When Things In Your Life Keep Changing
Posted on March 7, 2023 2 Comments
My daughter loves Rubik’s cubes.
I, on the other hand, hate them with a passion.
I like order. Organization. Things that make sense. So, I don’t mind a Rubik’s cube when each of its sides is a solid, coordinated, catalogued color.
But when my daughter starts to mix everything up, my heart can’t help but cringe. The more I stare, the more my eyes cross. Even if I watch intently, trying with every fiber of my being to understand what’s going on, I can’t.
I just can’t.
Flick, flick, flick.
My daughter’s hands twist and turn, flashing in a blur, shifting rows and columns until the cube is almost unrecognizable. The splotchy, mismatched, totally disorganized sides make my brain hurt.
“How are you SOLVING this?” I ask, my stomach churning as I watch.
She shrugs. “It’s easy.” To her, it makes perfect sense.
Flick, flick, shuffle.
Still, to me, it looks like a jumbled mess. And I don’t like jumbled messes. I fight the urge to glance away. To go do something else until this madness is all over and everything is back in its one sweet, harmonious, organized solution.
My daughter’s focused gaze, however, never wavers from the block in her hands. “You just do this”—flick, flick, flick—”a few times.”
Sure enough, one whole side transforms back into a total, joyful, unblemished white. Inwardly, I sigh, my heart feeling at home for the first time since my daughter started messing the whole thing up.
Then she does that irritating flicking thing again.
Flick, flick. Shuffle. Flick. Flick, flick, flick.
All of a sudden, that beautiful, unblemished white side is completely speckled again.
My heart tumbles inside my chest. “WHAT?!” I shriek. “Why did you do that?!”
“I have to,” my daughter says. “I have to mix it up to be able to fix it.”
The concept boggles my mind, but sure enough—after more shuffles and flicks—the colored tiles magically align and all the sides are blissfully complete again.
Finally, my heart rests as my daughter plops the toy in my hand. I turn it over, examining each beautiful color in turn. White. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. Orange. Everything’s there. It’s all accounted for.
As surely as my daughter’s hands lodged each tile out of position, they also slid everything back into place.
Now, that’s something I understand. After all, my life is practically its own human-sized Rubik’s cube. A Rubik’s cube that God likes to mix up sometimes, even when he knows I hate those suckers with a passion.
I like order. Organization. Things that make sense. So I love when everything in life fits together, finds its groove, and works out perfectly.
But then, sometimes out of nowhere, God starts to mix things up and my heart can’t help but cringe. The more I try to see what he’s doing, the more my eyes cross. Even if I watch intently, trying with every fiber of my being to understand what’s going on, I can’t.
I just can’t.
And lately, God’s hands have been really busy. They move so fast, sometimes I can’t even see them there at all. His hands twist and turn, flashing in a blur, shifting rows and columns of my life until it is almost unrecognizable. Though I thought I’d been standing on solid ground, suddenly I find the floor underfoot slipping and sliding, shifting and changing, until the landscape around me is completely different and uncomfortably unfamiliar. The splotchy, mismatched, totally disorganized aspects in my life makes my heart hurt.
I pray, begging for him to fix things. To heal things. To make things whole again. But in response, another tile of my life gets dislodged.
“How are you SOLVING this?” I cry, my stomach churning.
He shrugs. To him, it makes perfect sense.
Flick, flick, shuffle.
Still, to me, it looks like a jumbled mess. And I don’t like jumbled messes. I fight the urge to run away. To distract myself somehow until this madness is all over and everything is back in one sweet, harmonious, organized solution.
My Father’s focused gaze, however, never wavers from my little life in his hands. Flick, flick, flick.
Sure enough, one aspect seems to resolve itself, transforming into something flickering with a sweet semblance of normalcy. Inwardly, I sigh, my heart feeling at home for the first time since my Father started messing the whole thing up.
Then he does that irritating flicking thing again.
Flick, flick. Shuffle. Flick. Flick, flick, flick.
All of a sudden, that beautiful, unblemished situation is completely mixed-up again.
My heart tumbles inside my chest. “WHAT?!” I shriek. “Why did you do that?!”
“I have to,” my Father says. “I have to mix it up to be able to fix it.”
The concept boggles my mind, but sure enough—after more shuffles and flicks—all the things magically align and are blissfully complete again.
Finally, my heart rests as he plops my life back into my hands. I turn it over, examining each beautiful aspect in turn. Husband. Kids. Faith. Writing. Exercise. Homeschool. Co-op. Everything’s there. It’s all accounted for.
As surely as my Father’s hands lodged each tile out of position, they also slid everything back into place.
What To Do When You’ve Drowned
Posted on September 3, 2022 4 Comments
Exhausted from lack of sleep and an afternoon in the Texas summer sun, I pushed my now-sleeping newborn around the edge of the pool in his stroller. My kids splashed and giggled in the water as they helped clean up all their toys. One by one, they chucked things out of the water—a water gun here, a noodle there—until the ground was littered with our things. While they cleaned, I grabbed a stack of four towels—one for each of my kids—and then bent down to fish a child-sized flip flop from under a table.
“Oh, my God!”
I snapped my head in the direction of my husband’s panicked voice and followed his gaze into the water. There, still as a diving stick at the bottom of the pool, was our two-year-old.
