Thursday, January 17, 2019

Both Sides Now

I think that I think about her all the time. When I see the bouncing raven curls of a child suspended between toddler and little girl, she is there. When I stare into the deep chocolate pools of her brother's eyes, I imagine her there. When I wander through the purple frills and pink lace, rows of dresses she'll never wear, even then, she is there, at my side. For brief moments, her tiny hand slides into mine and we walk together. I see her. I feel her.

I think that not a day goes by when she isn't on my mind.

But I am wrong.

There are times and moments where I long to be in San Diego so that I can stop by and wipe the dirt from her grave marker. I'd say hello to the girl who isn't really there and leave a flower. There are days when I hate being so far away.

Still.

We were just in San Diego for Christmas. I thought about going on Friday because we were nearby but I didn't because I knew her daddy would want to go and he wasn't there yet. I thought about going on the way home from the airport on Sunday--just her daddy and me. But the flight was late and the cemetery was closed.

And then it was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the day after Christmas and in all the celebrating and all the festivities, I didn't think about going. None of us did. I stared at the stockings and wished there was one more to be counted, but I didn't think of the cemetery. Later, on Friday, we were close by once again and it would have been the easiest of things to drive over. I even commented, staring at my niece and my son fishing together, that she should have been standing there too. I thought about her. Still, I somehow forgot to go to her.

I forgot until the middle of the following week. We were already back in Utah. The boys were getting ready for school and Troy was getting ready for work. I was being lazy, buried under the warmth of the covers. Suddenly, like when the mom in Home Alone finally realizes she's left Kevin at home, it washed over me like a wave.

I hadn't gone to my daughter's grave.

My parents are so, so good to her. They frequently leave flowers or holiday decorations. They acknowledge the day her body came into the world. They make every effort to show us that they count her as equal to their five other grandchildren. And I didn't go to my daughter's grave.

When this wave of realization and grief washed over me, I was hysterical. 

I felt like a terrible parent. Who forgets to visit her child? WHO DOES THAT? All I could think about was how I needed to go right that second--but, of course, I couldn't. So instead, I pulled the covers over my head and sobbed. 

I know that she is not there. I know that it doesn't make a bit of difference to her if we visit the cemetery every day or never, but it matters to me. In the realization that I'd remembered until I'd forgotten, came the awareness that time heals. 

In many ways, I suppose that I don't want to be healed.

I don't want to reach a place where I don't see her in the face of a stranger or hear her in the echo of a transcendent giggle. She is only as tangible as our memories--all the things imagined as we waited for her. It is strange, the way grief ebbs and flows. In the busyness of Christmas joy, the tide washed out. Then all at once, it rolled back in, reminding me of what I've lost.

Four years.

It takes four years to forget to go to the cemetery. 

Four years.

And there are still days I sob hysterically.

My goodness, do I ever miss what I never had.

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all
-Joni Mitchell

Remembering Kathryn (Kate) Ella-Grace who was born into the arms of Jesus on January 19, 2015, just seven and a half weeks before her due date.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Love Is...

The other day, my toddler looked up at me and, in his adorable little voice, said, "Mommy, I love you too much." It's a thing he occasionally says because, apparently, he thinks the words too and so are interchangeable. I often tell him that I love him so much. He returns the sentiment by telling me that he loves me too much.

It melts my heart.

But, in order to keep me humble I guess, he got mad at me a few hours later and shouted, "Mom! I don't love you!" Thinking (hoping!) that I'd heard him wrong because he's two and not fifteen, I repeated it.

"You don't love me?"

"No! I don't love you. I'm fwustwated!"

Well.

Toddlers are tyrants. And also they are adorable and fun and hysterical. Sometimes they love and sometimes they try to wound with words. They're kind of a coin toss.


Monday, December 31, 2018

I Never Expected to Live This Long

2018 was not the Year of Writing. This blog fell by the side of the road as we whizzed through the year, running here and there and everywhere. When my older boys were very small humans, I used to wish they would stay small forever while simultaneously praying that they would grow up just a little bit because there were certainly days that seemed long and hard. I look back on those charmed years where our commitments were limited to park play dates and church chili cook offs and I wish we could return to them. The truth is, motherhood just gets more intense with each passing year. Life really does begin to be measured in report cards, baseball games, science fair projects, taekwondo classes, and rare nights at home. I can't imagine how fast it will all seem when I have teenagers--and a little one, still. It is exactly what we signed up for. It is beautiful and exhausting and there isn't much time for writing.

Which is a cryin' shame because my toddler is maybe the funniest person on the planet right now. All toddlers are hilarious but our extremely verbal one leaves us in stitches regularly.

There was nothing life altering or earth shattering in our family this year. And so I look back on it, smile and nod. It was a year. The kids grew and changed and turned more into the people they will become. But I have noticed something.

I have noticed that I am no longer young. The groove in my forehead, just above my nose, is deeper. The bags under my eyes are darker and more wrinkly--especially in the morning. I am not old. But I am not young. It has been nearly 20 years since I graduated from high school.

And sometimes I feel like I should still be there, laughing with my friends, only vaguely recognizing the future years that will come and go like the tide.

Today, I watched as an old man walked past a baby. The child was in the front of a cart and, as he passed, the man reached out and gently tickled the baby. He never slowed his already slow pace. He just touched the little one as he shuffled past. I saw this and wondered about the very old. They seem to be drawn, intensely, to the very young. As I watched, I wondered. Do they, without even really thinking about it, long to connect, for just a single moment, with a beginning? Do they, without even really thinking about, feel the inevitable winding down of their own lives?

My grandfather will be 92 soon. As he walked out the door after we'd celebrated Christmas together, he looked at me and said, "I never expected to live this long." In some ways, I suppose that's true for me. That forehead groove will be something else if I live another 55 years. And yet, I cannot imagine not living to be 92. There is so much more I want to do and see and be.

