On Climbing Mountains and Trudging Valleys and Maundy Thursday

Ella was four. All knobs and knees and chubby cheeks. Cute as a button and bouncy as her pigtails. We were visiting her aunt in Atlanta—doing the tourist thing.

There’s a mountain in Atlanta. Mount Kennesaw.

Granted, it can’t compare to the snowcaps of the Rocky’s or even the Blue Ridge cliffs and peaks. But it was bigger than a hill. And the National Park Service deemed it a mountain so a mountain it must be. All rocks and clay and trees pressed tight together out of the valleys to create steep inclines and wooded trails.

Prince Charming and I decided our little Ella-girl was capable of moving mountains, so she must have been able to hike this one. Right?

Climbing mountains aren’t easy.

Ella held her own for a while until she didn’t. She got tired as we neared the peak. But we were almost there. To close to stop; too big to carry.

My Prince and I walked with her, encouraged her, cheered for her.

She was determined. Still is determined…

We reached the summit tired but proud. The trees cleared and the boulders gave our bodies rest. What had been a blanket of humid air through the trails became the cool breeze of spring at the top.

The climb was difficult, but Ella did it. She climbed the mountain.

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Later that afternoon we slid into the car, weary and dirty. Mud had grabbed the crevices of our soled sneakers and stained our jeans. You can’t stay clean when you’re climbing to the peaks.

The dirt stays with you.

This trudging out of valleys and up to mountain tops? It’s our life.

While the aches and pains and despair cling to our souls in the low sunken places, climbing out of the mire and up the incline isn’t easy either.

Our climbs in life can steal our energy and take our breath away.

We hike the valleys and cliffs to seek the hope of clearing trees and calming winds.

Today is Maundy Thursday.

Only in recent years have I begun to frame its meaning. To understand Christ’s last meal, last words, last moments without the torture his death would be.

To realize it’s okay to not be okay.

Because less than a day would pass and the disciples would watch their Jesus, bloodied and beaten, climb a hill towards crucifixion. The place His arms would stretch across splintered wood and thorns would press deep into his brow.

The followers of Christ wept and mourned and broke over the pain and suffering of their leader. They must have watched stunned, without understanding.

This was the Christ.

Why was He dying the humiliating death of a criminal?

Maundy Thursday.

Jesus knew what tomorrow would bring. He knew the mountain He would have to stagger up, ripped and torn from the battle with evil. He knew his followers would tremble with confused despair.

He knew nothing would seem okay.

Maundy Thursday marked the beginning of the climb to Calvary. And on His way? Jesus encouraged, served, loved, and taught his disciples. He prepared them. Even though they felt so very unprepared.

He whispered in their ears.

You can walk this. These valleys for you to trudge? These mountains for you to climb? I’m with you. I will never leave you. I love you. Let me show you how I love…

This was Maundy Thursday.

As Jesus and his disciples walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, He left them with words of hope, words of love, words of joy.

Before going alone to pray, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:33

He knew the tormented mountain He would climb only hours later. He knew the despair his followers would feel. He knows the torments and despairs of your journeys, of your valleys and mountains.

It’s as if the Creator of the heavens and of earth knew. He knew in our darkest hours and our bleakest moments we would need to know it’s okay to not be okay—you will have trouble echoes in our darkness.

But there’s hope. The climb will one day be over.  But take heart! I have overcome the world reminds us light is stronger than dark.

We will reach our mountain tops and look over our climbs and see our valleys.

We will see the journey we’ve come through.

Because we are the resurrection people. And our glimpse beyond the mountaintop is heavenward.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead on the rough-hewn beams of a cross.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead in the darkness of a rock-hewn tomb.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead.

And while the mountains we climb and the valleys we face may leave scars on our souls, the dirt and grime aren’t with us forever.

It’s okay to not be okay.

Because we have hope.

Because the story of Jesus doesn’t end on Maundy Thursday.

No.

His story—our story—has only just begun.

Because Resurrection Sunday has overcome the world.

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What Parents of Strong Willed Children Want You to Know

Iron.

Metal. Unyielding. Strong. Life-giving.

Our bodies need iron to live. To create healthy red blood cells pumping through our vessels carrying oxygen straight into the heart.

Pump. Pump. Pump.

Relentless.

Without the iron? Life is less.

My son has an iron will pumping life straight into my soul.

He turns seven in a week. Seven years and nine months I’ve held him. Even now, on occasional evenings when glory fills my arms, he will fall asleep against my chest.

