“Why” You Need to Read the Labels

Love 2“Mom, my eye is killing me.”

From a far off distance, I heard Kyle’s plea for help. With a groggy groan, I roused myself out of the first waves of sweet sleep and sat up to examine him. Indeed, his right peeper appeared bloodshot and his cheek below was red and irritated from scratching.

I hopped out of bed, ran to the bathroom cabinet and searched for the eye drops. I found the tiny bottle and ripped off the wrapping. Sitting Kyle down I dumped a few drops in his sore eye.

I waited to hear, “Ahhhhh, thanks mom,” but it never came.

Instead Kyle started howling, “It burns, mom, it burns.”

Confused, I turned on the light and looked at the bottle. It said “Otic” Solution not “Optic” Solution.

“Otic” means ear not eye.

“Abort, Abort!”

We rushed Kyle to the sink to flush his eye out with water. Tim searched online for medical treatment and I prepared to go to the hospital and then the slammer.

Tears choked my stutters of rambling, “sorry, sorry, sorry.”

I patted Kyle’s back and ached with his every moan.

I could see the headlines. “Mother accidentally blinds budding football star with Otic Solution. Abuse Charges filed.”

Suddenly Tim yelled from the bedroom, “It says it’s a common accident. The medicine “neomycin” actually the same, just in a higher concentration for sensitive eyes. He’ll live. Just wash it out good.”

My son playfully glared at me with his good eye. “Nice mom, thanks for the love!”

Kyle went to bed and I fell back to sleep exhausted. It had been a long week. Kolby had a high fever for almost five days in a row and I was running on fumes from nursing her. But my sleep was troubled.

Mommy guilt was setting in. The fog of inner torment settled on my shoulders like a backpack.

Kyle’s eye was better in the morning and I sent him off to school somewhat relieved but feeling like a big loser.

When I sat down with my Bible I needed grace more than ever. My prayers went something like this: Jesus, I suck as I mom. I failed my kid. In my weakness and exhaustion I slipped. I’m supposed to be his rescuer. I remembered the day when I accidentally nipped his tiny finger as a baby with the nail trimmer. Every drop of blood tortured me. This moment felt strangely familiar.

Please, please, please help me climb out of this hole of self-abuse.

And then my solace came. Slowly, quietly and with stillness. Psalms of praise, thanksgiving and love.

I felt my shepherds gentle pat and knew everything would be ok.

I am so thankful for God’s unending grace and mercy to a troubled mother’s heart. It was just enough to get me through the day, although a few tears of remorse continued to cloud my vision.

Do you ever struggle with “mommy guilt” when you blow it?

Party Pooper

I wanted to help a new friend.  So I broke my own cardinal rule and hosted a jewelry party for her at my home. 

It’s never a good idea to stray from core values and it didn’t go well for me.

There may be something to picking a bad event date.  Note to self  *Nov. 7th SUCKS!  Most of my good friends were previously engaged with kid’s activities and work and board meetings. I should have canceled the event or picked a new date.

I get it.  We are busy, busy people. But almost a dozen ladies agreed to join me, so I went ahead and forged on with the party. 

Some cancellations are explainable.  My sweet neighbor has a three day old baby.  She gets a pass.  Another dear friend is moving –she fell asleep accidentally early in the evening.  I hate moving.  I understand.

But the other ten people who RSVP’d to my party and didn’t show… I need a note from your teacher.

Because I felt like a BIG loser. 

It’s like waiting for your date to show and waiting and waiting and waiting.  And then you take off your makeup and try not to look in the mirror to see your sad face.

I did however have three of my daughters friend’s over.  We played Just Dance and ate all the food I prepared.

We ate a lot.  Hey ladies…the appetizers were awesome.

I sat on my barstool next to my jewelry friend and tried not to panic.  But we both knew by 8:30pm the party was a disaster.  My cheeks burned with embarrassment.