I have noticed that my oldest boy is standing on the edge of childhood. The ground has been covered. There is not much left to traverse. It is behind him. Ahead is the true test of his character. Who will he become? What will he become? For Christmas, as a quick little add on gift, I bought him a travel case full of Axe products. I thought he might roll his eyes at me. You got me body wash and deodorant spray? Golly gee, thanks, Ma." Instead, he insisted on taking a shower as soon as we were done so that he could try it out. Then he made me carve out a spot under the sink just for his Axe products. And I thought, he wants to smell good. I'm trying with all my might to embrace this new season of our lives together. I can't seem to slow the hands of time, no matter how hard I try.

In the absence of time for writing, I have noticed laughter and tears. I have responded to anguished texts of a friend's marriage falling apart. I have thought of my own marriage and how we're never promised another tomorrow. If not destruction, perhaps death. So I cling, more tightly now, to my own. An entire life--and the lives of three children--are woven so deeply through the core of that man that I don't even know where he begins and I leave off. 

I have prayed for friends and the tiny child of a friend who have heard and responded to that dreaded word...cancer. I have prayed for friends over their children's diagnoses...autism spectrum disorder. And yet, in all of that, I have laughed until I cried and thanked the Lord for friendships, humor, and blessings.

We never know what tomorrow will bring. Joy. Grief. Blessings. Sorrow. 

But I have noticed that we look back, on December 31, and judge a year when, in reality, tomorrow is just another day. We are only one day older. Nothing much will have changed for most of us. 11:59 turns to 12:00 and the world keeps spinning. Still, it seems just as good a time as any to reflect. I predict that my life will only get busier and crazier in the coming year. My babies will keep growing, Lord willing, until one of them turns into a teenager, one of them turns into a three-year-old, and one of them remains in that sweet spot between toddler and teen. My marriage, Lord willing, will only get stronger. But, perhaps, as the groove on my head deepens, I will linger longer near that baby in the cart, soaking up her fresh beginning, as I discover the years between brand new and I never expected to live this long.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

This day. There is happiness found in the traditions, in the delicious foods, in the faces of our children, in the time spent with family. But the joy, the true reason we celebrate, comes from the Gift sent to us--the Babe born to die-- for you and for me.

Merry Christmas to you all. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased." (Luke 2:14)

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Tale of Two Fingers

It's been twelve days since I've been flipped off by an angry driver. This is noteworthy because, in 21 years of driving, I had previously been flipped off exactly twice. Once was at a gas station. I was a teenager and I still don't know what I could have possibly done, AT A GAS STATION, to warrant such behavior from a middle aged woman. It bothered me for far too long.

I don't recall the details of the second event but I was in my twenties and I probably accidentally cut the guy off. Or something. I don't know. It also bothered me for far too long so the fact that I cannot remember the details is actually a blessing for this obsessive individual.

Twelve days ago, I got the bird. But the weird thing is, just four days prior, I'd also been flipped off. After two middle fingers in 21 years of having a license, I got two more. IN FOUR DAYS. And the real kicker is that I have ABSOLUTELY no idea WHATSOEVER why either man felt the need to display his longest finger angrily in my direction.

The first situation occurred on a Wednesday. I was driving my oldest and his best friend from one extracurricular activity to another. They were in the back of the van laughing and talking and were oblivious to the whole ordeal. It was dark. I changed lanes (to a slower lane) to get onto a different freeway. The ONLY thing I can think of is that, perhaps, I was going slower than the car coming up behind me and this sent him into a state of anger reserved for only the greatest of all atrocities. I used my blinker. I checked my blind spot. I changed lanes safely. I was driving the speed limit, if not slightly faster. As I drove on in this particular lane, a truck pulled up beside me and laid on the horn for far too long. It startled me and I jumped. I thought the guy was honking at someone else (because, again with the, NO IDEA WHAT I COULD HAVE DONE thing) but he stared me down when I glanced at him so I quickly deduced that he was honking at me. He went on his merry angry way and I kept driving.

I took my exit onto the other freeway and continued to drive. About three minutes later, I began to pull up on the left hand side of a truck that was slowing down to exit. I'd moved on and didn't even realize this was Honky Truck. That is, until the driver leaned his entire upper body out of his window and began slamming the outside of his car door with his fist. He screamed at me. His face was, perhaps, the angriest face I've ever seen. Finally, after several fist punches to his car door, he jerked his hand up and stood his middle finger straight into the air. As though that wasn't enough, he reached his arm as far out of his window as he could as I passed by.

I couldn't imagine what I had done to warrant such behavior.

The following Sunday, after Troy discussed the above mentioned situation in a sermon (although he very politely omitted the flipping off portion of the event), I was driving home from church. It was broad daylight. I was not on a freeway. I was driving along minding my own business. My boys were in the back. I was in the faster of the two lanes and changed into the right lane a good and safe distance ahead of a truck pulling a horse trailer. I continued driving the speed limit, if not slightly faster. A minute or so later, we came up to a light. Behind me, I noticed that the truck and trailer moved into the left lane. We continued on. The truck changed lanes ahead of me, back into the right lane. Just ahead, he slowed to turn right. As he pulled into a turn lane, I passed by. Just as I passed, he stuck his left hand out his window and flipped me off.

"What is happening?" I yelled out to no one in particular.

"What happened?" Garrett asked.

"That guy just flipped me off," I told him.

"What? Why?" Matthew asked.

"I DON'T KNOW!"

When we got home, I had the boys run inside to get Troy--who had gotten home ahead of us with Will. He came out.

"Can you walk around the car and make sure there's nothing written on the back that says, 'Flip me off!'" There wasn't, of course, and I haven't been flipped the bird since. My name is Lori and I have been bird free for twelve days. (Hi, Lori.)

