Wonky is the word

I want to write a blog post that includes the word wonky.

As in, my eight year old’s emotions are wonky. Or, my new bangs are a little wonky today.

Delving deeper, man, this world is wonky. I don’t get it.

But most often, my forty year old body, brain, and hormones are totally wonky.

Have a seat, pour some coffee. Let me tell you all about it.

Like, I haven’t had an unmedicated decent night’s sleep since July. I’m tired all the time. I’m usually grumpy and occasionally funk-y. I wake up sweating, even though the thermostat is set to 72 and the fan is going full-speed. And despite taking better care of myself than I ever have during my whole entire existence, I’ve gained ten pounds around my middle in the last five years. My clothes don’t fit. (Some may say, “it’s about time!”—but I am not happy about this. This does not work for me. AT ALL.) And then there’s that other thing, which is not a thing, and that makes this particular thing a huge thing.

(Some of you are completely lost on that last one. And some of you are spitting your coffee onto your computer screen. Sorry ‘bout that.)

I’ve never been a great sleeper, but this is getting ridiculous. One night last week, I fell into bed exhausted, rested for two hours, then got up and unloaded and loaded the dishwasher (very quietly), cleaned the kitchen, changed a can light, cleaned out my office, did a load of laundry, and folded and put away the clean clothes from earlier that week. From 2:00 to 4:00 a.m. I had more energy in the middle of that night than I had for any daytime hours in the past two months.

Wonky.

I went to a Special Doctor this week. When I checked in, the nice girl at the desk handed me a form and told me to circle my symptoms. There were several different categories with corresponding symptoms, and every single one of my reasons for being at that office where under the subheading HORMONAL IMBALANCE.

Shocker.

I am so ready to de-wonkify. I think that should be a word.

The Special Doctor talked with me for a while, and we formulated a plan to have some blood work done over the course of the next two months, which will hopefully allow us to find a solution to All The Wonkiness. In the meantime, she suggested some nutritional changes and supplements that may reduce my levels of wonky.

She gave me two handouts: one for an “anti-inflammatory diet” and another one called “21-Day Cleanse.” Not surprisingly, they included lots of fruits and vegetables, no artificial anything, no chemicals, no preservatives. But also: no grains, no dairy, no animal protein, no sugar, no high glycemic fruits, no starches, no potatoes, no legumes.

I laughed. This is soooo not sustainable.

I decided to use the powdered supplements and make better food choices, even though I eat pretty well already.

(Coffee counts as breakfast, right?)

(No, it doesn’t.)

NEWS FLASH: you have to eat to function.  And you have to eat well to function well. My bra fat was yelling so loudly, I couldn’t hear that bit of information.

After two days of vitamin supplements and healthy(er) food, I was not dragging through the day. I have had significantly more energy. I am sleeping better. My mood has improved (except for that morning when it was time to leave and Nathan was watching TV and hadn’t made his lunch <—epic mama fail). So things are looking up. Mostly.

And let’s not forget. School is in session. Summer, I do not miss you at all. (Yet.) Yes, things are definitely looking up.

I turned forty a few weeks ago. Forty is not nearly as old as it used to be. I vividly remember my parents’ fortieth birthdays, and they were old. Like, totally ancient. I don’t feel ancient. I just feel wonky.

But it’s fine. It’s okay. I will be okay. My story isn’t finished, there are more chapters to write. Sticky, sweaty, wonky chapters, full of mood swings and manic cleaning spells. The good news is (other than the wonkiness), forty fits me well. I’m growing more and more comfortable with who I am, and I’m learning daily to battle shame and insignificance with resilience and confidence. It’s not so bad.

Wonky is the new twenty.

Flying monkeys, a rat, and a tatt

Holy mother of CheezWhiz. We made it.

I think—no, I know—if my kids and I had one additional day of summertime togetherness, we would be minus one family member. At least. With one more day of vacation, we might have resorted to an all-out brawl, and we would have taken out every last one of us. A fight to the death. No one comes out alive.

Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Blessedly, my friends, school is in session.

BOO-YAH.

I can’t even. I mean, I love my kids. I really, really do. But eleven weeks is too much time to spend 24/7 with even the loveliest of cherubs. And y’all. I do not parent cherubs. If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would have a long list of adjectives to describe my darlings, and “cherubic” would not be one of them. Not even top fifty. Maybe top 100…but that’s optimistic at best for the end of August.

I’m guessing you might relate? Or perhaps I am the only mom whose teenager, preteen, and pre-preteen are FRIGGIN’ EXPERTS in every possible topic of conversation, and their number one goal in life is to TAKE DOWN their siblings with their domination of accuracy.