It stinks to feel unwanted and discarded for the “Voice” or something better that came along.

My pride prickled.  I wanted to cry but I honestly didn’t have it in me.  I was too exhausted from cooking and cleaning. 

It was a great opportunity to be reminded of my true worth and value which is not dependent on a room full of women purchasing jewelry.  I spent some time in Psalms this morning refreshing my wounded spirit.

“Although you and your circumstances may change dramatically, I remain the same throughout time and eternity.  This is the basis of your confidence.  In my presence you live and move and have your being.”*

I’m guesing Jesus had some parties that didn’t go over too well either.  It brought back my smile.

Next party…no jewelry. And just so you know, if you no-showed, I still love you.  A lot!

Have you ever had a party where no one came? 

 

*(Taken from Acts 17:28 Jesus Calling)

Trophy Child

 

Perusing through the bookstore, a catchy title caught my eye and I yelled for my husband.  There the two of us stood, mouths agape, as we stared at the cover of Trophy Child…and the parents that enable them.

The book had a cover of a sports star kid and his adoring parents fawning over him.

This book hit way too close to home –in an irritating and pissy sort of way.

I didn’t even want to pick it up.  I knew what it would say and I didn’t really want to hear it.

The truth is parents of kids who excel either in athletics or sports or even the arts DO treat their kids differently. 

I know this because I have two other kids along with my trophy child.

I’m certainly not spending a fortune on private coaches and speed training and all the little extras we do for Kyle on my other two.  To some extent I even expect Faith and Kolby to sacrifice for their brother. Our whole family is behind him and together with my ex-husband we are Team Kyle

I openly admit I give this kid special treatment.  I don’t wake up at the crack of dawn to make a hot meal for anyone in my family but my son.  We drive an extra distance to his private school. I run over to the school whenever he calls to bring him little things to make his life easier.  There are late-night runs to Sports Chalet and I help him with homework when he is too tired to hold up his head.  We go out of our way to meet his needs, even if it means the other two suffer a bit in the process.

I don’t do this for my girls.  I love and adore and treasure my girls but I’m not a butt kisser to them like I am my son. But it doesn’t mean if they had a dream like Kyle I wouldn’t be willing to do the same for them.  In fact, I hope and pray they do!

Now, part of our special treatment is directly related to Kyle’s effort.  The kid has heart and discipline and strives at a level I am in awe of.  He wakes up at 5:45am every morning to stretch before weight-lifting.   He does extra workouts on his own, on top of the extra workouts we schedule for him.  He is committed and focused and I want with all my heart to help him achieve his goal of playing college football.   He works hard in school and performs at a high-caliber.  It doesn’t hurt that he also a really nice and amiable kid. 

We expect a lot and he over-achieves on every level.

But where I know we fall into the trophy child trap is putting his success before the rest of the family and sometimes even before God.  Football takes all his time and at least during the season, there is no time for extras.  Youth group goes by the wayside.  Service is missed.  It’s about all I can do to shake him out of his stupor on Sunday mornings to get him to stumble in to church with me.

He suits up for three games a week.  He practices twenty hours.  The abuse on his body by week eight of the season is intense.  Every inch of Kyle has a bruise or a cleat mark.  His pinky is a puff-ball of black and I am deeply grateful we have gotten this far in the season without any major injuries. 

I know there is probably an appropriate balance between sports and God and not allowing our son to get a big head; I just don’t think it’s as easy or trite as some make it out to be.  Commitment means sacrifice.  But God is clearly a non-negotiable. 

And so we must teach our son to weave him into every facet of his day, into each game and during the seasons where he is deeply engaged both on and off the field.

So here’s to trying to living by God’s priority and not our own in the midst of raising a trophy child. 

 

The Honey-do List

I struggle with certain forms of communication with my hubby –namely how to ASK for anything on the honey-do list.

It’s a lose/lose scenario for me. 