His name is Caleb. And it means loyal.

He is named for the Caleb of the Bible. The one who stood his ground, refused to give into fear or peer pressure, and firmly trusted that his God was big enough to keep promises.

My Caleb? He’s amazing.

I want you to know how amazing because sometimes I wonder if you see it. I mean, how can you when you only see snapshots of outbursts—blips on the screen when he’s forgotten his manners or when his passion overwhelms him.

Because.

Caleb has a will of steel.

Sometimes it leaves even me, his momma, flailing and certain every parenting book under the sun has never parented my son.

A while back ago in front of a group of friends, my Caleb was bouncing off walls, forgetting his manners, excited about life. One adult made an off-hand comment about “that’s why we teach our son how to act.”

I know the heart of this friend. I know this friend truly loves my son. And I know the intent was not to diminish my parenting.

But still the comment stung. It bit into my heart because I know my husband and I have taught good behavior until we’re breathless and exhausted. We’ve taught it over and over and over again.

That’s a thing about strong willed kids. A thing you need to know.

You can teach and discipline and love and correct all the live-long day.

And you will often still be ignored.

My Caleb?

He knows how to stand his ground. Over the years he’s fired me. He’s hollered and screamed and yelled and stomped his feet.

I have a trashcan full with moments like that.

But I’m not here to recount my son’s bad moments. I’m here to tell you that he is amazing. How so many children just like him are incredible.

Caleb, my Court Jester, is full of passion. He is sensitive and easily frustrated. He is intelligent and one of the funniest kids I know. He will still curl into our laps and dances with the kind of zero rhythm you can’t help but cherish.

Every night he requests the same three things: Pray. Kiss. And Love. Every night.

He is fantastic.

He isn’t perfect, but he was created by a perfect God.

God didn’t make a mistake when He gifted my son with strong determination. My role as momma is to take that gift and steer it, guide it, mold it in a direction that will allow him to lead.

Children with an iron will? They steel themselves against the grain. They are created with less bend, and if we try too hard to curve that solid will, they could just break.

And I’m not here to break my child.

My role is not to extinguish his strong will. Because there will be times in his future when I want him to stand his ground, stay true to his convictions, never back down.

The strong will? It’s a powerful gift if used correctly.

Those of us who are blessed to parent the steel-strong babies? We want you to know we’re grateful for who they will become—despite the hard days of now.

We want you to know we’re good parents doing all the right things, but we’re raising independent children who sometimes choose the wrong things.

We want you to know the moments you witness don’t tell the true story of our child.

We want you to know we’re doing the best we can.

We want you to know support means the world, but while you mean well with your suggestions, we’ve most likely already tried those sticker charts and time-outs and a thousand other ideas just like yours.

We want you to see the beauty in our babes.

We want you to know our children. Really know them.

We want you to remember iron brings life—even the iron will.

We know they’re not perfect. No one is. Not one.

We are desperate for your grace.

We covet your prayers.

Because all parents of all children are raising the future. And that is a holy task.File Mar 22

Posted in Hope, Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Finding Shelter in the Shade

I’ve lived in Florida my entire life.

The Sunshine State.

In my born-and-bred-here opinion? It needs another name. Maybe something like the Frizzy Hair State? Or the Sweaty State? Possibly the Hotter than the Fiery Pits of Hell State?

It’s 82 degrees in February.

I mean. Come on!

I realize some of you disagree, but 82 is just too dang high for the month of hearts.

It’s not that I want to live in snow, but I would like a season or two. Some fall foliage? Maybe even a chance to wear my winter clothes for more than three weeks out of the entire year?

I’ve already asked God if He’s forgotten it’s still winter in Florida.

He assures me He knows. He said I could ask Job about trials and tribulations, but I have decided against the idea.

I know I’m being a bit whiney. But unless I am exercising on purpose, I hate to sweat. I just do.

Yet, there are aspects of Florida I adore.

Almost every pair of shoes I own is some version of a flip-flop or sandal. I’m an hour from one of God’s most majestic creations—the ocean. And you can just about spit any direction in my hometown and hit in a lake.

It’s a short list, but there are benefits.

On the flip side, the heat melts my very being. I feel like a pat of butter in the pan. I’m not normally given to exaggeration…still.

If you’ve read my words in the last year, you know I’ve had my challenges. The Florida sun has matched the scorching power of anxiety in my life, leaving me with the ashes of depression.

That’s the thing about mental illness—it takes what would be an ordinary, unsuspecting day and leaves you burned.

