{Site currently under construction. Grace for my mess?}

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Over and Over...Still. {Part 2: On Depression and Anxiety}


My last post may have given the impression that I'm in the Anne Shirley condition these days, in the "depths of despair"…"a perfect graveyard of buried hopes."

It's not really the case, and I'm okay, for the record.

I can write vulnerably about depression and anxiety because I have some distance from the valley these days, and I'm blessed that I've never had to sit in that valley too very long without Hope and Light and Truth.

Sometimes, though, I need to drive through the old neighborhood with the windows rolled up, lock eyes with the brothers and the dealers, the pushers and the hustlers, and keep on driving.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face (the hymn goes) and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

It all sounds too easy, I know. Jesus with the cape and the white horse, who swoops in and rescues and the earth goes dim and the credits roll.

Except he rode a donkey and not a white horse, and the whole rescuing business is a lot muddier and bloodier than maybe we're wont to recount. We come back to the rescue day by day and sometimes, minute by minute, and we learn and we heal. Because the beauty is so consuming that it's all we might be tempted to say, the rescue is so very worth it.

But there is still an old neighborhood. There are broken hearts and people who don't know and are just tired of all the mud and the battle. For them, and for us when we forget to cling tight, the things of earth are raw and real and not strangely dim at all. So we tell our truths, go back into the valley when we can, when we're secured tightly to the harness of Grace, and extend healed hands but not clean ones and do what we can to help them turn their eyes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Over and over and over and over

It is odd and unseasonably chilly, rain shooting sideways and trees pummeled, assaulted by wind and rain and it's exactly how I feel today, assaulted by too many voices, too many hands and needs, pummeled by the daily drudgery of bills and water leaks and bad news and work and emails. I am sleeping too long and my patience too short and there is guilt.

So much guilt.

The bookshelf boasts a worn copy of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and I see it and nod to no one in the room because it feels like company. It is the twin brothers that suffocate, Depression and Anxiety, and they intertwine around me, strangle with bony fingers like they did Sylvia with her head in the oven.

I know what Sylvia did not know. I know how to loosen their grip, but the busyness and responsibility of mothering widens the gap and in the midst of suffocation, I am playing Matchbox cars and pouring apple juice and my soul screams silently all the while.

It all makes me a little bit crazier: Metal wheels on coffee table, boys sniffing snot over and over until my own tongue tastes salty, and the sound of humming, water running, cartoon laughter, unending questions. The click-clack of plastic building blocks fitting together while I simultaneously come undone.


My heart calls to Him, guttural, like a battle cry and a curse word… a whispery, groaning plea.

This? This is how I battle the brothers, laid bare before the One.

I tear open lace curtains with grubby fingers for a glimpse of foggy vapor and drenched treetops, gasping for beauty like air and through panes I am flooded by green, poured over with Love.

And healed.

It is momentary and to be healed, we are always returning, over and over and over and over to the cross.

So I fold it over and over and over in my hands, the olive wood crucifix my in-laws brought me from Jerusalem, until it splinters my fingers and makes them bleed.  

This is healing… turning the cross over and over in the heart, in the mind, like I do in the hand, letting it splinter straight through and draw blood and breath and bring me back to life.

{Read part 2 of this post, here: Over and over... still. Why go back to the old neighborhood?

Linking to: Imperfect Prose on Thursdays at Emily's place.

Might you also consider pre-ordering Emily's book for those with loved ones struggling through an eating disorder, and spread love for the broken and hurting? Consider it for your church or school library, perhaps? 


Friday, May 25, 2012

Not One but FOUR Book Reviews!

Heaven in Her Arms by Catherine Hickem

The tagline on the cover reads, "Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You." It is never a bad idea to get parenting advice from the mother who had it better than all other mothers and the mother who had it harder than all other mothers, Mary. Mary is the mother from whom we can learn about selfless love, fostering independence, managing joy and grief. The book unfolds all the appearances of Mary in Scripture, the circumstances surrounding them, and what we can learn. Written by a licensed psychotherapist (Catherine Hickem), the book deals with many of our greatest fears and failures as mothers, and how we can learn to overcome them by Mary's example.

The book was overall very helpful and informative. As an advocate for foster care and adoption, though, I found a real damper on the wisdom here to be the author's approach/attitude toward adoption. The author is an adoptive parent and admires God's faithfulness in providing her with an adoptive child that "met all the criteria on her requirement list" (must be born from older, married, Christian parents, medium-high level of intelligence, and no drug history in the family, pg. 30-31) and her suggestion that God wishes adoptive children to resemble their adoptive families (pg. 38).