And I suppose I am the only mom whose kids disobey the rules they don’t particularly like, because MOOOOMMMMM and rolling the eyes. And whose kids are completely blind when it comes to the trail of crap they leave in every blessed room of the house, and deaf when it comes to hearing instructions to CLEAN UP YOUR MESS, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. And who will do it in a minute or after this show or later because obviously I am an idiot who likes to be ignored when I repeat myself fifty-seven times.

No? Just me?

When my ears and head ached from All The Bickering And Crap, I reached into my back pocket and played my ace. Three words, my friends:

Harry. Potter. Marathon.

No one talks to me or to each other. No one argues. No one physically touches another human being. No one makes a mess. We just sit in a dark, quiet room and watch eighteen hours of glorious, magical greatness. Theoretically.

(We didn’t quite make it through all eighteen hours. More like ten and a half. But still.)

You would think flying broomsticks and spells and enchantments and witty, brilliant storytelling would put a nice, cozy damper on sibling rivalry and uncivil disobedience and mess making.

You would be wrong. So very wrong.

So I had to pull out the big guns. Or rather, the big bucket of soapy vinegar water, along with a few washrags. That’s right, my pretty little flying monkeys: you fight, you clean. You play nice? You get a break. You keep fighting? You keep cleaning. I have a long list.

Y’all. I ran out of things for them to clean. I’m not even kidding.

The day before The Day of Greatness And Celebration, when we were nearing the end of Please Go Away Or I Will Take You Down, I retreated to the backyard to break Pool Rule #1: No one swims alone. But sometimes, you break the rules to avoid breaking necks.

I laid facedown on a raft, arms over my head, listening to the peaceful water flowing freely, the chirp of the birds, the whisper of the wind, and for one moment, I took a deep breath and relaxed. No sounds of bickering children, no yelling, no sulking, no whining. Just me and the peaceful nature sounds…and a little tickle on my right arm.

I looked up. A very large rodent was swimming in my pool. Next to me. And across my arm.

The words that emerged from my lips I will leave to your imagination. But it involved some PG-13 version of

SERIOUSLY?!? 

I am choosing to believe that my new friend was an exceptionally well-fed mouse and not a rat because mice are cute and eat leaves and grass and berries, whereas rats are ugly and mean and eat garbage.

I jumped off my raft, out of the pool, and scooped up the mouse with the pool net, then dumped him over the iron fence. I’ve never seen a mouse run so fast. Scurry home, little friend. Return to your family. And stay out of my friggin’ pool.

Sigh.

But then.

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Oh happy day when the teachers took my kids away. Bless you, teachers. Bless your blessed names. Bless your seven hour school days. Tag, you’re it. Bless you. Good luck.

The first week, I sat in my newly de-noised, de-argumented, de-bickeringed, de-MOOOOOOMMMMed house. By myself. And I smiled. I watched a movie with a friend, sat and drank coffee on my front porch with another friend, read a book, grocery shopped alone…and then I did this:

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Feel free to cybernettically high-five me. Or shake your head in dismay. Whatever suits you.

(My very Southern mother is already fretting over what kind of dress I can wear to my now-14 year old daughter’s wedding that will hide it. “Couldn’t you have put it somewhere less conspicuous?” Um. Visibility is kind of the point. Covering up our authentic selves for the sake of social acceptability so we can appear to have it all together? Modernism, you did us no favors.)

Both my mother and mother-in-law (and I imagine other well-seasoned grownups) expressed concern about Michael’s involvement in this entire deal. To clarify:

  1. He is my equal partner, not my boss.
  2. OF COURSE he knew. As if I would make this kind of decision without him.
  3. He was and is completely supportive, and while he has no desire (at the moment) to get a tattoo himself, he celebrates my courage and my self-expression.
  4. He went with me…and took pictures. And laughed at me. A lot.

To answer the obvious question, eshet chayil means “woman of valor.” It also implies a warrior. I discovered these inspiring Hebrew words last year while reading Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood. (Read it. You can thank me later.)

The words are found in Proverbs 31, which we Christian women have fashioned into a club with which to beat ourselves to a bloody pulp. We’ve turned Proverbs 31 into a damned checklist of everything a good Christian woman must do and be (“she rises before dawn and provides food for her family” <—lost me. I’ll hit snooze; the cereal is in the pantry. Bon appetite.)

We’ve distorted the true purpose of Proverbs 31: a celebration of who we are. It is a song that Jewish men sing over their wives to proclaim their amazingness—their collective amazingness.

I love that so much.

(Jen Hatmaker and RHE give us these words, which sum up the heart of eshet chayil much better than I could. Brilliantly and truthfully genius.)

So several years ago, I got the idea of ringing in my fortieth birthday with something I never, ever thought I’d do. I’ve mulled it over, not knowing which image or word I would have permanently affixed to my person, but knowing when the time was right, it would make itself known. And then it did.