Over the summer, my family took a vacation to the beach. My skin is pasty, pale and an easy victim for the UV rays. It was our first day out. We lathered on the sunscreen and reapplied all day.

Despite my best efforts, I still fried up like bacon in a skillet. With flaming red flesh, I checked the sunscreen bottle.

It was expired.

I had tried to do the right thing. Instead, my good intentions resulted in spend $40 bucks—exorbitant money for our budget—on a special sun shirt I wore the rest of the week.

When I think about the anxiety and depression that has plagued me, I feel like the woman who did her best not to get burned but still ended up on fire. Sometimes I put all the right safety nets in place, but they’re expired. Frayed. Brittle. And I’m spiraling out of control.

By the end of our trip, and after layers of essential oil, my skin was healing.

Like my skin, I’m healing, friends.

The right combination of medication has been life giving. But there has been more to my healing than modern medicine.

Over the weekend I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. On Saturday morning the sun was already blazing. I dodged the heat by stepping into pockets of shade.

The conference center shares its space with majestic trees. As I followed the path to my different meetings, I lingered a bit in the shadows of the ancient Spanish Oaks.

I walked slower. Breathed deeper.

Their arms stretched toward the sky with roots planted in solid ground. Cool breezes fluttered their leaves. Resurrection ferns crept along the strong trunks and over the branches.

I was drawn to their shade. Their cool shelter from the sun.

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DSC_0205Did you know resurrection ferns curl up into brown, dry fragments of themselves when they haven’t received enough water? Yet they don’t die. Their roots dig deep into the pulp and splinters of wood, hanging tight.

They wait.

When the rains come. When they’re cooled by the shelter of the shade. They resurrect. Their leaves unfurl into green, tender shoots, and they stretch their beauty for all of nature to see.

Friends. My shade is, and has been for as long as I can remember, the sheltering arms of my Savior.

Over the last year I have been the dried and withered fern. Clinging tight, refusing to let go despite the scorching sun. Because in the Shade of Jesus I knew I would not die.

Hope found me clinging to the Canopy of Leaves.

When we plunge our roots into the Shade tree? When we grip the Hope of our Jesus and refuse to let go? When we do those things?

We find our cool breeze.

We discover the air in our lungs.

And healing begins.

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To the Broken Girl on Valentine’s Day

person-409127I watch you post pictures and memes. I scroll down and stare at your hurt—my heart aching. Your desire to be loved, accepted, known sprawled on my screen with angry words and revealing poses.

A longing for affection in your pleading eyes and skimpy shirts.

You step up to the auctioning block with a soul dying to be loved.

I want to reach through glass, put my arms around your neck, and whisper that a man-made prince will not save you.

But I’m afraid that thought will shatter what’s left of your soul.

And I get angry. Because I know. I’ve been there. I’ve been the one thinking I’m only worthy if some boy somewhere finds me lovely. Yeah. It may have been two decades ago.

But I remember.

Why do we believe we are worth diamonds only if they’re showered upon us? What makes us think a million red roses means we are valued? Cherished? What causes us to see our worth through the eyes of men only looking for one thing?

We’re broken, you and I.

Broken by the society that shows us storybook weddings and happy endings without a picture of the day after. Broken by men with lust we mistake for love. Broken by the lie that we must have a partner to be important.

We can be deceived into believing cat-calls define our worth and followers make us valuable. We crave acceptance in a world that leaves us unfulfilled and only found worthy one snapshot at a time.

We live in a day when likes are sold for the price of purity and sexy is traded for comments that bid with moments of esteem.

And my breath catches in my throat.

Because I knew you when.

When you believed you were strong.

When you believed you were lovely.

When you believed you were worthy.

When you weren’t up for auction.

But now you don’t believe those words could ever describe you, define you. Yet, those words are still true. You are still strong. You are still lovely. You are still worthy.

I see it in you. I see past the haunted eyes and too-much-skin. I see the broken you, yearning to be whole. I see the one that can rise from the mire with her dignity and brilliance.

I know you’re lonely.

I’ve been there—the girl with no Valentine. The girl without flowers or chocolates or gifts. And it can make you feel so small. So tiny and invisible.

But you’re not. You’re not small or invisible. You’re not unlovable. You’re not unlovely.

And if you believe those ideas about yourself, then evil has won the day.

Because I see you.

Loneliness wants to keep you, chain you.

Loneliness wants you to believe a man will save you. That a man’s attention makes you worthy and his kisses and affection restore you.

