Monday, June 6, 2022

Interview with Six Year Old Will

 I interview each of my kids on their birthdays and keep record of that here on my blog. Here are Will's six year old answers.


1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Muppet Babies 
2. What did you have for breakfast? Eggo and sausage
3. What do you want to name your future son? Dark Ninja (I explained to him that I was looking for an actual name. He would not be deterred. So I guess he's either going to be a famous musician or live in Utah.)
4. Favorite Food? Pizza
5. What food do you dislike? I hate hate broccoli.
6. What is your favorite color? Black
7. Favorite lunch? Top Ramen
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Jump on the trampoline with Matt and do crazy stuff with Matt.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? To the beach so I could go surfing. (Well, as we live on a coast, that's an easy enough request to grant.)
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I would name her Kate since Kate died. (Oh my sweet boy.)
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm a morning person. (Yup.)
13. Pets? A dog.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I have a baseball game.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be in the Army.
16. What is your favorite candy? Sugar free candies.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? How to Catch an Easter Bunny. That's a book my teacher read.
19. What are you most proud of? That I'm a good boy. I'm proud when I get a good report. (Good reports don't come easy for Mr. Will.)
20. What is your favorite movie? Sing 2.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg. (Agree to disagree?)

And, for fun, the questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Ninja
2. What is your least favorite word? I hate the word nut. (What???)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Pizza
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Broccoli
5. What sound or noise do you love? I sound that I love is, "Bacaw. Bacaw. Bacaw!"
6. What sound or noise do you hate? When the smoke detector screams and you don't even know it's coming. (Oooohhhh. Same.)
7. What is your favorite curse word? Butt.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Police Officer.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Being in the fire department.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Hello. This is Heaven. Streets of gold.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Interview With 13 Year Old Matthew

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? The Office
2. What did you have for breakfast? Today? Uhhhhhhhh. I didn't have anything. (And then we exchanged a lot of words. He said he'd rather sleep in. I said if he is going to continue eating me out of house and home with snacks all night long he is going to start eating breakfast. And scene.)
3. What do you want to name your future son? I don't want a future son. I'm not having children. (I made him choose something.) Matthew.
4. Favorite Food? Lasagna.
5. What food do you dislike? Cooked vegetables.
6. What is your favorite color? Scarlet.
7. Favorite lunch? Chick-fil-A
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Be in my imaginary world.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Ireland. Anything with good cliff jumping. 
10. Favorite sport? Football.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? Cashew. Matthew and Cashew. (Someone send help.)
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? I like to be up at night.
13. Pets? Tessie. My little brother, Will. My older brother, Garrett. My mom and my dad.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I turned 13.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I'll do acting.
16. What is your favorite candy? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
**17. (New question this year. This used to be "Farthest place you've ever been from home?" which has been Israel ever since he was 4 and, since Israel is PRETTY far, it might be awhile before the answer changes so...new question.) Where do you want to live when you grow up? I want to live in Ireland. In a shack on top of a green hill. With not too light of a green grass but maybe a little bit darker. (Um. Alrighty.)
18. What is your favorite book? Middle School: the Worst Years of My Life. Save Rafe.
19. What are you most proud of? My being able to do a back full which is a back flip with a twist.
20. What is your favorite movie? Spiderman No Way Home.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken because the egg had to be fertilized. (Same answer three years running.)


And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Saturated. It just sounds so fun.
2. What is your least favorite word? The N word.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") I like to jump off of things that are high. Into water.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Writing.
5. What sound or noise do you love? The waves.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. I hate Styrofoam. I despise it. It should not be a thing in the world.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Bumhead. Not butthead. Bumhead sounds funny.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I would want to become an engineer.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a lawyer.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Now your fun life starts. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Hallelujahs and Shadows

            If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, then a thousand hallelujahs begin with just a single note. For many seasons, I experienced a crisis of musical worship. I didn’t question God or salvation or grace upon grace upon grace but my heart felt critically fragile. Memories of the music were tethered to the stuff of earth. I thought of other things, painful things, when I played my guitar or tried to sing old familiar songs.             Worship is an expression of reverence, adoration, and devotion to God. It ought never to be about how I feel. It should be vertical, directed straight up to the Father and not dependent on what is going on horizontally around me or, even, within me. But I am a human being and I often get it wrong. Within the crisis, there were moments and even days of pure and genuine praise, but my guitar hung ornamentally on the wall. A thousand hallelujahs lived inside it but with them, a thousand shadows.

For many months I struggled to wrench victory from painful memories, to hunt for treasure while I buried remembrance. I would hear certain songs and, instead of prompting worship, they would provoke a visceral sensation of shame commingled with sorrow strong enough that I disconnected immediately. The Father of Lies convinced me that I would never be able to play or sing solos again because that part of me belonged in a past too confounding to escape and any music I offered was stinging with its splinters. Even after all this time walking with Jesus, it still surprises me how quickly a spark can turn into an inferno on the lips of the Accuser.

One day, in the midst of my struggle to reclaim the music, my pastor husband asked me to sing a familiar solo. Instantly, I felt a surge of unease and self doubt. I valiantly fought back a wave of tears and whispered, “I don’t think I can.” There was so much behind that statement. Could I even begin to offer it purely to my Savior without the weight of all the baggage I’d been carrying? I was out of practice vocally and so off kilter emotionally. But he asked me to pray and I promised him that I would. When I asked the Lord what He would have me do, I sensed that it was time to sing, that I needed to figure out a way to wrestle that song from the past and give it back to Jesus. It belonged to Him from the very beginning. His mama first sang it while He was still hidden in her womb. But, before that even, when the Word spoke words and worlds into existence, it was His. It was recorded for us in Luke 1 and repeated by other voices throughout the ages but it was always only His. I cloaked that solo in prayer and God graciously allowed me to sing without reservation, to worship as genuinely as I know how. Something in my heart healed ever so slightly.