I’ve spent the last forty years being a good girl, a rule-follower, a straight-and-narrow kind of gal. I never deviated, never rebelled. I always endeavored to do the right thing. Again and again and again. And unwittingly, I placed enormous pressure on myself to be All That. To do everything right. To check off the boxes. To be worthy and admirable. To be enough. I ignored the fact that God already sings over me—and you. That we don’t have to worry about what we haven’t accomplished, what is left undone, what we haven’t perfected. That it’s okay to instead celebrate who we already are and what we’ve already accomplished.

So it was time. It was time to step away from Sandra Dee and be a little more Rizzo. A little less country and a little more rock ‘n roll. Less Cool Whip, more Pace Picante. Less Beth Moore, more Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.

It was time to tatt.

(To be fair, I realize getting a tattoo is not NEARLY as subversive as it was several years ago. Tattoos are not only for the sailors and motorcycle thugs anymore. It’s almost socially defiant to NOT be tatted. So my delayed rebellion has lost a little spice, but it still rings significant to me.)

My sisters, God proclaims over us, Eshet Chayil! Woman of valor! Warrior! Look at what she’s done! Isn’t she wonderful?

That’s where I want my heart to rest. That’s my identity, my peace, my contentment. I choose to focus not on what I lack, but who I am.

So, yes. I am grossly impatient and irritable at the end of the summer. My kids make me crazy. But.

I planned an amazing family vacation. Eshet chayil!

I took them to the library. More than once. Eshet chayil!

I drove them to Kingdom Come and back home again. Eshet chayil!

I scooped a rat mouse out of our pool, and I was not afraid. Eshet chayil!

I bought a gazillion school supplies for my kids and kids who had none. Eshet chayil!

I didn’t throw up, pass out, or run away at the tattoo parlor. (I almost did, but I didn’t.) Eshet chayil!

I ACTUALLY WROTE A BLOG POST!!! Eshet chayil-lalujah.

I was so nervous that day at the tattoo parlor. I was shaking. When I first talked to the artist about what I wanted to do, I lifted my foot to point out the spot on my ankle—and I couldn’t balance on one leg. Crap. What am I doing? Am I making a hasty decision? Is this really what I want to do? Am I doing it for the right reasons? Crapcrapcrapcrap…okay, let’s go. Let’s jump. Here we go…

After he finished, I looked in the mirror. Wow. WOW! I like it. I really like it. It fits me. I am so glad I didn’t wimp out.

Eshet chayil.

Every day, I will remind myself. I won’t forget. My tatt will redirect my thoughts, those voices in my head that want me to believe I am not enough, that I need to do more, that I need to be better. Shut up, my tatt will say. This is a woman of valor. This is a warrior. She will always be enough.

On the days when I lose it. Eshet chayil.

On the days when I forget whatever I was supposed to remember. Eshet chayil.

When Pinterest threatens to whittle my soul into tiny, handpainted, precious pieces. Eshet chayil.

When I can’t stay awake for another second and take a nap before lunch. Eshet chayil.

For the times unkind words slip out of my mouth and I wish I could take them back. Eshet chayil.

Every day. No matter what. Eshet chayil.

Now. If you’ll pardon me, I need to get my eshet together and put these flying monkeys to bed.

BOO-YAH.

Funk & swaddle

Today I am sad, but not unhappy. Or perhaps unhappy, but not sad. Whatever it is, it refuses to be labeled or categorized or explained. I don’t know where it came from or what it’s doing or where it’s going.

I’m in a funk.

No reason, really. None that I can think of anyway. I’m tired—but this feels like more than sleep-depravation. I’m a little hungry—but this isn’t low blood sugar. This is a funk of the cloudiest kind. I want to crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my face, not to sleep, but to hide. I’d like to escape for a little while and pretend that All The Stuff outside my bedroom door will magically disappear. That’s when I know I’m not doing well.

I know it’s more than exhaustion and hunger when the music playing through the intercom at my doctor’s office causes my throat to constrict and my eyes to water. My chest tightens, and I take a slow, deep breath. The low, melancholy, instrumental music should relax me, but instead my shoulders slump under its weight.

Driving home, the music on the radio produced the same effect.

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life? 

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too 

I grieve the loss of youth—foolish, naive, unaware; opportunities missed and others wasted; words misspoken and misunderstood. I hate the realization that my kids will never again be babies, toddlers, preschoolers—and that, in the haze of exhaustion and exasperation, I missed it. And I hate knowing my baby girl—the one with the spring-loaded curls and chipped front tooth, the one walking on her tippy-toes and spinning and dancing to the radio—will be a high school freshman in the fall. I hate knowing the next four years will pass much more quickly than the last fourteen.

I loathe the roll of skin that rests over my waistband, and the way my back undulates and curves under my t-shirt. I curse the name of the fashionista who decided low-rise jeans are The Thing—while, in the same breath, telling my daughter that looks don’t matter. I miss my metabolism. I miss eating ice cream and pizza and syrupy soda without fear, without thought.

