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Thursday, December 15, 2016

In Memory...

There's not a single selfie of her and I on my camera roll. We weren't those kind of friends - not the kind who "hang out" on a regular basis or go to lunch. We met through our husbands when I was still just dating mine - about 11 years ago now. She was one of the first people I told when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, since she'd gotten pregnant with her daughter just months before. She had jokingly told me I needed to have one, too. I hadn't really meant to follow suit, but it happened, and I had no idea then how intermeshed our lives would end up. 

I visited her in the hospital when both her youngest children were born, she was the first one to ever see my baby girl via ultrasound and I was who she called for reassurance when someone completely unqualified ridiculously told her they thought her middle son might have autism.
When I decided to quit my job and stay home to work on finishing my degree and open a home daycare, she signed up her youngest daughter post haste. So, at 10 months old I became sort of mom number 2 and formed about as close an attachment as you can with a child who isn't your very own. Jady was never threatened by that - not even when her only daughter started calling me "Momma" for a year or so. She'd just laugh and make jokes about it. And our daughters became more than friends; they're family.
This morning when I heard she was gone I cried for 3 hours and had to leave work. I felt kind of ridiculous for getting so upset. We weren't "best friends," after all. It took me the day to pinpoint my reasons for unraveling at the news. I looked back through my texts to see the last time we had talked. On Oct 2nd she had sent me pics of the girls on a train ride they'd invited my youngest to go on. On Oct. 13th she sent me a picture to show my mom. On Nov. 16th I sent her a picture I knew she'd think was hilarious because her sense of humor was like mine. On Nov. 30th I texted her about my daughter's birthday party this Sunday and she said they'd be there.
But, she won't be there.  And that's why my heart is broken. Because for 11 years now we may not have been "best friends," but she's been a fixture in my life. She's been a running text conversation of shared laughs, pictures of our kids, and even some serious dialogue.  We may not have done lunch but I'd go pick up her girl to come play and step in the house and commiserate about laundry and laugh with her. We would talk about when our girls start driving or when they graduate High School.  It breaks my heart that she won't be there for those things.  There are those people in your life who are just there kind of always in the background and you assume they'll always be there.
She was so genuine and so unique - you couldn't help but love Jady.  One thing she knew about, though, was loss. She lived her life - especially when it came to her kids - knowing full well she wasn't promised tomorrow. We had that conversation more than once. We could all take a lesson from her life; she loved the people around her well and it's evident she has left a lasting impression on everyone who knew her.  I don't know for sure how long it will take before the urge to text her something will pass. I don't even know how I could ever take her name out of my phone.  I do know that today I'm going to take a page out of her book and hug my family close and know I'm not promised tomorrow.
Goodbye, beautiful Jady. Thank you for over a decade of laughter and thank you for sharing your daughter with me. I promise to always help take care of her for you just like I always have.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Back to Reality

Hello, my name is Christin, and I am a social media addict. This is not a blog post to warn you of the evils of social media or to shame you in to deactivating your accounts. I think social media has some great things going on!! This is just a little blurb about a spiritual journey I went on and insights I gained along the way...

About 90 days ago I started a Facebook fast. Why? Several reasons, but mainly just because I noticed I didn't like the way it was making me feel. I didn't like how I was turning to Facebook for validation and how it was controlling my emotions - how many likes did my last post get? Who all liked it? Will that post make this particular person upset with me? Was that passive aggressive post directed at me?? Will this picture be taken the wrong way? Did I forget to tag anyone? Am I misrepresenting myself? Am I sharing too much? Will my children be kidnapped and sold in to slavery because I post too many pictures of them? (No, really. Actual thought in my head!)

Can you see the underlying theme? All these thoughts center on one thing... ME!! This outlet meant to connect me with the world was somehow turning me in to a narcissistic ME-junkie and that was making me unhappy. So, I got a verse and the verse was this:
"And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."
Matthew 5:30

God told me to fast from Facebook, and although I'm ashamed to say it took a few messages before I complied, I finally settled on a 90 day break. I slipped silently from the world of Facebook (aside from the pages I run for my blog and work) amidst scoffing and disbelief from those who know me well. (Of course with the exception of my ever-supportive husband who I'm fairly certain believes in me more than I do myself!)

Here are the things that happened to me during this little fast:

1. My inner monologue is no longer in the form of "status posts."
I'm sorry to admit this one took quite a while! I realized my thought processes seemed to revolve around clever things to post on Facebook. This might be a great thing if I was a celebrity or something but in the whole scheme of the world, my self-deemed-clever posts to my roughly 300 followers were not making a difference in the world. Not enough to warrant the amount of time my brain spent coming up with them. Hashtag lame!

2. My pictures quit being for public viewing.
I've always been a photographer! WAY before the invention of the camera phone, I was obsessed with capturing everything on film (Some of you youngsters may have to Google 35mm film!). I was one of the first on the digital camera bandwagon. I LOVE pictures. I love taking them, I love editing them, I love looking back at them years later... But, my picture taking had the joy sucked out of it because it became driven by who would see the picture, how many "likes" it would get, and what it would portray publicly. I just had the amazing opportunity to take a trip to Puerto Rico for work and it was so freeing to travel and take pictures without thinking about who would see them! (Of course, aside from the selfies I sent back to my hubby, kids, and besties!)

