Because I’m Already Sad About My Book

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I get sad about weird things.

The other day, I got sad thinking about sending in the book I’m writing to the editor in a few months. I love writing so much and I’ve always wanted to write books, so as ungrateful and impossible as this sounds, the truth is, sometimes I have a hard time enjoying good things while I’m experiencing them. Sometimes I have a hard time appreciating a sweet thing while I have it. I get sad too soon about it being gone someday. I’m looking ahead to the time when it ends and I worry prematurely. Sometimes I get sad on vacation, because it immediately feels temporary. Sometimes I cry before I can even see the bottom of the queso cup, because I know it is coming. Sometimes I’ll tickle and kiss my babies and instead of savoring the moment, I fear the future.

Even if there’s the hope of more sweet/fun/fulfilling things coming behind the ones I have now, my heart is wired to know that everything ends, everything dies, and everything sweet will fade.

Even good things. Even children and cheese and books about Jesus.

C.S. Lewis famously said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Clive is right.

The funny thing is, the books I’m writing are centered around that hope, that truth, and yet, I still find a way to grapple with discontentment. Thankfully, God’s Word is always grappling with me. It pushes back against the sadness with deeper things.

God’s Word is so important.

It’s important for the seven-year-old who just learned how to sound out words and the busy, working student who babysits on the weekend and the mom with so many kids and the business leader rushing from meeting to meeting and the writer who is doing what she loves and trying to point people to the Light of the world in the process.

See, all I have to do is look away from God’s words and God’s work to my words and my work and things start to feel frighteningly finite. And I can get sad about happy things.

But, God’s Word brings me back every day. Every time I look at it. Speak it to myself. Write it down. Whisper it in a prayer. God’s Word teaches me. It rebukes me. It corrects me. It trains me in righteousness. It does all the things that 2 Timothy 3:16 tells me it will do.

It reminds me there is joy after sadness and there is beauty beyond the beauty. I remember that sharing stories of Jesus changing my life will help people experience contentment in Him. I remember that kissing my babies is a foretaste of heaven, when we will be whole and healthy and completely satisfied in Him. I remember that Blue Coast Burrito is open until nine.

I remember that looking to the future isn’t hopeless if I look past death and keep looking. Guys, this all ends really great for us. No matter how many kisses I get to give and receive and how many books I get to write, when this is all over, we have Jesus. We concur with Clive Staples. We were made for another world.

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When Even Steve Carell, the Chicken, Can’t Fix It

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Me and Steve Carell, the chicken formerly known as Tim Keller, back in March

When I am filled with cares… I type Nate Bargatze into YouTube’s search box and watch videos like this one.

When I am filled with cares… I re-read this dumb fake-article about a frog who got a human brain transplant and shortly before dying, said “Moses.” If you don’t feel like clicking on the link, here’s my favorite line — “Now that scientists have cut open a frog’s head and took out the frog’s brain then put a human brain in where the frog brain used to be and then the frog’s eyes opened and everyone got real quiet and then the frog audibly said “Moses” and everyone in the lab wrote down that the frog had said “Moses” in their notepads then the frog’s eyes closed and its heart stopped and the scientists rushed to resuscitate the frog but the frog had died, a whole new world of medical breakthroughs now seems totally within reach.”

When I am filled with cares…I rename my chickens after my favorite comedians and I stay up late and I guzzle caffeine and initiate text conversations with my friends, that are completely comprised of gifs. Like this one.

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Or this one.

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And often this one.

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It’s fine.

I just get like this sometimes. Do you?

Sometimes, I get filled with cares. That’s why that phrase stuck out to me last week when I was reading Psalm 94. Because, it’s almost like, when I get focused on one “care,” one problem, one prayer I’ve been praying since before I could remember that just doesn’t seem to get answered the way I want, I find myself opened up to all the other cares of the world. That one care, that burden, that thing the Lord wants me to pray about and give to Him, reminds me of all the other broken things around me.

And before I know it, I’m filled. Not with joy. Not with laughter. But with sadness. And confusion.

I am filled with cares.

Isn’t that ridiculous sounding? After all, if you’re reading this, you might be familiar with my Instagram or Facebook feed — my highlight reel. I post the cute things my kids do and sign language clips and my excitement about the books I’ve got coming out soon.

