so I could work on my proposals for this upcoming book conference. Also the coffeemaker for the sheer moment of terror when it malfunctioned because I’d plugged in the toaster oven instead.

When You’re Going through Dark Waters

I still remember the moment I was sucked under, the current burning my eyes as my back scraped against the ocean floorwhen you walk through the waters.

Talk about exfoliation… but that was the last thing on my mind. 

Did anyone see me get in the water?

Could I scream if I needed to?

How many waves were coming after me, chasing me, pulling me down?

 

It seems like a lot of us have been pulled down lately, in this community.

We’ve lost life.

We’ve lost relationships.

We’ve lost trust.

I’ve watched my dearest go through separations, divorces, funerals.

I’ve had a few deaths of my own; quiet ones of the soul… ones that can’t be published here… ones I’ve needed to grieve alone for the sake of the privacy of others.

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Yet every day I wake up to these blue-eyed wonders (here is one) and I know that when they call me Mama (and a few other names I shouldn’t repeat here), they trust me.

 

 

 

I’ve spent years holding them in the night, offering them my chest when they were small and a bag of Cheetos the moment their immune systems could handle it.

They are my miracles and the ones I thought were only a whisper in a prayer, because my voice couldn’t even be raised in faith.

In asking for them I discovered a hand in the dark, the hand of the One who rescued and to this day rescues me from my dark waters.

I don’t know what your heart needs tonight, but I want you to know you’re not alone.

Maybe you’re praying for a miracle. Maybe you’re simply praying for air.

My heart is with you, and while I cannot walk beside you tonight, I know the One who can.

He is my love, and He is my exceeding great reward.

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P.S. I Hate You

P.S. I Hate YouIt came on suddenly, the night before a big event; the night I craved sleep the most.

I was drifting off when… jerk. (Not my husband–my body.) Ten minutes later the full body “jerks” happened again… and again… and again.

It’s just stress. Get through the holidays and pick up the wrapping paper and eat bake the last cookie and…

Turns out it wasn’t stress.

The holidays passed, school resumed (thank the Higher Power and the saint that is the preschool teacher), and life resumed to normal… except my body.

Now every evening there were a million little pins poking; my muscles twitching in response, and according to the Internet I was either losing my crap or dying.

In addition, I learned why military agencies use sleep deprivation to torture their P.O.W.’s. I might have been agitated, angry, and (please don’t ask my man) a bit on the oversharing of the information side (but let’s be honest, when am I not?).

The culmination came when, after a night with only two thirty minute stretches sleep, I landed a migraine, a doctor’s visit, and a shot in the butt that was supposed to knock me out like Mike Tyson… but… what the heck?

It didn’t.

Can I just stop and make a suggestion right here, right now?

#Irony

The week before this started, I got the redesign for our new site, Grace for Today. 

I worked hard on that tagline, and I thought to myself, this is the stuff. This is what we all need. This is our community, our people, our love that has existed to meet here on this page and simply talk grace.

Can I just pause here and make a little suggestion?

Never advertise anything as Grace for Today, because you might suddenly find yourself realizing it’s literal. You’ve got grace for today, Friend. That’s it. And when tomorrow comes, there’ll be grace there. 

Even if it means you meet the sunrise in the recliner with thanks to God that the night is finally past and there’s something He made called coffee and it’s probably what’s making my type this run-on sentence as we speak.

So I come to you with dark circles under my eyes and a sense of humor that is slowly returning. Also, a realization that I don’t have much to offer except a passing feeling of hatred for nighttime. That’s why this is titled, P.S. — I HATE YOU.

Not because I hate you. I love you for sharing this life with me. For listening to my #firstworldproblem of sleeplessness. And for sharing your own struggles and victories here.

So what’s going on with you today?

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Another PS-The Internet was wrong. I wasn’t dying… just anemic. Amazing what a little liver (excuse me Vegan friends) and some tiny green pills can do to restore sleep… and sanity. (My family’s.)

 

 

Life’s Lonelier on the Lake

bucketlist (1)It’s been three years now, and I can still remember the day I told Ethan I’d found where we WERE GOING to live.

“There’s one street [in this idyllic small town],” I said, “and the houses are in shambles on that road. I’m pretty sure we could [sell our firstborn to] live here, and also there’s water.”

(That last line was all it took to convince the world kayaking king we could call this small southern town home.)

I’m not sure what it was about this place. Maybe it was the crime rate (which I actually knew nothing about at the time-but soon learned when my cell phone was lifted off the sidewalk that the police took the time for a twelve hour manhunt to retrieve it. That preschool kid will never get off his Big Wheel to pick up toys off the sidewalk again.)

Maybe it was the way we could walk to church, or school, or market. The way strangers waved hello, genuinely smiled, were completely charming, somehow without meddling in your life.

Maybe it was the way new friendships were forged over losses, and fears, and 1 a.m. wakeup calls when your water breaks and you need someone to make sure your oldest doesn’t stick a knife in an electric outlet.

I handpicked this place. I love this place. And I love these people.

So why is my heart longing for somewhere else?

I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately, about my longing for somewhere else. I think it must be a mixture of homesickness for family, roots, the place where I grew up.

But it’s also a mixture of just being a little mom-weary. Chronic illness takes its toll, no matter how beautiful your surroundings are or how supportive your friends are.

Sometimes, even when you’re too old to say it out loud… it’s true that there’s no place like home.

Your Gift

free-printablesWe’re emotional creatures, we creative-types.