I have thought extensively about both middle finger experiences and I have no clue what I could have possibly done--in either situation--to warrant such angry expression of hostility. In my 21 years of driving, I have never once flipped off another vehicle. How mad does someone have to be? And if I've made someone that upset, shouldn't I have the slightest clue as to why?

As we approach this Christmas season, may we remember to take deep breaths, be kind, and reserve our middle fingers for people who talk loudly during theatrical productions. I'm just kidding. Keep your middle fingers down in all circumstances. Remember that Jesus came as a little tiny baby in a feeding trough so that He could one day die for our anger and our middle fingers. Treat one another with compassion and love.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Little Sino

Last weekend, I had a few women over to watch a movie and eat too much. I was having a particularly difficult time getting Will to go to sleep because SNACKS and PEOPLE. He pulled out all the stops. He needed a drink. He needed to be rocked. He needed his foot scratched and his head rubbed and his tummy tickled. He needed his blankets to be different. Nope. Wait. They were better the first time. It was ridiculous. Finally, he asked me to sing to him.

"Sing Little Sino," he said. And he pronounced it sigh-no.

What? I thought and my brain worked double time to try to figure out what in the world he was asking for. I asked him if he meant this song and I asked him if he meant that song.

"No. Little Sino."

"Does Daddy sing it to you?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. But Daddy wasn't home so that was hardly helpful. His frustration built because I simply couldn't figure it out. I could almost see him thinking, I cannot communicate what I mean and it is breaking my heart. I told him I'd be right back and I went down the stairs. One of my friends watches Will on Tuesdays and another one watches him on Wednesdays. They both happened to be at my house.

"Do you have any idea what Little Sino is?" I asked.

"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?" One of them asked, "That's what I sing to him."

"I turn on the radio," the other one replied. Neither of them had any other guesses. I figured I'd try Twinkle, Twinkle. Up the stairs I went. I began to sing and he didn't stop me so we assumed we'd figured it out.

Fast forward to the next night. He requested Little Sino again and I immediately launched into Twinkle, Twinkle.

"NO! LITTLE SINO!" he shouted.

"Oh. Is this not Little Sino, then?"

"No," he sighed. "Sing Little Sino, pwease."

Just then Matthew walked by his door. (He'd been in the basement playing video games the previous night.) "Hey, Matt, come in here." He walked in. "Do you have ANY idea what Little Sino is? He wants me to sing Little Sino and I just...I don't know what it is."

"Ummm," he thought for approximately three seconds and then he began to sing, "Jesus loves me, this I know."

"YEAH!" Will screamed.

Little ones to him belong= Little. This I know= Sino.

And there we have it folks. I've always referred to that song as Jesus Love Me but it is, in fact, Little Sino. Or at least, it probably will be to our family for a good long while.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"I Tan't. I'm Busy."

"I tan't. I'm busy!" he told me when I asked him to calm down. While this child may never be a Rhodes Scholar or graduate as valedictorian of his class, Will is smart as a whip. When he told me he was busy, he wasn't referring to his own jam-packed schedule. He was citing Merriam-Webster's second definition of the word. "Full of activity: bustling." He was using it negatively, as the reason he couldn't possibly comply with my request.

The Internet, keeper of all knowledge, says that, "By age 3, a toddler's vocabulary usually is 200 or more words, and many kids can string together three-or four-word sentences." Will is most definitely in the "or more" category of three year olds and he won't even be two and a half until December. As for stringing together three or four word sentences, well, he speaks in paragraphs. But beyond that, he understands concepts and ideas. The concept of busyness, for example, isn't lost on him.

I'll readily admit that this started with me. From the moment Will could crawl, he demonstrated an energy that seemed almost inhuman. It's an energy found in monkeys swinging endlessly from tree to tree or modeled, perhaps, in a battery that outlasts the rest. I have often joked that we could power our entire house using just Will and I've long mentioned his hyperactivity as a sort of preemptive apology. It was one thing when he was one and had no idea what the heck I was talking about. But it's become clear to me that he's simply too smart for me to continue using this kind of language around him. And, perhaps because I have made so many comments, it's become the common rhetoric of others. (Although, complete strangers have also felt the need to inform me that my child is "busy" as if this was information that had somehow escaped my attention.)

If he's able to use it as an excuse, he's definitely able to understand that comments about his energy and his busyness are said, at least 99% of the time, as a negative--as though there is something wrong with him. The most common thing I've heard (over and over and over and over and over again) is that people just don't know how we do it. My perceived implication of this is that Will is so exhausting that people have no clue how we could possibly deal with him all day every day.

Like I said before, this started with me and I take full credit for leading the charge when it comes to joking around about Will's energy. Even today, even after I've made a conscious effort to not make such comments around him, I said, "You're a maniac." Granted, he was long past nap time and zooming around my school like the Energizer Bunny on an upper, but still. I need to check myself and my language because he is so intuitive and also, he is not a maniac. He is not a person exhibiting extreme symptoms of wild behavior, especially when violent and dangerous.

Will has a lot of energy. I'm not in denial about that at all. He very well may receive a hyperactive diagnosis at some point in the future. But I do not want him defined by that. I do not want him to use it as an excuse because he's been overwhelmed by the sheer number of times it's been said to him. We are learning, through research and trial and error, that Will is incredibly sensitive to sugar and probably red dye. We're trying to limit his intake of both, and up his protein, and we've seen improvement in his ability to focus and respond.

As for how we "deal with him all day every day" well, we don't. We GET to have him in our lives. Are we tired by the end of the day? Yes, indeed. But we were tired at the end of the day with our other boys, too. When you have held a stillborn baby and you beg the Lord to bless you with another child--one whose heart is beating--you try not to complain when that child rarely stops moving.

This is by no means meant as an attempt to call anyone out. If you've talked to me about how busy or crazy or maniacal Will is, you're in good company. His own parents are the former presidents of that particular club. It's just meant to explain why we will be trying not to use that kind of language moving forward. He's too smart and I believe that it will soon begin to define his self worth.