Don’t give into the loneliness. The cycle of defeat will rob you, strip you, leave you crumbled in despair.

The cure for wanting a man to place the price tag on our hearts? Knowing the auction has already been purchased by the highest bidder.

There is only One who saves us from the self-pity, the self-doubt, the self-loathing. His life is a love letter written to mend our broken souls. Written to tell us we are worthy of creation, we are worthy of love unfathomable, worthy of a King’s attention.

Christ died to purchase your heart. Only He can make you whole. His life marked you priceless. Your worth is not up for auction. Your value is not decided by man.

Is wholeness easy? No.

Restoration is never without pain. Healing always comes with hurt.

So, my sweet broken girl. The one I watch from a distance. The one with pain etched in her face. You need to know some things that are true after listening to the bidding lies of this world.

Valentine’s Day is just a day.

A day when you will put one foot in front of the other. A day when you will love on the friends close to you. A day when you can show the world your kindness, generosity, grace, and beauty.

A day when you can meditate on the One who sacrificed His life for you. And if it had only been you? Jesus would have still staggered to the cross.

You’re not alone.
You’re already worth more than all the diamonds in all the world.
You’re already noticed.
You’re already accepted.
You’re already loved.

And your saving? It’s through the blood-stained grace of a King.

Posted in Hope, Love, Struggles | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

So. There’s This Thing Called Hope

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Over the last week anger, division, and hate have fueled the newsfeeds. As millions feel the sun has slipped below the horizon covering their lives with darkness, millions of others see a sunrise bringing light to their shadows.

And I wonder, pushing down despair, if the hate will end?

Maybe? Maybe not…

I look into the arguments as different and varied as the humans who hold them, and I see the logic and reason and the ignorance and bias all wrapped up into one. I see so much right in all the sides.

And so much wrong.

I find myself stuck somewhere in the middle of everything matters and nothing matters.

All at the same time.

And so on the newsfeeds I’m loving the babies and puppies and unicorns and flowers and rainbows.

Not because I’m scared to stand up for what I believe is true or right or just. But because I want to look deep into the eyes of those who disagree with me. Deep so they know I love them. Deep so they may hear my heart, even if they never hear my ideology.

I can’t do that on a screen.

The words of the broken matter. The broken beautiful collection of humanity. Each and every one of us. I cannot agree with all of the words. But I can hear them. I can try to hear the hearts, understand the starting points.

So I’m trying to listen.

And in my quiet weeks typing on again and off again, I find Hope. Hope that my Jesus carries on the wind, breathing life into my soul.

This afternoon, I looked deep into the eyes of a sweet baby girl. New and fragile. Tiny and strong.

She has her Daddy’s skin and her Momma’s chin. She coos and wriggles and smiles and cries. She is cherished and loved.

She is Hope.

Yes. She’s breathing in a broken world. But this life? Even in it’s shattered pieces?

It’s beautiful.

And maybe tonight you’re heart is seeing the sun slip below the horizon. Your pain and sadness, your worries and fears are not minimized here.

And maybe tonight you’re seeing the day break open. Your joy and singing, your relief and support are not minimized here.

Because Hope has countless faces.

Hope is for every broken soul. It’s the spilled-out, shimmering glitter spread across the surface waiting for the light to hit, for us to see it clinging tight. Even when we try to brush it off, it sticks—sparkling and reminding us we are never alone.

Because we don’t have to agree to hold one another. We don’t have see the world the same to grasp the hands of those across the street. We can come from separate worlds and still find the beauty of each human soul.

Because Hope has a way of removing the bitterness. It has a way of reminding us that the world and its people can shine brilliance into each other.

Because Hope is waiting to be seen.

Hope is Jesus, leaning in close, taking your hand whispering, Come with me. I’ll hold your hand. Yes. The road is long. The road is broken. The road is not what you expected. But I will walk with you. And when you feel like one more step is impossible? I will carry you.

Because Hope is worth living for.

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When Christmas Sees Us

One after the other. Page after page. I read their answers to my question. It was a simple question.

Who really sees you?

Their answers?

  • Nobody really sees me.
  • I don’t have any true friends that would come to my birthday party.
  • I used to be happy and laughed all the time.
  • I guess no one really sees me because I don’t think I even like who I am.

Oh, their hearts. Fragile, tissue paper hearts, worn thin by invisibility. These high school students with their souls laid bare for me to see. I wondered how to respond, how to mend their broken and torn places.

