A couple weeks ago something terrible happened to my daughter. Brace yourself. Take a moment if you need.

I don’t know how else to say it besides just coming right out with it: It was a Friday night and my teenage daughter had no plans.

It was tragic.

She had no other alternative but to hang out with her lame parents on the couch and watch the dumb movie they rented from Red Box.

She was in a dark place mentally so in anticipation of the evening she asked if she could take a quick drive around the neighborhood in the golf cart to clear her head. We agreed it was a good idea. We had to help get her through this however we could.

She was gone for all of 5 minutes when my husband’s phone rang. He sprung from the couch yelling into the phone, “Where are you? Are you okay? I’m on my way!” He ran out the front door shouting, “She wrecked, but she’s ok!”

Before I could get past our front porch she was already home, being delivered to me by her dad with a blanket around her shoulders. Crying hysterically.

After I tended to her bumps and bruises, checked her pupils, looked for broken bones…all the normal mom checklist stuff…I asked her what happened.

She told me she was driving down the street when she saw the headlights of an approaching car. She did what any clear minded person would do. She turned off the headlights from the golf cart. Duh. After they passed, she turned her headlights back on at the exact moment that she plowed into a truck parked on the side of the road.

“Why would you turn off your lights?” I asked in the calmest most chilled tone of voice I could muster.

“Because it was embarrassing for anyone to see me all alone on a Friday night, driving a golf cart around the neighborhood!” she said.

Of course! Totally logical.

Her dad comes back with the golf cart. The pieces of it, I should say. When she hit, she flew through the windshield and landed on the pavement. Hit so hard the axle snapped in half and the wheels fell off. It’s a miracle she wasn’t seriously injured.

This is not what’s bothering me really. It’s just what led me to tell you what is.

Today is her 16th birthday. I’m taking her tomorrow morning to the court house to test for her drivers permit. Instead of a golf cart she will now be driving a 2-ton car.

Hide your kids. Hide your wife.

Will she turn off her lights on a Friday night, when she’s all alone, driving 60mph on the highway, to spare herself the embarrassment of being seen?

Will she walk away unhurt if she ever gets flung through a windshield again?

As I’m driving about my day, I get a panicky feeling now when I see a moron driver because I immediately think of my baby sharing the road with him.

Will she know how to handle driving on black ice? I don’t, but I really hope she does.

Celebrating her sweet 16 today makes me thankful. It’s been an exciting 16 years watching her grow into her own independent person, but it feels like with that independence that I’m letting a piece of her go.

I’m losing some of that comforting pseudo control I think I have. It sets my anxiety into overdrive. I’m not ready. The 16 years went by too fast. AAAAHHHHHH!

“Ask and it will be given to you…” Matthew 7:7.

I’m not sure I buy it exactly. I’ve asked many times for things and was not given them. Nevertheless, I keep asking. I gather that when I ask for things that are heavenly and pure that it may be the sort of thing he’s speaking of giving to people when they ask. I bet if I prayed to hit the lottery he’d be less likely to say yes then when I pray for more faith. The whole “blessed are the poor” thing probably knocks me out of his favor with the ole lottery prayer, but I must think he wouldn’t be stingy on my request for peace and deeper faith.

It’s my only hope. Praying for faith.

Faith that he will look over my girl. His girl.

Faith that he will protect her. Faith that his control is good and sufficient.

Faith.  I’m praying for more of it.

It’s the only way to keep from suffering a nervous breakdown over this.

I’ll also try to focus on the upside.

I’ll have a runner now. Someone to make trips to the grocery for me. Someone to drop off our dry cleaning. Someone who understands the importance of headlights.

So Happy Sweet 16th birthday baby girl. Momma loves you. Call me when you get there. And when you leave. But not while you’re driving.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here praying for faith to relax and enjoy it all. That and stiff cocktail should do the trick.

I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner most years, since we’ve been married, for my husband’s side of the family.

I normally begin drinking around 11am when the turkey goes in the oven.  By the time 5pm rolls around we are both baked.    (Relax mom, kidding)

I wouldn’t need to do this if they would just act like the people in the commercials do at the holidays.

All I really want is for them to show up, laughing and holding warm pies when I open the door to greet them.  I dream of everyone sitting around one big table, with matching chairs and silver serving dishes, eating and not being able to think of a single complaint to discuss.  I’d love for my dog to curl up on the rug and wag his tail at our feet while we eat.  Is it really too much to ask for my husband to gingerly slice the turkey with one of those long knifes and shiny fork looking things, into thin even slices while I gaze at him seemingly unbothered at all that he did nothing to prepare for the dinner yet is now getting the glory for the perfectly roasted turkey?  The warm and fuzzy feeling melting all over me is what I fantasize about.