In an instant, I understood how empty my life would be without my daughter. I felt in my bones the immense tragedy of not having her in the world. Of being separated from her. Cut off. Forever.
My heart plummeted.
Oh, my God.
With wide eyes, my husband crashed into the water and scooped up her tiny body while I stood, mouth agape, rooted to the blazing hot cement, my heart sprinting in a way my feet would envy.
All I could do was stare, numb, as my husband pulled our daughter from the pool.
The moment she surfaced, she wept. Shrieked, really. In a chain of unending, inconsolable sobs. That was a good sign, right? Perhaps water hadn’t gotten into her lungs? Then again, maybe those deep, painful howls were indicators of a terrible injury. One that could claim her life.
It was one or the other. I couldn’t tell which.
Had anyone seen her get in? How long had she been under? Had she been trying to pick up toys from the pool like everyone else? Was she scared under the water? Did she breathe any of it in?! How many times have we told her to stay out of the water when she wasn’t wearing floaties? WHERE ON EARTH WERE HER FLOATIES??
I tried to ask these things out loud, but my words evaporated somewhere between my brain and my mouth. So instead, the questions, like the ache for oxygen, burned wildly in my chest.
My husband cradled the little girl in his arms on the edge of the pool, cooing reassuring words in her ear.
“You’re okay. I’ve got you now. Everything’s okay.”
His words repeated endlessly, but as he rocked her, all I noticed was the deep furrow in his brow and quiver in his voice.
My heart begged for our daughter to calm down. To talk endlessly, as she’s known to do. I ached to hear her little voice say she was okay, to tell us what happened. To explain any of this. But all she could do was sob. Finally—finally—words bubbled up from inside her.
I bent an ear to hear her first words.
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she cried through hiccups and lung-shivering sighs. “I disobeyed.”
My husband choked back tears and pulled her closer. It didn’t matter what she’d done or how she got there. All that mattered now was that she was safely tucked in his arms.
“I love you,” he whispered into her wild, wet hair. “Do you know that? I love you so, so much…”
No one had seen her fall under the water. No one knew how long she’d been there. And yet, the tiny girl with no idea how to hold her breath or paddle to the surface had survived who-knows-how-long at the bottom of a pool. And, even more miraculously, it seemed as though she hadn’t ingested any water.
It didn’t seem possible.
And yet, there she was. Alive. By the grace of God alone, she was here. There was no other way to explain it.
It was truly a miracle.
But the rest of that night, I was a total mess.
Putting my daughter to bed was the hardest thing I’d ever done. What if water had gotten into her lungs? What if, when she closed her eyes, she never opened them again? There was little I could do to monitor her breathing every moment throughout the night. How could I possibly know, as I fed and changed my newborn, if my toddler had suffocated?
Could this really be her story? Not getting to live longer than two years? Questions whirled in my head until I was dizzy with grief, mourning the loss of a child who slept soundly in her bed. What if today was the last time I saw her smile? What if I never again heard her voice? Or felt her arms around my neck?
Each question hollowed me out, one painful scoop at a time, making it impossible to sleep, to eat, to do…well, anything, really. All I wanted to do was lie next to my daughter and watch the rise and fall of her chest. Thoughts of her consumed me. Tears spilled uncontrollably down my cheeks, dripping off my chin and soaking my shirt.
Sure, I have other children to spend the rest of my life loving, and I most certainly will. But this one—my sweet, innocent daughter—this girl is my whole heart. My whole world. My love for her is special.
Words cannot describe the depths of grief I endured because words also cannot express the extent of my love for her.
Her eyes. Her ears. The way her nose scrunches when she smiles. The floppiness of her hair. The squeal of her laugh. The sweetness of her voice. Everything. I cherish every single bit of that kid.
To lose her—to even consider the possibility of losing her—was more than I could bear.
In that moment, as I stood, doubled-over, my face slick with tears, my insides completely hollowed out, I realized that’s exactly how God feels about me.
About each and every one of us, actually.
On the daily, we fall into sin and separate ourselves from God. He knows what will happen if we stay down there at the bottom.
In an instant, he understands how empty life would be without his children. He feels in his very being the immense tragedy of not having us in the world. We’d be cut off from him. Apart. Forever.
The thoughts hollow him out, one painful scoop at a time. Thoughts of us consume him. Tears spill uncontrollably down his cheeks, dripping off his chin.
Sure, he has lots of children to spend the rest of eternity loving, and he most certainly will. But you—his sweet, innocent child—you are his whole heart. His whole world. His love for you is special.
Words cannot describe the depths of grief he endures because words also cannot express the extent of his love for you.
Your eyes and ears. The shape of your nose and the way you smile. The color and contour of your hair. The sound of your laugh. The sweetness of your voice. Everything. He cherishes every single bit of you.
To lose you—to even consider the possibility of losing you—is more than he can bear.
So with wide eyes, he crashes into the water and scoops us into his arms, dragging us to safety and cooing reassuring words in our ears.
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.
The words repeat endlessly. He speaks them over and over to us as we wail in his arms. He aches to hear our voice. He longs for us to tell him what happened, to tell him how we fell under those waters in the first place. To explain everything. To confess.
Finally—finally—words bubble up from within me.
“I’m sorry, Father,” I cry through guilt-ridden hiccups. “I disobeyed.”
He chokes back tears and pulls me closer. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done or how I got there. All that matters now is that I’m safely tucked in his arms.