Because haven’t we all wondered if we are seen? Is there really a person in this great, wide earth who knows us—our every part? And when we’re seen, known, understood—will we be loved?

Almost every morning on my way to school I see her.

The mother and her two boys, waiting for the bus. One of those mornings I saw the bus was ahead. Early. Carrying a backpack flapping at her side, she was running. Her two boys were racing beside her—one with a distinct limp and an arm curled into his chest.

My heart clenched as I silently cheered her on. She was so close.

I sighed deep relief when I watched her boys reach the bus’s steps in time. The momma helped one with the backpack and kissed them goodbye. She smiled and waved back and forth as the boys took their seats.

When the bus pulled away, I looked back at her. The smile faded. Her shoulders sagged as she took a weary breath—exhaustion etched in her face.

I wanted to yell out the window “I see you! I see you, Momma! I see how hard you try every live-long day to be the best you can be!” I should have done it. But I didn’t.

We long to be seen. To be known.

Hagar. Slave of the Bible’s Abraham and Sarah. Mother of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael. Victim of jealous abuses. Because no one is perfect and the men and women of the Bible demonstrate their humanity. Because all humans are capable of the vile and the revolting.

Hagar flees to the wilderness, and she is met by God—a God who sees her devastation, her fears, her pain, her brokenness.

During those moments in a Middle Eastern desert land, Hagar proclaims God to be El Roi.

El Roi. The God who sees.

Those words? A sweet fragrance for my soul.

In a life that causes us to wonder if anyone sees us for who we are, we can know there is at least one. The God who met Hagar in the thirsty, parched sands is the same God who meets us in our deserts.

He is the same God who saw mankind’s deepest need and joined his children in their humanity on a winter night 2,000 years ago.

Emmanuel. God with us.

We are never hidden from the Father’s eyes. In truth, He is the only one who ever really sees all the fragments and pieces of our soul. Because the walls of our human hearts don’t exist in the realms of Heaven.

Aside from Mary and Joseph, do you know the first to worship at the feet of the newborn King? The first to witness Emmanuel?

Shepherds. They weren’t the elite. They were the unseen. The workers who labored and slept in fields to watch their flocks. They looked for dangers, for the lost, for the sick and abandoned.

They were the watchers. And they were often alone.

I wonder what it must have been to be a shepherd witnessing the Christ child that starry night. Too look into the eyes of an infant knowing they peered into the face of God.

The unseen looking into the eyes of El Roi—the God who sees.

The holiness of the moment stills my soul.

Because God calls to the unknown, the unseen, the invisible. He beckons us close to the manger to peer quietly over the edge. To witness Love nestled in a bed of warm hay.

And while I can’t fix the broken hearts of teenage students or tired mommas or broken friends, I can lead them to a manger. A manger of Hope.

He calls us close to whisper into our hearts.

I see you, he says.

I know you, he says.

I am with you, he says.

I have come for you, he says.

I love you, he says.

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A Dreary Day, Two Eagles, and an Election

Today was the damp and dreary kind. The kind that tempts with cozy socks and hot chocolate and Jane Austen.

But there’s the job and the motherhood and the housekeeping.

Sigh…

I know I’ve been quiet. In the last several months, my words have stuffed themselves into the cobwebbed caves of my mind, refusing to appear. I’ve stared into the white space of my computer screen with nothing to write.

Truth? I’ve had to shove down panic, anxiously waiting for words to find their way to the surface. Asking my Jesus when the words will come again. It’s been painful, this waiting.

And as I waited, one Scripture repeated over and over.

Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2 (HCSB)

This.

Let my words be few.

Because God is God. He is in heaven. I am human. I am here on earth.

Let my words be few.

So I’ve been trying to wait and learn and hear.

After the last week, our nation sits fractured. Torn. Struggling. I’ve been at a loss—trying to discover a way to help in the healing. Because we can’t stay this way.

But I’ve had no words.

And then sitting in the sanctuary on Sunday, my Creator-God spoke metaphors into my soul.

It was the image of the two bald eagles. Just two days after the election. Not far from my home here in the Sunshine State. Tearing into one another. Clawing and ripping. Fighting until falling.

Into the gutter—the sewage drain leading to waste and sludge.

Oh friends, the lesson cannot be lost on us.

Honestly, I didn’t want to even write this because if you’re like me, you’re just tired. Tired of the rhetoric, the hate, the bitterness, the fight. I don’t want to read one more word of any of it.

But those eagles. Their symbolic illustration of our America and our fractures. I can’t get their warning out of my mind. Because look at where we will end up if we can’t stop fighting.