But guess what?

In the many years I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve noticed a trend:  The way our family has always acted is likely exactly how they will act again this year.

There will likely be a couple people who aren’t speaking to each other.  There will be some arguing as they enter the front door.  Kids will be hyper.  Their parents will get angry when a family member tells their little snowflake to stop throwing rolls.  My dog will bark excessively and jump all over everyone.  He may even pee in the floor from the excitement.  We will use a sharpie to write our names on white styrofoam cups.  There are approximately 14 chairs in my house and will be roughly 40 people trying to snag one.  Over dinner someone will certainly bring up their firm opinions on why being on, or being off the Trump Train is what Jesus would do.  It’s guaranteed that something will spill, someone will cry and someone will leave mad.

That’s what REAL families look like.

I’m guessing there are some Thanksgiving commercial quality families out there somewhere, but I’ve never met them.  I probably would have to drink even more if I were to spend the day with them.  Not being real is exhausting after a while.

My Thanksgiving wish for you, for me, for all of us is to just embrace it.  Love the people God gave you.  Invite someone to your dinner who is lonely.  Welcome the new boyfriend/girlfriend that your cousin will bring.  Don’t use this day to try and change people.  Speak kindly to each other, even to the ones you don’t really like.  They feel just as uptight as you do, promise.  Tell funny stories of the loved ones who have passed and are no longer with us.  Let go of all the expectations and enjoy the best you can manage.

Be Thankful.

It will all be over soon.

 

I woke up at 2am, heart pounding, sweating.

It sounds like it could be a chapter opener from a cheap romance novel, but I am neither cheap nor romantic feeling at the moment.

It could have been the pimento cheese sandwich and big piece of chocolate cake I ate before bedtime.

Or it could have been that my bedroom felt hot, despite the reading on the thermostat and the fan blowing over my bed that I use mostly for white noise.

Maybe it was the sweet lady who helps run an orphanage in Myanmar, who prayed for me after dinner at a friend’s house.  Maybe that’s what had my heart triggered. I didn’t understand a single word she said aside from the couple times I overheard her softly say my name in an accent you don’t hear around Kentucky. For all I know she could have been passionately praying for rain, but it felt a little too personal for that.

After several failed attempts of trying to relax enough to go back to sleep, I finally succumbed to my thoughts and allowed myself to begin sorting them through.  I decided I should at least be productive if I’m going to lay here awake.

In keeping with being as real and transparent as possible with this blog (because otherwise what’s the point really?) I will risk my people pleasing, appearance keeper-upper tendency and admit to you this:

It’s been a bad year.

I have only had one or two other years in my entire life that could measure against this one. When I think of my life this year the first image that pops into my mind is a pile of rocks. Not to sound too Charlie Brownish, but “I got a rock.”

At 2am, when I’d much rather be sleeping, I was lying in bed thinking it over. Thinking of all my disappointments and wondering when and if they will end.

I thought of friendships that were tested this year.

Some of the biggest joys in my life are the people I discover on the other side of a storm. You really don’t know how good anything is, truly, until it’s been tested. Until it’s been proven. Before the test, you just have to take people at their word.  People who can walk with me in my wins, and walk with me through the losses.  The ones who know my many flaws and still love me….those are my people.  Test driven friends make everything feel better.

Some of my biggest disappointments are the friends who are only there for a season. The ones who celebrate victories, but run away during the defeats.  They are also priceless. They make us wiser and tougher. I’m grateful for them as well. They grew me even though it hurt.

I thought of how fast my kids are growing up. I thought of how much I hate hearing that cliché, but how true it is anyway.

I thought of how much I wish my Dad could see all their milestones and enjoy them with me.  I thought about how much I miss him.

I pondered of all the trials and anxieties that somehow managed to all fit inside this calendar year.

I wondered if it’s over yet. If at the end of being busted up into chunks if  I’ll turn around only to be further chopped away at until I’m reduced to being a pile of gravel sized pieces.

I have to admit this to myself and, for some reason, feel led to admit it to you.

That’s not to say that I’m not also simultaneously dripping in abundant blessings.

I don’t think life is ever all good or all bad, but right now, this year in particular, the balance is off.

I’m still me.

I carry on.  I take care of my kids.  I snuggle up with my husband at night. I work and contribute, but it’s a broken version of myself. I’ve crumbled some, but still all-in-all together in one piece.

I am being reshaped.

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, broken and weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner

So if I have to be the broken version of myself for now, I may as well be useful.

Repurposed.

Upcycled.

Reinvented.

I’m being made new!

Despite how much the hits are bruising, I’m being molded and made better than before.

And as though it is an audible signal from God, my daughter’s alarm is going off.