I know my man works hard.  As a pastor he puts in six days a week and on top of that goes to seminary on his day off.  When he is home, the kids vie for his attention along with their demanding sports and activities schedule. He doesn’t have much time off and I feel guilty asking for more, but there are just certain things around the house only a MAN can do.

So I wait and wait and wait.  Then I try to do it all and burn out.  The frustration builds and builds.  By the time I get around to asking him for help, it never comes out right.

I can’t even pin-point where I go wrong, but according to my sweetie every time I say, “Hey Tim, can you please clean the garage or put away your clothes that have been sitting out on the dresser for a month?” it comes out whiny, nagging, or a like a guilt-trip. 

I hear sunshine, he hears bi—yatch.

I think I’m being diplomatic –cautious even, but it comes across as something completely different.  He says it’s my tone.

What tone? 

I tell him my tone is rooted in fear that I will never have a clean garage.  My tone is the sound of a mommy martyr who carries the weight of the world.  My tone is “do you see me slaving away over here while you kick back and watch football?”

Per our normal routine, I asked the wrong way for him to clean the garage.  But this time, I lost it –big time.  I threw a tantrum…over the garage.

(Not my finest moment)

I ended up on my bed sobbing like a child who lost her blankie.  And then I realized it wasn’t about the garage.  It’s never about the “thing” you fight over.  It’s always ten layers deep.

This meltdown was about my dad and his waning health and the reality that my time with his is limited.  This is about surrender and God and trusting him despite my fear.  This fight was about my heart full of aching emotions seeping out.

My husband held me, quieted my tears, and then went downstairs and started cleaning the garage. 

And I think this is what marriage is like.  We bumble things like “tone” and “communication” but we know innately when the other is hurting.  We know when to be an anchor and to hold on tight to our beloved in the midst of a storm.

I love how my husband KNOWS me. 

Marriage is like best friends with benefits, only better, because it is true and intimate and mysteriously interconnected.  It is a naked and unashamed love. It’s love that sees past the dragons and still climbs into the castle window to rescue the wounded princess.

I will probably always screw up the ASK on the honey-do list, although I imagine if I put on the lingerie he bought me for my birthday I might get a different response?

 

 

So Long Sailor…

“What are we going to quit this Thursday?” I posed to my girlfriends as we lingered over a late lunch after church at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

The speaker on Sunday morning, Bob Goff, ignited the church with his infectious love and zeal for people, and had us all thinking about the lack of margin in our lives. We sat and reflected on what we needed to be let go of so we could more available to engage in loving relationships.

My dear friend leaned back in her chair and said, “I need to stop swearing. It’s not what I want to model for my kids.”

And her words startled me because I realized how not that long ago this was a HUGE issue for me.

But without even realizing it, my desire to verbally scrape the filth off the bathroom floor has disappeared.

How did that happen?

It’s certainly not because I’m more Christ-like, although I give it my best shot every day. I look in the mirror and the same old redeemed sinner stares back at me.

But In a moment of clarity I grasped why I’m now different in this area and how I inadvertently gained victory over my covert potty mouth.

I think it’s because I’ve made a HUGE effort to cut out the life draining activities and toxic relationships which perpetually keep me on the edge of an F-bomb leaking out.

If I’m honest, I was so overwhelmed with life (for a time) with the third baby, church plant, being the pastor’s wife, and juggling three jobs that resentment and bitterness were slowly brewing in my belly into a pity party of vulgarity.

Even if I didn’t say the bad word (good pastor’s wife that I am), I was probably thinking it.

But when I made some major life overhauls, thanks to my cranky heart –contentment and MARGIN started to fill in the cess-pool of obscenities. I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry at my heart condition, but more often than not, lately it seems like it might be a hidden blessing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some people will always be jackholes and I have no qualms about calling them out, but there has been a massive shift in my verbal paradigm and for that I am eternally grateful.

At least my kids won’t remember me as Sailor Sam.