Throughout those hard months, I would occasionally pull the guitar off the wall and pluck halfheartedly at it. Each time it sounded worse than before as my skill atrophied. My tender fingertips would scream and my fragile heart whispered, “I can’t.”

When I, as with anyone, first started playing the guitar, the soft tissue on my fretting fingers was repeatedly forced against the hard strings of the instrument causing painful micro trauma to my fingertips. Eventually, as a response to the constant friction, calluses formed a buffer between the strings and my nerve endings and I played without pain. But my guitar had been shelved for too long–a physical reminder of remorse, anger, sorrow, and confusion–and I lost my calluses. 

Metaphorically, calluses had formed in my heart in an attempt to shield me from hurtful memories. While the guitar had hung soundless, I’d spent months confronting the pain by exploring my emotions and sitting in the discomfort of them, allowing them to move through me. So, in the end–which isn’t really the end of anything but only another beginning–my fingers and my heart felt exposed and pliable as their protective layers were shed. I knew that, if the time ever came to play again, the pain in my fingers would be excruciating, rivaled only by the experience in my heart.

Not long ago, I was forcing myself to listen to an album of worship music that is firmly anchored to hard memories, in the hope that I could reclaim it. Suddenly, from nowhere and everywhere all at once, I felt the desire to help lead worship at an upcoming event. It was a fairly irrational thought. My voice was still rusty, my guitar was dusty, and my fingers were soft. But as I prayed, asking the Lord for confirmation, I suddenly wanted nothing more than to pull the guitar off the wall and play it.
It was painful. Without calluses to stand between the chords and my fingers, the strings were like needles piercing my skin. But the pain reminded me of the battle and the battle belongs to the Lord. I had shed the old calluses which were bound and tied to hurt. The new ones are entirely mine, forged by the fire of reclamation.
I cannot claim to have come up with the idea of a thousand hallelujahs. That phrase and the song by the same title were penned by Brooke and Scott Ligertwood and Phil Wickham. I discovered it at the precise time that I picked my guitar back up. The song was brand new, bound to nothing that has come before. I shared it with my friend who has walked much of this confusing journey beside me. She said, “I know the hitch in reality when you come to a song that can’t be given without reservation. But thankfully there are thousands of hallelujahs that do not bear the weight of the past. And we are free to sing any of them.” I know that the Father of Lies will continue to torment. I will struggle through the days of taking the music back. I may hang up my voice and my guitar time and time again before the last chord of my life is played.

But today I will take the weight of past baggage and set it at the altar. I’ll hold my heart out to Him, handing over fragments of brokenness. I’ll cry out, “Lord Jesus, this song is forever yours. A thousand hallelujahs and a thousand more.” The journey begins with just a single note sung, one callus shed or formed in devotion, one piece of one song offered in the truth of absolute adoration. He meets me where I am, taking the weight of all my chains, accepting one clumsy chord at a time. In these days and moments, I find myself longing to play, willing my heart to offer a thousand new hallelujahs to the King of Kings.


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Pancakes

Will’s face appeared in my doorway as I was pulling myself into the conscious world. “Mommy,” he said, “will you make me pancakes?” I told him I needed to put in my contacts first. He followed me into the bathroom and, without warning, I picked up where I’d left off the night before. Tears sprung into my eyes. I had that same thought I always have. What is wrong with me? Why am I crying?” I turned away so he wouldn’t see me but at that moment an audible cry escaped.


“Mom,” he said so gently, “Why are you crying?” I shook my head, knowing that if I tried to talk it would come out as a sob. I walked out of the bathroom and lowered my body back onto the bed. He climbed up next to me. Tears ran down the sides of my face toward my ears. Will placed a hand on my leg and just sat there. I was struck by his tenderness.


“It’s okay to cry, Mom.” Even as I wrestled internally with trying to figure out why I was crying and simultaneously trying to make it stop, I realized that my five-year-old, who has the emotional maturity of toddler, had somehow surpassed me in both empathy and his understanding of the therapy process. I said nothing and he whispered, “Just let it out. It’s okay.” Who even is this kid and what did he do with the hyperactive one who usually lives here?


“What are you crying about, Mom?” he asked again.


By this point I was so astounded by his compassion that I looked at him through my tears and said, “I don’t really know, Buddy. A lot of things, I think. I’m worried about Matthew…” my voice trailed off.


“Yeah,” he said, his tiny little hand continuing to rub my leg. He paused for a few seconds and said with enthusiasm, “But he’ll get it fixed and then he’ll be twice as fast as he already is! That’ll be cool.” I couldn’t help but laugh through my tears.


“We will get it fixed. You’re right. He’ll be okay.” I waited and then said, “I also miss Kate. I miss her the most in January.” 


“I miss her, too,” he said. I know he does. He tells me all the time. Then he smiled and said, “But we do get to go to heaven to see her someday and that will be great!” 


“You’re right again,” I say. I think there are a dozen more little things causing my tears but he’s two for two with his answers so I decide not to burden him with any more of them.


“Mom, are you better now?”


“Yeah. Thanks, Junior Therapist,” I say as I pull him into my body for a quick hug. 