3. God revealed I had been living in a false and mediocre version of community. Seeing someone's dinner on Facebook or Snapchat does not constitute sharing a meal with them! I have been labeled an "outgoing introvert" by some of my closest friends and that made Facebook a beautiful social crutch for me. I was able to put myself out there only as much as I wanted to and share ideas without the risk of putting my truly authentic self on the line. I could see everyone and share but not have to truly interact. What I figured out is: That. Is. Not. Real. That's generic! That's like dipping your toes in the water on a super hot Summer day - it's fine for a while and it feels refreshing, but man! You're missing out by not jumping in the pool. Sure! Your hair gets messy and your eye makeup drips on your face, but being immersed in the cool, all-encompassing water is what we need. Social media is just getting our toes wet and making sure no one sees our hair messed up.  I'm over it. I want real, genuine connections, conversations, dinners, hugs, neighbors in my messy house, and people on my actual porch. To get that, I know I have to get my nose out of my phone.

4. My family needs me to be present.
Do I need to explain this one? Do I need to keep going and step on all our toes here? Facebook is just the start of this for me, but I'm working on it. I don't want to miss these precious years with all my babies at home because I was counting the likes on my latest selfie. Y-U-C-K

5. Waisting time is dumb.
Please no one ever figure up the hours I've spent on social media. Please don't. I don't even want to know that data! There are so many other things I need to be doing with my time.  There are some things I want to do; more importantly there are some things God wants me to do! And social media came in and distracted me from my purpose.  So, I'm walking away from it. Not forever. I'm not deactivating my account. I'm not going to "never be on Facebook again." But, I'm going to discipline myself to only designated times.

6. Whales
I saw whales while in Puerto Rico (albeit at quite a distance off) - a lifelong dream of mine!  I almost missed them, initially dismissing them as boats on the horizon. I have to wonder if 90 days ago I would have possibly missed them altogether. Would I have been so distracted by sharing my scenery with the virtual community online that I would have totally missed this possibly once in a lifetime experience? God put whales right in front of me - FOR ME. How sad it would have been to miss that because my phone was in my face instead! Oh, how many things have I missed already?  

I had certain expectations for what would happen in these 90+ days, but God showed up with me and He revealed things to me that I wasn't expecting! He took me deeper in to my relationship with Him and that is priceless! I think we tend to look at fasting in the sense of food, but sometimes we need to think outside the box. Is there anything in your life right now that needs to be cut out? Even for a season? For me, it was worth it!  I never want to miss a "whale" again!!!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tough Love

I lay there in my room, on my face, crying. God told me to get on my face. He did. I was sitting there crying and He said, "Get down there and pray!" So, I did. And I said to Him, "This is too much for me! This is my baby. This is my Achilles' heel!!" I was on my face and I was wallowing in my own self pity. I expected the God to meet me there who had met me in my grief at 15 years old and put John 14:27 on my heart forever. I'd expected to be held and coddled, but things weren't going my way.

My oldest had pretty routine surgery 3 days ago. Routine to all the rest of the world, but surgery is never routine to a Momma. I have slept in her floor at the foot of her bed for 3 nights, waking every 3 hours for meds. I've walked her to the bathroom, fretted over her, waited on her... I'm exhausted. And tonight she went downhill all of the sudden. It started with an upset stomach and escalated to periodic vomiting which quickly went to almost constant dry heaving and chills so I knew it was time to go to the hospital. Something wasn't right.

At some point in the beginning stages of this is when the fear crept in and began to strangle me a little, that's when I found myself in my room, on my face. And I didn't get a profound verse that magically popped in my mind or a wonderful song. I got a lecture. I got told, " Of course this is your weakness!" And then I got a verse. But not one to bring me peace. I got this one: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

And then God told me to get my butt back in that room and pray over my daughter.  Basically: Why haven't you done that yet? Look up some healing verses and speak life in your child! Yes, you're weak. You're too weak to watch your baby hurt and be sick, but guess what? I'm not. When you need to be refreshed, come back here to me and pray for strength. But right now you have work to do in my name and you're acting like a weak little baby Christian instead of a powerful, anointed daughter of Christ.

Shooooot.  What can you do after that? I wiped my nose. I went back in and I did as I was told. And I still cried some more after that as I watched her suffer with no way to help her, because seriously I'm not strong enough for that! But, as I sit in this ER, waiting on test results, I remember this verse:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

His strength is made perfect in my weakness. So, I'm sitting in this ER exam room, watching my 16 year old baby finally resting, and I'm "delighting in my weaknesses, in this hardship, and in these difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2Co 12:10) And I'm thankful for not being coddled tonight even though that's what I was asking for. My God is good ALL THE TIME.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Welcome home, Dear. Here are your slippers and your paper!

I worked until almost 6:00 today.  Around 5:15 the guilty thoughts settled in my mind.  Somewhere around 5:30ish I wondered what the ratio is of men to women who feel guilty when they work late or worry about what their family or spouse will think about it.  I made a mental note to research that and filed it away for later. -->

On the way home, I watered down my mom-guilt by reminding myself of something I had learned in a training session a few years back.  Studies have shown that children didn't mind so much that their parents spent time outside of the home working; what children resent is when the work causes parents to be tired, stressed and disconnected when they are at home.  So, on my drive home I made a very concerted effort to remove my executive hat and put on my mom hat.  Yes, I was in back to back interviews all day today.  Yes, I'm tired.  Yes, I would love to just sit down in a dark room and read something on my phone or watch some trash TV for about 2 hours to decompress.  BUT.  My family is everything to me and so on that drive home I vowed to not be stressed or tired when I walked in the door.  I vowed to be smiling, upbeat, and ready to interact as I arrived home.