To be frank, that spoiled the book for me. What about all the other children out there? What about the kids who don't fit on the list of "desirable" qualities? What about the abundance of minority children in foster care needing families with a prevalence of Caucasian adoptive parents? I don't personally believe that God creates each child to physically "favor the very family that will raise him or her as their own" (pg. 38). I think it's a narrow-minded approach that suggests we can pick and choose our preferences regarding our responsibility to care for these children, and it sours my stomach to think of this presented as a holy perspective. I do believe God hand-picks each family for each child, but not that we can put superficial parameters like hair color or IQ score on our willingness to help kids in need.   

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me a free copy of this book through BookSneeze.com in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.


God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren, art by Laura J. Bryant

This is an 18-page kids book for children ages 0-3 by WaterBrook Press. It tells and illustrates the story of Mama Bear and Little Cub, a fuzzy little girl bear, tucked in her bed, asking, "Mama, where did I come from?" Mama Bear recounts the story of many little bears and babies everywhere, two praying parents, growing tummies, doctor's visits and the birth of a healthy, whole baby Little Cub, a gift from God.

My 4-year-old son nuzzled down and enjoyed the story, particularly the playful illustrations. I felt it was a good book to help answer young children's questions about pregnancy/birth, but I would recommend that you skip this one for any child who isn't born under the parameters above. The way it's written could cause some discomfort for the child not born to two praying parents, in a healthy pregnancy with a doctor-assisted delivery, and a healthy, normal birth. It's a cute, heart-warming book but doesn't make exceptions or leave room for other family circumstances such as adoption, foster, disabilities, home births, NICU, non-traditional families, etc., unless perhaps you'd like to use it as a catalyst to engage in discussion about what's different in your family than in Little Cub's.  

Find more info about the book here.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Want to Tell You...

I have so much to tell you.

I want to tell you about the book projects I'm working on, how I am seeing God these days in beautiful, Technicolor fingerprints and quiet windy whispers and grass blades on bare feet.

I want to tell you about the books I'm reading and how they're changing and shaping me, reminding me who I am and the beauty all around. 

I want to tell you about the adoption and how we're closer than ever before but also so very far away, how I am terrified and beautified by the process, and how waiting for more children in this house is like no other kind of anticipation in the world, not even childbirth.

I want to show you my home, like I've promised a dozen times. I want to invite you in, I want a housewarming right here in the living room with each and every one of you, even though I've been here 6 months already (how could it be?).

I want to tell you about the new church we're attending, how amazing and beautifully different it is and all the ways I've split open there in its grassy amphitheater.  

I want to tell you the hilarious things little C is saying these days, how totally amazing this time is with him and the tiny way I'm grieving that my days at home alone with him are coming to an end, at the same time watching big C go all man-like before my eyes and my beautiful girl with the manicure and her own guitar is impossibly not a baby anymore.

I want to apologize for not reading blogs lately. There's just so much and always never enough at once.

I want to tell you why I decided to remove most of the advertising from this blog and why I left some here.

Mostly, I want to tell you how much I love you and wish I was spending more time around here but walk through every day in the support of all of you, my absolutely amazing friends, my support system, the borders of my heart. I want to tell you how amazing you are, each and every one of you. 

His love, to you, to-day. <3

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Acting Like One

"You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One."

At least, that's what Jeff Goins tells us to do. He believes in his message so much, he's hosting a contest for his readers at http://youareawriter.com... and he wrote a book about it.

{Go buy it. I'll wait.}

So about this contest...

What's the craziest thing you've ever done to tell the world you're a writer…to tell yourself and make yourself believe it? 

Oh boy. 

This, perhaps?

I've been a writer as long as I remember, scribbling stories about elves on ripped notebook paper in my childhood bedroom, then later, heart-bare teenage angst about boyfriends (or the lack thereof). I never stopped writing but at some point I stopped believing I could "make it" as a writer and tucked my work into journal pages and computer folders, never to see the light of day.

I poured over the craft, unleashing myself to the words, to the page, and gazing starry-eyed at the authors I admired, the ones whose name splashed across book covers in block letters, the dream I couldn't dare to dream.

Until I did.

Someone once said that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I think, too, people are about as successful. Your definition of success may be different from mine, but all in all, your state of mind and what you declare about yourself has a lot to do with where you are and where you're going.