“Okay, good. Now it’s time for pancakes!”

 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Dream

 Never have I ever had a more upsetting dream than the one I had last night. I woke up with tears streaming down my face and proceeded to burst into almost uncontrollable sobbing. After holding my sleeping son’s hand and praying over him for ten minutes, I woke my husband. I was still borderline hysterical and I asked him to just hold me. Eventually, I calmed down but my body physically hurt the way it does in the early stages of deep grief. I had to keep reminding myself that I had only dreamed it all. None of it was real. I was awake for at least an hour, scared that I would sleep and the unfinished dream would return.


My five-year-old had somehow come into contact with a deadly disease or toxin of some kind. While he appeared fine, we were told that, once symptomatic, he would be so contagious that it would spread like wildfire, essentially infecting the entire world. Only my son and one other boy, a ten-year-old, had come into contact with it. The other boy was severely disabled and lived in a vegetative state. The only solution, we were told, was to put the two boys on a rocket and send them into space. They would die of the disease, alone, somewhere above the earth.


It seemed absurd, even in the dream, but we were being given absolutely no say in the matter. Our son was being taken from us and put on a spaceship and we were powerless to stop it. There was a narrow window before he would begin to show signs of his illness and we were allowed to spend one final day with him. The events in this dream were so real and so traumatic that I have to choke back tears if I even think about it.


The dream played out slowly as we went through this one last day with our child. We tried to make it sound exciting. He’d be going into space and then he would meet Jesus. We didn’t want him to be scared. We wanted him to have a few more happy minutes. We took him to a park and just watched him play, knowing it would be the last time we ever saw him running fearless and free. He ran to me and climbed into my lap. I held him close, imagining how silent our house and our lives would be without him. I ran my fingers through his curls and kissed his head. We sat at a picnic table and let him devour an enormous slice of cake. I thought about how he would be in a rocket ship, with no one to talk to except a boy who couldn’t talk back, and eventually he would be ill and no one would be there to take care of him. It would be torture for him and for my heart. I begged God to let the cup pass from me. Every moment, whether smiling for him or crying for our loss, was painful.


The time came. The authorities, dressed in hazmat suits (even though our boy was running and playing and fine) summoned us. “It’s time to put on his shoes,” they said. Why shoes were a priority is beyond me but we somehow knew that this signaled the very end of our time with him. We were sending our son to space to die. We would never, ever see him again. It was the only way, we were told, to save humanity. I held him so tightly in my arms and then…


I woke up. As I came into consciousness, I reached up and felt my face. It was wet with tears. As I told my husband, through sobs, about the dream, he told me that in real life that would never, ever happen. “...because if it did happen, I would go with him,” he said. “I would never make him go alone.”


I have no idea what the dream meant. Certainly I see themes and threads but the deep meaning is lost. I know that, as I laid awake, shaken by the feeling of grief even after I knew it had all been a dream, I prayed for friends walking through real life anguish and sorrow, friends grieving real and tangible losses. Today, I pulled my five year old onto my lap, with his chest facing mine. “Hold still,” I said. “If we are both very still, we will be able to feel our hearts talking to each other.” He didn’t move. “Do you feel that?” I asked as the subtle beating of my heart whispered secrets to his.


“Yes,” he said, his heart murmuring back.


I cannot bear the thought of losing him. Walking through it step by step, in my sleep, was torture. Pray for those in the throes of grief. Hug your people. Hold still and let your hearts talk to theirs.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Heart of Worship

In both our previous church and the one I currently serve, I’ve tried to be authentically real. If I pretend to be someone I’m not, what good is that? So, as it says in 2nd Corinthians, “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” The truth is, for some time, I was experiencing a crisis of worship. To be clear, it was never a crisis of faith. Although, if it had been, I would hope that, among believers, I would be held, even in that. I didn’t ever question God or salvation but I was hurting and when I sang, my heart felt fragile. There were songs I struggled to sing to the Lord because memories of those songs were tethered to the stuff of earth. I thought of other things when I sang them.

I am a worshiper. One of the things I love most in life is praising Jesus through song. I love to help lead others into a place of authentic worship. I was eager to have opportunities to serve again in that capacity, to work through my crisis of worship amidst other believers working through whatever lessons the Lord had for them. If I could help lead these people, I could unravel the crisis. But our church is filled with wonderfully talented people and God had other plans. He had His own place for me. He spoke into my heart that everything else needed to be stripped away.

I am called to worship the one, true God. Regardless of blessings, grief, pain, joy, and circumstance, He is the object of my affection. God reminded this girl with a theatre degree that she doesn’t need a stage (metaphorical or otherwise). I’m here to worship Him. Period. And so I began to redefine how I accomplish that. I thought a lot about the lyrics to “Heart of Worship” and how, not only do I not need a stage, I don’t even need music.

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart
I’ll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus

Even if the music is gone, I will worship. Even if I never sing in front of a church again, I will worship. Even if the strings on every guitar are broken and my voice is gone, I will worship purely from the pew, the bedroom, the car. I will sing acapella in my kitchen. I will run lines of praise silently through my head while choosing a head of cauliflower. My worship cannot be tied to a person, an experience, a memory, a stage. It can only be bound to the Lover of my soul. He doesn’t require a song. He’s looking at my heart. He knows when it is hurt. He knows when it is stuck in a sin cycle. He knows when it is striving to be above reproach. He knows it always, even when I don’t know it myself. He longs for it to be a heart of worship.