The hardest things are things I keep close. The hardest things stay in whispered conversations with the people who know me when I’m not smiling. The hardest things take away quiet moments of beauty on the swing under our maple tree and the louder moments of giggles with my three little girls. They weigh on me, as if to say, “Don’t enjoy this. Remember me? You’d better not even think about being happy.”

But God’s Word always has an answer, and this week it answered with Psalm 94:19.

“When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.”

I’ve been staring at that verse all week waiting for that comfort to bring me its joy.

I’ve got the cares, so where is the comfort that brings the joy?

I’m fully filled with plenty of cares? When should I expect the comfort to come?

But this morning, it clicked. The joy in that verse is already mine. It’s mine. I’m not waiting for anything. It’s not mine if the lost people I love find the Light. It’s not mine if the problems I face fall away. It’s not mine if my children are healthy and making good grades and screaming an appropriate number of minutes a day.

It is mine now.

It is mine always. Because, I have the Comforter and the Comforter has me. I have the Healer and the Healer has me. I am full to the brim with Him. And He is filled to the skies with care for me. I don’t have to wonder where my Comfort is. He’s off the cross and out of the grave and next to His Father, speaking of me. I don’t have to wonder how great my joy is. It is unspeakable and full of glory and Jesus has made it mine already.

When I am filled with the cares of life, Jesus is still filled with care for me.

Stand-up clips and frogs saying “Moses” can only lift a spirit for so long.

I can enjoy a deeper laughter — the kind written about in Psalm 126 — “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”

I Forgot the Gospel on Easter Morning

IMG_4331.jpegI have country sounds in my life now. And I love them. I hear roosters crowing and a billion birds chirping and I hear wind! Did you know that you can hear wind? Just on a regular day, when it’s not stormy? I never noticed that.

And, it’s Easter and we’ve got a swing in the yard now. And this morning my kids were already sugared up and saying cute things like, “Easter is about Jesus when he ros-ed from the deck!”

So, I stole away to the front porch swing in the country with the sounds and opened my Bible to the end of Matthew to read about the resurrection. I was expecting a sweet moment in a sweet setting — singing birds and an empty tomb.

And I read the familiar words…”He is not here, for He has risen…”

Then my eyes drifted down to the less familiar study notes. And I read “…Jesus now lives as the faithful companion, master, and Lord of those who respond to his great commission…”*

And immediately, I heard the enemy say, louder than the roosters and the wind, “You’re not responding enough…what are you doing for Jesus, anyway? Remember all the awful things you said and did this week? Remember how many times you loved your inbox more than the Bible? I do. I remember. Let’s think about all those times, now. Also, in case you’re not sure — you’re the worst.”

And I believed it for a second. But, I’ve heard that sound before, so I said, “I feel like I believe you, but I know you’re wrong…” and I shut my Bible and whispered, “Jesus…help me remember. Help me remember the truth.”

BUT, instead of the voice of Jesus or the whisper of the wind, I heard another sound. I heard my flesh boldly say, “Remember that time last week that you shared about Jesus in that place, and that time last year when you showed that person that truth and remember every day when you x, y, and z for your family? You’re doing awesome! You’re totally following Jesus! Killing it, actually! You’re the best!”

Another lie. A lie that’s easier to discount. 🙂

So I kept praying until the Holy Spirit spoke to me of the truth that puts hope in my heart and a smile on my face and keeps the insidious sounds at bay.

Easter truth.

I belong to Jesus. Not because I’m good enough, but because He was. He was perfectly obedient. He loved others sacrificially. He defeated Satan. He kicked death in the teeth and redeemed my wimpy flesh, and shouts to me that nothing will separate me from His love.  

I don’t, on my best days, serve Him well enough to be worthy of resurrection. And on my very worst days, there’s still future glory and an empty tomb.

Easter is the very best day because Jesus is the very best one and He says that I am His and He is mine.

He loves us so much that I have to tell you about it. And I don’t need points for telling you. Jesus earned all the points and He lets me enjoy the prize.

So, I ended my prayer there, when Jesus spoke up. When He reminded me what Easter is about. And I thanked Him for the bird sounds and the country life. And the days before country life when chips and queso were only a half a mile away. And I thanked Him for future happiness and pain-filled tomorrows, whatever they hold, because He is risen and He’ll be with me, and not a sound I can hear will make that not true.