I pulled up to the mailbox and, as usual, my youngest was sprinting to the car.  "Hey, there, Little Lady!"  (Mentally, I patted myself on the back for succeeding in having a cheerful disposition right off the bat!  Go me!)  Seriously, though, she is the cutest.  If you saw her bounding out to your car with her auburn braids and dimples, you couldn't help but be cheerful yourself.  I marched right in that house as if I owned the place.  (Ha, ha.  See what I did there?)  I kissed everyone, made some jokes, and started right in on dinner.  Piece. Of. Cake.  Who says you can't have it all?

But... My husband.   I'd given the kids some chores to do today and they did what I had asked.  JUST what I had asked.  So, as I was floating around the kitchen making dinner and chatting with everyone, he began giving his further "instruction" to the children about all the things that needed to be accomplished in the house and expectations that hadn't been met I felt something in me getting more and more uncomfortable.  Not really upset with my husband, just very uneasy and unsettled in myself.  So, when I made a crack (in front of the kids.  I know, I know...) about how apparently the instructions I gave them for cleaning were the wrong ones, you can probably guess how that turned out.  

Fast Forward.  It's 11:00 p.m.  I spent some time at the track exercising with the family.  The kids went to stay with my parents for the night.  My hubby was in the shower.  I started in on cleaning up the kitchen.  I felt like I could breathe for a minute, you know?  No one needed me.  No one needed me to be tuned in, turned up, or toned down.  If I needed to devote 100% of my attention to wiping off a cabinet and sweeping the floor, that was okay!  There would be absolutely no guilt to be felt about someone needing me to pay attention to them in that moment.  It was just me, cleaning up, with my thoughts.  And, that's when the realization hit me.

For almost 10 years now my husband and I have been dancing around this huge difference in our after-work agendas and driving each other insane.  I've been killing myself to try to make sure that my first few moments at home are free of stress, cheerful, fun and lighthearted for my family.  I have taken great strides to really try to shake off any of the day's stress in order to just be present and give my best self to my family right when I get home.  So much of that does stem, I think, from guilt that women tend to feel from devoting themselves to a career.  I love my job - I'm committed to it and I'm passionate about it.  But, there is always that underlying fear that my kids and my husband will think I'm not as committed to them.  There is that huge pang of guilt on a hard day when I take a super long bathroom break right when I get home because a need a few minutes of alone time to decompress.    There is always that feeling that I'm failing just a little bit when I look around at my house that needs the baseboards dusted and still has winter jackets hanging on the coat rack in July.  Somehow when my husband seems a little cranky about the house there is a voice in my head (however heinous and unreasonable this witchy little voice may be) that tells me if I were just better at this domestic stuff, and my house was tidier, then I'd finally achieve the after-work zen I've been after!

On the other hand, my husband wants to get things done so he can relax.  He comes through the door in "work-mode."  He's ready to tackle whatever chores still need to be completed so that it is all out of the way and we can all relax later and not have to worry about it.  I don't think he has "work-guilt."  Is that sexist?  Just the way we were raised?  In-born traits?  Remnants from a patriarchal society structure?  I don't know!  I'm not saying some men don't feel guilty, but I think working and supporting his family makes him feel really great about himself and I don't think that on his way home he mentally prepares himself to to be warm and pleasant as he walks in the door in order to compensate for being away from his children during the day.  He comes through the door after a long day of manual labor ready to get everything done so he can lay on the couch and relax without feeling guilty.  Because, he does suffer from couch guilt.  While I would love for everyone to just come in and sit around and chat it up with me while I make dinner, there is no way my husband could relax while I was up moving around and cooking.  So, he starts doing chores and barking orders at the kids to do chores in order to "help" me and get business taken care of so we can all relax later.  But, really, it just completely derails my whole cheerful, peaceful, stress free homecoming agenda that I work so hard for!

I'm not sure why it has taken almost 10 years and a late night sweeping/mopping session for me to make sense of this ongoing dilemma that we have faced for our entire marriage.  And, I'm glad to have finally analyzed it to death and have gotten to the root of it.  I still don't know the solution, though... That will probably be another post someday.  Until then, I'll just say how thankful I am my husband is not lazy and is such an awesome help-mate to me!  Even if we can't agree on the perfect time of day to sweep the floor.  I'm pretty sure it was swept twice this evening.  And, really?  Is that such a bad thing?  (Not at OUR house!!!)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Look for the Good - Be the Good

Watching the chaos on the television screen from the recent shooting in Dallas, I had to remind my children to "look for the good." Look for the helpers, look for the encouragers, look for the peacemakers. They far outnumber the small percentage of bad.

Lately my youngest has been focusing on the negative.  I.E. We were in our Dallas hotel room the first night and didn't get to go swim.  She was pouting. (Keep in mind she had already been to a water park that day!) I've been in discussion with her lately about how you have to make a choice to look for good in situations instead of focusing on the negative.  When she starts to go down that negative path I say, "But, what are the good things?"

I found out Tuesday afternoon while I was off work and at the lake that there was an important training the next day in Dallas at 9:00 am.  (We live almost 4 hours away - not including any traffic issues!) Could I possibly make it?  Well.  Anything is possible. I quickly made arrangements.