Over the past many months, I learned these lessons and more. I certainly never planned to tell anyone else about this journey of worship that I’ve been on with the Lord. I wasn’t going to share that my guitar and my voice hung silent on the wall for a while, and that, one day, I picked them both up and began to sing again. From a place of absolute contentment, I knew that if God never called me to worship from a stage again, it would be absolutely fine. But, in a twisted story of covid quarantines, I was asked to sing on the worship team this morning. It had been awhile.

Believing that I was in a place where the Lord would find my, “Yes,” to be acceptable, I agreed. I had one day’s notice and I asked for the song list so that I could practice. When I received it, I choked back tears, smiled, and said, “I see what you did there, Lord.”

The first song I sang from the stage this morning was “Heart of Worship.”

 

 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Interview. Garrett. 15.

I always ask my kids a series of questions on or near their birthdays.

Here are Garrett's as a 15 year old.

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Jack Ryan
2. What did you have for breakfast? Eggs.
3. What do you want to name your future son? Troy. With a dash between the T and the Roy. No. I'm kidding.
4. Favorite Food? Snow Crab from Red Lobster.
5. What food do you dislike? Mushrooms. 
6. What is your favorite color? Blue.
7. Favorite lunch? Totino's pizza, a banana, and two Oreos.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Sports
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Germany.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? 
Him: Unknown. 
Me: You're going to name your daughter, Unknown? 
Him: I don't know. My wife can help me decide.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Either.
13. Pets? I have a dog. I want two gerbils.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Nope.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? Army Ranger.
16. What is your favorite candy? M&Ms or 3 Musketeers.
**17. (New question this year. This used to be "Farthest place you've ever been from home?" which has been Israel ever since he was 4 and, since Israel is PRETTY far, it might be awhile before the answer changes so...new question.) Where do you want to live when you grow up? Texas.
18. What is your favorite book? I liked Resistance.
19. What are you most proud of? 
Him: I'm proud that I can talk to strangers. 
Me: That sounds like bad parenting. 
Him: ***laughs***
20. What is your favorite movie? Probably still Black Hawk Down
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Hmmm. I'll just pick one. Taco.
2. What is your least favorite word? Matthew. No. I'm kidding. Decomposition. 
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Sports.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Weeding.
5. What sound or noise do you love? The noise of sizzling bacon.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam.
7. What is your favorite curse word? 
Him: Depends on the moment. 
Me: Tell me one. 
Him: I've never said one but if I dropped a hammer on my foot I wouldn't say a nice word. 
Me: Choose one. 
Him: Okay. D-A-M-N.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Professional sports player
9. What profession would you not like to do? Porta potty cleaner.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Hello.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Savor This

 Annie F. Downs, author, speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed loud laughter has a tattoo. It says, simply and not at all simply, "Savor this." I just finished Annie's newest book, "That Sounds Fun." In it, there's a chapter about the tattoo or, more specifically, why the tattoo. Annie reached through the pages of her book and whacked me upside the head with advice from her friend, Jenn.

"'Savor this. There's something to be learned here. Something to be healed. You should sit in it.' And although I want to escape the pain, like a snake trying to get out of its skin, I know she's right. Even if that pain leads to pure sadness, Jenn asks me if I'm willing to savor that too."

If you don't know Annie, you should. You will instantly believe that she is your actual BFF and you'll have to periodically remind yourself that she doesn't know you IRL and your friendship is 100% lopsided. But when she says things, you will believe her because she's just that genuine. So my BFF, Annie F. Downs told me to sit in it.

A few months ago (and many times since), my homework from my therapist was to sit in my emotions. Side note: I have a therapist. A wonderful, godly, Christian therapist who I see not because I believe in Jesus plus anything else but because I believe that Jesus sends us advisors and helpers and we do well to take what He gives us. The fact that she is a believer and we talk about the conviction of the Holy Spirit and my insurance pays for it--right now at 100%--is truly nothing short of a miracle. But anyway, my homework was to sit in my emotions. I'm pretty sure I blinked three times slow and stared back at my computer screen with a baffled look because you know who does not sit in her emotions? This girl. But do you know who has always taken her homework very seriously? Also this girl. So late that night, my husband found me hunched over my laptop and he asked, "What are you doing?"

I told him, "I'm supposed to sit in my emotions and, as I have no earthly idea how to do that, I'm researching it."

He let out a sound that I cannot turn into the written word and blurted out, "Oh gosh! That's the opposite of what she told you to do."

I looked up from the screen and said, "Yeah. I know."

I started therapy for a very specific reason. The goal was to be the healthiest version of myself for my children. We were waist deep in special needs and adoption related pain and therapies and Covid and I felt like I was drowning. I was crying. Like a lot. For someone who doesn't cry all that often and didn't have the foggiest idea how to sit in her emotions, frequent crying was less than ideal. If there's one thing I know to be true about me, it's that I would rather drown in emotional exhaustion than fail my kids. But if there's a way to not drown and not fail them, well, that sounds fun. So somewhere in the intake paperwork, I wrote down that I wanted to be the best I could be for the kids. What I have since discovered is that therapy is about being the healthiest version of myself for myself. The definition of health is not perfection. Sometimes the definition of health is vulnerability and sincerity. Sometimes we start therapy with one goal in mind and end up greatly amending the aim.