Happy Easter 🙂

*ESV Study Bible

 

Glamour Shots vs. Headshots

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Should I frame this and hang it over the fireplace or put it somewhere more prominent like Brandon’s desk at work? Please advise in the comments.

In 7th grade, I went to a “Glamor Shots” birthday party. There was a place at the mall, somewhere near Burbank, where you could get “professional” photos taken. There were big lights and long lenses and silver reflector square thingies and watercolor backdrops and it was so extremely grown up.

My mother saved my glamor shots (oh, I’m sorry, I just noticed in the corner of the photo that it’s actually GlamOUR shots) and gave them to me a few years ago. In this one I’m featuring here, I’m wearing a classic, white, faux-fur halo and what basically looks like a Tickle Me Elmo suit made for middle schoolers. In one of the photos I can’t find, my hands were propped up under my chin and I looked positively, chubbily angelic. In this one, I remember I felt very snazzy in my borrowed, full-body feathers.

So, until a couple Saturdays ago, that was my one experience with headshots. And, that means, until a couple of Saturdays ago, 100% of my headshots featured feathers, proudly and exclusively.   

——–

This book-making business is so much fun. In case I haven’t appropriately conveyed my excitement over it recently enough, I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT IN JANUARY, and I’m allowed to tell you the title now Afraid of All the Things: Tornadoes, Cancer, Adoption, and Other Stuff You Need the Gospel For.

!!!

In my wildest dreams of old, I hoped I would sign a book contract and type words onto a page, but I never really thought far ahead enough in the dream to imagine all the other details that go into making it happen.

So, when Mary emailed me, asking for a headshot to put into a catalogue, I panicked. ALL I HAVE IS A GLAMOUR SHOT FROM 1999 AND I’M PRETTY SURE I DON’T HAVE MY FUZZ BLOUSE AND FLUFF CROWN ANYMORE!! But, I did some cyber research of local photographers and found my dream one on Instagram. I could barely believe she said yes and was able to squeeze me in when I needed her. I like you so much, Cymone.

So, now I’ve had two headshot experiences. And really, taking middle school glamour shots and adult author photos felt similar. On both occasions, I stared into a large lens wondering what to do with my hands and face, hoping to look normal and poised. On both occasions, I frantically wondered if my Adam’s apple was showing (It is. It always is. I don’t know why. Let’s not discuss this again.). On both occasions, I finished the session and waited and wondered if my face would look better than real life or far, far worse. On both occasions, I spent a larger-than-normal chunk of time before and after, expending an exorbitant amount of brain power thinking about what I look like.

Maybe you’re like me, sometimes. Like when you’re at a glamour shots birthday party wearing a red feather boa in Burbank, or when you’re trying to smile naturally for the photo that will go with the work you love, or when you’re sitting in the pick-up line waiting to get your kid from school, glaring at the impossibly together mom with the heels and the hair and the no fat and you get really caught up in “looking the part,” whatever that part may be.

We all have to endure middle school. We all have some job to do. We all want to be beautiful.

But, “looking the part” is so painful. It is shallow. It’s such an easy, empty thing to get caught up in, and I get caught up in it all the time. Am I doing the wrong thing with my hands, again? Are furry halo hats making a comeback? Why are you doing this, Adam’s Apple?  

You know what I wish I wondered instead?

How can my kindness to point my husband to Jesus?
How can my service to point my children to Jesus?
How can my actions to point my neighbors to Jesus?
How can my words to point people to Jesus?

I want my life to be about helping others see the most beautiful thing in the world – The hope and peace of resting in Jesus Christ.

That’s it. And there are no GlamOUR shots for that. But there is a Holy Spirit and a special Word for hearts that long for beauty.

“Set your minds on things above…”

— Jesus
— Grace
— The love of God
— The smile of God
— Jesus
— Jesus
— Jesus

“…not on earthly things…”

— Career goals
— Mom goals
— Instagram goals
— Achievements
— Wins
— Good hair days

“… For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:2-4

Let’s all just take a break from “looking the part.” Our life is hidden. Our glory is sure. And I think we’ll know what to do with our hands.

 

HI, NICE DAY WE’RE HAVING, I SIGNED A BOOK DEAL WITH B&H!