My 3 kids begged to come with and my immediate answer was NO. They'd have to stay in a hotel room alone in downtown Dallas during the day and I had a room with 1 King sized bed reserved.  No.  Way.  Then I started thinking (along with my Mommy guilt) maybe it could work.  After all, my oldest is 3 weeks from 16 and my training was literally next door to the hotel.  I arranged for them to hang out with a close family friend in the area the first day and it was settled.  They were SO excited!

Wednesday evening we walked around downtown some and had dinner.  We walked through a park on the way back with fountains and my youngest was promised that we'd come back the next night.  Thursday evening, July 7th, we had more time to kill.  We had dinner then stopped in a 7-11 to get slurpees and my kids noticed that a police officer in line in front of us bought a water for a young man hanging out in front of the store. On our way back to the room, we stopped at the park as promised and noticed some people starting to gather and a few reporters interviewing people.  I didn't think a lot of it. My youngest played in the fountains as planned and then we left for our room about 2 blocks away.  Time for the hotel pool!

Back at the hotel I looked up (good ol' social media) what was going on at Belo Garden Park, where we had just been.  It was the beginnings of a Black Lives Matter rally. At the hotel where my kids were playing in the ground floor outdoor pool they voiced concern over the police helicopters circling. One hovered right over our hotel for the majority of the time we were outside and I explained that it was just the police making sure everything stayed safe.  How do you explain racism to young children? Their sweet little hearts just don't really get it.

We went in just before 9:00. Just before all hell broke loose in Dallas.  Back in our room I flipped through channels and happened across a news station blasting the images of the hysteria happening two blocks away from us.  That explained all the sirens.  I quickly changed the channel to Full House reruns.  My 7 year old was distressed by the news and as Mom my role was the harbinger of calm and safety - no matter how I felt inside. 

I feel bad saying I was scared, tucked in my bed in my cushy 5th floor hotel room with the door triple locked.  I feel bad because meanwhile police officers on the street were up all night with their lives in danger.  Even the poor attendants at the front desk of the hotel had 100 times more reason than I did to be afraid.  At any rate, this girl from rural Oklahoma, sitting on the 5th floor listening to helicopter blades and sirens right outside my window, trying to be brave for my kids, was scared. 

I also felt bad for even having my kids there... at first.  I felt bad for exposing them to the violence and fear.  But, in the light of morning after the hotel was off of lock down, and we were safely headed back home, I decided maybe it was okay that my kids experienced this. Because as tragic as it is, you can find the good. 

The tragedy was a few people with evil in their hearts who decided to open fire and kill police officers.  But, as always, evil can't prevail where love is.  Because in committing this atrocity, they forced the police officers to jump to action and protect the very people who were protesting law enforcement.  They eradicated the issue of race in those moments of fear when bullets were flying and suddenly lives were just lives - not black or white or blue.  Officers were throwing civilians out of the way to put themselves in front of the line of fire - no skin color checks first.

That's what I want my kids to see.  This is the world we live in.  We live amongst evil and the impulse is to hide away - the way I didn't want my kids to come.  I wanted to keep them safe at home.  I want to keep them safe at home forever!  But, I can't.  I have to let them see they can be the good amongst the bad.  That you can't dwell on the bad - you have to choose to see the good.  You choose to see the police officer buying the less fortunate kid a water, the emergency personnel rushing to save the lives of those who persecute them, or the breeze the scary helicopter blades provide on a hot day.

Last night to calm my youngest down we prayed.  We thanked God for His perfect timing in when we headed back to our room, we prayed for peace for our country, we prayed for the emergency personnel and their families, and we prayed for safe travels home.  Today we debriefed together and talked things out.  We discussed the fact that we knew if Jesus were in the flesh today he'd be right downtown in the the midst of the fear and pain.  He'd be ministering through it all. 

We're not all brave enough to be downtown right now.  I'm not - especially not with my babies.  But, can we really, in good conscience, keep hiding in our cushy rooms with the doors locked while the sirens and choppers whir around us outside? We live in a scary world, but we have to keep looking for the good.  More importantly, we need to find ways to BE THE GOOD in our world.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Mother's Heart

Maybe it was easier,
When a hug would fix it all.
When the biggest hurts were
A bump, bruise, or fall.
I remember cuddling.
I remember kissing your nose.
But, I knew even back then,
How quickly time goes.
I knew to memorize your laugh,
And hold you while I could.
The years have passed swiftly -
I always knew they would.
Things are so different
Than they used to be.
You are still my whole world,
But you need less and less of me.
Hands that once reached,
Up for me to hold you,
Are now so capable,
And have other things to do!
A mother's heart is amazing;
The things it can endure!
It's a love ever-expanding,
Perfect, consistent, and pure.
There is no end to it,
There is no measure.
There is no storm,
It cannot weather.
And, you will run from it
Like your mother before.
You'll need to break free,
And search for more.
I won't follow after.
I know the freedom you chase.
My heart will be here,
In this most familiar place.
And, whenever you need it,
(Trust me, Baby, you will)
I'll be right here waiting,
And loving you still.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Times of Life

I spent a beautiful evening with family tonight, witnessing and celebrating the marriage of one of my youngest cousins.  It's been a spectacular weekend and the night culminated with all of us letting loose, dancing, laughing, and having fun together.  Through it all, a passage from the Bible kept coming to me:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build, 
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,  a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. 
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Ecclesiastes 3:1‭-‬8‭, ‬10‭-‬14 NIV

The words are beautiful and true and as I laughed and watched all my younger cousins having fun and my aunts and uncles dancing, I was so thankful for all these people who've shared so much of life with me.  Many watched us being born, and we'll watch many of them die. We've mourned together over losses, and danced together (like tonight) to celebrate new beginnings.  I watched my cousin and his beautiful new bride starting out their life together, and having gone before them on this journey, I know that life has so many things to offer.  Some of those things are so beautiful, like new homes and babies and perfect moments on the back porch.  Some things are ugly like death and disappointments and failures. The beauty of a family like ours, though, is that they love you no matter what. No matter what season of life you are in, there's never a shortage of arms around you to share in your joy or your sorrow, to lift you up, to set you straight, to dance with you, or even just to search with you. 