“I love you,” he whispers. “Do you know that? I love you so, so much…”
I don’t know when I’ll fall in next or how long I’ll be under. All I know is that we have a God who not only rescues us from the waters, but invites us to walk on the surface with him.
It doesn’t seem possible.
And yet, here I am. Alive. Walking hand-in-hand with my God. I’m here by his grace alone. There’s no other way to explain it.
It is truly a miracle.
Psst…I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
Posted on September 28, 2021 9 Comments
It’s something that every writer knows, so perhaps it’s not too secret.
But here it is: Writing is really, really hard.
We agonize (true agony, I tell you!) over each letter. Each word. Each word combo. Each comma. (Should it even be a comma? Or would a period be best there? Maybe it should be an exclamation point!)
In short, it is torture.
And we do it all in a quiet room with no one else around. (Which, to introverts everywhere, might sound a bit like paradise.) Until those inevitable, venomous thoughts start to spiral and there’s no one there to help corral them.
Every writer goes through this, even the greatest writers of all time. J.R.R. Tolkien, for instance, endured intense painful doubt while he was writing some little project called The Lord of the Rings.
Who would care about Middle Earth? he mused angrily. Who would care about a made up elvish language??
Then, a fellow in his writing group piped up. He cared, he said. He thought the story needed to be told. The world needed it. He needed it. He saw Tolkien’s vision for the project and knew it was worth fighting for.
And thus, with that one voice of encouragement, The Lord of the Rings was born. (That encouraging fellow, by the way, was none other than the impeccable C.S. Lewis. Imagine being in their writing group…)
You see, writing is really, really, hard.
Because, though the writer is alone in the room, they’re writing a message that burns within them. A message that is intended to be shared with all the people who are not in the room. A message, dear reader, that is intended to be shared with you.
So we writers grind and bleed, wrestling the words forth from our veins, hoping against hope that our message is clear, that it makes sense, that it will have some impact on the people who read it.
But there we are. Still alone. Unable to see the effect of our words or the fruits of our terrible, excruciating labor. Unable to understand and believe that our message matters. That our work is worth fighting for. That sharing our voice, our thoughts, our hearts is worth enduring this utter agony.
And that makes it feel as though we’re not alone at all. No, it’s much worse than being alone. Instead, we’re shouting our message to a crowded room with such vulnerability that we may as well be standing stark naked. Then, once we’ve laid every ounce of our heart bare before the world, feeling exposed and raw and bloody, we await a response.
But there is none. No one’s listening. Or so it seems. We’re alone, and yet, we’re not. It’s as though everyone else stands beside us, disinterested, staring blankly at our naked, bloody, exhausted self.
But like I said, every writer goes through this. Including me.
In fact, that’s one reason you haven’t heard much from me lately.
I cranked out 20,000 words on two projects back in April (which, for me—a lady who is constantly surrounded by swarming children—is nearly miraculous.) Then life steamrolled me in May and June, making it impossible to write one single word. Come July, I sat at my computer, staring despairingly at my manuscript.
Who would care about this? I mused angrily. It would be so much easier to stop this madness. Just throw in the towel and be done with it.
And I did.
I decided in that moment to stop. To be done. And for once, I didn’t feel shame in that.
But I could only revel in that relief for about half a second. Because in that moment—and I mean THE moment I officially decided to stop writing for good—I heard from a friend who I haven’t spoken with in years.
And it was this:
So you see, friend, for some inexplicable reason, God has called me to this.
He, in this moment, was my C.S. Lewis. (Imagine being in a writing group with God…)
Because of that, I must give Him my fiat. I must act. I must write.
So here I am, returning to the keys, ignoring the trembling in my fingertips as I give you a bit of my soul. Please be gentle with it. And, on the off chance you know a writer (I’ll send a few your way), read their work. Reach out to them. Let them know you hear them. Let them know you see them. Let them know their writing is worth fighting for. For you, friend, have no idea how much your words matter to us.
Why You Need To Hold The Sauce
Posted on May 2, 2021 7 Comments
Thursday means one thing at our house.
I won’t say how long we’ve held the tradition of grabbing a greasy pizza once a week—that’d be too embarrassing—but I will say it has been such a beloved, time-tested tradition in our family that one of my son’s first words was ‘pizza’.
Back then, he hung from the crook of my elbow in his carseat as I paid for our pre-ordered pizza.
“EEEEEETTTTZZZZAAAAAAAA!!!!” he’d shout, his tinny voice rising above the ringing phones, the bantering employees, the roar of the oven. “EEETZA! EEETZA! EEETZAAAAAA!!!”
Once, an employee stopped everything he was doing to cock a brow at the little baby. Then he turned his confused look to me. “Is that baby yelling, ‘pizza’?”
Flushing, I gave a casual flick of the wrist, as though it were totally normal for babies to have an addiction to greasy food. “He really likes pizza.”
And it continued that way for a long time. The boy ate so much pizza in one sitting, his cheeks were stained red from tomato sauce.
So it isn’t any wonder that, not too many Thursdays ago, my son came to the pizza parlor with me and his baby sister to pick up a big ol’ pie (fortunately, this time, the baby wasn’t screaming ‘pizza’ at all the employees).
“All right, bud, I’m going to need your help,” I said as I gathered all our things together.