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YOU GUYS, I’m not making this up. I signed a book deal yesterday. Right at the kitchen table with my husband while my dirty kids ate mixed vegetables with their hands. I still can’t even believe it.

I laughed. I cried. I pinched myself. I pinched my husband. I got onto my daughters for pinching each other. We’re all really excited. Writing this book has been a lifelong dream.

I’m writing the story of my struggle with fear and anxiety and how the gospel changed everything. I’ll be telling stories of my funny, “scary” life situations and showing how our fears are weak and temporary compared to the power of God displayed on the cross​ ​and​ ​our​ ​position​ ​in​ ​God​ ​secured​ ​by​ ​the​ ​cross.

I actually wrote the first draft of this book when I was nine. Really. It’s in the big wooden thing in my kitchen right now. It’s forty pages of pure sadness, hand-written on notebook paper. It’s kind of hilarious now, but each page is just one sad, scary thing after the other with a brief respite in “Chapter 8.” That page reads, “I also have some good things in my life. Like, I hardly ever get sick and I have lots of friends like a 34-year-old named Harris, and Betty Fanning (my mom’s TV agent) and my grandparents.”

And then, back to the worries. Divorce. Dog death. Bad haircut.

I was a broken and scared nine-year-old. I mean, everything scared me. I didn’t yet know that Jesus is the only answer. I just knew I wanted to write books. I thought maybe that dream would fix things.

I thought what I needed was for Jennifer Lyell to say sweet things about me and for publishers to let me sign my name on the dotted line.

But, between scribbling on notebook paper at nine and signing a real book contract at 31, I got to learn that no publisher’s opinion and no dream come true can give me what I really want.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that I’ve always had a deeper dream. Writing about fear could never conquer fear. My heart longed for perfect Love to cast it out.

I didn’t need to be read, but known. I didn’t need readers. I needed the Author of life.

Before I was a nine-year-old aspiring author, and even before the foundation of the world, I had a need and Jesus had the answer.

Jesus was the answer.

Jesus is the dream.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

Signing with B&H Publishing Group is just surreal. I’m pinching pretty much everyone. But the reason I can even write this book in the first place is because God gave me the grace to find out, before this dream came true, that the dream couldn’t do what I wanted it to.

Only Jesus could.

What He says tells me who I am. What He did decides who I’ll be.

So, I’m thrilled and in shock and excited to share with you all, in way-longer-than-blog form, stories from my life and how Jesus has saved me from my deepest struggle. How He’s taken someone who was defined by panic and created a new person with the peace of God.

I’ll try not to talk too much about this exciting journey. I really will. 🙂 But, if you want to stay up-to-date on what’s happening with me during this process, sign up for my email updates by clicking THIS, and I’ll keep you in the loop.

Guys, my dream came true!!! Also, I get to write a book!!! There aren’t enough exclamation points in all the world.

 

 

Ready for the Hurricane

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I once slept through a Category 5 hurricane.

It was Hurricane Andrew. I was six and living in Miami. My mom had just remarried, and we’d just left Connecticut. The home I’d known was gone. The school I’d known was gone. And life felt unpredictable and stormy in every way.

I was too young to understand that a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane was a big deal. So, I slept through it. We put our hurricane shutters on and I went to sleep for the night. When I woke up and went outside, I couldn’t see the road we lived on because it was covered in pieces of our neighborhood.

I don’t even remember having any reaction to it. I saw the devastation, but I felt numb. My internal storm was scarier to me than the one that ripped through my hometown.

There are always storms.

Today, I’m praying for my friends and family in Miami who are boarding up, stocking up, packing up, or hunkering down for Irma. I’m excited to see my old friend, Danny, and his family, who are coming to town to escape, and I’m sad with my Nicole, as she sits in her hotel room far away with her kids, wondering if she’ll have a home to go back to.

And I’m looking at this big, ominous image that’s all over every screen, and thinking, how can we find peace here? There are storms within and storms without. How can any of us feel safe?

We can’t, on our own. No chance. We are kids with crumbling dreams. We are palm trees in violent winds. We are weaker than the waters that rise in our lives. We sense we are and we know we are and our fears can feel like a hurricane.

But we are not alone.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” – Psalm 3:3

We are not alone. We have a shield, a glory, and a lifter who loves.