This life can be hard!  But, it is always "beautiful in its time." And I'm so grateful for the people who I have gotten the privilege of doing this dance called life with!  Just as the bible says: God has set eternity in our hearts, although we can't begin to fathom what that really is.  I have to believe, though, that nights like tonight are a snapshot of it: A building full of people eating, drinking, dancing, and enjoying the fruits of their toil.  A building full of people who love each other genuinely and without fail. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bubba's Where I'm From Poem

I am from Wranglers,
from jeans and boots.
I am from a safe place
and living with my grandparents.
I am from grass and dirt
where my play dump trucks were.
I am from jeans and boots.
From Knowles and Bolinger.
I am from watching the starting OU game at my Me-Me and Pa-Pa's,
and raising cattle,
and from screaming at refs.
From watching OU games with my dad.
I am from feeding cows with my dad.
I am from PaPa Rog and PaPa Russ,
from potato soup and chilli,
from my papa almost going to the Dallas Cowboys,
and from him almost going to the Seahawks.
From me wanting to be a rancher.
I am from those moments of Wranglers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Out of Ashes

It is one of my worst memories.  It commemorates one of my lowest points in parenting.  I'm standing in front of my four year old daughter and her anger and hurt feel ten feet taller than me.  It feels like it will devour me and spit me back out. "I hate you!!" she screams and the words sear my heart.  I know she doesn't hate me.  My brain chants it to my heart like a mantra - remember, this isn't about you.  But what's left of my tired, worn heart feels like it might disintegrate right there. "I don't want you to be my mom anymore!!"
I remember I didn't yell back. She was four.  Her heart was broken and she was angry and I know she thought I should have been able to fix it.  In her little world I was her safe place and I was the one she could lash out at.  Usually I handled it okay - I stayed calm, I held her, I talked her through her feelings, and I gave her outlets. My God, I gave her everything I had.  But, on this day, I must not have had much left. When she told me she wanted her Me-Me to be her Mom, I told her, "Fine! Go live with her then!" I opened the front door and asked if she wanted me to call Me-Me.
I immediately regretted it.  I was flooded with so much guilt from that reaction.  I shut the door and did the only thing I had the energy to do.  I went back to my room, covered my head with my comforter, and bawled.  You know those times when you're praying but not with words? Because you can't find words? Just the guttural sounds the sobs in your throat can muster in the moment? Maybe you don't know those prayers; I hope you don't, actually!
That day I ended up with a sweet little girl and boy sitting on my bed with that little voice that had just been screaming at me asking, "Mommy, are you okay?" What could I do but hold them both and cry and tell them I'm sorry while silently sending the same prayers up I sent all the time, "God, please just let us all be okay."

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19

You know what? It's 11 years later and we are more than okay.  That little angry girl is now a teenager who is an absolute joy to be around!  She's happy, funny,  well adjusted, and driven.  She's not even a typical teen! Our broken little family is now whole and full of love.  It hurt to break and the piecing back together was even more excruciating! But, for all our heartache, for everything Satan stole from me over a decade ago, God has replaced it with something bigger and better.  Just like He promised!
For those of you who feel like you're sitting in a pile of ashes right now, have faith.  Those ashes you hate right now will be soon molded in to something more beautiful than you can imagine! Trust me. I look at my beautiful daughter every day and I'm reminded that God is faithful to fight our battles for us.  We just have to be patient and have faith.

He is doing a new thing. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

In the storms

I'm from Oklahoma.  No stranger whatsoever to a thunderstorm or tornadic  (is that only a word in OK?) winds. Maybe that's part of why the storm analogy resonates so much with me.  Or maybe because some of my life's biggest storms happened so very early on for me.  Either way, if we can get past the fear a storm elicits, there's unique beauty in it.

It's springtime and that's, my favorite!  The green is coming back and blooms are everywhere.  The sun is finally uncaged to save us from the grey/brown Winter months where everything lies dormant and fruitless. And on the Plains (or rolling hills if you're from the East) of Oklahoma you could literally be gazing at a beautiful, serene sunset one minute only to be alerted with a lighting bolt the next.  It sometimes seems like the winds can shift in a heartbeat and here come those black clouds rolling in with all their spring storm fury.  Time to take cover!

Isn't that just the most accurate analogy for life? And, when a storm hits, our instincts kick in.  Time to turn on the news, try to track the wild beast of wind and rain, watch the screen for circulations, hide the vehicles from hail (hail in April? Absolutely.  Sometimes even June!), and hide out in the cellar, safe room, or inner-most-windowless room of your home. Either that, or sit on the porch and watch. 

By nature, I'm a hider. I'm a safeguarder. I'm a "button down the hatches and get to safety" kind of person. I'm mentally evaluating the damages before they happen and I focus in tightly to the "what ifs." But, you know what I wish?  I wish I was more of a sit on the porch and watch it roll by kind of person. Storms are really pretty beautiful and magnificent if you think about it.  They're scary and can wreak havoc, of course, but still an absolute wonder.  Explain the science of lighting and tornados to me a million times, it's still going to be part magic to me!