I was tired of people asking, "What do you do?" and not feeling the freedom to tell them I was a writer. I believed you weren't a writer until your name was on the cover a book and I believed I wasn't good enough for that, that I'd fail miserably and lose the only thing I was good at.  

The problem with that attitude, by the way is that writers write books. There will be no book cover if you aren't already a writer. I always knew I'd write forever, it was as much a part of me as my elbows, my eardrums…or more so. But fear paralyzed me from taking myself seriously and no one read my work. I didn't dare bring that which I loved most onto the chopping block. It was too sacred.

With no one to write for, the words became few. I talked myself into a more sensible career and tended to my family… and ached with the weight of what was trapped within.

To save myself, to save my gift, to resurrect the dream... I had to become what I already was. 

I made a choice I couldn't hide and I couldn't back down from and did what any normal, totally sane person would do and headed for the tattoo shop, branding myself with what I shied away from so easily. Making a declaration to the universe, to myself, the needle rose and fell, depositing lifelong ink beneath the skin of my wrist, blazing the badge that told the whole world. 

I am a writer.

Because when people ask about it (and everyone does), I have to declare myself to be what I am branded with. I have to present myself, despite my fears, as that which I know I am. I have to submit my work and keep trying because every day I see it, every day I explain it, and every day somebody asks what I'm working on. It's been a helluva motivator, I gotta tell ya.  

Because I fight hard against the odds, the fears, the failures and internal messages that threaten to kill the dream for me and this…this reflects the message that I cannot separate myself from writing. It's in me, it's on me, it is me.

Because when I grab the remote control or write checks or text on my cell phone, I see it. It reminds me what my hands ought to be doing. 

It was and is my only tattoo. Before I got it I hadn't published a single thing. (Daring move, I know.) I wasn't a writer yet…not by anyone else's standards, but I couldn't start there. I had to be a writer, believe I was a writer, to become a writer.

After? I published three magazine articles the month I got the tattoo, the first three I ever submitted. I started a blog. I won contests. I got sponsorships to writer's conferences. I had several pieces accepted for community book projects. I found serious joy in the thing I believe I was put here to be and to do.

After the joy, after the belief and the declaration, others started to believe it too. Publishers. Strangers. Tomorrow, I will be sending in a book proposal.

Now? The name-on-the-cover thing is just icing on the cake. It doesn't validate me or give me value, it simply confirms what I have already declared, what was declared about me when I was being created.

I am a writer.  

I don't believe anymore that you have to be published to be a writer. What I believe, though, is that you have to brand your mind and your heart with a permanence and a declaration and that you have to believe it to be true about yourself before anyone else will believe it about you. 

You are a writer.

Now start acting like one. 

Get. This. eBook. http://youareawriter.com
Do it. Right now, Slacker. Time's a' wastin'.

What's the craziest way you can think of to declare yourself a writer and announce it to the world? 

When It's All Too Much

Our church's outdoor service. <3

I grit teeth and I say it too loud, too edgy. Please, be quiet. Eat your dinner.

And I mean it but don't say it, For the love of all that is holy, stop driving me mad.

It has been a hard day. A frustrating, two-steps back kind of day with the sort of adoption news I was praying against and this just-fine-sized home feeling awfully crowded with chatter and stained clothes, today. 

Too much buzz, too much energy, too much old jelly plastered in fingerprints to the side of refrigerator like purple glue globs. I glance my own face in the mirror and my eyes won't even rise the whole way, drooping over worn skin, freckled like my mother's, tired eyes green like my boys'. There is no life in mine to speak of, no love. Somehow they look paper thin like my skin and the rest of me melts into transparency too.

I will it but the chatter doesn't stop, the skinned knees, flushing toilet, flickering lights and slamming screen door. Crashing bikes. Skipping sandals. Bickering brothers. 

Loud stadium voices, train-station voices, cacophonous circus voices.

It feels like assault and all too much.

It bubbles in and up and out through my mouth. I need to get quiet. I need to hear, to listen.

I think we'll skip church tomorrow to get it, to get quiet. I need quiet before the Lord, I think, over and over and over, just quiet. Just quiet.

Be quiet.

I flip open pages and by no coincidence I happen upon it.

"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."

And a glance to the opposite page sings the tune of my heart.

"Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."

It rips open and I know we will go. We will go to lift hands and sing loud and sing long and marvel barefoot at the open sky because in summer, this is the way we worship. It is the single thing I love best about church these days. We will get loud before the LORD to quiet the sounds which steal our postures of praise. We will savor wafer and wine and let it transform. We will go out weeping and return with songs of joy.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord. Indeed

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Kind of Girl Who Brings Herself Daisies

Daisies droop, dying over the edge of the hurricane glass, the one with the hotel logo on it from our family vacation last October.