Our Shield overcame death. He can overcome pain. He can handle our fears. Our glory is beyond us. It is not the life we’ve built that can be crushed or washed away. We have a greater glory, sealed forever.

And the Lifter of Our Heads…

When we are afraid, when we are weak, and when we worry about what is to come, we have Someone who gives us His strength. We have Someone who pulls us up and meets our gaze.

I can look up and see Jesus.

My Jesus who speaks and makes storms disappear. My Jesus who has already defeated sin and death and everything ominous and scary. My Jesus who loves the people in Miami that I love even more than I love them because they are His.

“And the things of this world grow strangely dim…”

Hurricanes and broken hearts and hard days.They all get fuzzy in light of the cross. It’s hard to be afraid when you’re looking past the forecast. It’s hard to be focused on what’s temporary when Jesus lifts your head.

This weekend is sobering, but I feel joy and peace in my soul, not just because I’m not in the cone of hurricane danger, but because I know the One who is in control of the weather and the world. And I know He loves my Nicole and Grandma Mattie and Little Christy.

He wins. He is the author of everything good. He makes things new. And my hope is in Him.

If you’re bracing for a storm this weekend, or if you’re celebrating something exciting or reeling from devastating news, look up. Jesus is the lifter your head. And the lover of your heart. And the shield of your soul.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Almost Killed By an Olive Garden Crouton

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This is the selfie I took in the ER hospital bed after my chest x-ray

I almost died on a date with Brandon the other night.

We were eating at Olive Garden. I was talking and eating and laughing and laugh-eating and talk-chewing and eat-talking and snort-swallowing, as you do when you spend a lot of time with tiny people, but now you’re in a quiet restaurant with your favorite grown-up person and you’re too excited to remember to breathe and chew and talk and laugh at separate times, instead of all at the same time.😐

Things were great. I had my favorite person, my favorite salad and my favorite soup. Until suddenly my favorite salad tried to take my life by sneaking a crouton into my larynx in the middle of a standard snort-swallow. I felt it immediately and die-coughed for about an hour straight. “Die-coughed” isn’t the scientific term, but I think it’s the most succinct way to explain the panicked hacking/gagging/flailing I was doing as I tried to decide if my husband would have to tell my kids that a crouton killed their mom.

It was a strange few minutes. I could sort of breathe, but I couldn’t cough out the crouton. Every time I’d try to force it out, my throat would make a weird wheezing sound. You could hear that something was stuck in my windpipe that shouldn’t have been.

So, I called the doctor who told me to call urgent care who heard my weird throat sound over the phone and said “GO TO THE ER.”

So, there I was, feeling silly in the ER, writing my name on the check-in paper and opening my mouth to say, “I know I look fine and I’m mostly breathing, but I inhaled a crouton.”

And the nurse beside the guy at the desk said “She does not sound good,” and pushed buttons and whispered into a phone and they immediately pulled me back in for chest and throat x-rays and breathing treatments before I even had a chance to sit in the waiting room.

This was about two weeks ago, so I think it’s safe to say it didn’t end me. But, it was a weird little life moment, when I thought I might die in an Olive Garden. And, it caused me to ask the question, “What if I actually die because of a crouton right now?”

I was so happy, and a little surprised by the answer. I realized that, though I would always be remembered for dying in front of unlimited soup and salad, my soul really does believe that to live is Christ and to die, even by way of crouton, is far better.

That hasn’t always been true. When I was younger, I was over-churched and under-gospeled and so afraid all the time. Afraid of death, afraid of failure, afraid of what comes after. I knew I was supposed to believe that death was an upgrade for a believer. But, I never felt good enough to die and meet Jesus.

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21

I would read that and think, I want to feel that, but to live is better, because death means judgement. Dying means scary things. To die could mean standing before Jesus and hearing Him say, “Depart. You were never a good enough Christian…”

It’s hard to believe that I read the Bible and went to Bible school and heard the actual words of the gospel so many times in songs and sermons and books, but it hadn’t sunk in.

I didn’t know how to make it sink in.

I thought it was something I could will it to do.

But God did it.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

Now, I’m on the other side, the side that knows that if I die tomorrow, it really will be the best day ever.

I love my life. But, God has shone into my heart the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and it is real. And it is better.  