Today I had a bad day.  Today was a stormy day.  And, at the end of it I wanted to cry and I wanted to throw in the towel and I wanted to hide in the inner-most-windowless part of myself until I got the "all clear." But, today, I tried a new thing.  God put a verse on my heart: 1 Thessalonians 5:18. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." So, I started thanking Him.  I took every bad situation from the day and I forced myself to find one reason for gratitude within each.  Know what? It works!

My whole perspective changed.  Today has been, in most respects, just a crappy day.  But, somehow, it has also been such a huge blessing to me! Life's storms are hard and there's no way to hide from them.  But the worst storms, like the Springtime storms in Oklahoma, come right about the time God is birthing a new thing in our lives.  The storms bring our blooms.  Sure, they may tear things down and it is so easy to focus on the loss and damage.  The hard part is holding fast to God as the wind blows us off center.  The beauty of that is we can then deepen our faith and further solidify the truth that we can't be our own center - it has to be God. The storm is God's way of preparing us to reveal that next level of Himself to us.  But, we'll never see it if we're hiding in the cellar, preparing for disaster.  We've got to get on the porch of gratitude and praise Him while we watch the storm roll by!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Raised in a Barn

My whole body hurts. Our bank account is busted.  Also, my sinuses are crazy from barn dust,  my head hurts from 2 days of adrenaline spikes, there are wood chips all over our house and vehicles, our shoes smell like livestock poo, and I'm not sure if there's enough detergent in the world to wash the barn smell from our clothes. I'm sitting in my living room, listening to jean buttons clank in the dryer, perusing my phone pictures, and feeling emotional. And, I'm ready to do it all again next week.  You're thinking I'm crazy, right?

What angle to write from?  That's been my question since last night.  I've written about livestock showing and the way it prepares kids for life. I could go on and on about that.  And, last night at our county show was a great example.  I could write about these kids' knowledge of responsibility, their familiarity with disappointment, their determination, their work ethics... I could reiterate how I sort of hated this world (and, trust me, it is its own little world!) at first, but have grown to love it. But, as I've contemplated and looked at my pictures and social media posts, I've discovered just how much showing really means to me.

My daughter competed at our County livestock show for the 7th time last night.  She drove both her pigs for a long time and won a 5th and 3rd place.  She showed for premium sale twice. We knew the first time was a long shot, but after her 3rd place in a class that produced a breed champion, we had high hopes.  But, she didn't make it and I watched her keep her hog walking around the arena for so long.  It was tired and breaking down. It kept going to the corners of the ring to try to quit and every time my determined daughter fought to get it back in front of the judge.  She never quit.

Truth? I wanted her to quit.  I hate to admit that.  The mom in me was watching her, tears welling in my eyes, and I just thought,  "Baby, it's over.  Just stand in the corner and let that pig rest."  I could read her frustration and when she was FINALLY chosen as 4th alternate, and they got her pig over to the side where it collapsed from exhaustion, I saw the tears she was fighting from all the way in the stands.  I had to get to her! But, getting to her meant getting down stairs and going through a maze of pig panels. Her dad was down in the arena, but he had to fight the maze, too.

By the time we got to her there were already people surrounding her.  People who care about her and were watching her fight in that ring with almost the same concern I was. I recalled last year when I watched one of the senior girls have the same experience and how anguished I felt for her as I watched her.  I also thought about how excited I was for a boy who was having an awesome show his senior year this year,  after a not-so-great year last year. I was genuinely so happy for him, watching him win.  And, it occurs to me that we are so incredibly blessed to have this huge group of families we show with who have genuine concern for our kids.  Sure, in some respects we are competing against one another, but we are also all helping raise each other's kids.

We finally got my daughter's poor worn-out pig back to the pen, and we geared up for the showmanship competition. She went right back in the ring and showed her other pig with so much determination and she WON! After 7 long years, she finally got a showmanship buckle!  It was an amazing moment.  But, do you want to know the most amazing part?  The other parents who sincerely congratulated her, were genuinely happy for her, and told her how much she deserved it.  These are parents who's kids were in the ring, competing for the same award!

We are a little village of show moms and dads. We come together to raise money, coordinate to feed the kids on show day, help each other haul animals and equipment, share tips, commiserate on losses, share the joy of winning, and help keep up with the younger siblings.  We surround other people's children with help and encouragement when they need it.  We build them up, we hold them to the highest standard, and we don't let them quit.  How many times yesterday did I look up in the stands to see one or more of my kids sitting by another show parent?  How many times did I hear another parent say, "Great job!" To my child? 

We left the barn late last night. It was cold and anywhere I turned I saw weary faces. Weary faces with a smile and encouragement to offer.  The dads still there helped the kids load the last bit of equipment and the animals that needed to be hauled back to the school.  There was light teasing here and there, serious conversations about work still to be done, and I just sat back and took it all in.  I've come full circle.  I love this stock show life now. I love these people. There is no other village I'd rather have raising my children with me. Even if we ARE raising them in a barn!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My child, your best is enough!