Eagerly, the little boy leapt to my side, ready for action. “What can I do to help?”
I plopped three containers of extra sauces into his hands. “I need you to carry these.”
Three sauces. Two small hands.
His jaw dropped in disbelief. “You mean I have to carry ALL the sauces??”
“Yes, that would be very helpful,” I replied as I slung the diaper bag over one shoulder and picked up the baby in her car seat. And also got the pizza. And the breadsticks. And opened the door so my son could walk through. And. And. And.
My son followed, grimacing in intense concentration as he stared down the full load in his hands. Gingerly, he walked to the van, taking one slow step. Then another. Aaaaand another. Careful not to drop what he’d been given. Finally—thank heavens—we were at the car door.
Is that what I look like when God asks me to do something? I wondered to myself, a smile half-cocked on my face as my son dumped all the sauces in the passenger seat, and then grumbled about how much he had to do.
The answer was yes. That’s exactly what I look like.
Every day, God plops some extremely minuscule portion of His will into my hands.
I feel its weight in my clumsy fingers, and almost instantly, my jaw drops in disbelief.
You mean I have to take care of ALL these kids?
You mean I have to do ALL this laundry?
You mean I have to wash ALL these dishes?
You mean I have to write ALL these chapters?
“Yes, that would be very helpful,” God replies, humbly leaving out the fact that He was the One who created the kids. And gave me an amazing, supportive husband. And provided our clothes, our home, our washing machine, our dishwasher, our dishes, our everything. And gave me the ideas and inspiration for my writing. AND opened the doors for me to pursue writing. And. And. And.
I follow Him as best I can, grimacing in intense concentration as I stare down the full load in my hands. Gingerly, I walk beside Him, taking one slow step. Then another. And another. Careful not to drop what little I’ve been given.
Finally, thank heavens, I reach the end of the day and let everything drop, often astounded by how much I got accomplished.
Yet, in reality, I hold the smallest fraction of the big picture. God knows I can’t hold the big stuff. It would flatten me outright. So He does the heavy lifting, walking beside me, matching my extremely slow stride as I fumble the tiny bit in my hands. Struggling to take. Each. Slow. Step.
The truth is, it would probably be easier for God if He just did everything and we got out of His way.
But, for whatever reason, He made us to be helpers. Co-redeemers.
All we have to do is hold the sauce and walk with Him.
Why Jesus Wants To Be With Us All The Time
Posted on February 14, 2021 2 Comments
I stared in the mirror at the frothy white foam clinging to my lips.
What’s so special about this? I thought to myself, spitting out the minty toothpaste and washing it down the sink. I peered around me. In this very rare occasion, I was alone. Standing in the quiet. Brushing my teeth. There’s nothing exciting about this, and yet, Jesus promises He’s here with me. Every moment. Always. But why on earth would He want to be here with me right now?
I shook my head, answerless, and wiped my face with a towel, flipping the lights off as I left the room, and then collapsed in bed beside my husband.
The following day, I took my son to gymnastics. Just me and him. A Mommy Son date, as he likes to call it.
With the confidence of a young man but the strength of a little boy, he tugged and yanked and pulled the door open with all his might, and then ushered me through.
“Here you go,” he said, nearly out of breath.
“How very helpful! Thank you, sir.” I sailed through, smiling at him as he held the door with the entirety of his body weight.
He followed me inside, slipping his tiny hand into mine. “I like being with you, Mommy.”
I playfully squeezed his hand in return. “I like being with you, too, sweet boy.”
As usual, we were a few minutes late, so he quickly slipped off his wintery layers, socks, and shoes, stuffed everything into a cubby, and bolted into the gym. And, as usual, I stayed behind in the viewing area, watching as he leapt with glee toward his classmates.
During the hour my son is in gymnastics, I stand by myself in the viewing area. There’s no one calling for my attention. No hungry mouths begging for snacks. No diapers to change. There’s just me. Standing in the viewing area. By myself. I could do anything I wanted. I could sit on the bleachers and read a book or scroll mindlessly through my phone. I could catch up on emails or call a friend. Heck, I could leave all together and go do something productive like grocery shop without four little kids running in four different directions.
But I don’t.
I stay and I watch.
I watch as my son bounces straight up and down on the trampoline 427402 times in a row. I watch when he climbs the matted steps to the parallel bars, which I know to be his favorite part of gymnastics. (The steps, that is. Not the bars). I even keep my eyes fixed on him as he patiently sits in one spot waiting for his turn.
What’s so special about this? The question echoes in my mind from the night before. There’s nothing exciting about watching little kids jump one inch off the floor over and over. So why on earth do I want to be here right now? Why do I feel like I can’t take my eyes off him?
And then, he does it.
He looks over at me and smiles.
In that moment—the half-second it took for our eyes to lock—all my questions are answered.
I stay, my eyes fixed on my son, because on the off chance he glances my way (which he does less and less as he gets comfortable in class), I want to make sure he finds me. I want him to know he’s in my spotlight. I want him to know he’s the most important thing in the world to me.
The same is true with Jesus.
He stays, His eyes fixed on us, because on the off chance we glance His way (which we do less and less as we get comfortable in the world), He wants to make sure we find Him. He wants us to know we’re in His spotlight. He wants us to know we’re the most important thing in the world to Him.