Will is JOY. He wakes up with the biggest smile and a, "Hello, Mommy!" ready to face the day that he seems so eager to experience. Sometimes, it is as though he is just so thankful to be alive. I can't help but wonder if he just feels the need to soak it all in at once. We will be his advocates in all things. For us, it happens to be starting at age two. This is why, when we receive comments about difficulty in parenting him, we will respond with positive language, reflecting the fact that we are blessed, every day, by the amazing kid God gave us.

"He's so busy."

"He does have a zest for life."

"I just don't know how you do it..."

"We count it all joy."

Monday, October 15, 2018

Toddler Talk

I used to blog all the hilarious things my toddlers would say. Then they grew up, got busy, I got a job, and I abandoned my blog like one of those creepy, old, empty amusement parks. But I have another toddler now. This toddler was talking well before either of his brothers ever did. He speaks in full sentences and paragraphs which means that he often says hilarious and also adorable things.

Will is obsessed with this old stethoscope we have. I just had shoulder surgery and he likes to bring the stethoscope in and listen to my chest to make sure my shoulder is okay. Or something. Troy and I were discussing that we want to get him a doctor's kit for Christmas. That made me think that Will probably doesn't remember Christmas from last year and certainly doesn't remember Santa.

"Hey Will," I said. "Do you know who Santa Claus is?"

He paused, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Um. Mommy."

He had absolutely no idea what he was saying but I laughed out loud. It was so funny. I'm guessing that with big brothers refusing to sit on Santa's lap, this little one might have some questions about the validity of Santa. He may not last too long but I sure hope we get to do Santa for the next couple of years.

Last night, he was being naughty at the table. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident but we're raising some combination of Dennis the Menace and every Little Rascal. I asked him what would happen if he didn't stop. "Mommy will slam my face into computer."

His big brothers erupted into hysterics. One of them informed Will that I'm not violent. I was glad for the support. I repeated my question and he said some other outlandish abusive thing that I might try. I wish I could remember what it was. I have no idea where he came up with any of it. Mommy has never ever, not once, slammed anyone's face into her computer.

His voice is so sweet and has the most precious cadence to it. I mean, sometimes it's whiny without intention and often it's whiny because he's two but the rest of the time it's just straight up adorable.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I'm Here...

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Peter 4:11

Not counting speech classes or school presentations, the very first time I ever did any kind of actual public speaking was at our first ever Sonrise Women's Retreat in the fall of 2008. I did one session. I was so nervous I nearly vomited and I think my hands were shaking the entire time. From the fall of 2008 through Christmas of 2013, I spoke twelve times. Retreats, conferences, brunches, and teas. Then, the emails and the calls stopped coming. I assumed the Lord was moving me in another ministry direction. I felt sad but truly believed that any speaking ministry I might have had was over. It seemed like He'd given it to me for a season. 

2014 had hit and with it came personal extended family trauma. While our own family's day to day life wasn't directly impacted, we were reeling and, looking back, I wasn't in any shape to have been taking time away from my family to speak. 2015 dawned with the death of our unborn daughter. Our grief was real and raw and a lot of personal spiritual growth happened in the weeks and months that followed. In 2016, our third son was born and with him came the exhaustion of an infant and, then, an energetic and rambunctious toddler.

In 2017, the Lord provided me with an opportunity to speak at a tea. Then, last weekend, I was flown to California to share at a women's retreat. When I was asked to speak at that retreat, initially, everything in me screamed, "NO!" I felt unqualified, over committed, inadequate. And I hadn't prepared for a multiple session retreat in years. After my initial panic, however, I quickly felt invigorated and excited for the opportunity. For weeks, I poured over scripture and commentary. I wrote and wrote and practiced and changed things and then I flew to California.

A couple weeks before the retreat, I wrote this on Facebook...

In two weeks I'll be speaking at a retreat in CA. I've been praying and preparing for about a month now. Please join me in praying for the women I'll be spending the weekend with. Pray that the Lord would speak through me, for safe travels, and that lives would be positively impacted. You guys, there are so many women more qualified to do this, more knowledgeable, more influential, less loud. "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong..." 1 Cor 1:27

A friend of mine commented on the post and said, "Very exciting to have your calling come to fruition."

I replied, "Did God tell you this was my calling? I wish He'd tell me! Thank you for your support!"

She said, "I think I've known for a very long time that this was your path."

Now, I'm not saying whether it is or isn't. (There was a time, in those first five years of speaking, when I might have thought God was opening doors to a speaking ministry. But then it felt like that door had closed. Of course, looking back, I wouldn't have been effective--in the least little bit--if I'd attempted public speaking in those days.) But I did have someone ask me if she could consider me as a speaker for an event next year and I did have someone ask me if I was going to write a book and I did feel very much that the weekend had been a wonderful celebration of our Savior and His amazing, redeeming love. And I GOT to be a part of that.

I've always struggled with whether or not to "put myself out there" and sort of announce that I'm available to speak. On the one hand, I believe that God will absolutely bring me opportunities if it is in His will. On the other hand, I believe that He wants us to partner with Him in the work He chooses to do in and through us. All of this to say, I'm not seeking to actually build some sort of ministry. I firmly believe that, if it is His will, the Lord will build that house. But I had a jolly good time preparing to meet with the women of Harbor Folsom and I had an even more amazing time sharing with them, fellowshipping with them, and breaking bread with them. If I might be afforded more opportunities to meet like-minded women and hang with them--this side of eternity--I would welcome the chance.

I believe that if this isn't the Lord's will, nothing will come of it. I also believe that I know a lot of people who attend a lot of churches in a lot of different places so, perhaps, the best place to start is just to say to the Lord and to you, "I'm available. Here I am. Use me."

I know my blog is in serious need of an update (and a blogger who is actually attentive to it) but there is a tab up there at the top that says "Invite Lori to Speak" and you can click on it. If you (or someone you know) are looking for a speaker, please check it out.