Time to close the laptop and get kids to school.

Time to go to work.

Time to keep living, keep moving, even while the ground shifts beneath my feet and remind myself that this is all part of a grander plan.

Tonight, though, I’ll be giving Tylenol PM a try.

Teenagers get a bad rap. It’s for good reason. I know, I have two of them.

They live in a world of polar extremes. Their ever evolving brains make them predictably unpredictable. I’ll watch my teenage son and daughter, sitting shoulder to shoulder on the couch laughing together and this mama’s heart beams with joy. Then I’ll walk over and discover they are bonding over an inappropriate video they found on YouTube.
Raising teenagers means being amazed at their wit and charm, but also means I have to say things like “why would you put me on speaker phone if people were all around?” One minute, I pat myself on the back for raising responsible, honest kids then the next minute I’m exhibiting a prowess normally reserved for the FBI as I investigate and gather information by any means necessary to find out if one of them has lied to me.

Raising teenagers is a roller coaster ride all the time. It’s a ride full of excitement, wonderful highs, scary lows, lots of loopy loops and vomit.

It’s not all bad. Actually, being the mom of teenagers is pretty awesome and here are 6 reasons why:

1. Teens are fun on vacation.

They are finally old enough to do the fun stuff. They enjoy eating at places other than McDonalds. They are tall enough to ride everything. They can go to the public restrooms without holding an adult’s hand. I don’t have to keep my eye on them every second at the pool. They can take a walk along the beach while I stay back reading a magazine on my chair. The nights don’t end early because they don’t have to go to bed early, in fact, they prefer not to. The mornings are peaceful because they don’t wake up until 11am. It’s great.

2. We enjoy the same movies.

Finally, my movie choices at the theater aren’t limited to Disney and animated flicks. They understand and laugh at the humor in comedies. They get on the edge of their seats during suspense films. I don’t have to explain what’s going on to them. Actually, if anyone is explaining a movie plot to anyone it’s more likely that my son is explaining it to me, not the other way around. They understand that mommy’s purse full of candy and snacks purchased at the gas station on the way there is not something that needs to be announced to the girl at the ticket booth.

3. My teenagers gave me back my sex life.

I’m not sure of a more delicate way of saying this, but when my precious angels were born my sex life went to crap. We had to take what we could get during their nap times. Being spontaneous was something of the past. Then they became little kids. We had to lock doors because those suckers could get out of bed on their own and would try to make surprise visits. Then they became teenagers and it only takes a comment from their father about how good I look in a dress to make them cringe. The sight of a closed bedroom door sends them running for the hills. Oh, and they are gone from the house frequently. Score.

4. Teenagers are passionate.

Emotions run very high for teens. Once they get sold on an idea though, whether it be something as meaningful as serving a meal at the Salvation Army or something less big-ish like what theme the students have for how to dress for the home football game on Friday night, the passion is felt. Get them on board with a big idea and they will run with it. Encourage what interests them and they will make an impact on people around them. Their passion is contagious and will either excite you or drive you to drinking, but either way being around a teenager who is passionate about something will make you feel awake to the world around us.

5. Teenagers keep me young.

I’m living in the phase of life where I know current rap lyrics. I get a live-in fashion consultant via my daughter, who is now very invested in making sure I look presentable in public. I hear stories of what’s going on in high school and all the drama around it. I’ve picked up some of their lingo. My son teaches me all the short cuts and special features on my iPhone. They are nuts and hilarious. They keep me on my toes. I feel young (and tired) when I’m with them.

6. Teenagers have strong opinions and can have intelligent conversation.

They haven’t yet been on the earth long enough to have a bunch of life baggage that jades them into cynics. This generation is more open minded to the diversity all around them. They have valid opinions on important subjects. They bring fresh, new perspectives that can both surprise and impress. They are able to present new ideas and opinions that we haven’t yet considered. They are smart to the ways of this world and totally naïve all in one day. They are a bright bunch.

There are so often times when being a mom is not fun. Times when I feel like a huge failure and wonder if I got it all wrong. Chances are that I likely did do something to mess them up. I mean, on the scale of perfection I rank pretty low and I’m the one, along with their dad, with the most influence over them. God help ‘em. There will be things to blame me for I’m certain, but as long as they grow up to be kind, not incarcerated and gainfully employed then I’ll mark it a success.

Raising teenagers, just like with the roller coaster, includes times of nervous anxiety, times of unimaginable exhilaration, times were everything seems all downhill and times we vomit. Once you’re on there’s no getting off.

May as well hold up your hands, scream and enjoy it while it lasts.

Last night, as I was preparing dinner, my 15-year-old daughter walked up to me and asked, “Mom, what is wrong with you? Don’t say “nothing”, just tell me what’s wrong.”