On the daily, we slip our hand from His, bolting into our lives, attacking our schedules and the all-too-menial tasks that are set before us.
The breakfast routine. The getting kids to school or perhaps even teaching them yourself.
The emails. The phone calls. The meetings.
The dishes. The laundry. The lunches, snacks, and dinners.
Heck, even the brushing of your teeth at the end of the night.
Jesus is right there. Every moment. Always.
All because there’s an off chance you might glance His way—a chance He might get to lock eyes with you—and that is the most exhilarating thing in the world.
Why Jesus Should NOT Take The Wheel
Posted on November 8, 2020 2 Comments
When I was a little kid, my grandpa frequently let me drive his car.
Not on the street or anything crazy. He’d simply pull into an abandoned parking lot, plop me on his lap, and let me manifest my own destiny.
It was beautiful.
And after his recent passing, I’ve been thinking about him—this man who was like a second father to me—and recalling all the memories we made together.
So it isn’t any wonder that, when we went to Confession as a family, he was still on my mind. And, as it turns out, illegal memories are helpful to have at Confession.
You see, when my husband walked inside to talk with the priest, I was left alone to entertain all my children, and the church courtyard was still muddy from a recent Texas rain. So there were five of us. Stuck in a van. For who knew how long.
I glanced around at the huge, empty parking lot, and then craned my neck to get a good view of my children who were buzzing with energy and giggles in the back seat.
What else was there to do but drive?
I tried to emulate the sparkle in my grandfather’s eyes and his adventurous grin.
“Wanna drive?” I asked, peeking at my kids in the rearview mirror.
At first, they didn’t believe me. But sure enough, I picked up my oldest and plopped her on my lap in the driver’s seat.
I shifted the van into drive and we were off, blazing through the parking lot at a solid 5 miles per hour. Though, to my daughter, it probably felt more like 5 million.
First she turned one way. Then another. And another.
It was exhilarating for her, no doubt, to wrap her small fingers around the steering wheel and choose her own direction. Her own destiny.
Of course, her legs were too short to reach the pedals, so she depended on me to do all the starting and stopping. And without the boost of my lap, she couldn’t see above the dash.
But regardless, with the wheel gently humming in her hands and a wide open road before her, she felt like she could really do something. Attack the world. Be big.
She nodded at the cars in front of us, sitting on the opposite end of the parking lot. “Think I can make it between those two cars?” she asked with sheer determination.
I chuckled. “How about you stick to the open road for now?”
She nodded again, clutching the wheel.
She turned, looped, then turned once more, and we found ourselves heading straight for the fenced-in playground. Her body tensed in my lap.
“Mom…” my name trembled on her lips. The tiny girl didn’t know how to avoid disaster. Didn’t know which way to turn the wheel. So together, we inched closer and closer to the end of the road. “Moooom.“
As we neared the curb, I pressed the brake and we slid safely to a stop.
My daughter’s body relaxed. She turned to me with a relieved smile on her face and threw her arms around my neck. “I knew we wouldn’t crash. I knew you’d never let that happen.”
In that moment, with my daughter’s face pressed against my shoulder, it hit me. That’s life. Life with Jesus, at least.
I’ve heard that we should let Jesus take the wheel, but maybe He doesn’t want to drive at all.
Maybe He’s the guy working the brakes.
And, instead of doing all the fun stuff Himself, He pulls over and grins at me in his rearview mirror.
“Wanna drive?” He asks, His eyes glinting with adventure.
Then, sure enough, He plops me on his lap in the driver’s seat, shifts the car into gear and we’re off, blazing through life at a solid 5 miles per hour. Though, to me, it can feel more like 5 million.
Of course, my legs are too short to reach the pedals, so I depend on Him to do all the starting and stopping. And without the boost of his lap, I couldn’t even see above the dash.
But regardless, with the wheel gently humming in my hands, my life a wide open road before me, I feel like I can really do something. Attack the world. Be big.
It’s exhilarating, wrapping my fingers around the steering wheel and choosing my own direction. My own destiny.
First I turn one way. Then another. And another. Sometimes I’ll ask for His advice. But usually, I simply stare down the road with sheer determination.
Eventually, I make a wrong turn that leads us hightailing it toward a dead end. My body tenses in His lap.
“Jesus…” His name trembles on my lips. I don’t know how to avoid disaster. Don’t know which way to turn. So together, we inch closer and closer to the end of the road. “Jeeesuuuuuus.“
Just before we crash, He presses the brake and we slide safely to a stop.
My body relaxes. I turn to Him with a relieved smile on my face and throw my arms around His neck.
“I knew we wouldn’t crash. I knew You’d never let that happen.”
Posted on October 19, 2020 1 Comment
I have four children. Three of whom know my name.
The fourth is too young to have words, but she knows my face and, to her, my name sounds more like screaming bloody murder.
The older three, however, have mastered the short, one-syllable word.
They have become so adept at this name, that for most of them, it effortlessly (and sometimes involuntarily) slips out of their mouth about every third word.
That’s four children. My name. Every third word.
Now, I’ve never been a math person, but I think that means, on average, my kids say my name somewhere around 238798223598732094587 per minute.
And lately, that has really stuck a nerve.
I can’t think. Can’t use the restroom. Can’t have a conversation. Can’t leave the room. All I can do is drown in the sound of my own name.