I’ve had enough of the snowy white skunk stripe along the part in my dark, thinning hair. I don’t like the lines around my eyes and mouth, how my complexion  has morphed from soft and youthful to muddled and wrinkled—at least in a magnified mirror. I resent the ways my body aches and creaks and burns—sometimes from activity, sometimes in rest, for no apparent reason except to remind me I am no longer as young as I was, yet not as old as I will be.

So today I am sad. I just am. It will pass.

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Like every perfectionist, naive, gotta-do-it-right new parents, we read all the books, took the classes, thought we were ready. Our first baby would arrive in February, and we were determined to get a firm handle on this parenting thing. And, of course, Meghan burst her way onto the world’s stage without having read the books. Rookie mistake.

Nevertheless, we tried. When the sleep portion of eat-wake-sleep rolled around, we followed the advice of All The Books and swaddled her tightly like a burrito, only her sweet bald head sticking out of the soft flannel. Inevitably, she’d cry (and cry and cry and cry) and wriggle her arms out, finally falling asleep with her arms resting above her head. We called her SuperBaby.

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Somehow we never got a picture of her SuperBaby sleeping pose. Maybe because we were too busy doing our THANK GOD SHE’S FINALLY SLEEPING dance. This is the closest I could find to a swaddling picture.

As she grew, her swaddling blanket transformed into a princess cape, a picnic blanket for tea parties, and “my bride,” as she called it—a wedding veil secured with a fleece snow cap.

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Even though she was too big to swaddle, she still held her blanket as she slept, resting her soft cheek and Shirley Temple curls on its thinning cotton. After all these years, she still has it, and I suspect she may occasionally sleep with it. She hides it under her bed, just in case.

Through the last fourteen years, we’ve wrestled through tantrums, unwise choices, stubbornness. We’ve nurtured her through insecurity, fear, doubt. We’ve celebrated her gifts, her uniqueness, her individuality. And we’ve learned despite her many birthdays, she’s still that baby girl who needs the security of swaddling and the freedom of outstretched arms. She needs to know she belongs, that she is loved, that some things will not change, that she is safe. And she needs the ability to move, to explore, to adapt. It’s all part of growing up, all part of being human. Our skin swaddles our souls, and both need to be wrapped tightly enough for security, held loosely enough for freedom.

I suppose that’s what my heart craves: confidence in the face of change, a soft blanket, warmth. I wish for enough abandon to wave my arms wildly, opening my tender palms to receive the next season, the next gift, the next surprise. I need to know I am safe, that whatever is written on the next page will not alter my names: Beloved Child, Worthy, Enough. And I need to know the best parts of my story are found in the following chapters, that I will have new names. I need the assurance of both security and freedom.

And for crying out loud, I need some frickin ice cream.

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The stickers don’t stick

One day Punchinello met a Wemmick who was unlike any he’d ever met. She had no dots or stars. She was just wooden. Her name was Lucia.

It wasn’t that people didn’t try to give her stickers; it’s just that the stickers didn’t stick. Some of the Wemmicks admired Lucia for having no dots, so they would run up and give her a star. But it would fall off.

Others would look down on her for having no stars, so they would give her a dot. But it wouldn’t stay either.

That’s the way I want to be, thought Punchinello. I don’t want anyone’s marks.

 

The school year is winding down, and as Jen Hatmaker so BRILLIANTLY summarized yesterday, we are limping to the end. We are all so done, so ready to be home for the summer. My older two have had an especially rough year. Lots of frustration, lots of opportunity for character development—which, of course, sucks. We’re all done with challenge and stretching and growing, thankyouverymuch. Bring on the lazy mornings and sunscreen.

Last week, I spent my final Monday morning with my 1st grade babies at the Title I school where I have volunteered for the last three years. These kids. Mercy. They walk in the door every day with the odds stacked against them, but they push through anyway. Some of them barely knew their letter sounds at the beginning of the year. Now they are reading at the required grade level. I have much to learn from these boys and girls.

On my last day, I bring each child a wrapped copy of You are Special, by Max Lucado. They excitedly open them together, and then I read the story to them as they follow along in their own books. I have grand, imaginative dreams of these kids reading these books every day, remembering how much I love them, how special they are. I daydream about one day when they’re older, finding the book under the bed or in the closet, and exclaiming, “oh, I love this book! Mrs. Hunt gave me this book! I remember her!” And then sitting down to read it again, finally recognizing the truth in the allegory.

But maybe they won’t. And that’s okay too.