I wrote something down in my journal months ago and I actually said that I wasn't going to talk about it in therapy. It was not going to come up. THIS IS NOT A PLACE WE'RE GOING TO GO, BASSHAM. Because if we went there, I'd be in therapy for another year, at least. Maybe 10. Unless she blocked off a long weekend and we went to a beach house on the Oregon coast and just dumped it all into 72 hours. I joke but it is absolutely within the realm of possibility that I might scream inside my own head that AN HOUR IS NO WHERE NEAR ENOUGH TIME AND I NEED A TWO WEEK INTENSIVE! (Although I really love my therapist a lot and a weekend at the Oregon coast where we can discuss our mutual love for Jesus and Amy Grant does not sound at all bad.) Anyway...

One day, she asked a question. I don't think it was meant to be earth shattering but it was. I sat for a moment having rapid fire thoughts because the answer was absolutely the Therapy Voldemort. She'd asked a question that inadvertently (Or maybe advertently, who's to say with these therapy people? They're very good at what they do.) poked the he-who-must-not-be-named situation. I had three choices.

My first thought, being that I'm a dirty, rotten sinner, was to lie. "Answer that question with a deliberate mistruth, Bassham. She won't know and you'll avoid Therapy Voldemort." This was quickly replaced with the reminder that therapy is for me. Not her. I mean it is for her in the sense that she can, like, pay the water bill. But it's largely for me.

Second thought, "I don't want to answer that question." I have rights. One of those rights is to say, "I don't feel like going there today, Lady." But this option felt only slightly better than lying.

So I went with what was behind door number 3. I spoke the truth and it laid there, in the space between us. Slowly, over three or four months, that truth opened a labyrinth of passages and secret chambers and growth. And I'm not going to lie, it has sucked. But in the pain, I have learned so much about so many things not the least of which is that I was carrying a burden that was, largely, not mine to lug around. The arduous climb peaked with me being obedient (to the Spirit's leading), deliberate, and brave. Even though, every part of me wanted to do the opposite.

When I didn't want to do the hard thing, I prayed. I hoped He would direct me a different way. Instead, I was instantly overcome by His words from John 14:27. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Now, I find myself in the aftermath. I exist in a world of both/and. I feel heavy and I feel light. I feel fragile and I feel strong. I feel sorrow and I feel relief. But, ultimately, I feel the peace He promised. There is hope here.

I want to rush through this, to leave it in the rearview mirror as I speed toward the horizon. But it is woven through me too much to ever unravel completely. And maybe I'm not supposed to. Maybe I need to inhale the moments of sackcloth and ash and exhale the joy that comes in the morning. Life is just all these moments piled up on top of one another and the lesson is in learning to savor them.

So my therapy journey is learning when to sit in my emotions. Sometimes I know what that means and sometimes I don't have a clue. I'm learning to say what I need to say, to trust the process, to stay awhile in the pain and the mundane, to feel the sun on my skin but also not to rush the clouds. There are moments when the savoring comes so easy and there are times when I'm blindly searching for something savory in the darkness. Both are valid and both are true. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven."

I will savor this. Even this.


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Happy Birthday, Will

 Dear Will,

Once again, I have no excuse for why I'm writing you a birthday letter almost a full month after your birthday. Not really, anyway. Between you and Garrett and Matthew, there was a ball game almost every night and, sometimes, more than one. Perhaps in all the bat swinging. the base running, and the ball catching there just wasn't time for the word writing.

I almost just don't know what to say. You are slaying dragons bigger than any five-year-old warrior knight should even be expected to fight. When you turned four in the middle of a global pandemic, we were new to the game of therapies and service plans. But you have spent the past year learning and growing and changing. It has been a year of various therapies, adjusting our expectations, and figuring out what works for you. We have had the best doctor and therapist and there are not words to express how thankful I am for both of them.

There is a spot in my heart that holds all the hope that one day, we will look back, and see a battle field of conquered giants. I believe you will do great things because you are already so amazing. Life looks different for you because your brain is a magnificent wonderland of diversity.

There's a part in The Incredibles 2 where Baby Jack Jack gets ALL THE POWERS and he's basically going through walls and levitating and whatnot. That's you. I mean, you basically have superpowers without actually having superpowers. There is so much energy that it's a wonder you did not explode upon entry. You are like Dennis the Menace except that, under all that curiosity and mischief, there is the sweetest soul who longs to please everyone.

I will not stop telling the world that you are a blazing supernova, a comet pulled from orbit*, an oasis of joy. You are brilliant. The speed at which you can absorb knowledge is astounding. The cry of my heart is that you would learn to love learning and not see it as an evil monster standing between you and your Legos. But, while we're on the subject, your Lego building skills are next level. The things you create blow my mind. And, while we're also on the subject, the things you know blow my mind. Reading and sight words and synonyms and two times ten is twenty.

So much was shut down this year but you managed to make it through preschool with the kindest and most patient teacher. At the end of the year, your school recorded a performance and I was blown away by how well you did. At Christmastime, you put a blanket on your head and twirled around a pillar while the class sang their songs. So that is absolutely what I was expecting. When the music started and you did everything that was required of you, I burst into tears and ugly cried nonstop for the duration. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

I want to see the world through your eyes. Your life is a series of, "Because I needed to know if..." You HAD to cut a hole in the wall because you HAD to know if there might be snakes living inside.  Oh don't get me wrong, there was a hefty punishment for the total destruction of a two inch by two inch circle of missing wall but, if we're looking for a win, it was a near perfect circle AND you managed to keep all your fingers while carving said hole with a steak knife.

Will, your bike riding and scooter skills are amazing, you now swim like a fish, and you are so brave with all the things you try on the trampoline. You love being outside, playing with your brothers, watching the Padres play baseball on TV, Disney+, building Legos, playing your keyboard, ALL THE BERRIES (all the fruit, really, but especially berries), playing in the creek, being read to, learning about Jesus, and so so much more.