And it all came to a boiling explosion when I went to my office to lesson plan for their schooling. I had just enough time to walk into my office and sit in my chair before someone barged in, shouting my name, demanding justice be served to their sibling.
That was it. I had had it.
I stormed out of the office and gathered them all together.
“Can’t I have 5 seconds to walk into the other room to do something FOR YOU without you coming at me with another problem?” My voice rose louder with each word. “Can’t I have ONE MINUTE to THINK?”
(Insert Mom of the Year Award here.)
“It’s just that…” my oldest spoke calmly, gesturing slowly with her hands, as she braved going toe-to-toe with Psycho Mom. “You kind of rule…us. You tell us what to do and how to do it, and you’re the one who gives us consequences. So we need you when other people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.”
Her response threw me. I was expecting to keep frothing at the mouth for as long as it took them to understand that Mom. Needed. Some. Space.
But instead, I couldn’t help but chuckle.
My daughter said I rule.
Well, she said I kind of rule.
And it was enough to shake me from my crazed state.
So, with a smile and a much more normal voice, we all had a discussion about how Mom needs to focus without interruptions sometimes.
“It’s like I need some sort of force field,” I mused out loud, scratching my chin. “That’s it—I’ll make a force field! And any time I need to do something by myself, I’ll turn the force field on. Deal?”
All the kids smiled. Whether they actually liked the idea or were just glad to be out of trouble, I don’t know. But whatever the case, the deal still stood.
And to this day, no one has dared cross paths with this intimidating force field.
It isn’t any wonder then, that I got to thinking inside my little, uninterrupted bubble. And, as they tend to do, my thoughts drifted to God.
About how God has billions of children. Many of whom know His name and have mastered the one-syllable words.
God. Lord. Christ.
Many of us have become so adept at these names, that they effortlessly (and sometimes involuntarily) slip from our mouth in vain.
But how many times do we say His name and mean it? How many times do we pray wholeheartedly? How many times do we try to make His name every third word out of our mouth?
Or, like me, do you find yourself too distracted or tired to have a quality conversation with Him?
(Can you imagine if the few time your kids talked to you, it was in a disinterested, distracted way or only when they wanted something? I imagine that must be like raising teenagers. *Shudder*)
Crazy as it sounds, God wants to drown in the sound of His name. He wants us to barge in over and over and over. He wants us to say His name repeatedly and mean it. He wants us to be like little kids and pursue Him with passion.
That’s billions of children. His name. Every third word.
Now, I’ve never been a math person, but I think that means, on average, we should say His name more times than I can count.
And yet, it’s the absence of His name, the lack of intentional prayer, that must surely strike a nerve.
Because the truth is, a long time ago, people built a force field. An impenetrable wall between us and God. God didn’t build it. We did. We built it out of disobedience and mischief and arrogance and sin. Then we were completely separated and had no way of getting to our Father. He was stuck all alone in his little, uninterrupted bubble. (Which, might I add, sounds glorious.)
But God didn’t want to be separated.
So, in His perfect love and mercy, He gave us His only Son who singlehandedly paved a path back to heaven for us. And, if that wasn’t enough, He also gave us something that could break through the invisible barrier while we’re still on this side of heaven—a lifeline to connect us to Him whenever we wanted.
It’s called prayer.
“Now, any time you want to be with Me, you can speak to me directly. Deal?” He says, smiling.
All us kids smiled back. Whether we actually liked the idea or were just glad to feel like we were out of trouble, I don’t know. But whatever the case, the deal still stood.
And to this day, we can all dare to cross paths with the intimidating force field.
You know why?
Because God rules.
What To Do When You’re Nervous
Posted on October 18, 2020 1 Comment
For years, my son has begged to do gymnastics.
Mainly, I think, because his big sisters do gymnastics and he wants to be just like them. Every week since he was a baby, he and I have taken his big sisters to their class. Then, when he started talking, every week he would say, “John gymnastics! John tampoline!”
Grimacing, I had to crush his dreams. “No, baby. This time it’s only for your sisters.”
For three long years he waited.
And finally, just a few weeks ago, he got ‘John gymnastics.’
It was a momentous occasion.
I imagined he would frolic and climb and tumble with a huge smile plastered to his face, the way his sisters did when they first started gymnastics.
But I was wrong.
Instead, he spent the entire time standing statue-like, in one spot, too nervous to move. I think he may have blinked twice the entire hour.
When he was at his most nervous, he would look to us—his dad, his sisters, and me—as we cheered for him in the viewing area. His big eyes bulged, his thick lips stuck in a firm, straight line. Fear froze his entire body. Then he’d stick out his little hand, sign “I love you” and give us a trembling thumbs up. In turn, we would do the same thing right back. Encouraged by that quick exchange, not only would he blink, he actually moved to the next station on the floor. It was miraculous. The whole class went like this:
Freeze in terror. Look to family. Sign I love you. Cartwheel.
Freeze in terror. Look to family. Sign I love you. Twirl.
Freeze. Family. I love you. Handstand.
Freeze. Family. Love. Go.
The other people in the viewing area must have thought we were nuts. There we were, this humungous family of tiny people, huddling close to the window, repeatedly doing weird things with our hands while laughing our heads off about some boy who refused to move from his spot on the floor.
But as we headed home, I realized my son might have a lot more figured out than we gave him credit for.
You see, for years, I’ve asked God to transform me into a saint.