As for me, the thing I want to quit is being afraid. I have a laundry list of fears swirling around finances, my parent’s health, and my kid’s growing up able-bodied and sound; all of which give me chest pain if I dwell on them too long.

So, in light of the magnanimous Bob Goff (author of Love Does), I want to ask you…

What do you need to quit doing to make room in your life for love?

Burritos and Grace

Del Taco saved my life.

(And no, I wasn’t dying of hunger or thirst or anything remotely stomach related.)

But I was sitting at a red light in my Nissan Xterra, snarfing down a chicken burrito before I turned onto Juanipero Serra to help feed the hordes of J Serra football player’s lunch during hell week.

My car was perched on the freeway off-ramp and visibility limited to the left by the large stone structure of the overpass.

The light turned green and I started to pull out, but just as I hit the gas a large chunk of chicken accompanied by gooey sauce and lettuce launched into my lap. I checked my mirror, realized no one was behind me and paused to scrape sour cream off my thigh.

Defining Moments

And in that split second of hesitation I heard a roar.

A heavy-duty pick-up truck came barreling through the intersection running two back to back red lights and screeched by in front of me.

I gulped and whispered a prayer of thanks –tears and adrenaline spilling out of me.

I would have been a sitting duck and the truck would have hit me dead on the driver’s side of my vehicle.

I like to think Jesus, or a big awesome angel, flicked my chunk of chicken at just the right moment.

Annoyance or Mercy?

And it reminds me that sometimes those little annoying moments are really God’s grace and lavish love.

How often do we get in such a frenzy of emotion that we don’t recognize the financial hardship, or health issue, or even tension in our relationships as a red-flag from the one above?

Instead, we go barreling into the intersection to certain doom and fail to stop, pause, and address the spilled burrito of our life lying in pieces in our lap.

I’m so grateful today for that messy burrito and the hot sauce I squirted all over my wheel.

Where do you need to pause and let God speak to you?

Husband Bashing

The second the words left the woman’s mouth, floating in the air like a little bomb on the cusp of detonation, I knew I had to chime in.  While her comment was probably not malicious–if left unchecked –the game of husband bashing could do irreversible damage to the Christian ladies gathering.

I’ve noticed this sport usually starts with a hefty dose of female empowerment masked in affirmations and coy compliments… “Ladies, I have been so blessed by this group and by these AMAZING female friendships to the point where I feel like I don’t even need a man around anymore.  Don’t you agree?”

Subtle wink…dainty pout …lips parted with just a hint of an invitation.

And then each woman, happily married, bitter and single, or somewhere in between… makes an instantaneous but crucial decision –do I jump on the bandwagon and annihilate my husband’s (or ex-husband’s) character or defend him and take a stand against the crowd?

Unfortunately, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.  I was the bitter chick for a few years after my divorce that turned tea parties into toxic parties and now I cringe at my past behavior. 

(Hurt people hurt people, right?)

Just as the first few lovelies dove onto the slippery slope of male abuse, I jumped in and loudly interrupted, “Look ladies…the beauty of healthy female friendships is how it enhances marriage –not replaces it.  When our uniquely feminine emotional needs are addressed by empathetic girlfriends who understand us then we don’t place false expectations on our man to decipher our complicated hearts.”

I paused and waved my arms around for emphasis.  “This allows our husband to operate as a real man who loves to fix and struggles to listen to chick-speak without the burden of fulfilling our every whim.  My husband is a tremendous man who both refines and compliments me.  And while I certainly love all of you, I am first and foremost my husband’s biggest fan and I refuse to act like he is big dolt or a Homer Simpson wannabe.”

The table went silent and tongues poised to launch a volley of verbal assault paused and retreated.  The claws went back in and then a chorus of agreement chimed in.  “Oh yes, we do need our men…they are so wonderful…I do love my husband.”