I had to stop and take a deep breath, feeling bad that I was so irritable that my daughter was doing an emotional check-in on me. I told her she was right, I was feeling angry.

“I haven’t been sleeping well this week. I just can’t shut my mind off, like always, but this week has been especially bad. The air conditioner won’t be fixed until the part on back-order gets here.  It’s  81 degrees in here and I’m over it.  (Cooking dinner in a hot house, while fatigued is not a good equation for happiness. I wouldn’t advise anyone try it.)  I also have agreed to more meetings than is reasonable over the next few days and I am already dreading most of them.”

She tilted her head as though she felt bad for me and said, “I knew something was up with you when I told you that my shirt made me hot today at school and you told me to just shut up.”

Nothing quite makes me feel more like a loser mom than when my kid articulates a very valid point to highlight why her mother is acting a fool.

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said that to you. I am really sorry” I said to her, to which she replied, “It’s ok,” then returned to the couch with a bag of chips and her phone, seemingly satisfied with how the conversation ended.

I stood in the kitchen alone, fanning myself with the utility bill while finishing our meal.  I was feeling bad about feeling bad.

Dr. Henry Cloud, a psychologist who writes some of my favorite self-help books, once said, “Keep this question in your pocket and pull it out often: “Why am I doing this?”

Why did I leave my paycheck producing career 2 years ago to become a volunteer moderator/teacher/nurse/slave/cook/maid to the hormonal little monsters who I created and grew inside me approximately 14 and 15 years ago? This change was one that my husband dreamed of for years before I finally had the nerve to pull the trigger on it. It was discussed endlessly for months and prayed about so many times before I finally had peace enough to make the leap. It was a well thought through decision, yet now, I’m sweaty, in a hot house, mad at the world today forgetting why.

I am a person of faith and for that reason my ongoing quest to find meaning is centered around my beliefs that God has created me uniquely and with a specific purpose. I’ve read books about this. I’ve also taken spiritual gift assessments, which revealed that I’m gifted in hospitality and the opposite of gifted in administration. So basically I excel in partying and suck with anything that requires the filling out or filing of any piece of paper. Still, at times my purpose in life gets out of focus and a little foggy.

There may be days when I’m not clear on what my purpose is, but I know when I’m not living it by the discomfort that it brings.

“Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.” Lysa TerKeurst

My purpose during this current season of life is to encourage, model, instruct and provide a full life for my kids so that when they graduate from high school in only 4 short years and move out for college (did I really just say those words?) they will be ready. I want to be the safe place for them to ask hard questions and get honest answers. I want to be available to them as they have to navigate the very confusing teenage waters.  My purpose is to do my best to make sure they have strong faith and character when it’s time for them to spread their wings. THAT is my purpose.  That’s my why.  Everything else is just noise.

As I’m hot gluing cotton balls on a t-shirt for a sheep costume that I’m making my daughter for her cotillion initiation, I’m living my purpose. I’m showing her she’s important and I care about the little things she cares about.

When I sit in my car for what seems like forever on a Saturday morning waiting for my son to finish his guitar lesson, I’m living my purpose. It’s important to him. It’s important to me.

When I run them all over town to be at various youth functions, it’s again my purpose. Growing them into adults I can be proud of.

When I can’t sleep from the disappointments and frustrations of life, when I worry about things out of my control and when I commit to volunteer roles, even worthy ones, that rob too much precious time from my family then I’ve lost focus and am doing something wrong. When saying yes to everything thus effectively saying no to doing most of it with a joyful heart causes discomfort to my purpose then  I’ve allowed what is expected of me to trump what God wants for me.

When I tell my girl to shut up over a shirt she’s wearing I am not living my purpose. Something is out of order.

And it’s uncomfortable.

So I logged into my email and declined a couple meeting invites. I set up a few lunches with my friends. The ones who recharge my soul while we refill our cups. A blandness in life becomes more pronounced when I go too long without having the balance they bring. I even said no to a couple people who I had originally planned to say yes to, but my yes was going to be out of pure obligation.

I prayed that the air conditioner part will get here quick before I lose my sh@t with this August heat inside my house.

And I made some brownies for my daughter as a gesture of peace for the jerk I was yesterday.

No grit, no pearl!

A few nights ago I was on the couch channel surfing for something good to watch on TV. There really are only three channels I watch. From the stories my mom tells, three channels is all she ever had growing up. I don’t feel sorry for her. Three is all you need. I have close to one bazillion channels, but the only ones I ever use are Comedy Central, a local channel to watch The Bachelor and local news and then a channel to satisfy my addiction to documentaries.