I look at the lives of the saints throughout the past 2,000 years and want to be just like them. And every night, when I pray, I ask God to turn my family into saints for Him.
But God doesn’t just zap sainthood into our souls. He gives us opportunities to practice virtue and love, and inject those things into a world where they are absent.
I, by no means, have become a saint. Still waiting for that.
But I have, many times, gotten the chance to practice.
After all, there’s a lot going on in our world that makes me nervous.
God probably imagined I would speak and write and love with a huge smile plastered to my face, the way my brothers and sisters did when they practiced sainthood.
But He was wrong.
Instead, I’ve spent many-a-time standing statue-like, in one spot, my mind a jumbled haze of confusion, too nervous to move.
Often, I’m so nervous, I don’t know what to do. Fear freezes my entire body.
But it’s then, when I’m at my most nervous, I look to God, knowing full-well how hard He’s cheering for me. I put my hands together in prayer and tell God I love Him. In turn, He does the same thing right back. Encouraged by that quick exchange, not only can I blink, but I can actually move. It’s miraculous. My whole life goes like this:
Freeze in terror. Look to God. Say I love Him. Speak.
Freeze in terror. Look to God. Say I love Him. Write.
Freeze. God. Love Him. Serve.
Freeze. God. Love. Go.
Many people probably think I’m nuts. There I am, this awkward lady with a humungous family full of tiny people, voicing my love for everyone, repeatedly typing up weird stories on my blog. All the while, laughing my head off about…well, pretty much everything…even when there doesn’t appear to be much to laugh about these days.
Because when we ask to be saints, God doesn’t grimace or crush those dreams. Instead, He says that’s exactly what we are made for. Then He becomes our light, love, and joy so we can inject those things into a world where they are absent.
I Really Love You
Posted on August 30, 2020 6 Comments
Time for bed.
I didn’t know this before I became a parent, but those three words are full of magic. Or maybe caffeine. I’m not totally sure.
Whatever the case, every night when I say those words, they seem to bewitch my children. No sooner than I finish the phrase, one child is swinging upside down over her bunkbed stairs, another is running naked down the hall, and yet another is stricken with an unquenchable thirst for water and the answers to all life’s deepest questions.
It takes the strength of God Himself to round everyone up in one spot and force them to take care of the non-negotiables. Pajamas. Clean teeth. Potty.
It’s simple, but not easy.
So it was nothing short of a miracle when all three of my children stood at the sink in pajamas, toothbrushes in hand, scrubbing away in peace.
We had finally done it. A successful bedtime routine.
Then I peeked into my daughters’ bedroom and ground my teeth. The beds were unmade. And the clean sheets were downstairs.
I bit my lip. If I went to get the sheets, would all hell break loose in this bathroom?
I decided to be quick and take my chances.
“You guys stay right here and keep brushing, okay?” I said.
Two kids gargled a muffled ‘okay’. The youngest one nodded.
I dashed out of the room leaving them all with their toothbrushes dangling out of their mouths. Down the steps I went, surprisingly pleased with how well everything was going. No one had made a fuss, not even a peep. I rifled through the hamper of clean linens, lost in thought.
Wow, they’re doing much better than I thought they would. Pillow case.
Maybe they’re big enough to take care of themselves now. Fitted sheet.
Ha! This must be what the next level of parenthood feels like! Blanket.
With a huge smile, I scooped everything into my arms and headed back toward the stairs.
This is amazing! It’s so nice to have them help out so I don’t have to do everything all by my—
I stopped in my tracks, finally realizing why everything had gone so quiet.
There, on the steps, my two-year-old stood, toothbrush in mouth, dripping spit. The path he had taken was obvious. Pink, bubblegum-flavored goo shimmered in the carpet every step of the way.
“Buddy,” I whined, “I told you to stay at the sink.”
“But I really love you.” The words sloshed out along with more toothpaste. By this point, the boy’s whole mouth was full of liquid.
Surely, the boy felt awkward standing at the sink, his small hands not yet having mastered the art of brushing his teeth. No doubt standing there was full of discomfort, worry, and loneliness. All he knew was that he was on his own, expected to do something that left him feeling utterly incompetent. And, like any normal person, he wanted to escape that.
But still, the command remained.
I sighed. “If you really loved me, you would’ve done what I asked you to do.”
I understand the internal struggle he must’ve had, though, because I’ve felt that way quite a lot lately. Stuck at home. Locked down. Separated. Every household for itself.
All the while, the world outside implodes with animosity and disease.
I feel like I should go somewhere. Do something.
But I don’t know how to cure a virus or end a global lockdown. I have no clue how to stop hatred and replace it with love and respect. And I certainly don’t know how to rebuild our economy, fix our broken political system, or transform the futile conversations that are taking place as the presidential election nears.
Only God knows how to do those things. And yet, He isn’t miraculously poofing them away.
Instead, He asks us to take care of the non-negotiables. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked and shelter the homeless. Visit the sick and the imprisoned. Bury the dead.
In short, take care of and respect all human life.
It’s simple, but not easy.
“You stay here and keep loving, okay?” He says.
I nod, and then look at the four kids dangling from my body, their sweet faces watching everything I do. Me. I’m their example of how to love and respect others. Often times, I feel clumsy and inadequate, unsure if I’m doing enough. Teaching enough. Loving enough.