I desire to honor and glorify the Lord in whatever way I can. He gave me a mouth. He gave me a loud voice. He gave me a heart for women. He armed me with a degree in Theatre which just means that I paid a lot of money to be taught how to stand up in front of people. If I can somehow combine all those things to bring Him praise, may it be so.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Creed

A little over a week ago, on my birthday, we stood by as a woman lost her life. I only mention that it was my birthday because, even at 37, I suppose that a birthday is designed to be a celebration of life. We've turned it into a festival of cake and presents but, really, it's an acknowledgment that we've made it around the sun once more.

It was first thing in the morning. We were on our way to a baseball game. It was a Saturday and the roads were mostly clear. We'd gotten up, raced around the house, brushed our teeth, combed our hair, and loaded into the car a few minutes later than we'd intended to leave. If we'd left on time, we'd have been ahead of her and none of it would have touched us at all. If Troy hadn't run back in for one last thing, delaying us an additional twenty seconds, we may have been involved in the accident. Who's to say?

As we drove along, suddenly, ahead of us, we saw dirt billowing over the road. A huge cloud of dust. We had a few moments to voice our opinion on what it might be. Someone commented that it was very weird to have seen it so suddenly. Later, someone said he thought it was someone riding on a lawnmower, chopping weeds on the side of the road. Just as we prepared to drive through the massive dust fog, we saw the car.

It was flipped completely. And, as we slowed we could see a woman moving, flailing her arm. Troy pulled our car over just past hers--the first vehicle on the scene--and as I called 911, he rushed to her. I'd noticed the bike rider on the other side of the road. He reached 911 before I did. A nurse pulled up behind the scene and ran to the woman. As I approached, on hold with 911 and unaware that someone had gotten through, I could hear the woman moaning. The nurse kept telling her she was trying to help, trying to get an air way. Troy told me that someone had reached 911 already and that I needed to pull our van forward.

Shaking, I moved our van farther down the road. I told the boys to pray. And then I went back.

Troy walked toward me. He shook his head. No.

No. She won't be making it out of this alive.

The nurse said she was guppy breathing but her pupils were blown.

When we pulled up, she was moving. Moaning. Seemingly attempting to extricate her own self from the rolled Suburban. Somehow, despite the squashed upside down vehicle, I assumed the woman inside would be just fine if help could just hurry up and get there. I've always thought myself a pessimist. Maybe I'm "glass half full" after all. Because when my husband shook his head, I couldn't believe it.

She was alive. Moving. And then, she was dead. I erupted into tears as we walked toward our car.

When we ate our breakfast and brushed our teeth, she was alive. When we pulled out of our driveway, she was alive. When we parked our car on the other side of hers, she was alive--if only barely.

Life. Blink. Snap. Gone. While a nurse tried to save her. While my husband and another man searched the vehicle for other passengers. While I talked to a 911 dispatcher. While my children prayed.

I obsessed. Searched the internet for her name. Then searched for an obituary. I had to know who she was and what she'd left behind. Three children, it turns out. One of them grown. One of them, a teenage girl. One, a little boy. I waffled. Should I? Would I? Could I? Finally,  I sent a message to the girl.

In the end, I decided it probably wouldn't hurt much of anything. I chose my words carefully. I wanted her to know that people stopped. She responded. Overwhelmingly thankful that we'd pulled over. I then told her that many people had stopped, including a nurse who did all she could. I told her that her mother wasn't alone when she passed on.

I don't know anything about this woman or what happened to her soul when her body stopped moving and her pupils blew. I believe in a narrow road to Heaven. I wish I could make up some truth about a wide path to glorious eternity but I believe in God and in His Word. Jesus Himself says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Salvation is free to anyone who would accept it, but it is a small and narrow road, passing only through Christ, who suffered, bled, died, and rose again. There is no room for wide views of eternity. Ask and you shall receive, but you must ask.

It sounds so unbelievable, a person raising from the dead and then ascending into Heaven. But my son told me that his friend believes we all came from germs. How is that any less ridiculous? We all have to ask the question, "Where did we come from?" Either we came from bitty materials that were somehow always there and eventually morphed into man, or we came from God who was somehow always there and who designed us with perfect precision. I simply cannot believe that we were ultimately created by something smaller than ourselves. Rather, it is infinitely more plausible to me that we were created by something so massive, our finite brains cannot even comprehend it.

I remember, in a profound way, a debate that took place in my high school English class. I don't know why we were talking about God and an afterlife but we were. Several students argued the insanity of a belief in God. Passionately, and with a lump forming in my throat, I said, "I simply have to believe in God. If there is nothing after this, what in the world is the point?"

I don't believe in a humanity formed by stardust because I don't even believe in the existence of stardust without first the existence of God.

I try not to be too vocal. So much of the world has already rejected my Savior, or walked away from Him, or outright denied His existence. I hate confrontation and I don't want to rock any boats. I'm terrible at sharing my faith--unless someone asks me. I've lived my life not hiding from my faith or my beliefs but not loudly proclaiming them to the masses either. But why? If I had the cure for cancer, I would most certainly give it to you. I wouldn't set it neatly on the table next to my bed--my own little secret. And so I will pray, now, boldly, for opportunities to share my faith.

A woman got up one morning, on my 37th birthday, and she started driving down the road. Something happened. A failure to negotiate a slight curve, is what the officer said. Her vehicle rolled. She wasn't wearing a seat belt and she was partially ejected from the car. A woman got up one morning. And it was the last time she ever rolled out of bed. The last time she brushed her teeth. The last time she climbed behind the wheel of a car.

YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN YOUR LAST BREATH WILL BE.

If you don't know what's going to happen when you take that last breath, far be it for me to deny you the truth that I have in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I believe that an authentic relationship with the REAL person of Christ is the only way to Heaven.