On this particular evening I ran across a documentary about the many affairs of John F Kennedy. We have all seen the breathy birthday song Marilyn Monroe sang for him.  It’s kind of easy to guess that one, but I had no idea about how many others there were.  There were many, MANY others.  This dude was straight pimp. These weren’t just average, low profile interns in blue dresses under his desk either. His affairs were with people who not only could have caused catastrophic damage to his credibility as president, but also could have caused disaster in this country had any of the scorned women decided to share information they gained from their pillow talk.  They were women with mafia ties, German prostitutes, famous actresses, strippers and well-known socialites.  He was a busy man.

He made great strides for civil rights during his term as president, no doubt, but how did his scandals not over-shadow all of it?  Why? Because the general public had no idea.  Had they known then how carelessly he waved his freak flag things would have been different.  Camelot wouldn’t have had nearly the royal luster it did among doting Americans.

The difference is that good ole’ JFK was privileged to live in a time where people didn’t know every detail about him.  Most people decided to vote for him based on the information they gained from reading three-day-old newspaper articles.  They formed opinions from short reports  they watched on their little static television sets.  Paparazzi weren’t hiding in every corner with long range camera lenses snapping every sultry detail to share with the world.  Despite his overwhelming poor decisions and the risk he put our country in because of it, he was still America’s sweetheart. Still the popular vote.

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

During this time people only really knew about the bad stuff that happened in the town where they lived. They didn’t have to process every sordid detail of every politician or celebrity around the world.

We are not made to handle all the information…in the amount of detail we get…in the volume it’s given to us. We are constantly made aware of every scary story that unfolds around the world, yet we aren’t equipped nor do we have the ability to make most any of it better.  There must be some connection to this and the increasing number of people who suffer with depression and anxiety. We cannot mentally process every bad scenario from all over the globe without it impacting us.  We aren’t wired for it.

I still still think of JFK as a good president…sucky husband, but good president. He’s far from the only politician with a shady past.  He just happens to be the example that got me thinking, thanks to that documentary I watched.

I’m wondering if the world is really that much worse off now or if it’s that we just know more about it now.

I’d love for the media to band together, requesting each presidential candidate supply them with a document which includes 2 columns. In one column, the candidate would list what they are in favor of. On the other side they list what they oppose. Maybe the last page of the document could be a list of experience and references. That’s all voters really need to know.

We don’t need to know how much Hillary paid for her suit or if Donald’s wife graduated from college or not. It’s doesn’t matter.

Since the media will likely never do this we could at least help keep ourselves sane by turning off the TV more.  Life hack, the hide feature on Facebook is a gem of a tool for frequent political ranters, bless their hearts. This feature has helped me continue to like people with loud opinions. It’s not that I don’t love them, it that I’m tired of seeing them jump up and down while driving a real, live, living person’s name and character into the dirt. I’ve not spoken to anyone yet who has read any of those posts and changed their political opinions anyway.

A friend of mine has a 5-year-old son, Asher, who has it all figured out. It’s genius really. She recently asked him if he knew what it meant when she said she was going to vote. He replied, “Sort of.” She went on to explain it to him by comparing it to how they choose which restaurant to go eat. He is number 3 out of 4 children in the family so he is used to this form of voting. He said, “Ok, I vote for Mexican (raises his hand like he’s voting). My sister will vote Chick-Fil-A. Even if I do this (jumping up and down with his hand raised) and yell “Mexican! Mexican! Mexican!” she won’t change her mind. She’s still going to vote Chick-Fil-A. So you should just raise your hand, say “Mexican” and vote.”

Yes, Asher, EXACTLY!

We are in the homestretch of this election campaign season. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but as of today we still have to get through the avalanche of election talk everywhere we turn. I wish my friend’s smarter-than-the-average-bear-cub’s epiphany could be promoted alongside all of it to serve as a reminder to all of us that jumping up and down and screaming who we are going to vote for, doesn’t change anything and only makes the person jumping exhausted.

It’s only 3 months until it will all be finally decided on and done.  We will be able to unhide our loved ones who drove us crazy on Facebook. The era of bumper stickers that say “Don’t blame me, I voted Trump” and “Don’t blame me, I voted Clinton” is just around the corner. Persevere my friends. Stay strong, we’ve almost made it through.

Let’s take a lesson from my friend’s wise little boy and vote. Nicely. Quietly and with consideration of others.

Let’s feel happy for the mack daddy, Mr. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, that he was alive during a time before the world wide web.

I found this picture in a drawer this week. The other pictures from this vacation are all in a photo album. It was one of the last times I actually printed off pictures and put them in an album. Now most of my pictures live on jump drives and in folders on my computer. This picture didn’t get placed with the others in the album because it was a reject. Like in the olden days of the 1990s. When the photographer gave me my senior picture proofs in a leather tri-fold album for my parents to view. Behind the album in the box was an envelope of all the ones where my eyes were closed.