Jesus has already seen me through tragedies, and miscarriages, and non-humorous, non-crouton related near death experiences, and victories, and dreams coming true. And through every part of this life, He shows me again and again that I am His and I am loved because of His good works, not my filthy rags.

I used to think I needed God’s grace to juuuust make it into heaven, by the skin of my teeth.

Now I see that I need God’s grace yesterday, today and tomorrow and now…and still now. But I also see that I have it. The gospel tells me that nothing I do will change my status as His forgiven, delighted-in daughter. Living in light of this reality allows me to look at an almost lethal crouton or a parenting fail or a cancer scare with a Mona Lisa smile.

I’m glad that crouton didn’t kill me the other night.

But, I’m more glad that with every crouton and every win and every loss, the Holy Spirit assures me more and more and deeper still, that to live is Christ and to die is far better.

A Blueberry Meltdown and a Kind Jesus

FullSizeRender (6)I was a mom-jerk this morning in record time.

While the girls were still asleep, I got up to go to the bathroom, and when I got back all three were in my bed. It made me smile. And we snuggled. And we did our morning things. And we went down for breakfast. And while I carefully arranged blueberries in the blueberry part of her pink sectioned plate, the 2-year-old blonde started screaming at me, and I felt a familiar surge of frustration so quickly it surprised me.

And I realized, I must have a problem.

Why am I stressed and scared and unhappy before 7AM? That screaming blonde is my treasured baby who makes me laugh and smile all day. Why does one second of her screaming make me feel so low? Why am I having such a hard time being and feeling joyful when I have every reason to have joy?

And it clicked.

Side note: My husband had actually diagnosed the problem the night before, but what does he know? 😏

Problem: I am never ALONE with Jesus.

Never. I write things about Jesus at night when I’m alone working on a deadline. And I talk to Him all day with my kids and I read the Bible with them in the morning and I talk to them about what it says. And I’ve been telling myself that this is good. This is the phase of life I’m in right now. At one point in my mothering, I had a “no one leaves their room until Mommy comes and gets them” rule, but bringing Joy home shook things up. She needed easy access to us. And giving the others that access only seemed fair. I decided, there are always little kids around me, so I need to seek Jesus during the chaos.

But, that is not enough. I should keep doing those things. Praying with my girls and being with Jesus with my family. But, my soul needs to be alone with Him. Just Him. I realized this morning that I can’t remember the last time I was with just Jesus – like, on a date. Like no one else but us.

So, after I put the breakfast on the table in a huff, I walked upstairs in a huff, and sat down in a huff, and tried to have “quiet time.”

Except that it wasn’t very quiet. The Holy Spirit’s voice was so soft while the lies of my heart were so loud.

Spirit: Scarlet…turn to the verse in Romans about Abraham’s faith being counted to him as righteousness…

Scarlet: SCARLET. YOU’RE THE WORST. YOUR OLDEST DAUGHTER WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU AS AN ANGRY MOTHER WHO SAID THE WRONG THINGS AND GAVE SPEECHES ABOUT YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE IN A MEAN VOICE. SHE IS GOING TO HATE YOU AND FORGET ABOUT JESUS.

Spirit: Scarlet…you know where the verse is. Just look at it.

Scarlet: YOU’RE THE WORST. TEXT YOUR HUSBAND ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU ARE THE WORST. OR WORK ON THAT DEADLINE. GO DO SOMETHING.

Spirit: Scarlet… you need Me.

And as I listened to the war of words in my head, God granted me grace to help me hear the still, small voice over the loud, sad one.

And I sat on my bed, fleeing the temptation to hate myself, to obsess over the long list of things that disqualify me from being righteous, and I instead meditated on the true words of God.

I strained and I flipped pages and couldn’t quite remember what it said in Romans about Abraham’s faith being counted to him as righteousness.

And the Holy Spirit reminded me that I’ve been here before, and He guided my fingers to the verse, like it was a set of car keys I’d left in the same spot I always do, and I knew they were there all along.

“That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness. But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” – Romans 4: 23-25

And immediately the loud voice of Scarlet had no argument as I remembered, again, for the thousandth time, that I’m righteous because He is righteous. He whispered in the quiet that even in my absence, He is present. Even in my weakness, He is strong. Even in my anger, He is Love. Even when I won’t be quiet, I am His and He is a single huff from having my heart. Sometimes I neglect Him, but He will never leave or forsake me. If I am faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

And so I cried over what a terrible friend I’ve been to Him and felt His arms wrapped around me, reminding me that He is, as always, the Prodigal God. He arranges blueberries while I cry at the world. I’ve been here so many times before, and as He held me on our little impromptu “date” this morning, I remembered that I am healed and clean and new already.