I believe in God, the Father almighty creator of Heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into Heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit (and that the three are one),
one holy Church,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and I believe in a life that never ends.

If you want to know more, if the idea of being upside down in a Suburban on the side of the road guppy breathing your last breath has you as worked up as it has me, please ask me more about the Almighty God that I serve unashamed. I am not worked up because I'm afraid to take my last breath. I'm worked up because I'm afraid I'll take my last breath knowing there were people I needed to share my God with.

Don't wait. Don't shove life's deep questions to the back of your brain to be dealt with at another time. That time might never come...

Friday, August 31, 2018

Tell Them Why They're Great

I have never suffered from mental illness, from extreme anxiety or depression AND I PRAISE GOD FOR THAT. Of course, never really experiencing any of those things means that I don't understand it on a lived-through-it kind of level.

Last Friday, Andrew Stoecklein, the pastor of Inland Hills Church in California, took his own life. He attempted suicide inside the church and died hours later in the hospital. He was 30. He had three sons, a wife, a mom, a sister, and a brother. He had an entire mega church. And he had anxiety and depression that led him to end it all.

I wrote on Facebook that I cannot stop thinking about this. I really can't get his wife out of my head because I really keep thinking, "WHAT IF THAT WAS TROY?" What if he took his own life or, even, died tomorrow in a car crash or had a heart attack or a stroke or, or, or...

A friend of mine from high school just lost her husband. She is my age. He died suddenly. She lost him. Quickly and without expectation.

I know I shouldn't be consumed by this. I know I should pray and give it over to God because who of us can add a single moment to our lives by worrying? But it really makes a girl think. What if he suddenly wasn't there in the bed next to me? What if his smile and his laugh were gone from my life? What if I had to learn how to mow the lawn?

I don't want to mow the lawn.

And I don't want to sleep in my bed all alone.

I love him more than anything else on this earth. Oh sure, my kids are there with that unconditional love stuff but I know as well as anyone that one day they will grow up and leave me forever and it'll be just their dad and me again. Like it was in the beginning.

I would never say that my husband is the very best husband who ever walked the planet. I see that so often on social media and it always makes me laugh because usually I'm thinking to myself, "Well, but no." Because the bottom line is that your husband is (hopefully) the very best husband FOR YOU. But if I was married to him, the world would probably explode. Or something. Your husband and me would probably be a real mess. Honestly, I don't really believe in soul mates. Still, there just might be only one man on the face of the earth who could deal with me day in and day out and it's the one I've got. And you can't have him so there's no point in my telling you why he is the best. I don't actually want you to want him.

Kayla Stoecklein has been writing letters to her husband in an attempt to process her grief. They're beautiful and, for her, they are necessary. They're filled with how she's doing and how she vows to use his death to shed light on mental illness. I believe she'll have an incredible ministry if and when she comes out on the other side of her pain. I'm sure he knew--in his life--how much she loved him. But it's made me think about how we all need to say these things in the here and now, while we're all still breathing.

While I've never struggled with mental illness on any sort of diagnosed level (probably we all have mental health issues of some kind) I've found myself kinda freaking out in these past few days. I want to make sure I know where my husband is at all times. I don't want him to die. Even though I know I can't do anything to control that. So in my recent panic, I had a thought.

TELL THEM WHY THEY'RE GREAT.

We know this. But do we do it? Don't think about the myriad of things that you would change if you could. I can't make my husband taller and there's no point in wasting time thinking up ways to make him grow or make me shrink. And I can't get him to stop untucking the covers at the foot of the bed because his feet are hot. So why worry about those things? Where there are faults (and no, I don't actually think being a shortish man is a fault) pray and keep your mouth shut. I'm generally kind of a nag so this is as much for me as anyone. But their great successes need to be celebrated.

Troy tells me all the time that I'm a great wife. The best wife, actually. Best of wives and best of women. I mean, he stole those words from Alexander Hamilton but still. I'm not always entirely fun to live with and yet, he will often just wrap his arms around me and tell me how thankful he is to have me.

He takes such very good care of me and our children. If I am sick or need to be gone for some reason, I don't worry at all that life will go on and he'll get it all done. In fact, when I am sick, he encourages me to just get in bed and rest. Or he tells me to see a doctor which I never want to do willingly because I'm a tightwad. And if I want to do something he almost never tries to dissuade me. "You were asked to speak at a retreat in California? Do it!" Even if I say I can't or spout a million reasons I shouldn't, he is quick to tell me I should. He believes in me SO MUCH MORE THAN I BELIEVE IN MYSELF.

He does laundry, dishes, vacuums, and scrubs the floors. I hate scrubbing floors. So he does it.

He's completely invested in our kids educations, sports endeavors, and, above all, their spiritual maturity. He is constantly teaching them about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

These are just a few of the things I love about my husband. What do you love about yours? Tell him. Remind him of all the reasons you love him--while you can. I've seen, too many times in the past few weeks, how short life is. These women--my friend and this pastor's wife I don't even know--can no longer hold their husbands and tell them all the reasons they love them.

But we still can.

Song of Solomon 3:4 "...I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go..."

Friday, August 24, 2018

Oh Hello Again

You know what will get a girl up and blogging in a hot second? Seeing her blog linked to on social media with the sentence, "...a link to her blog so you can get to know her better." Yikes! Maybe I should start blogging more than once every full moon. Right now, if you were trying to learn more about me from my blog you would think I never wrote anything. And also, maybe, that I want to move to New York. The last time I blogged was just on the heels of our New York trip.

We're all back at school now. I officially have classes coming to me on Monday but the boys have been in full fledged school mode for three days now. Three days down. 177 to go. Or something like that. But who's counting? ME, THAT'S WHO! I miss summer the moment it leaves and eagerly anticipate its next arrival.

Not that I don't love teaching drama to elementary school students. Because I totally do.