Life ebbs and flows. It is easy and hard, sometimes at the exact same time. But, right now, maybe for a minute or maybe for a season, we are in such a sweet spot with you. I'm sitting in it, savoring it, and piling up stones of remembrance for a time when we are in a not so sweet spot. My goodness gracious I am so thankful to Jesus for you. You are changing my life in all the very best ways.

I love you.
Mom

*Wicked.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Interview with Five-Year-Old Will

I interview each of my kids on their birthdays and keep record of that here on my blog. Here are Will's five year old answers.


1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Ninja Turtles 
2. What did you have for breakfast? Protein drink and waffles.
3. What do you want to name your future son? Shadow (Wait. What now?)
4. Favorite Food? Watermelon
5. What food do you dislike? Broccoli
6. What is your favorite color? Dark blue mixed up with black. (He was adamant that I write exactly what he said.)
7. Favorite lunch? Peanut butter and jelly. (Will doesn't have much added sugar in his diet. He almost never gets jelly. I guess it makes an impression when he does get it.)
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Build Beyblades and connect them with Legos. (He's super creative with this. It amazes me.)
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Disneyland (I am desperate to go to their again too!)
10. Favorite sport? Soccer, basketball, baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? Rosie
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm a night person. (No. No he is not. He wakes up bright eyed and bushy tailed always.)
13. Pets? A dog named Tessie.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Yep. People get Covid. A lot of times I get to hang out in my room. (I...um...okay?)
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A police officer.
16. What is your favorite candy? A sucker with a scorpion in it. (Let me explain. My parents gave him one of these from their recent trip to Arizona. He does not routinely have them.)
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? When we went to Grandma Ginny and Grandpa Jon's house.
18. What is your favorite book? What Should Danny Do?
19. What are you most proud of? That I don't get in trouble always. (Oh, my sweet boy.)
20. What is your favorite movie? Velma & Daphne
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The eggs because the mama chicken made the eggs. (I tried to argue with his logic. He wouldn't budge.)

And, for fun, the questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Gymnastics (???)
2. What is your least favorite word? Broccoli
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Jumping on the trampoline.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") I don't like that I can't watch The Incredible Hulk because Dad thinks it's too scary for me. (Ha ha ha)
5. What sound or noise do you love? The sound that I love is when you sing. (I melted into a puddle of goop on the spot.)
6. What sound or noise do you hate? The sound I hate is when someone yells.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Shut up.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Working on an ambulance.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Being a bad guy. (Okay. Phew.)
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? You can stay with me forever and not have to go back to earth.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Letter to a 12 Year Old

 Dear Matthew,

For the life of me, I cannot find a letter for your 11th birthday and here you are turning 12. What happened? How did I fail at life so substantially? My only defense is that we came home from our trip to New York together and almost immediately the entire world fell apart with the Covid-19 pandemic. It's no excuse. But that's all I can come up with. Or Will. Will was A WHOLE HEAPING HELPING OF A LOT LAST WINTER. I was barely surviving all the therapy and all the hitting and screaming that he was throwing my way. Again, no excuse. I apologize with everything in me.

You're 12. And you're a transracially adopted 12 year old. There's a lot of growth and development and adoption processing and understanding happening in these days and moments. The truth is, I didn't see all of this when I held your shrieking newborn body in my arms. I knew it would be a journey but I had no idea. Walking with you down this path of pain and awareness has been an experience I carry with great honor. I say it to you all the time and I will say it here in print: your story is yours. Your life is yours. Love who you choose. Accept what you will. Disregard what you won't. I am here for all your big, huge feelings and I am here for your silence. Decide who belongs to you and who doesn't. The choice is yours. I promise to continue learning, to sit in the uncomfortable, and to broaden my shoulders to hold what they need to. I promise to seek first to understand. I promise to do whatever I need to do in order to be what you need.

But what I need you to hear--someday, when you read this--is that I love you. I love you no more or less than your older brother or your younger brother. I know you are not biologically related to me but neither is your dad and I love him something ridiculous. I know you're not always in a place to receive that. But I won't stop saying it.

There's a line in Dear Theodosia where Hamilton sings...

Oh Philip, when you smile I am undone
My son
Look at my son
Pride is not the word I'm looking for
There is so much more inside me now
Oh Philip, you outshine the morning sun
My son
When you smile, I fall apart
And I thought I was so smart

Those are my thoughts exactly. Except, well, your name isn't Philip. But, Matthew, pride doesn't begin to cover it. There is so much more inside me. There is so much love. And in the depth of your smile I am undone. It's the same smile you've had since you were four months old. It lights up the room. It lights up my heart. And I know that is so mushy and gross but it's completely true. I am ever so thankful that I have that smile in my life.

I can list all the ways you amaze me but it would take too long. You are so smart with your straight As and your advanced math. You are so strong with your self taught flipping and your 200 push ups. You are such an incredible brother. Truly. Oh you know how to push both their buttons and you do--as brothers do--but you are so often kind and caring, patient and self-sacrificing. You are creative, introspective, and always hilarious.

This year has been hard on everyone and you're no exception. I'm sorry for the isolation. Still, we did get to go to Tahoe and San Diego. We had a blast camping at the lake with our best good friends and visiting the family in southern California. We had fun in the creek over the summer and really enjoyed our first full Oregon summer--even if our options were limited. Beach trips and Silver Falls and a million walks helped break up the huge amount of time we spent stuck inside.