You Are Special is the story of Punchinello, a wooden person living in a village of wooden people who walk around all day sticking golden stars or gray dots on each other, depending on how fabulous or miserable they assess each other to be. Poor Punchinello is covered in gray dots, which he hates almost as much as he hates himself. Then he meets Lucia, and when he asks her why the stickers don’t stick on her, she points him to Eli, the woodcarver who made all the Wemmicks. Punchinello visits Eli in his workshop, and discovers that “the stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love,” Eli tells him, “the less you care about their stickers.”

So Punchinello agrees to return to Eli’s workshop every day so the woodcarver can remind him how much he cares, how special and unique and precious Punchinello is. And as he leaves the workshop, a gray dot falls to the ground.

Cue: snot and tears.

As I wrote earlier, my pursuit of shame resilience has begun. I’ve started recognizing the voices of shame and scarcity—of not being worthy of love and belonging, of not being enough—for what they are: big fat lies. I’ve fought them off with words of truth: I Am Enough. I Am Worthy. God has created me and purposed me for great things, and for that reason alone, the opinions of others will not move me.

In theory, of course. Announcing to the universe that I refuse to be shamed swings open the door and invites shame to come in. That’s just how it works. But I’m ready for it.

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We are a hurt and damaged people, surrounded by those who are also hurt and damaged. And what do the hurt and damaged people do? They fill their pockets and purses with gray dot stickers, ready to stick one on the nearest hurt and damaged target. Max Lucado forgot to mention one tiny detail about these gray dots: the underside of the stickers carry sharp barbs that hurt.

I was slapped with two gray dots last week. One was labeled Bad Mom. The other was Spoiled and Indulgent. Both hit me at my weakest, most tender place of insecurity. It stung. Badly.

But not for long. Instead of my default self-doubt and flagellation, I actually remembered what I read and flicked them off with empowered self-talk and truth. I Am Enough. I Am Worthy. I Am Created and Purposed.

And that was that.

Seriously? It’s that easy? Yeah, it kinda is, I guess. I’m a little surprised.

The gray dots kept trying to jump back on my skin (sneaky little suckers, they are), but the more I flicked them off, the less sticky they became. Imagine that.

The greater quest is teaching my kids shame resilience. You would think that would be easier than conquering shame yourself—after all, they have far fewer years of listening to the voices of shame. But they also have not developed a full sense of identity yet, and their insecurities are more susceptible to lies. Their tender, thin skin multiplies the pain of the barbs. Which only confirms what we already suspected: this parenting gig is not for wimps.

We have to be the kind of people we wish our children to be. They have to see us fighting shame and scarcity, building resilience, listening to truth. They need to hear about our battles so they can find the courage to take up the sword. And we have to speak truth into their lives over and over and over until they believe us—even when they roll their sweet little eyes to the heavens and wonder why their parents are completely whacko.

I tiptoed upstairs last night before going to bed to tell Meghan good-night. She had just turned on the water for her shower, but I asked her to turn it off and sit on her bed with me. “Okaaaaay,” she said with a suspicious, guarded smile.

I put my arm around her and handed her the baby blankets she pretends she doesn’t have anymore. “I want to read you a story. I haven’t read you a bedtime story in a really long time.”

“Okaaaaay,” she said. My mom has officially lost her mind, she was thinking.

So I began.

“The Wemmicks were small wooden people carved by a woodworker named Eli…”

A dark, quiet hole away from All The Words

To all of you full-time working (as in, get a paycheck) moms: I bow down and kiss your feet.

To all the part-time working moms: You’re next.

To all of you who somehow manage to keep all the balls in the air and your children alive: You rock.

And to all of you, like me, who being created and specially wired to NEED SOME SPACE WHERE NO ONE TALKS TO YOU, yet still manage to get your work done, feed your family, and get enough sleep to where you can do it all again tomorrow: You are my heroes.

The book is under way. That is, the book proposal. This is going to be a long road, folks, but I am so excited about it. My friend and co-author, Erika, drove up from Austin last week with her mom, and the three of us spent two days recording her story. I had ordered a digital audio recorder because my last cassette player disappeared years ago. I had to stop and think about how I was going to record her voice. Motherhood, apparently, has eaten my brain.

Y’all. This story? It is un-freakin-believable. As she was talking, I kept thinking, I can’t believe you are still alive. My jaw hit the floor on Monday morning and didn’t resume its full upright position til sometime on Wednesday.

However, I grossly overestimated my ability to absorb a constant stream of words for two days and emerge semi-functional. Actually, I didn’t estimate at all. It didn’t even occur to me. I forgot I am an introvert. I forgot that while I enjoy talking and being around people, I have a limited capacity to do so, and after I do, I must retreat into a very dark, quiet hole and stay there for a very long time.

Which doesn’t work out so well when you have three children and a husband and stuff to do and phone calls to make and places to go. It really doesn’t work well when the next evening, you spend an hour with ten eighth grade girls. Who are very loud. And like to talk. And giggle. And chase rabbits far away from the Let’s Talk About Jesus path.