His voice is loud right now. He is right here next to me. And I didn’t have to wait to get on His schedule or do some grand gesture to show how sorry I am.

I’m just sorry. And He’s just forgiving. And loving. And righteous. And true. And near. And for some insane reason, He loves me.

Sometimes we need quiet. Sometimes we need Jesus and nothing else.

It’s going to be a good day.

How To Potty Train Two Kids in Four Hours

IMG_0878 (1)Guys, I know this sounds silly, but sometimes, I truly, deeply in my core, feel like once everyone in my household can go to the bathroom in the right place at the right time without involving me in any way, I will be completely carefree, inexpressibly fulfilled, and unshakably happy, every second of every day.

Recently, I tried to make that happen.

After a few months of dealing with the incomprehensible diaper volume required by my “international twins” (see photo), I realized that my number one life problem was the amount of wipies and wipables I had to handle on a daily basis.

So, I determined to fix the problem. I was going to defeat diaper sadness. I was going to scale Luvs Mountain. I was going to grab the bull by the horns and demand it alleviate itself in a civilized way. And I came up with the perfect plan. A foolproof system. I was going to get these two tiny people out of diapers and into undies, with the insurmountable power of my will.

The steps were very clear in mind, so here is how it should go:

  • Remove diapers from the two diaper-wearing children and sit in the bathroom with them for four hours.
  • Resolve to triumph.
  • Listen to them scream.
  • Warm your heart within the fire of your unquenchable will.
  • Witness small success in the midst of screams.
  • Celebrate with girls as they continue crying.
  • Ignore crying and focus on your internal determination fortress.
  • Text your husband a picture of the one moment of calm.
  • Enjoy Facebook praise after he publicly shares how awesome you are for successfully potty training two kids.
    Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 8.13.17 PM
  • Congratulate yourself for being right. Only you could have crushed this.
  • Listen to more shouts of anguish.
  • Watch as more ones and twos find the floor.
  • Hear your insides break.
  • Spend the rest of the day taking deep breaths, weakly weeping, power-eating the secret chocolate, and watching two children relieve themselves all over the floor, the white rug, your determination fortress, and all of earth’s surfaces.
  • Quit at 3PM.
  • Wonder aloud if bare butts and failure will be your only companions until death.

So, that happened…

My attempt at greatness was met with early and intense failure. After two more feeble tries, I started telling people “I quit forever” and just hoped the girls would figure it out someday. Fingers crossed.

This is pretty much where all my best laid plans land me. Even my most determined efforts can flop. Life, for all of us, is lot of prepping and failing and finger crossing.

As much as we try to end each day winning at parenting, winning at working, and winning at not sinning while ridding the world of pottylessness, we don’t.

We can’t.

The will of fire fizzles and the inner fortress falls. Our very best attempts are not enough.

“For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” – Romans 7:15

“…The flesh is weak…” – Matthew 26:41

And we all know it is not just double potty training. I decide not to lose my patience with my kids. I resolve to read the whole Bible in a month. I decree to be anxiety free for a single day. I claim this as the week I lead someone to Christ.

Often, plans are made and fingers are crossed and steps are taken in hope.

But, it doesn’t work.

“I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” – Romans 7:18

Do you know what comes at the end of that chapter?

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Sounding very much like a broken mom crawling toward the secret chocolate, the Apostle Paul says what we all feel sometimes. “I am too weak. My resolve is not enough. Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

But, unlike me, crying in the corner with the international twins, Paul keeps preaching.

Who will deliver me?

Who?

THANKS BE TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!

We do not plan alone. We do not try alone. We do not handle the work that matters.

We have Jesus. And Jesus has everything.

Jesus’ plans don’t flop. Jesus is a fortress never failing. Jesus can potty train the cattle on a thousand hills.

And Jesus is ours.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” —2 Corinthians 12:9-10

To the Mom Who Has Already Failed Before 9AM

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Dewy, the offender

Do you ever put yourself in a time out?