I remember this beach picture and the day, now more than 10 years ago, with crystal clarity. It was chilly, rainy and windy. We had exhausted all of our indoor options of shopping, watching a movie and getting lunch. The rain cleared for a few minutes so we hurriedly threw towels and toys in a beach bag, changed into swimsuits and darted out to the beach for the short time we had before more rain moved in.

I wanted a picture of all of us on the beach. It’s obligatory. It doesn’t matter if none of us were in the mood or not. When the family is all on the beach and your daughter is in a cute ruffle bottom pink swimsuit you take a picture.

We were wet and cold. My daughter kept complaining that her hair was blowing in her mouth. My son had peanut butter with sand smashed in it stuck all over his little fingers. After repeated pleas to “just look at the camera and smile for one second” this was what we got.

The frustration is clear on all of our faces. It wasn’t what I wanted to remember from the trip as the other pictures were postcard worthy so this little gem got tossed in a drawer that housed other things I can’t throw away, but don’t really have uses for like participation ribbons and old report cards.

However, now when I see this picture I’m flooded with nostalgia that puts a smile on my face and lump in my throat. Now when I see it I think of what a precious time that was. A time when the kids were both smaller than me. When they could be bribed to do anything with a promise of getting some chicken nuggets and playing at McDonalds. A time when I packed Junie B Jones books in our luggage to read to them at bedtime. When I was able to dress them in coordinated monogrammed clothing without any resistance from anyone except their father.

There are times in life which can only be fully appreciated in hindsight.

I remember being exhausted and frustrated that day. I remember talking (daydreaming) on the way home with my husband about how in a few years they would travel better and be less work at restaurants. I’m not saying I ever drugged my kids back then when we were in the car traveling to our vacation spot, but I am saying that Dramamine is an over the counter drug and completely legal to administer.

I’m also not saying I ever want to go back to those days. Hell no. I quite like how my teenagers routinely abandon me for their friends these days. It gives me time to pour myself an adult beverage, go outside on my porch with my laptop and write. There are perks to not having to find a babysitter when I want to go to dinner alone with their dad. It ain’t all bad.

I’m just saying that when I look at this off-centered, grey, awkward family photo now I see a lot of beauty in it. I see a perfection in that photo that I didn’t see before. It reminds me of hard, but amazing times being their mom.

Sitting on the other side of it all, I see its gorgeous imperfection.

I lived it. I survived it. I enjoyed most of it.

I feel like maybe that should be my life mantra. Maybe at the end of each season of life, whether that season is a good season or a stormy one. No matter if I’m talking about the perils of raising kids, marriage, jobs, friendships, family or rainy beach vacations. Maybe the mark of success is having lived it, survived it and being able to say that I enjoyed most of it (or even a little of it).

When I’m sitting smack in the middle of a stressful time I need to remind myself this more often. I have a 100% success rate for surviving things thus far. It’s certain that I will grow and be stronger for it. I’m equally as certain that I’ll appreciate it and see the beauty in this part of life only after I’ve gotten on the other side of it.

Hindsight is 20/20. Whomever coined that phrase was wise and I’m guessing must have lived a little to have known that.

So my awkward family photo is coming out of this drawer and is going to join the other, more pristine looking beach photos. It’s not only coming out because I find it to be sweet now, but also to serve as a reminder to me that exhausting times, worrisome times…they are not only survivable, but will one day in the future be looked on as a time of beauty.

“Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead.” 1 Peter 1:6

Last week I kept waking up feeling heavy.

I’m not referring to the heavy from the unreasonable amount of carbs I indulged in recently. And seriously, it was an unreasonable amount. I have no self-control around a basket of warm, buttery rolls sitting on the table. It’s a problem.

What I was feeling was the kind of heavy that I could literally feel in my chest. The kind that makes it hard to get a deep breath. The kind that kept waking me up from my sleep well before it was time for my alarm to sound for the day.

I laid in bed, in the dark and attempted to clear my mind. I tried to relax, but the heaviness in my chest was hard to ignore. I was dreading the day and consumed by it.

I went to plan B, prayer, which should have been my plan A, but I’m too difficult a person to do things the easy way first. Plan B didn’t really make me feel better either, to be honest.

I decided that there was no fix and that I would just do what I do best, ignore it and move on. So that’s what I did.

My saving grace is 3:00pm. It’s a time of stillness that comes after my day’s obligations are winding down and just before the kids get out of school and we hit the ground running. From 3:00-3:45 I get the luxury of doing what I want. I usually spend it writing or reading. Sometimes watching reality shows (Naked & Afraid is quality programming). 