Some of them with broken stems, some jut out in odd directions, some curl around themselves to get a better view of the light.

I am trying to become the kind of girl who brings herself daisies.

On Mother's Day, I set into the side yard with red-handled scissors. The blades are sticky with popsicle residue and I guess these are all the signs of summer before me. White pedals crawled with aphids and spiders, yellow pollen torturous, but allergies or not, sometimes a girl's just gotta have flowers.

I gathered two bundles, one for the hurricane glass and one for the porch deck, in a red polka-dotted water bottle. Those were dead by Tuesday, even with the air and the wind and the sunshine pouring upon them. The ones inside survive, barely, but they're here, rag-tag and awkward and a lot like me.

Writing is what writing does…and writing, today, is bringing myself literary daisies, quietly rejoicing in all the signs of summer.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Behaving Badly

Can I be honest? It was a disappointing Mother's Day.

I started the day plunging a clogged toilet and it went downhill from there. Sibling rivalry, laundry mountains, ant infestations, and being caught embarrassingly empty-handed when my stepmother-in-law stopped by unexpectedly to bring me a mom's day gift and I, in my absentmindedness, had nothing for her…not even a card.

I silently fumed when the History channel's war-themed programming filled the morning and there was no breakfast in bed, no sweet hugs, no happy greetings or appreciative speeches, just the usual sports and work talk I resented hearing.

I gritted my teeth when my husband asked me to rub his aching back, trying hard not to mention the state of my own agonizing aches, and again later when I woke him up from his nap with a yawn since I had been up most of the night listening to him snore.

I tore into the card he had picked up the night before, reading his haphazardly signed name and noting the absence of more names, no crayon-scrawled signatures to speak of. No wrapping paper or roses, no special dinner, foot rubs, pancakes, or heart-shaped necklaces. No thoughtful diatribe…just a few jotted words, an obligatory sentiment…an afterthought.

It was just as any other Sunday. Chaos, church, cranky kids. I cleaned up countless dog messes and we don't even own a dog (we're dog-sitting). I bandaged boo-boos and refereed bickering children, washed dishes, cooked dinner, cleaned toilets, overlooked homework, managed bath time, handled poison oak and undertook the usual onslaught of daily drudgery that is my life.

I just wanted a day. One day. One trip to the bathroom without hollering and pounding on the door. One hour of blissful napping while someone else hushed the children for a change. One meal's dishes not waiting for me in the sink. One car ride without wrestling the car seat's buckles or intercepting backseat battles. 

One day.

Instead, I got what I always get…tears and blood, body fluids and bickering, dirty dishes and mounds of laundry. I got more tired with each hour, more frustrated, more entitled. Every interruption made my disposition chip away. I waved goodbye to my husband as he headed to work for the night and continued the grind…dinner, homework, bath time, bedtime stories. I glanced again, alone in a pout, at the romantic movie that had lost its appeal. Who wants to watch a romantic movie when they're alone, ticked off, and disillusioned with romance altogether?

I'd have to watch it alone because my husband was at work. On week two without a day off, working two full-time jobs at once while he transitions into a new position. I have a laundry mountain to fold because I have healthy, happy children who play hard and dirty their clothes and a washer and dryer to clean them. I have dishes in the sink because we're nourished every day and despite our financial challenges, we have what we need.

I long for a moment in the bathroom alone, for a shower in peace. I haven't had that experience in ages because I have a boy who loves his mother, who misses me desperately when we're apart, even if just for a moment. I have older children who know I'm there for them, all the time, no matter what, even when I'm tired or cranky or wishing silently to pee in peace.

Tomorrow my hands will itch and burn from accepting the bouquet of an eager young boy, handing me handful of poison oak leaves as a beautiful gift while I recited the rhyme in my head, "Leaves of three, let them be." He was trying, in his tiny way, to honor his mama on this special day, and through the inconvenience… can I even see that? Can I see the gifts of this day through the cloud of entitlement and disappointment?

Can I see them lined up one by one, the gifts I longed to be free from for just one day? If I had gotten my wish to break away from all of this for some sought after peace, what would be better than these signs of life? A few minutes of sleep? Another necklace in my jewelry box?