I do.

For me, it looks a little bit like putting the small, screaming people on one side of a door and putting myself on the other side. Sometimes, I do this in the morning. Some days, it is nearer to bedtime. Occasionally, there is candy on my side of the door. Other times, there is cheese. That’s fine. The when and the with what are adjustable features of the timeout. The door in between seems to be the key component.

This morning wasn’t one of those mornings where everything went wrong. I had my big cup of coffee – still hot. The girls had woken up happy and eaten breakfast without spreading it through multiple rooms. I’d read a whole chapter of the Bible out loud and discussed it with Ever. Joy started doing a new sound – guh, guh, guh, guh. She had pottied like a big girl several times with no accidents.🙌🏻 All the makings for a great day.

But, less than an hour later…

Door…

Gummy bears…

Time out.

You see, I have a two-year-old. I mean, there’s not much more to say. Two-year-olds are impossibly precious. Their voices are so squeaky and cute and they can’t say words right and they love you so so much. And you just want to kiss them and squeeze them all day long.

But, oh the screaming. Or rather, THE SCCRREEEAMMMMING!

It really gets to me.

I know I’m the mom. I’m the adult. I shouldn’t let it hijack my day. But, instead of nipping it or ignoring it or leading us out of it, when the screaming starts, I sometimes find myself behaving just like she is. Pouting. Sighing. Whining. Shutting the door and cracking open the Hot Tamales.

What is wrong with me?

“Mahhhhm, Joy is signing potttyyyyyyy,” my big one said from the other side of the door.

So, I opened the door to the non-screamers, put on a smile and helped Joy with her pull-up while Dewy continued to thrash and wail. Why? Because she didn’t like any of the dresses I wanted to put on her.

So, Joy pottied and we celebrated and sweet Ever tried to reason with Dewy through song. Literally, she was opera singing over the screams, “🎶 Dewy, if you could just stop screaming, Mommy would take us to the pool and we could have a happy dayyyyy, oh dayyyy.🎶”

I looked at the clock on my phone and it was barely 9AM and already, I’d huffed, puffed, put myself in time out, and barked at my smooshy little blonde.

I finally got them dressed. And got them out the door. And got them in the car. And looked at the clock again. 9:24AM.

And I thought, I’ve already failed. I’ve already been selfish and immature and weak and angry and impatient. I’ve failed the day. I hate the person the neighbors probably heard through the walls just now.

And I peeked at my three treasures in the rearview, and realized I had a choice to make. I could huff and puff my way through the rest of the day. Angry at myself for failing. Angry at my 2-year-old for flailing. Angry at the world for being messed up. OR. I could live what I believe.

I find myself at this crossroads often.

Am I going to live what I believe? Or am I going to be selfish?

Am I going to live what I believe? Or give into fear?

Am I going to live what I believe? Or put my wants above my family’s needs?

So, what do I believe?

John 15:12 -“…love one another as I have loved you.”

Jesus loves me, this I know. Me. Throwing my tantrums, pouting, and hiding. Jesus loves me. He loves selflessly, fearlesslessly and sacrificially. And He wants me to love the ones He’s given me even though they pout and whine and SCREEEAAMMM.

Jesus loves me. And as I rounded the corner of our neighborhood, God flooded me with grace as He does every day.

I am loved and I can love.

So, I apologized to each of my children for being mean. And I told them that it’s too hard to live perfectly. That I can’t do it. And that’s why I need Jesus. Because feelings bubble over and things go wrong and life is painful and oftentimes, the way I react is so the opposite of who I want to be.

But, God looks at me and says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He says that to my heart like Paul said it to the Corinthians. Like I can say to my children. And like Ever, my 6-year-old baby Christian says back to me with her forgiveness and readiness to flip the switch and be silly even though Mommy has been anything but all morning.

And my two-year-old, the big offender, tells me she loves me. And I get her out of her carseat and she nuzzles her little cheek into my neck. And I walk around to the other side for Joy, and she puts her treasured 29 cent plastic necklace around my neck and signs that I’m so beautiful. My children still love me even though I fail. And so does God.

Then, we cross the street holding hands, four wide, broken little girls who are learning to give grace to each other because our perfect, always loving, never hiding, selfless Jesus has endless grace for us.

To the mom behind the door today, grace and peace to you, too.