I missed my dark, quiet hole. Desperately.

So. Many. Words.

What’s worse: my brain was so saturated and the wheels were spinning so fast, I would fall into bed exhausted—and I couldn’t fall asleep. Oh precious sleep. I only wanted to sleep. So very badly. Cruel, cruel irony.

And then Michael left town one less person who wants to talk to me and Meghan had a full weekend of dance rehearsals and performances. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t get some peace.

I pulled out my naturopathic sleep aid, which encapsulates such glorious mysteries as valerian, passionflower, and ashwagandha . Those sound peaceful, don’t they? Like you just want to snuggle up next to them and let them brush your hair? Sweet valerian. She promised to turn off my brain and provide me a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

She LIED. Evil, evil, hateful valerian.

I did fall asleep. I did slumber deeply. UNTIL 4 A.M. Then I jolted awake and solved the world’s problems. For FIVE FLIPPING HOURS. (I think I dozed off briefly between American materialism and global warming.) I also had the chorus of “Thrift Shop” playing on a loop in my brain. I got twenty dollars in my pocket. This is…awesome. (You try to go back to sleep with that melody line in your head.) Macklemore left screaming when my juiced-up brain started playing an orchestral lullaby arrangement from a CD I found in a diaper bag with free baby formula samples in 1999.

Once upon a time in Texas, before Governor Rasputin decided that Six Flags should determine the school calendar instead of individual communities, we enjoyed Fall Break: a full week in October to take a family vacation while enjoying off-season crowds and prices. It was beautiful. (Except the year we took Meghan and Griffin to Disney World in the middle of Rosh Hashanah. That is another very-funny-now-but-not-at-the-time blog post for another day.)

One year, we took eight year old Meghan to Germany, where Michael’s brother was stationed with the Army. We flew into Frankfurt, took a quick nap at Uncle Harold and Aunt Stacey’s house, then drove four hours to Paris. I had never experienced such jet lag and circadian confusion. Surely I would fall into bed and go right to sleep, right? Wrong. I was awake all night. The next day, we walked the streets and museums of Paris—Paris!—for twelve hours. I was exhausted, but exhilarated. Surely that night I would sleep? Wrong again. My poor brain could not adjust. We spent another full day walking around Paris (this time riding the subways…duh!). That night, taking no chances, I greeted my new best friend, Ambien, and welcomed a full night’s blissful sleep. Problem solved.

Here’s the lesson from that vacation I have repeatedly returned to: Rest counts. Even if I am awake, closing my eyes and remaining prone still has some benefit. Otherwise I could not have endured a full day of Parisian sightseeing. Or a full day of writing, driving, cooking, talking. Rest counts. Sort of.

But limited sleep does not a happy mama make. We have had a handful of Very Scary Mama moments in the past week. My throat hurt from all the screaming. I’m not proud of it. But I think it’s highly unlikely that Nathan will refuse to take his vitamins again, and he will probably choose to answer the phone the next time I call seven times from the car to tell him I we forgot he had a piano lesson and he needed to get his books and meet me outside NOW. Which is a difficult task to accomplish if he doesn’t answer the phone. Because he’s watching TV. And the phone would stop ringing by the time he reached it. So he’d go back to watching TV. Seven times. In a row.

Which doesn’t compare to the difficulty of keeping all the balls in the air while barely functioning on five and a half hours of sleep because of All The Words. And figuring out how to fit hours of writing each week into an already full schedule.

I did eventually sleep, and I’ve started writing the book proposal, and somehow we’re all surviving. I’m no longer screaming. Mostly. I’m taking a stab at self-discipline, making myself go to bed earlier so I can write and work in the mornings instead of taking a nap. Michael, who is of course extraordinarily supportive, gently inquired where he fit into my new time-crunched schedule and how we would spend time together. I (gently) replied, “Do you remember residency?” If we could do four years of medical school, an internship, three years of residency, and one year of fellowship—and still have babies and family time and stay married—this will be a cake walk. Nothing could be as hard as that.

This is my time. It’s my turn. I finally have an opportunity to throw myself into something I love, something that matters, that makes a difference, that sends forth light and breath into the world. I’m welcoming a new passenger into the car, and somehow she will find her seat among all my other beloved passengers. She’ll squeeze in between my husband, my children, my babies. Exercise, errands, cooking, cleaning will scoot over and make room. And we will drive—a glorious, scenic, breathtaking drive. Together.

Sleep may have to move to the back.

You are here. Do what you can.