On this particular day I picked up a book and read a few pages.

It was the story of Lazarus. He was a guy who lived near Jerusalem back in the bible days. His story was retold in the book of John. He and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, had seen Jesus perform miracles with their own eyes while he was in town. From their own eye witness accounts, they came to believe and have faith in everything Jesus said.

So as the story goes, Lazarus became very sick. His sisters watched him as he became sicker and sicker until he was so sick that he was knocking on death’s door.

The sisters had 2 choices.

They could go with the traditional medical practice of the day to cure their brother. That was a grim pick and probably included leeches or a homemade, bad-tasting herbal potion. People dropped like flies back in the bible days. It was before penicillin was invented so for all I know Lazarus may have been dying from an infected hair follicle or something of the nature.

The second option was to notify the miracle man named Jesus, who they knew could heal their brother just by speaking it so.

They chose option 2, Jesus. Good move.

The thing was that Jesus had left town. This was also during a time scholars refer to as B.I. (before iPhone) so Jesus wasn’t exactly easy to reach. Still, Martha and Mary knew he was their best bet so they sent a message to him that simply said, “Lazarus is ill.” Then they waited for three days for Jesus to come back, which he eventually did. By the time he got there Lazarus was already dead. The sisters took Jesus to their brother’s tomb. Jesus, with a crowd watching, raised Lazarus from the dead and he walked out of the tomb.

Fortunately, there were tons of people there who witnessed this event.  Their stories all matched up and confirmed that what the bible says happened that day, must have really happened.  Thankful for all those eye witness accounts and fact checkers because this story would have been another one that would be hard to believe otherwise.

The thing that stood out to me most in this story this time, which I have heard retold many times over the years, was the letter that Mary and Martha sent to Jesus. It simply said, “Lazarus is ill.”

That’s it. Are you kidding me?

Here is the short version of what my note to Jesus would have looked like:

“Dear Jesus,

Lazarus, my brother as you may remember, is sick. I’m really worried if he doesn’t get better soon he may even die. I know you can perform miracles and healing the sick seems to be your favorite so can I ask you to consider coming back and helping him? I know you just left town and it’s so far out of your way, but please come back. I’ll come up with the money to pay for the expenses incurred from turning your donkey back around. Please come back quickly because he doesn’t have much time. He’s getting sicker by the minute. You can find him here at our house when you get back. I drew a map on the back of this note to help you find us easier. Can you give me a sign that you are coming back so I won’t worry? Please help Lazarus. My sister is freaking out too. Please, please hurry.

Love,
Amanda”

But all Mary and Martha’s note said was, “Lazarus is ill.”

It blows my mind.

Then to send that and wait 3 days without any word on if Jesus even got the message or not would have made me assume the worst. But Mary and Martha had faith that their “Lazarus is ill” message was sufficient.

Their short note implies that they must have trusted he knew better how to handle the situation than they did (gasp!). I wonder if they thought it was wasting sweet time writing more than necessary or maybe they thought it would just be overkill, but whatever the reason was their simple “Lazarus is ill” note had Jesus turning around and coming back to town to help them.

It makes me wonder if sometimes I feel like my prayers aren’t favorably answered because Jesus didn’t decide to answer them by following the instructions that I gave with my request.

Had Mary and Martha told Jesus following their request that they needed him to come back that very day because they needed his help before their brother died they would have been really disappointed. They would have been at Lazarus’ funeral feeling abandoned by Jesus when all the while he was on his way with full intention of healing their brother.

Their simple request/heart’s desire/prayer/message was heard loud and clear from Jesus. He knew exactly the perfect time and how to respond. I bet he even was proud of how much faith it took to write such a short simple message under such dire circumstances.

This story suddenly had new and profound meaning to me.

And it changed me.

I want to be like them. Trusting, confident, full of faith. Keeping things simple.

As 3:45pm approached and my quiet time was about to be shifted over to the chaos I call “my life after school lets out” I tried praying like the way Mary and Martha would have done it.

“God,

I’m worried and feel heavy.

Help me.

Thank you so much.

Amen”

And with that I was off to pick up kids from after school activities and to argue with them over the music volume in the car. I could sense that my Mary-N-Martha-Prayer had as much significance and was a lot less stressful than my typical pray-with-instructions prayer I usually did.

I may be way off base, and sometimes occasionally lots of times I am, but I found last week that I prayed more. It felt less heavy to pray this new way.

Did you hear that? It. Felt. Less. Heavy.

Which was my problem to begin with…heaviness.

So thanks girls (this is what I call Mary and Martha now…we are tight). Your faith changed me. Thanks for having it. Thanks for including what your message said as part of the story.