We don’t have to have mood swings or drama or crazy (though I probably have all three) to be ourselves… but we do have to feel in order to help others feel. And most of us came into the world feeling deeply.

We hurt for the girl with the tracks on her arms at Old Navy. We are physically affected by the thought of kids without homes. Some of us become emotionally paralyzed when our own grief hits, reflecting rather than doing.

{I would argue that taking a little longer to reflect is actually healthier than what American culture tells us… which is, move on without processing.}

I was twenty-one years old when someone told me, “There is nothing wrong with you. Deep feeling means deep caring.” I’d lived my whole life believing I was too sensitive. That somehow, some way, I would grow thicker skin and become “normal”. That eventually my compassion level would switch to average. A gift.

Dear creative friend, your ability to show compassion is a gift.

Your pain, your agony, even, is your gift to the world–one that says, I see your pain. I feel your suffering. You are not alone. Sound familiar? God with us… Emmanuel. His Spirit inside of you.

Keep being you today. Keep feeling. Keep loving. And keep knowing when it is time to hand it off to Him… the one who comforts us so that we can comfort others with that same comfort.

I love you, and so does the one who never ceases to be with us…

True love is when the dog is vomiting

wedding

Originally posted April 27, 2013.

Every now and then I walk past our wedding photo, and I see my dark tan and shockingly white teeth, and I barely recognize that girl.

Don’t get me wrong. I still take care of myself. But on weeks like this one–when the stomach bug runs through our house faster than a wild mustang stampede–time to sunbathe simultaneously with Advance White Vivid on my teeth is a little less available.

And yet… when my man pokes his head around the door at 5:00 and I’m still in my mismatched socks and snotted on blue jeans, his eyes light up. And he says, “You’re cute.” And all I can do is roll my eyes and wonder,

How deep does this guy’s love run?

True love is when the dog is vomiting, and the peas are on the wall, and the only action in bed that night is the noise of the keyboard going clickety-clackety (working on deadline for a new book idea).

True love is when the car payment’s due, and the grocery money’s gone, and the laundry’s piled higher than the kitchen table, but you sit down and watch a movie anyway, because you missed the smell of his skin all day.

True love is when you’re trying for a baby, and the artificial hormones leave you more bloated than a mama sperm whale, and your gums feel like they’ve been injected with Botox, but he still thinks you’re beautiful.

True love is pacing the floor at 4 a.m. with a squalling newborn when the artificial hormones work.

True love is forfeiting the motorcycle for Elmo because your wife has another column to write. True love is taking a four year pay-cut so she can work on her “voice” before even selling a book. True love is never wavering that the book sale will take place.

I am blessed to be truly loved.

These are my snapshots of true love… what are yours?

So You Wanna Be A Minimalist?

“Hell hath no fury like a woman bent on becoming minimalist.”

If hoarding is a disease, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed the opposite one.

Is there a name for throwing out everything you own? Oh, wait… I think it’s called “minimalism”.

So much more socially acceptable… and yet so much more disturbing.

Continue reading “So You Wanna Be A Minimalist?”

Why Kids Are Leaving Church

wh30-ways-toI get to decide where I’m safe.

No amount of guilt or shame will ever change that.

-Michelle Pendergrass

I sat in the church classroom, completely paralyzed. For ten years I’d loved these kids and others like them, watching each heart and each trial and each suicidal tendency… only to see these fragile stems become torn and beaten down by spiritual pressure.

The leaders, the ones I’d grown to love… didn’t see their admonishments as verbal abuse. They saw it as verbal encouragement to do the right thing.

Looking back, I realize that the “encouragement” of those days was a result of fear.

Fear that these kids would fail.

Fear of the tough questions.

Fear that they would make the same mistakes we did.

Fear that they would get hurt.

Fear that they would leave the church.

My youth leader friends had good hearts. They may have been in the right place, but the pressure they placed week after week on the kids to perform — to ignore the tough questions — to serve wholeheartedly when they were hurting — all of this pressure left everyone disappointed because it didn’t work.

At some point we have to stop caring more about results than people.

There were attempted suicides. Broken relationships. Agnosticism. Anger. And on that day, in that classroom where I could no longer bear to see so much heartbreak, I walked away from what I saw.  

if-they-did-notBecause on that day, I began to realize that I could make a bigger difference in these kids’ lives if they did not associate me with this church and the “God” who had no grace or room for brokenness.

(My relationships with the group deepened immensely when I walked away. They gathered in my house (with leaders’ permission), shared in my life, walked and talked and cared deep. We cried together. We laughed together. I moved on to serve in another church simultaneously.)

I left on good terms. I sat down with leadership, and we talked.

But it felt like I was speaking a foreign language… like when I used the words “spiritual abuse”, I was a hypochondriac diagnosing all of us with an imaginary disease.

Looking back, I wish I would have thought through it more. Explained my heart, explained the damage I saw, explained what I wanted to see happen for these kids.

Because here’s what I find again and again now that I’m older: people who are being spiritually abusive, or spiritually abused, don’t often recognize it until it’s too late.

And it will be too late. Because spiritual pressure–a focus on what Christianity looks like, rather than caring like Christ no matter the results–doesn’t work. It might yield the desired results for a time, but eventually people who buck up and conform without grace fail. I see it here and I see it here again. 

Pressure doesn’t work. Loving people does. We were never designed to be the Holy Spirit in anyone else’s life. 

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This is the beginning of a series on Spiritual abuse and the damage it can create.

Your thoughts? Please share in the comments.