Today at school there was a big celebratory trip for the kids that earned it. My oldest daughter always earned this little reward for being a good student and getting good grades. In order to obtain the prize, you have to meet several criteria. I didn't even know this was happening today in the middle school my son attends until my older daughter told me after my son got out of the car at school.
Later, I saw a "selfie" post from a few of his closest friends on the bus, while on their way to this little trip. (Thankful we have staved off the social media craze... for now! )
Here's the thing, I think being rewarded for your efforts is awesome! But, here's the other thing, sometimes it takes less effort for some people than other people. For instance, my oldest has always had a really easy time in school. Growing up, school came very easily to me, also. But, school doesn't come easily to everyone. And, unfortunately, when you're in your teen years it's hard to see beyond the environment of school and your peers. My son is smart! He has always been intelligent. The hard part is, his intelligence looks a little different than mainstream intelligence. Also, he had some things he has had to overcome along the way in his school career. At the end of the last semester, when report cards went out, my son texted me to tell me he had all A's and B's. This was cause for MAJOR celebration at our house. Not because I ever thought he couldn't do this, but because I know how extremely hard he had to work to get there. Because I know that getting that B in math has been a huge struggle for him on many levels.
I saw the look on his face at the beginning of school when he asked me if he was in the special ed class for math. He's not in special education, but he is in that class to get some individualized help he needs. I'm grateful for that! I'm so grateful for the school system where we are, and the way they have worked with him to help him overcome his hurdles. My son falls in that grey area of not qualifying for school services, but struggling enough that it is much harder for him in some areas than other people. So, that can make getting resources and help a little tougher. The school system we are in has really, really worked with us. But, at 12 years old, no one wants to be in the "special ed" class. No one wants to feel different. No one wants to be left at school when all of their friends get to go on the special reward trip.
Stay with me, here,  I am NOT saying this trip shouldn't happen! Like I said, my oldest always went on this trip and I was happy for her. But, I look at both of them and I see even though she may have better marks in school, I also see that she hasn't had to work very hard for it like my son has. And, so goes the education system. So goes life!
It is hard to find the justice in it all. We've all heard the old saying: "life isn't fair." And, that can be true. But as a mom all you really want is for your children to get what they have coming to them! Sometimes, that means discipline. Sometimes, that means extra help. Sometimes, that means rewards!  But, struggles?
Nothing in this life has taught me more about God's love for us than having my own children. I just imagine that God looks down on us sort of the same way we look down at our kids and watch their lives play out. In life, it is so easy for us to start looking around at everyone else and wondering, "why me?" Why am i dealing with this particular thing? Why am I not as good as that person? Why did you not give me the gift that you gave them? But as I mature in my faith, I have started to understand that God has a plan, and that every one of my struggles has built me to be the person He wants me to become. I now understand that I am just living out my small part of the plan God has for this world.  I can look back on my past struggles and insecurities and understand how they brought me to where I am now. I think, though, it is a little harder for us when it comes to our children, isn't it? We don't want them to struggle! If it's struggles they have coming to them, then we don't want to see that! Why is it we don't trust the fact that God allows our children struggles the same way he allows us our struggles, in order to mold them into what he wants them to be? Of course, that's what He is doing! And, for us parents, the charge is for us to present to our children a picture of Christ.
So, what is a mom to do when I look at my sweet son and see his discouragement?  When I know that he has worked so, so hard but didn't achieve the same reward everyone else did? Well, what I'm going to do is reward him myself - in my own way. It won't look the same as everyone else's reward, it won't be in the same timing, and not everyone will see it the way everyone saw who got to go on the trip at school today. But, isn't that how our spirituality goes? Sometimes God rewards us when no one else sees it. Sometimes he gives us different gifts than everyone around us. Whenever we look around and feel inadequate, we need only go to God. Because, every time His answer to His children will be: My child, your best is enough. In me, you will always be enough.
If I do nothing else with this parenting gig, I hope I can instill in my children the ability to know that in Christ, they are always enough.  And, for all you parents out there who are watching your kids struggle and fight for everything they get, but over and over again watch them fall short of their peers. Over and over, see that look of discouragement on their face.  For every parent who feels helpless, watching your child get left out, left behind, or left without - know this: in Christ, YOU are enough, too. I know you don't always feel like it, but you are.  You can fill in those gaps, and you can advocate, and you can pray, and you can encourage.  And, when you feel like you can't anymore, God will give you what you need.  Because, most certainly, when WE are not enough, our God IS. He was, He is, and He always will be.  Go to Him.  Teach your child to go to Him!

And, never forget that we are raising people here.  We are not raising students.  There is certainly a whole life after school where our "other learners" will be brilliantly polished and will stand out and shine bright!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Called to the Office

My decision to become an early childhood education administrator did not come from a place of burnout. This morning I spent the first hour or so of my day working in a classroom to sub for a teacher so that she could go to a meeting. I loved it so much, and it rejuvenated my passion for what it is that I'm doing. I've heard people say things like, "I just couldn't go back to the classroom at this point." Or, "I just couldn't  be in a classroom anymore.  I had to get out."  I'm not judging! I commend people for knowing their limitations!  It's just that, for me, that was never the case. There is absolutely nothing I love more than to sit and have a conversation with a four year old, observe children in the classroom and analyze their development, hold a baby or toddler and pat their little back, or make a parent feel comfortable leaving their child for the day. The fact of the matter is, it's what I was made to do. And, I could probably easily say that being an early childhood teacher came much easier to me than being an administrator.

Learning to teach adults and develop teachers has been much more of a learning curve for me than learning to work with children. Working with children comes extremely natural to me. Leading a circle time with 3 year olds is no problem for me; it feels completely natural. However, standing up in front of a group of teachers giving a presentation is a little bit horrifying! 