With all the isolation, you'd think it would be impossible to sustain injuries. But no. You got a probable concussion--running through the house with wet feet and falling flat on your back, a sprained wrist--before you were proficient at landing flips, and a sliced open foot--because your brother shoved you off a dock and you tried to stay on it. Between you and your brother, we were visiting urgent care constantly and it was OUT OF CONTROL. But I will tell you that as of this letter, it has been 176 days since we have entered the urgent care or the ER. How long can we go? 177 days, probably.

Your laugh is infectious. Your brain, a wealth of knowledge. And your body, way taller than your older brother's was at the same age. I predict that you'll tower over him in two years time. But we'll see. Watching you grow and develop into the amazing preteen that you are is one of my greatest joys. I pray peace upon your heart as you continue to change into the person you will become.

I love you.
I love you.
I love you.

Mom

Interview with 12 Year Old Matthew

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? This is Us. 
2. What did you have for breakfast? Coco Puffs. (I do not buy Coco Puffs. The school puts it in their breakfast/lunch. JUST FOR CLARIFICATION.)
3. What do you want to name your future son? Ian. (You guys! I'm just waiting for the day when my kid makes up some name and I have to forever call my grandson Craydin or something--given the prevalence of terrible names lately. IAN IS SO NICE AND NORMAL. Yay!)
4. Favorite Food? Pizza. Wait no, not pizza. Escargot. (Okay. He had escargot on a cruise with my parents. He's 12. He likes to pretend buttery snails are his favorite food. Whatev.)
5. What food do you dislike? Cooked broccoli. 
6. What is your favorite color? Red.
7. Favorite lunch? Hot dogs and hamburgers.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Hang out with friends. Specifically my bestest friend in the whole wide world who can never be replaced, Ben. 
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Ireland. (He once saw this little warrior ninja girl on Britain's Got Talent. She was from Ireland. He wanted to marry her. This was back when he hadn't sworn off marriage forever. He became obsessed with Ireland. The end.)
10. Favorite sport? Soccer.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I wouldn't be having a daughter but...Megan. ("I wouldn't be having a daughter. 😂😂😂" Oh. Okay. Noted. BUT AGAIN WITH THE NORMAL NAMED CHILDREN. YAY!)
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm definitely a night person. (His exact words from last year.)
13. Pets? Dog. Two frogs.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Um. No. I don't know. I don't have any exciting news. I'm turning 12. That's exciting news.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? An actor.
16. What is your favorite candy? Reese's.
**17. (New question this year. This used to be "Farthest place you've ever been from home?" which has been Israel ever since he was 4 and, since Israel is PRETTY far, it might be awhile before the answer changes so...new question.) Where do you want to live when you grow up? Well. I've thought about it. Ireland. (The obsession is deep.)
18. What is your favorite book? Wings of Fire.
19. What are you most proud of? Me being able to do a flip successfully.
20. What is your favorite movie? All the Star Wars movies.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken. The egg had to be fertilized. (Exact same thing he said last year. He's no dummy.)


And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Matthew.
2. What is your least favorite word? Jerk.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Sports.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") School. (For the record, he earned straight As again so I don't really see the problem...)
5. What sound or noise do you love? The sound of going to the zoo and hearing all the birds chirping in the background. Or the sound at the beach with the waves and the seagulls. (I had no idea he enjoyed bird sounds so much.)
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. (He doesn't even like to touch Styrofoam he hates it so much.)
7. What is your favorite curse word? Stupid. (I told him he could say any word. Any word at all and I wouldn't be upset. He said, "I know but I don't want to say those other words so...Stupid. Okay.)
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Professional Baseball Player. (Interesting...)
9. What profession would you not like to do? Tennis player. (Apparently we're all about the sports right now.)
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Welcome to Heaven.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Slaying the Giant of Perfectionism

I was born a perfectionist and raised in a structured home. We were taught how to behave and we didn't really challenge that. We fell into line. It worked and so I raised my first two children with the same parameters. I'm not going to lie, there were times when I thought I was crushing the parenting thing. (I was humble enough to know that parenting is a long job and something can happen at any time but I thought structure, clear expectations, and love were all it took.) 

My older children and I are neurotypical. My youngest son is not. (Structure, clear expectations, and love are NOT all it takes for A LOT of kids.) 

 My perfectionism is not good. It tied my stomach in knots for more school tests than I can count. It has kept me from taking chances and trying new things--what if I don't succeed? Its expectations for myself are impossible. In my perfectionism are a million comparisons beginning with everyone else's success and ending with my failure. 

And so, my youngest son-the one who is instantly overstimulated in any environment other than our home-struggles and it feels, to this perfectionist, like I haven't done enough. I want to tell everyone, "He is TRYING. I promise he has come so far already! And I am TRYING. Every minute, I am trying."

I have wished my perfectionism dead for a very long time. Perhaps this one boy, who is brilliant and coordinated and funny and tender and uniquely different, will be used to heal me. Perhaps, in practicing radical acceptance of his circumstances, I will learn to let go of this plague of perfectionism. I'm not saying all these things in search of compliments of any kind. I know I'm trying and that is enough. I'm sharing because I cannot tell you the amount of people who have reached out to me since I began opening up about our journey. You are not alone in your struggle. Fred Rogers said, "Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable." 

 Every moment with my nontypical guy is an opportunity to shed rigidity and replace it with compassion. Every moment is a chance for me to see another struggling parent and know that it may very well have nothing to do with how hard she's trying. I wish I learned this sooner. The Lord has quite the way of growing humility in us.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Interview. Garrett. 14.