I'm off on Thursday and Friday and do you want to know what Will did today? He climbed all the things. All of them. Closet shelves, pantry shelves, counters. You name it. He climbed it. I'm going to need to invest $100 dollars into MORE baby proofing despite the fact that he is two and NOT A BABY. The kid is part monkey. I'm sure of it.

My schedule is packed full of work and ministry and preparing for our church retreat in October--not speaking, just singing and administrating--and preparing to speak in three weeks at a retreat in California and running Garrett to baseball and scouts and getting Matthew to his extracurricular events and keeping Will alive. The last one is a full time job for two parents. I assure you that raising that kid is not for the weak or faint of heart.

Garrett has a friend over now in my attempt to be THE HOUSE WHERE ALL THE BOYS WANT TO BE WHEN THEY'RE TEENAGERS. My theory is that if they're here, they're not out making bad choices and smoking pot and hanging with any ladies. In order to be this house, I feel like I need to have enough money to make the good nachos. If there are nachos, they will come. He's 12 now so I feel like Operation Nacho House needs to commence fairly quickly. I should point out that, at this point, my son is not the least bit interested in girls and he had better not be the least bit interested in weed.

Matthew didn't come home from school complaining about it so I will take that as a complete WIN. He did say that he took a reading test and his teacher wrote 0. Not gonna lie, the over achiever in me wants to send her an email right this very moment and say, "Help a mama out, did my kid fail reading on the third day of 4th grade?" But here's what I am doing instead. I am ASSUMING that meant that he made 0 mistakes and I will continue assuming this until told otherwise. I forced him to read all summer long against his wishes and often with the threat of maiming if he refused. (Actually, I didn't threaten that at all but it may be a new parenting tactic I've just landed on.) I can't bear to think about all that reading and a 0 to show for it.

I'm neck deep in Ruth. After spending all summer with her and then feeling the Lord's leading to talk about her at the women's retreat, I feel like she and I are the very best of friends. She, however, is A MUCH BETTER PERSON than I am. She's the girl that all the moms want their daughters to hang out with. She's the daughter in law that every mom wants. A woman of noble character. That's our Ruth. And boy do I wish I was more like her.

I feel, though, that my personality would overwhelm Ruth. "I need to find a new field, Naomi. There's a real weirdo in the one I'm working in. She is routinely dancing badly and singing show tunes."

Anyway. I was totally working on my power point when I decided that there should be something new on my blog. Something that isn't three weeks old and about New York. But I do really, really love New York. New York is not dead to me. You know what is dead to me? United Airlines. Because they still haven't gotten back to me and it has been much longer than the 7-10 business days they promised. Okay. Back to Ruth. Or maybe trying to call United again...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

NYC

My mom and I took Garrett to New York City and he hated Times Square.

I can't honestly remember my very first impression of New York. I'd flown in on a red eye and my friend deposited me in her room to sleep while she went to class. I'm sure I had an initial impression but I don't know what it was. And I don't remember at what point on that trip The City grafted itself into my blood so that I loved it in a magical kind of way.

On my second trip, I came up out of the subway station and there were fat raindrops falling. I was in Washington Heights which feels so different from other parts of Manhattan and I just remember smiling and feeling at peace even though New York is really not overly peaceful.

We came up out of the subway and into the edge of Times Square at 40th Street and 8th Ave. There was a weird door that led to an adult movie store. There was always a drunk guy passed out right in front of the door. It was never the same guy.

Garrett loves hotels and ours was a hit.

He enjoyed Madame Tussaud's.

He loves history and the day we spent at the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island/911 Museum/Trinity Church was right up his alley.

He laughed hysterically throughout the play we saw.

He liked going up into the Empire State Building.

He absolutely adored Central Park.

But he hated Times Square.

We'd be walking through and I would suddenly feel his hand on me--as though afraid he might be swallowed up whole. I tried to make it fun for him by taking him to the M&M store and Junior's for dessert. But he was scared for life by a grown man dressed like a baby trying to get money.

By the end of our four days there, he would say things like, "Does it involve going through Times Square?" If I replied no, he sighed in relief.

I think he enjoyed the experience of NYC. He saw things some 12 year olds only know from books and movies. But he was in his element in Central Park--where he could climb rocks and catch turtles. On our last day, in our last two hours, he asked if I would take him back to Central Park. I wasn't sure I could make it happen given our time constraint. But then I totally did and he got a full half hour with those turtles.

And then we came up out of the subway station. Past the adult movie store door. Past the drunk guy. Onto our street and back to the hotel.

And then it took us a full 18 hours to get home because our flight was delayed and we missed our connector. So he slept on the floor of the Denver airport. It was certainly a trip to remember.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Girls and Boys

I have to go back to school in a New York minute (thankfully, though, not before I actually go to New York next week) and if I think about it for too long I start to have some kind of panic attack and I hover on the verge of an all out toddler temper tantrum.

I love summer.

I never, ever, want it to leave me.

As I laid in bed thinking about my dwindling break, I decided we were definitely making today a pool day and we were definitely inviting friends.We ended up there with my friend, the boys' best buddies and another one of Garrett's friends from school. And so, it was a gang of two twelve year olds, an eleven year old, a ten year old, a nine year old, and a partridge in a pear tree who masquerades as a two year old.

They played and swam and soaked up the sun and one of them pooped a big disaster into a swimmy diaper. After that mess, in which I tried to wash him off in a shower that actually felt like needles were piercing skin and he cried and cried and screamed, "Mommy, no more!" and I finally had to make it work with a few baby wipes, I dried him off and declared it a day.

I'd been told that my nine year old was doing flips off the tall springboard and I needed to see this for myself. I walked over to the diving pool with my toddler in my arms and my friend at my side. As we walked past the springboard, I saw one of the girls from Garrett's grade. She is one of the kindest and most beautiful girls. She's also a giant and my son is a shrimp. As a teacher, I adore her. I pointed her out to Garrett. "Oh!" he said, "Yeah." And then my barely twelve year old marched right over to her and said hello.