When I was working in a classroom, I felt so blessed and grateful to have the career I had. I kind of likened it to a professional athlete. I absolutely loved what I was doing, loved going to work everyday, and felt so very passionately about the work I was doing - plus I got paid for it! How often can you say that? (Although, without quite the compensation that professional athletes get!) The thing is, money is never what drives me, so salary really didn't play that much of a part in the rewards of what I was doing. I just felt blessed to be paid for what I loved! God called me out of that, though.  Now I would maybe compare what I'm doing to an athlete deciding to coach!

When my current position came open I looked at it for a long time before I ever decided to apply for it. It wasn't the right time! This wasn't the plan. Eventually, it was the plan. But not now. Not MY plan, anyway! After I finally applied and interviewed and was selected for the position, I had a choice to make. For me, it was a no-brainer. God was calling me to go, so obediently I said I'll go. I was excited! All the things that I was going to be charged with doing sounded like things I would love to do. It was an adventure, it was scary, and I was ready! (Or, so I thought.)

A little while into this position I started to doubt myself. Was I really equipped to do this? What was I thinking standing up in front of over a hundred people to talk? The first time I felt my neck turning red the way it does whenever I'm talking in front of people, doubt crept all over me! What made me think I could do this? The first year was tough. Not to say that I didn't love what I was doing, but it was just so far outside my comfort zone! I had supervised people before, but not on the scale I was supervising them now. So many times I thought am i doing any good? Am I supposed to be in this spot? Wouldn't it be better if I just went back to a classroom and did what I knew I was good at? Not to toot my own horn, but I was pretty darn good in the classroom! And I knew that. I felt like I was successful in the classroom. It came natural to me, I just got it, and children usually respond to me. Being able to see where a child is at developmentally almost just came as a gift to me. I say all of this not to brag on myself, because I don't think it's my doing that I was good at that; I truly believe that's the way God made me. I say this to you to tell you that I felt very comfortable being in a classroom as a preschool teacher. Being an administrator wasn't quite as comfortable to me! But, every time I would have those doubts God would talk to me and His still small voice. He would say to me, "I put you here. I will equip you with what you need to do this. I'll tell you when I'm ready for you to move." I would love to say that I never doubted that still small voice. I didn't move, because if I've learned anything in my life, I've learned the only time you're successful is when you go where God tells you to go. But, I still wondered over and over again: am I supposed to be here? I felt like Moses. I wanted to say God, this is the kid who could barely form words in kindergarten! Remember me? I'm the one that writes so well just because I never could express myself verbally! What are you thinking with this? I'm just the grown up version of the little girl that got upset and cried every time someone looked at me wrong. How do you expect me to be a supervisor of all these people, and handle all these difficult situations, and keep my emotions at bay? Are you sure I'm the one you need here? But every time, his answer was the same. I put you here. I need you here. Just stay. And, so I stayed.

It's gotten easier! My neck still turns red when I talk in front of people. However, I just try not to let it bother me like I used to. I don't know why it happens, but it just does. And I just go with it. God called me to the office. Quite literally. I miss the classroom! I miss playing with kids during the day, I miss analyzing their development, I miss dictating their stories, I miss the hugs, and I even miss wiping their sweet little noses! My baby is now 7, and so I just miss being around little kids, in general! I just want to rock somebody to sleep every day! Ha!

The fact of the matter is, though, God called me to do the work I'm doing because of the passion he gave me for it. I loved knowing that I was having an effect on so many children's lives in the classroom.  Now, I am charged with the ability to make changes in so many more children's lives! Now it's indirectly. Now I'm training other teachers. But, it's where I'm supposed to be. I'm learning every day about managing and leading. Yes, I'm an oldest child, but I'm not your typical bossy, everybody follow me type of person. I think I have a lot of leadership qualities, but they're very quiet. Which is kind of how everything is with me - I've got some big stuff going on a lot of times, but I'm just really quiet about it. Ironically, I have figured out that a lot of the very things I felt like made me ill equipped to do the job I'm doing now, are the very things that actually make me pretty good in the position I'm in. For instance, the fact that I'm slow to speak actually comes in handy whenever I'm dealing with difficult situations with staff or parents.

I have grown more in the past three and a half years of my career than any other point. I have learned that the most growth happens when your really being stretched and, let me tell you, God has stretched me in the past few years. And as hard as some of those times have been, and as many times as I thought: "I just kind of want to throw in the towel here!" I didn't. From the time I decided to work in early childhood, I knew that this was my ministry. No, I wouldn't say it is anything as noble as mission work. I haven't been called to leave everything I know and go off to some foreign country. But, God called me for sure. He ignited in me a fire for what I do, and he called me to do it for Him. And, so I did. And, when He called me up to the office, and out of the classroom, I followed Him. And, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life! I say all of this to you to express that if we can learn to just rely on God, to quit questioning His motives, and just follow Him where He takes us, won't we be so much more content? And, for sure, we will be rewarded! Those rewards are not necessarily going to be monetary, they're not necessarily going to be fame and recognition, but it's something so much more precious! Knowing we are helping carry out His plan, and we are doing the work He created us to do, is by far the most rewarding thing I have found in this life so far. I wouldn't say it's easy all the time. But as the old saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy!

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “ I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘ I am has sent me to you.’ ”
Exodus 3:11-14 NIV