How about an opportunity to kiss the little blonde head while snapping plastic buckles on the car seat, to teach my bickering children about forgiveness, to wipe tears off skinned knees, to show grace to my husband who works hard and loves well? When I'm feeling unappreciated, overwhelmed, always on…will I miss the gift of honor here, will I forget that it is pure gift to get to do these things, that I can do these things?

I still want a nap, a massage, someone else to do the dishes for a change, but I will tear metaphorical paper off the gifts disguised as inconveniences today, rejoice in them and in the Giver, and hope I am better behaved tomorrow.

Linking to: www.aholyexperience.com {technical difficulties preventing me from adding the link-up graphic}

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pimples, Ulcers, and Gin in the Cat Dish

A friend of mine is currently struggling through the early phases of a season of parenting known as oh-God-help-me-I-have-a-teenager-who-hates-me syndrome (AKA: adolescence).

The symptoms of OGHMIHATWHM syndrome are mostly exhibited by the child in question and encompass a great deal of eye rolling, moodiness, heavy sighs, general apathy, and extreme embarrassment at the very existence of her mother.

In her case, it is also accompanied by an equally as horrendous case of oh-dear-God-my-teenage-daughter-has-a-boyfriend syndrome (ODGMTHAB) and this particular affliction causes symptoms mostly exhibited in the parent in question such as hyperventilation, paranoia, headaches, ulcers, anxious prayers, irrational thinking, heavy drinking, and general desperation. Concurrent symptoms exist with the child in question and include declining grades, hours in front of the mirror, hair flipping, thumb strain (from texting), and starry eyes.

I've spent a lot of time with my friend lately and have observed the whole thing unfold before her horrified eyes. Just a few minutes ago, she held this wiggly infant girl in a swaddled bundle and looked adoringly at her, never dreaming this moment would come. Now, off she rockets into the world, leaving her fretting mother in her wake. Just listen, child… I have so much to tell you. There is so much you have to learn for what's ahead of you.

I look at my oldest son, who will himself cross over that coveted 13th birthday this summer, breaking the rite-of-passage marathon tape and probably hurdling me headlong into my own case of OGHMIHATWHM. These two babies used to play together, watched cartoons and toddled around in diapered butts together, but now they're walking time-bombs… pimpled monsters of their own making. And I'm about to join the ranks of shell-shocked parents everywhere, looking longingly at their infant children dangling car keys and squealing out of sight.

So, there's that. (Cheers.)

Being the still cool and collected outsider in the whole debacle has given me a bit of perspective and unfortunately, a clear view into the mirror. I'm a few decades past my own eye-rolling, pimple-popping, boy-swooning days but I imagine, in God's eyes, I haven't grown up all that much.

Here's my loving parent, walking me through life with compassion and grace, teaching me, guiding me, giving me wisdom for every situation, and here I am, rolling my eyes at His ways, smacking my gum and trying desperately to go my own way.

I know He's immune to the paranoid delusion that accompanies parenting teenagers, but I wonder still if I wound His heart with my rebellion… if my desperate attempts at being liked by others, at seeking after my own happiness whether it's good for me or not causes Him grief… or as Anne Lamott says, "makes Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish."

When He longs for me to turn my heart to His, I flip my hair and roll my eyes and pick up my cell phone to text a friend. When His book of wisdom sits collecting dust, I whine to my friends about my troubles, simple unable to imagine a way out of the mess I've made of things. He stands waiting in the wings and I turn my back in rebellion to find my independence, to make my own way.

My friend's daughter will grow out of it. They'll find their footing in the awkward stage of adolescence and eventually, she'll be grateful for her mom's tireless presence in the midst of her toughest years. Or at least, she'll need a ride to the mall.

But I wonder if I'll ever grow out of it. Will I ever draw close enough to my Father's heart that my own ways don't glitter with intrigue? Will I ever grow out of the awkward dance of being young enough to still need Him but not always wanting Him in charge?

Father, forgive me for my spiritual adolescence, for needing you and wanting your gifts, but chasing after my own ways. Help me to have faith like a child but the wisdom of maturity to hold tight to your hand when my desires lead me astray. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On My Night Table.

My book list, this month-ish. 

Well, to be fair, I've been reading Jon Courson's Commentary for over a year now. Just about halfway through.  The rest of these are in various stages of bookmark-edness and eardog-edness.

Which is to say, I'm a book hoarder. I often read dozens of titles at once. Much like everything else in my life, I don't read linearly. Well, I try not to jump pages or anything, but I'm ever and always switching between this book and the next, stealing a minute or two here and there to plug my way through them. 

What about you? What are you reading these days?