I was so proud of his friendliness.

"Oh! Hi Garrett!" she said and she walked toward him with an arm extended in what could only be interpreted as the beginning of a side hug. Just as she began to say, "Let me give you a hu---" he turned on his heels and walked back to his friends.

Oh. Man. Rejected.

She mumbled, "Nevermind..." and then vacated that particular pool immediately. Garrett walked back and I explained that he likely, without meaning to, had really embarrassed her. I knew he wasn't trying to be a jerk. I don't think he even knew she was going to hug him. But she clearly felt burned. It was so obvious to this former sixth grader.

I told him to find her and make small talk. "You don't have to hug her, but at least make sure she knows you're friends. Smooth it over, in case she thinks you were trying to be mean."

He and his friends found her and hers. They stood together for a few minutes. I don't know what was said, but it was a glimpse into my future. This future of cute girls and my son. And his buddies. Eventually he told her he was going to New York next week. He said, "I'm going to a Broadway show." Apparently she responded jokingly with, "What? I hate you!" and then she jumped in the pool.

As we got our stuff packed up, his best friend sat across from him while they both ate a few cookies. "She keeps looking at you."

"She does?" he asked.

"Yeah," his other friend said. "She's staring over here."

"Maybe she likes shorter men," I said. They all broke into laughter. On the way out, I heard the boys teasing each other about girls and I looked at my friend. "They were three. Do you remember that? They were JUST THREE."

My son has been 12 for a week. When I was 12 years and 9 days old, a boy asked me to "go out" with him. For a solid year we never actually went anywhere. We just ate lunch together and, on rare occasion, held sweaty hands. I told Garrett today that I was 12 when I first had a boyfriend. His eyes got huge. "Don't worry," I said. "I didn't kiss him or anything like that. We just held hands."

He wrinkled his nose. "Gross."

Phew.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It's a Scary World or I'm Crazy

We live in a scary world. I suppose that, since Adam and Eve's eviction from the Garden of Eden, people have lived afraid. Afraid of other tribes and nations. Afraid of madmen. Afraid of anyone who wields power over us. But this world is terrifying. Because, in this world, I spend some time in Costco and wonder if the creepy man who is following us is targeting us for sex trafficking.

I first noticed him when the boys and I were waiting in line for a sample. He was staring at me and I wondered if we'd cut in front of him accidentally. "Sorry!" I said, in case we had. He gestured, as if to say, "No worries." I thought nothing of it. We walked up and down the aisles looking for samples. It was a sad sample day at Costco--despite being there at 12:30--and we were sorely disappointed in our hunt. I noticed the man because he seemed to be in every aisle we were. It dawned on me that he seemed to be alone and he didn't have a cart. I was only there for the optical department and free samples though, so I didn't dwell on this fact.

As we made our way toward the deli section, I stopped and looked at furniture. How odd that this man also wanted to stop and look at furniture, just a few feet away from us. It was this moment that I went into something-is-weird-here-and-I-am-feeling-uncomfortable mode. Now, honestly, this whole entire thing MIGHT be a strange coincidence and I'm on hyper alert because of #metoo and sex trafficking and modern horror stories. MAYBE he was a perfectly normal gentleman and the events that unfolded were just happenstance. But either way, my intuition flared and I started trying to lose this guy. I walked back by the chickens. As I crossed aisles, I could see him at the other end of each one. He was never looking at us. He was always VERY engrossed in whatever item happened to be right where he was.

"Come on!" I hissed quietly to my boys and we took off abruptly back the way we came. I whispered to my kids that I really thought this guy was following us. I walked quickly to the front, glancing to my right often. There he was, across the store but still keeping pace with us. I darted down a couple aisles, circling back. I finally lost him. As I had nothing in my cart except Will, I pushed through the checkout quickly and got in line at the food counter because I'd promised the boys and because I was fairly sure that this was somehow all in my head still. As we stood in a LONG line, I swiveled my head to the right again. Here came my shadow.

He walked right up to us and got in line directly next to us. Now, at this point, I definitely thought something was up and intended to not leave Costco until I'd told someone and we were assured that we were all safe. I also decided to memorize everything I could about him. Gray shirt. Black pants. Brown shoes. About 5'11". Balding in a patch on the back. I couldn't describe his face because I hadn't stared directly at him ever and I couldn't see his face in line because he'd turned his head and was scanning the mothers and children sitting at the tables. I made sure he knew I was watching him though. Because I thought that if he knew that I knew he was following me, his plan--whatever that was--might be foiled.

Suddenly, after he'd waited in line for about three minutes, he turned and walked straight out the front door.

The man behind me in line immediately started talking to me about Will. He seemed nice and I engaged in conversation. We got our food and sat down. Eating Costco pizza with Will is a bit of a production and it took us a long time to finish lunch. It was weird to me--but then again I was on hyper alert--that the guy who'd talked to me in line was just sitting at a table near us, his food long finished.

At this point, I convinced myself that they were somehow working together. I had Garrett throw away the plates and we walked out ridiculously fast. I turned, as we all but sprinted out and saw the guy put his hat on and stand up immediately. I told both boys on the way out that if anyone tried to grab them in the parking lot to just start shrieking right away. Thankfully the van was close and there were a ton of people right by our car--women and children and the like. I had no groceries so I just tossed everyone in the van and locked the doors.

I saw the second man emerge from Costco. He didn't look around. He just walked to his vehicle. I have no idea if he was part of anything sketchy. For that matter, I don't know if the first guy was either. It was just a series of unfortunate events, perhaps.

But we live in a scary world. A world in which there is the possibility that it wasn't all in my head. I made triple sure I wasn't being followed as I drove away. Maybe they were the two nicest guys. Or maybe they weren't. It troubles me that I have to wonder.