I always ask my kids a series of questions on or near their birthdays.
Here are Garrett's as a 14 year old.

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Man v. Wild
2. What did you have for breakfast? Eggo Waffles
3. What do you want to name your future son? I don't know. I asked him, "What is a boy name you like?" I like John. I like Troy. I like all sorts of stuff.
4. Favorite Food? Snow Crab (Same as last year and the year before that and the year before that.)
5. What food do you dislike? Mushrooms. (Same as last year.)
6. What is your favorite color? Light blue.
7. Favorite lunch? Pizza.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go camping or fishing.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? Germany.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I honestly don't know. I asked, "What is a name you like for a girl?" Kaylee.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Whatever I need to be.
13. Pets? I have a dog. (We just had yet another hamster die. Poor kid.)
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? We're going on vacation in a week.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? Army Ranger.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeers.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? Probably Guts and Glory: The American Civil War.
19. What are you most proud of? Being tough.
20. What is your favorite movie? Black Hawk Down
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? I love the word food. (Spoken like a true teenage boy.)
2. What is your least favorite word? Weeds. (Also spoken like a true teenage boy.)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Life
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Injuries
5. What sound or noise do you love? Gun shots. (OH. MY. WORD. I clarified that this was a noise he loved and he was like, "Yeah. They sound awesome. Oh dear.)
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. 
7. What is your favorite curse word? Well, I shouldn't like bad words. A lot of times, I would like to call people a jack ass. (Oh, me too, Son. Me too.)
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Marine biologist.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Sewage plant worker. (Ew. I second that.)
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Welcome. Or, Welcome, Garrett. If He's using our earth names in Heaven.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Letter to Four-Year-Old Will

Dear Four-Year-Old,

I'm sorry I'm writing this a month late, as though I forgot it was your birthday. It's true that, half the time, when I have to tell someone your birthday I get I tongue tied and mix up the date with your dad's or shout out the wrong year but I absolutely do know when it is. It's just that I didn't write because your grandparents were here and then Garrett's appendix exploded and he spent five nights in the hospital and then baseball finally started up and life happened and I kept needing to sit down and write and suddenly it was a month later.

Third child. I'm sorry.

Although, in actuality, if you had the energy of a regular child and not the intense energy of a blazing supernova, I might have more time. The truth is, I almost never write anymore and my reading pile continues to grow. I have good intentions to read and write. There's just little follow through.

I don't even know where to begin with this year. A year ago, we had just found out we were picking up our whole entire lives and hauling them over the river and through the woods to Dallas, Oregon. You still ask when you can go back and see your old house on Sunflower. Even though the street we lived on was called Starflower. It breaks my heart. I can also see you holding on to vague memories of people the way I try to reach for the contents of a dream as I'm waking up. I grasp but it slips through my fingers like spider webs. You will recall a memory and give me great details, but you rarely remember names anymore. It breaks my heart to realize that, in time, most of Utah won't even be a memory for you.

You've got such a smart brain. You can learn things so quickly when you take a deep breath and concentrate on the task at hand. Covid-19 hit in March and preschool was canceled so I home schooled you. You learned all of your letters and their sounds in record speed. I'm so proud of you for starting to learn sight words now. You're working on numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons and so much more. When we do shapes, you can even name the rhombus, the pentagon and the hexagonal prism.

It's been such a weird year with the move and starting preschool and Covid hitting and shutting down your world for months and months. Finally, FINALLY, you had your first t-ball practice. I assume you're the youngest on the team and, of course, you're crushing the ball. It was evident tonight, however, that we need to work on base running. You would just take off and sprint in whatever direction you saw fit. I'm not surprised that you were making great contact because, at your own home, you can hit a pitch over the fence--and do. We've had to retrieve many a ball from a neighbor's yard.

We play together every day and it is so fun to watch your creative mind at work. Playdoh, the doctor kit, Lincoln Logs, the magnet board, the drill set, play food, and Legos are some of the favorites when we have our special play time together. Speaking of Legos, you will sit and build them for very long stretches. I am so thankful for Legos. My feet and my compulsion to have a decluttered home are not actually in love with Legos, however. I'm also thankful for Disney+ which has provided many distractions during these strange times of isolation.

You love fruit and we joke that we cannot buy grapes or berries of any kind because you will walk by all day, taking them by the gobs. I guess if you're going to be a little pig, at least you're a healthy little pig. You're certainly growing! You are now in the 82nd percentile for height and the 67th for weight. Standing at 42 inches tall, you are now able to ride every single thing at Disneyland except for the roller coaster and Indiana Jones and some other ride that no one cares about. I think it might be the swings. Naturally, now, all I want to do is take you to Disneyland. But I can't. Because Disneyland is closed. Stupid world pandemic.

Maybe next year.

This year, you told me that you wanted Jesus to be in your heart so that you could go up to Heaven some day. So we prayed. Your little voice committing, as much as a tiny kid can, to follow Jesus was the sweetest thing. I know it's a tiny child's faith and it will need cultivating and watering and teaching so that it can grow, but it's a start--the most important of starts.

I love you so much. I hope that in it all and through it all, when you look back, you can see that love measured in support and marked in ten minute increments, first/thens, and, "Great job, Wills!" I hope you can one day see my dedication to the shaping and forming of you. You are the embodiment of my answered prayer as you run around with underwear on your head.

All my love, always,
Mom