I sat back down in turmoil –glad I had spoken up but frustrated I even needed to.  Sadly, I see this happen all too often –women gossiping loudly about their husbands faults and complaining to whoever lends a willing ear.  I know if the shoe were on the other foot and I discovered my husband trash talked me in public I would be devastated.  So why do women act like we have a hall pass in this area?

In an ideal world there would be no double-standards in marriage.  And though I far from perfect in this area and still consider myself a recovering gossiper, I try to remember I can’t expect my husband or our children to act differently than the behavior I model.  So what am I teaching my son and two girls when they accidentally hear mommy dissing daddy on the phone to her BFF?

What if we –as wives –chose to affirm our husbands instead of nit-pick?  What if we saw the best and let go of the little irritants?  What about truly forgiving and FORGETING, instead of forgiving and then repeating the offense to the gals in Pilates to get a big laugh?

I want to be the type of woman who champions her husband at all costs.  I try to speak of him and about him in the highest regard.  And I’ve found, quite inadvertently, my words and actions are helping him become the man he wants to be because he feels supported–even when he makes mistakes and even when he struggles.  This allows him to take bigger risks and move towards the best in life because he knows I am his team-mate and not a passive aggressive opponent licking his face and simultaneously peeing on his leg.

Harold Macmillan –a British politician once said, “No man succeeds without a good woman behind him.”  I think Harold is on to something.  And I think starts by being an advocate of marriage and learning the art of keeping our mouth shut.

 

 

Christians and the Birth-Control Controversy

Two weeks before my wedding I paid a visit to the lady doctor.  She poked and probed me and then asked me, “What sort of birth control do you use?”

“None,” I replied.

“What?  Aren’t you afraid of getting pregnant?” she suggested in a horrified tone.

“Ummmm…no, I haven’t had sex with my fiancé, so it hasn’t been a big issue.”

The doctor looked at me and frowned.  “Well now that you are getting married, are we putting you on the pill?”

“Nope, we want kids.” I said.

“Ok, after the kids.  Then what?” she asked.

And then I shrugged and sighed and shook my head.   Because the truth is I get confused about the birth control issue and Christian evangelicalism.  It’s a big blurry gray area of dividing ideologies and as time passes even my own paradigm shifts with new revelations, not to mention my own painful experience with different approaches.

What I do know is abortifacient contraception is not an option for me anymore. 

Recent evidence suggests abortifacient contraception –the Intrauterine Device (IUD), the day after pill, and even the regular birth control pill distort the natural design of conception.

So if you believe (like I do) that conception begins when an egg and a sperm meet and a spark of life ignites, then who am I to play God and get in the way of his plan?

For a great in-depth look at this topic -read Albert Mohler’s, “Can Christians Use Birth Control?

But even without this controversial argument, every method of birth control I’ve ever used (besides a diaphragm, condom, or family planning) has always screwed up my body so much, that if I’m honest, I innately knew it wasn’t good for me.

The truth is birth control is just like all of those drugs advertised on TV.  Your initial symptom might go away –but beware of the twenty more issues you will now have… Like all those poor Propecia guys, who tried to grow more hair but now can’t get an erection.  Personally, if I was a dude I’d rather be bald!

And so it goes with birth control and the promise of consequence free sex.

When I took the pill in college, I not only gained weight but got so depressed I hid in a corner curled in a ball weeping.  Then I tried Depo-Provera -a nightmare of synthetic chemicals injected in my behind.  The side effects were so bad it was questionable if I would ever even want to have sex again.  I gained weight, became severely anemic and could barely get out of bed for three months –definitely not sexy!

Then there was the abortion I hid (like all my friends did in their early twenties).  But ironically, Planned Parenthood forgot to tell me and thousands of other young women about the consequences.  They didn’t mention how almost fifteen years later the recognition of what I had done would hit me like a tsunami, drowning me with devastating waves of grief and sorrow I then had to process.  Somehow I repressed the emotions long enough to justify my behavior –until I couldn’t anymore and the pain seeped out like a hidden vault of toxic tears.