And I definitely feel amateurish sitting in my house, at this desk, not yet having mastered the art of proclaiming the Kingdom—especially not from a computer. All I know for sure is that it’s uncomfortable and lonely. And I’m here, attempting to mother littles and write lots, both of which leave me feeling utterly inadequate.
What God’s plan is exactly, I have no idea. But whatever it is, I trust that it’s for our good. Because that’s what He does. He makes all things work out for the good of those who love Him.
And His command remains.
Stay in this discomfort, this grief, this worry, this incompetency. Really feel it. Let it ruminate. Let it break your heart. Then let it compel you to love harder than ever before.
Every inch of me longs to tramp down the steps, forging my own path with my messiness trailing behind me.
But I don’t.
Instead, I’ll stay right here, deep in the muck of social tension and global pandemic, determined to share His love from where I am. Determined to teach my kids that every human life has infinite value. To show each person I meet, regardless of how they look, the very same thing. Determined to encourage and unite people with the words I write.
Determined to stay.
“I really love You,” I reply. “So I’ll stay and do what You ask me to do.”
Golf Is Hard
Posted on August 23, 2020 Leave a Comment
Golf is hard.
Especially when it’s in Texas. In summer. In the middle of the day. With four small children.
And did you know that you’re supposed to be quiet at a golf course? Even when you have FOUR SMALL CHILDREN there?
Like I said, golf is hard. And that’s before you actually start trying to hit the ball.
But we go regardless because my oldest is a golf fiend who has a natural gift for crushing the ball and nerds out over things like golf gloves, hybrid clubs, and bags that stand up on their own.
So she takes lessons once a week and we all go to support her and cheer her on.
When she’s with her instructor, I take the littles off to the side lest someone gets struck in the head with a driver. And, more often than not, we all end up crammed into a tiny pocket of shade while I dish out food and drinks to a not-so-quiet chorus of “I’m stirsty” and “MOM I’M HUNGRY!”
Last time, as I dug through the diaper bag for more food, the baby started wailing. Loud. In a desperate attempt to hush her, I pulled her from the stroller, grabbed a nearby iron chair and dragged it to the shade, and then—without thinking—sat down to nurse her. Immediately, my skin slurped up the warmth from the metal seat that had been roasting in the Texas sun. The heat seared my skin, biting my arms and the back of my thighs before bleeding its way through my clothes.
I winced at the pain, but stayed put. I could manage. The soft, smooth skin of my seven-month-old, however, definitely could not. Surely, the blazing hotness of the chair would burn her to blisters. So I propped her in my lap to make sure nothing—not her head, her arms, her legs, not even her clothed torso—touched the heat.
She had no idea how close she was to being burned alive. She just laid there, drinking happily, until the unbearable heat had penetrated through my skin and disappeared as though it were never there.
Then, with the baby tucked safely in the folds of my body, I handed out drinks and snacks to the others.
All the while, my oldest, the golf pro, was whacking balls, holding her own next to veteran golfers. Every time she’d hit a ball over the hill or near a drum, she’d turn to me, her face shining with triumph. And every time she’d turn my way, I’d smile back at her and pump my fist in the air or give her a big thumbs up.
I’m used to this circus act—this juggling of four small people—so it didn’t seem like much at the time.
But as we left, it hit me how much I was actually doing at one time.
Cheering for one, feeding another. Quenching the thirst of someone else. Holding yet another person and literally feeding her with my body. All the while, sitting in the shadows, serving strangers with silence.
And yet God works this way every single day. Not just for four people. But for seven billion.
I’m used to this circus act—this God providing everything I need right when I need it thing—so sometimes it doesn’t seem like much.
But occasionally, when I pause for a moment to really look at what He’s doing, it hits me how much He actually does at one time.
Cheering for one, feeding another. Quenching the thirst of someone else. Holding yet another person. Literally feeding us with His Body. Even His silence, when He gives it, is meant for our good.
I know because I have been all of those people. I have been the one in need of encouragement, the one in need of food. I have been the thirsty. The one met with silence.
And still, throughout it all, I have been the one He spared from the smoldering fire.
Because life is hard. He knows that from firsthand experience.
Especially when it’s covered in sin. During social and civil unrest. In the middle of a global pandemic. With seven billion needy children.
And did you know that we’re supposed to love, serve, and listen to others in times like these? Even when we have SEVEN BILLION people here?
Like I said, life is hard. And that’s before you actually start trying to live like Christ.
But we try regardless because we are Jesus fiends who have a natural desire to love and nerd out over things like the Bible, prayer, and the lives of the saints.
Then we go to Mass at least once a week and to support each other and cheer each other on.
For a long time ago, humanity starting wailing. Loud. In a desperate attempt to help us, Jesus came to earth, grabbed His cross and dragged it to the top of Calvary. Immediately, His skin slurped up the heat from the wooden tree that had been roasting in our sins.
He grimaced and cried out in pain, but stayed put. He could manage. The baby soft souls of humanity, however, definitely could not. Surely, the blazing hotness would burn us to blisters. So He propped us all into His lap to make sure nothing—not our heads, our arms, our legs, and definitely not our hearts—touched the heat.
I may never truly understand how close I’ve been to burning alive. Instead, I’ll stay here, happily drinking in God’s graces, until the unbearable heat penetrates through His skin and disappears as though it were never there.