Congrats on your bro.

We all have one. I have a few.

It doesn’t leave me feeling very good when I decide to go back and reread those bad chapters again in my mind, yet on some days I’ll reread them over and over again. I’ll relive their shame and sadness for absolutely no logical reason.

And just in case I’m not alone with this, I want to share with you what gets me through. It’s what pushes me to focus on writing new, better chapters.

And that is to read this verse over and over and over. Because it’s a good chapter to read out loud.

Philippians 3:13-14 “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win…”

Social media has been abuzz lately over the issue of whether or not to allow transgender people to choose which public restroom to use according to the gender they identify with rather than the gender listed on their birth certificate.

No surprise, people have very strong opinions on the matter and I can appreciate both sides. Yet, once again, I’m disappointed to see how most of the discussion I’ve seen is so mean and full of hurtful, hateful words. It’s as though being decent and cordial with each other while discussing our differences in opinion is a thing of times past.

It takes self-control to have a respectful debate with someone while not demeaning them as they discuss their opposing ideas. The meanness and rudeness is a mark of narrow minded, self-centered people who don’t know a more intelligent way to converse.

This week Target announced that they will be allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity in all of their stores across the country. Since then, as I scroll through social media, I’ve seen incredibly mean opinions coming from both sides of the camp. Rude, dehumanizing words coming from the mouths of people I’ve always considered nice folks.

And it baffles me.

Here are my 2 cents:

First, I try at all costs to avoid public restrooms. Because they are nasty. When I do use one there is very little contact with my skin. I hover, then wash my hands, use my elbow to get the paper towel to dispense then use my back to push open the door walking out with my hands up in the air like you see a surgeon do as they enter the operating room. As far as I’m concerned Gay/Straight/Transgender germs are all the same…nasty.

Secondly, being a transgender does not equate to being a menace to society any more than a straight person can be a menace. A creep is a creep, no matter their identified gender. When I think of a scary man dressed as a woman so that he can get into the bathroom and see women adjust their bra straps in the mirrors it does freak me out. Actually, it scares me to death. However, thinking of a scary lesbian, bi-sexual or straight woman in the bathroom doing something that felt suspicious also, and equally, freaks me out. I will agree that I don’t want to share, nor do I want my kids to share a bathroom with a creeper. Sex offenders who lurk in the bathrooms scare the crap out of me for obvious reasons. This is the reason I’ve only recently began allowing my kids to go to public bathrooms without being accompanied by myself or another adult. People are crazy and rooms that include unzipping ones pants is a dreamland for people with bad intensions. When someone is being a weirdo and waving red flags it seems to matter very little to me if they have boy or girl parts in their pants.

Thirdly, the world’s view is shifting and changing. It is often challenging for Christians to live “in the world but not be of it.” Change is uncomfortable. Recent changes seem to test my faith and force me to do some soul searching to determine what is right according to my morals and beliefs. Sometimes, quite honestly, I disagree with a new law or idea that’s being circulated, but just like the mantra I use to parent my teenagers, I try to choose my battles. The main question I ask myself as a gage to a new idea is its fairness to people. I ask myself this: If this were my son or daughter being affected by this law would I think it’s fair? In this case I’d ask: If my son or daughter was a transgender person, would I agree with this new rule on bathrooms? The answer this time would be: My son and daughter are not dangerous people. They are kind and deserve to be treated kindly by others. Therefore, I’m forced to conclude that transgender people, and any human for that matter, deserve the same respect as I’d expect for my own kids.

Lastly, where would they go? A man who is transgender and dressed as a woman would likely not always be welcomed in a men’s bathroom. A man who is transgender and dressed as a woman would likely also not be welcomed in a women’s bathroom either. What are they supposed to do? My heart bleeds for them as it must be really difficult to be transgender, as evidenced by their high suicide rates.

What is the answer?

Kindness. Love. Grace. Mercy. That’s the answer.

It’s not my job to judge someone, it’s my job to love them.

We are all children of God. I will always remain cautious and observant, and mostly disgusted, when unable to avoid using a public restroom. That includes being cautious of a transgender I see in the bathroom at Target……as well as the straight person I see in there as they, as strangers to me, pose equal threats. And I’ll choose to be kind to everyone, because that’s how I’d want my kids to be treated.

As a last resort. After jumping up and down until I can’t hold it another second. I’ll continue to go in quickly, do my business, sanitize every visible piece of exposed skin then make a quick exit out of there hoping I didn’t pick up any bacteria from the door handle.

And I’ll continue to behave like I do when I see anyone in a public bathroom…..like I didn’t see them at all. Because we are in a public bathroom.

Let’s not make things weird.