All of my efforts to play God with birth control and taking life had detrimental consequences to my body and my heart.  It’s the reason I champion life now and speak to teen moms and parents of unplanned pregnancy. 

Pain changed my paradigm about birth control and life.

Maybe if we saw sex in marriage as a gift and as a potential life creating union it would mean more to us.  Maybe if we looked at children as a unique treasure and not as an imposition it would alter our selfish tactics.  Maybe we should question the price of “sexual freedom” and think twice about destroying our bodies for the sake of promiscuity.

As for my husband and I, we have chosen to use natural family planning methods.  For us, this makes sense with our belief in God’s design.

But it hasn’t been an easy road to navigate and there are no pat answers. 

What do you think about the birth control issue within the Christian evangelical realm?

Muno’s Heart

“OK Kolby, what does daddy for a job?” I asked my two-year old in an attempt to teach her some basic family information.

“Ummmm…daddy make pants!” Kolby replied earnestly.

“Close sweetie!  Daddy’s a pastor.”

“Dat’s wright.  Daddy tells people bout Jesus and he fixes hearts.” Kolby said with a smile that could melt butter.

“Mommy, can Da Da fix Muno’s heart?”

“Of course he can baby!”  I ran and got Kolby’s red monster doll –Muno from the series Yo Gabba Gabba and we sat him in front of daddy and I told Tim very firmly he needed to tell Muno about Jesus.

Tim looked at me with mirth, shaking his head and laughing, but he played along with us .

“Muno, Jesus loves you very much,” Tim said in his best pastor voice.  “He knows sometimes you bite your friends and it makes him sad.  Jesus sacrificed his life for you on the cross because he loves Muno so very much.  He wants Muno to live an abundant life and have a strong heart. “

I whispered under my breath, “Abundant…seriously?  She’s two.”

Daddy frowned at mommy.

Muno then squeaked out, “I do want to follow you Jesus,” only it sounded a bit like daddy on Nitrous Oxide.

So daddy led Muno through a simple prayer.

Kolby sat quietly the entire time taking it all in.  Then she picked up Muno, thanked daddy and fell asleep in my arms shortly thereafter. 

I woke up this morning clutching Muno’s hand in mine.  Seriously.  Maybe the little guy was mourning his life of sin and needed some cuddling.

I rolled over and opened one eye sleepily gazing at my husband.  “Hey PANTS-tor…what’s up?” 

 

 

All Fleeced Up

Check out my beret...

For the last twenty-one months I have been hustling –writing early in the morning, at lunch, during baby’s nap and at all sorts of odd times.  I have been jotting down notes in the car, at church, on scraps of paper and sometimes even tapping away on my iPhone to pen some fabulous tale of awesome I might otherwise forget.

And it’s all been for this day. 

Today, I am officially a full-time freelance writer.

I wrote a while back about a big decision we were praying over and how Tim asked for fleece from God and God provided the fleece by miraculously placing a white van on the freeway with a “Got Fleece?” license plate right in front of my car.

God is so stinking creative!

Well, this was the big decision –to go all-out for my dream or stick with the safe and secure route.  In all honesty, moving from a full-time steady pay-check to a life of an eccentric beret wearing writer/artist just scraping by didn’t sound too appealing to my husband. 

But God provided the fleece.

I secured a couple of steady writing gigs and negotiated a deal to do a little contract work for my tech job.

We won’t starve, although I still may wear the beret and start mumbling in French, and read all of the works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and maybe 50 Shades of Gray (if they offer a PG version).

I am pinching myself this morning and blown away by the grace of God and his mercy. 

Sometimes our dreams do come true with plenty of hard work and spit and gumption.

And a loving God who provides the fleece and doors of opportunity no man can shut.

What is your dream job?  What can you do today to move towards a career that resonates in your spirit and makes you feel alive?

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