Those of you who’ve hung out on The Couch for the last few years know how much I loathe exercise. Hate it. I would consider it supreme torture to be a fitness class instructor. I have friends who do this, and they love it, and they are very good at their jobs – but truly, I would rather have every last hair on my body removed one by one with tweezers. Actually, I would rather sit in front of my TV with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but that’s not going to do anything to save me from back surgery in twenty-five years.
So I do it. I exercise. Specifically, I submit myself to the torture named Body Pump, which is a one hour, straight-from-Satan class involving a barbell, weight plates, and squats. Lots of squats. Which are also straight-from-Satan.
Why would I subject myself to something I so dramatically loathe? Because a few years ago, my mom had back surgery. My mom, like me, is a small-framed, skinny white woman with low blood pressure and zero endurance. Which is why she rarely exercised. Which is why her discs bulged or collapsed or whatever. Which is why she ended up in the OR – and took an entire nine months to fully recover, to be able to drive more than a few minutes, to sit more than a few minutes. She missed an entire year of active living.
Seeing her in so much pain, using a walker, wearing a back brace, rustled up some determination in me. That will not be me, I thought. No way. So I joined a gym, took a strength training class once a week, and tried to fit in an extra day or two of cardio – all while eating Ben & Jerry’s and remaining a slender 115 pounds.
Oh, early thirties. You were kind to me. I miss you.
Hello, thirty-nine. You are evil. You and all your extra “skin.” You betray me.
After an entire summer of laziness productivity distraction, I have laser focus now. Alarm goes off, coffee maker goes on, kids leave, and I hit the gym. Hello, weight plates. Good-bye, squishy white skin.
Last week, I did something I’ve never done before. It was pretty astonishing. I sweated through two Body Pump classes, Tuesday and Friday – spaced just far enough apart that I still had enough strength to walk into class on Friday.
Tuesday morning was hard. Really hard. I didn’t even put as much weight on my bar as I normally do because I hadn’t been there in so long – but it still killed me. And, boy howdy, my muscles screamed at me on Wednesday and Thursday, pleading with me to never, ever do that again.
Back surgery. Squishy white skin. Sorry, screaming quads and biceps. You’re coming with me to another class.
You know what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, I felt great. No one was more surprised than me. And over the weekend, my muscles kept their mouths shut. Just tiny little whimpers. No screaming.
Here’s what I love about my instructors: they celebrate the fact that I am there. They don’t mind if I rest for a couple of reps. They don’t care that I’m lifting a measly ten pounds on my bar while their own is stacked with some multiple of ten. “You are here,” they say, “and that is better than not being here. Do what you can.” 
Also, “If you feel like you can keep going at the end of this track, then next time, you need to add more weight to your bar.” If it’s too easy, I’m not working hard enough.
So I push myself, chanting silently, Back surgery. Squishy white skin. Back surgery. Squishy white skin. I rest when I have to, but then I pick up that bar and keep going. And when I’m ready, I do more – add another plate, go to an additional class – and discover I’m stronger than I think.
That’s the place I think many of us land when it comes to Interrupted. God and Jen Hatmaker have ruined us and turned us inside out. We know we’re disgustingly privileged, and we know God wants us to think and act differently, to serve, to love. But we don’t know where to start. We want to get rid of the squishy white skin and avoid back surgery, but we’re standing in front of a ginormous rack of weight plates, unsure of how strong we really are, a little frightened by the idea of brokenness.
So grab a bar, grab some plates. You are here. And that is better than not being here. Let’s get started.
This chapter (“Early Spring 2007”) rocked my world. Like 6.0 on the Richter scale.
Jesus didn’t just host and serve the meal; He became the meal. He was the sacrificial Lamb, broken for the redemption of humanity, forever our feast and sustenance…when He said, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me,’ it required continuous action…Remembrance means honoring Jesus’ mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice…Not only was communion a symbolic ritual, it was a new prototype of discipleship. ‘Continuously make My sacrifice real by doing this very thing.’ Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity…We don’t simply remember the meal; we become the meal. (pgs. 52-55, emphasis mine)
Whoa
Being the body of Christ, a temple of His spirit, living like Him – that means, like Him, I am to be broken and poured out for the sake of others. It means that, like Him, I am to sacrifice my comfort, my privilege, my rights, so that someone else may live. 
Which leads me to The Aftershock following Earthquake 6.0. Who do we serve?
Um, everyone
This is a sticking point with many of us. The “for you” part of the Eucharist story addresses the twelve disciples. Eleven of them, although a ragtag bunch of hooligans at the time, went on to travel the globe (at least the parts they knew about), write the Bible, and lose their lives for its sake. 
If I’m picking whom I sacrifice for, I’m thinking future martyrs, gospel writers, and world changers. I love to pour into believers who take Jesus seriously. (pg. 56)
And then there is Judas. Yep. Judas the slimy snake who took the money and ran. Judas who played no further role in the story. Judas who ended up swinging by the neck on a tree branch.
The same Judas Jesus called by name. The same Judas who listened as Jesus talked and followed where He walked. The same Judas who sat as Jesus washed his feet. The same Judas who received the bread and the wine. 
That Judas. Jesus was talking to him when He said, “This is my body given for you” and “This is my blood, which is poured out for you.”
We don’t like that part.
Judas represents “those who would turn on me in spite of what I sacrificed or why.” (pg. 57) God commands us – by word and by example – to be broken and poured out for those who will be ungrateful, who will be abusive, who will take advantage of our kindness and trash it.
This was one reason I was detached from the margins, citing irresponsibility and recklessness and thanklessness. They’ll spend it on booze. Government is corrupt and shouldn’t be helped. Get off your lazy butt and get a job, and then we’ll talk. I was shockingly ignorant about the cycles of poverty and addiction. (pg. 57-58)
But.
We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. Must we be wise? Absolutely. But doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission. Turning a blind eye to the bottom on the grounds of “unworthiness” is the antithesis to Jesus’ entire mission. (pg. 58)
For me, this is where the weeds and wheat parable enters (Matthew 13:24-30). Only God knows the motives of each person, and that’s what He values most. I am not responsible for what someone does with a gift; I am only responsible for giving. Cheerfully. I’d rather err on the side of mercy and let God sort out the harvest.
The What: broken and poured out. The Who: everyone. That’s where we begin. That’s the starting line. One bicep curl at a time, we will get stronger, we will accomplish more. The brokenness will be our freedom, our strength, our greatest joy. For now, just show up. Do what you can. Push yourself. If it’s too easy, work harder.
You are stronger than you think.


PS: Check out Caroline‘s take on this chapter. She rocks it.

Shaking off The It around my neck

I hate when something I thought was long buried suddenly rises from the dead. It sneaks up behind me and hisses in my ear, making me jump and exclaim, “Where did YOU come from?”
“Boo,” it whispers, and it sneers. “Surprise!”
“Go away,” I say.
“No.” it replies.
“You don’t belong here. I’m done with you. I was done with you a long time ago.”
“Sorry, sister. You’ll never be rid of me. And, by the way, you’re still selfish and spoiled. Your opinions are wrong, and your feelings are not valid. You’re still not worth all the trouble it takes to love you. It’s a miracle you’re still married and your children don’t hate you every minute of the day. You are such an embarrassment.”
I stick my fingers in my ears. “LALALALALALA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” – but it doesn’t budge. It jumps on my back, wrapping its arms around my neck, holding on, mocking me.
Crap. Just when life was looking up. 
I get angry. I cry. I scream. I flail around, frantic and helpless. Still the It hangs on, digging its nails further into my skin. So I do what works. I run to the nearest waters of Truth: clear, cavernous, cool. I dive in – deep, because simply wading up to my ankles won’t shake off the It, the lies, hissing in my ear like cicadas.
The waters flood my ears with a great whoosh, and the It loses its grip, thrown backward by forceful and resonant currents. I am free.
I rise to the surface – wet and clean, refreshed – treading water, then tipping my head back to float. To rest. To feel the warmth of the sun on my face, the coolness of the waters cleansing my heart.
God has sent a redeemer to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
…to comfort all who mourn, 
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
1
And my kids – who suffer the fallout of my brokenness…
They will be called mighty oaks,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
2
Who God is…
You are light, you are light
When the darkness closes in…
You are here, you are here
In your presence, I’m made whole…
The riches of your love will always be enough
Nothing compares to your embrace3
Who I am…
Because of his great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive with Christ 4…so that I, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep in the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God 5.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made6.
I am holy and beloved.7
I have been redeemed, summoned by name. I belong to Him.7 I am precious and honored in His sight.8
I am chosen and not rejected.9
I remember, too, where I am now and how far I’ve come. I remember the last twenty years and the kinsman-redeemer God sent to heal me, to show me what love is supposed to look like – its patience, kindness, goodness, humility. Michael, also flawed and broken, cleaned the mirror and helped me see who I really am. Only then, when I see a clear reflection, can I live as I was meant to live, fulfill my purpose, find completion.
These waters are not unfamiliar. I’ve rinsed my hands, dipped my toes, sponged off in its coolness. But within the context of my brokenness, the framework of my history, these words draw me in as they never have before. They compel me to immerse myself, drink them in, be surrounded and filled.
I am not the sum of my broken pieces. I am more than that. I am whole and being made whole. Complete, and being completed. Secure, and being reassured of my security.
The It lingers around the perimeter, waiting for an opening, waiting to pounce. And pounce it will, undoubtedly. But next time, I’ll be ready. I’ll be armed. Maybe next time, it won’t hang on quite as long. Maybe next time, the damage will be less.
For now, I choose to swim.
I’m a good woman, with a good heart
Had a tough time, got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go
Now I’m right here, and I’m right now
And I’m open, knowing somehow
That my shadow days are over
My shadow days are over now