I wonder how. How will we stop clutching each other with our razor sharp talons and words? How will we work to heal each other? How will we find spaces where love, respect, and grace can live and grow?

And then I know.

Let my words be few.

Let our words be few.

May the Church approach the Throne of Heaven without a list of how to fix the brokenness, but with words that are few as we lay the fragments of our country at the feet of our Jesus.

When our words are few, maybe, just maybe, kindness and compassion can rise. Because if we leave the rhetoric behind, we have space and room for actions that show care and empathy.

I don’t know how to fix this. Truth is, I can’t.

Because I am human. And I am here on earth. But there is my God. In heaven. So I will approach Him with words that are few, offering up the brokenness I can’t fix.

And that’s a start.

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Mothering in the Dark

Ella and Caleb,

My sweet ones.

I knew all summer I’d write this letter.

But now that it’s here, now that it’s time to write, I hesitate. Fear creeps in and I wonder what you’ll think of me.

Because depression and shame often work together to chain and to bind no matter how hard you fight.

Ella-girl, my first fight with depression and anxiety came when you were three. And Caleb? I was in the ring again when you were one. Both battles were fought with Faith and medication.

Well, my loves?

I’m in the ring again feeling bloodied and bruised from the fight.

I’m not writing so you feel sorry for me. I’m writing so you know me. I want you know the imperfect hollows of my heart and mind.

I writing real. And one day I’ll be brave enough to let you read the real. When you’re ready. Because I never want you to feel as if you have to carry me through the shadowed days. And I never want you to think my dark is your fault. Never, never, never ever.

Because it’s not.

This past summer, while you skipped and danced and swam and biked and played. While you did those things?

I was deep in the dark. Yes. I was there. Yes. I smiled. But I’m an expert at hiding the black days.

You need to know. Your Daddy? He really is Prince Charming. He hides me so often behind his strong tower of safety. He shelters you from my worst days. And this past summer, he made sure you had the fun things to do.

But my darlings, I felt so weak.

Ella? My kind girl. There were times you needed me to do things for you this summer. Times the fog was so thick on me, I simply forgot.

I’m so sorry.

And Caleb? My boy who bounces and bounds with abandon? All you wanted was someone to play with this summer.

I’m so sorry.

My darlings, the guilt is so heavy it consumes me. But that’s the darkness talking. Because there were good days.

There really were.

But sometimes I wonder if you wish I was someone else? Do you wish you had a momma who is all-kinds-of-fun? Do you wish I had it all together?

I also wonder if you know how strong I am.

Because fighting depression and anxiety? Fighting the darkness? It’s not for wimps.

There will be people you hear in the whispered corners of your life that talk. They will say harsh and critical things about those who struggle like me. They will shake their heads and tsk-tsk because they think medication is for the weak. They will believe that those who live in darkness can simply choose light with a finger snap.

My sweet ones? Please don’t listen. Turn your ears away. Those arguments only want to stomp and crush and extinguish the spirits of the fighters.

And those who turn to face the darkness every single day? Those who open their eyes and rise out of their beds and walk one heavy foot after another into the sun?

They are the warriors.

They choose to war against the diseased pieces of their own minds.

So don’t look at me, sweet ones, and worry. Don’t think I will break like a branch drained of life. I’m refined by the fire, not consumed by it.

Because I’m never alone in the depression inferno. The Prince of Peace, my Jesus—your Jesus, He’s there. Always. There are so many reasons He allows these dark times to shadow my life. Reasons I can see. Reasons I can’t. But He never leaves.

Never.

My loves? Don’t believe depression is your momma’s definition. While it influences who I am, it does not define my life. Or yours.

I want to say it again. Again, so you can press it down deep where your memories are strong.

Depression is never someone’s definition.

You need to know I am so much more than a medical term. Believe that I am brave and strong and courageous. Because I choose to fight. I choose to fight with a tiny blue pill—God’s miracle of modern medicine. And I choose to fight with the One who never leaves or forsakes.

I choose to fight for me.

I choose to fight for your Daddy.

I choose to fight for you.

I will continue to choose the fight. I promise.

Because I love you both,

Forever,

Always,

Your Warrior Mom.

family-fun

A day of real smiles and sweet summer memories.

Posted in Hope, Joy, Motherhood, Struggles | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

Using the Language Our Teens Speak

Oh, friends. It’s been too long. The too long has been caught up in the rush and busy of a new school year. I know you know. Barely catching breath and running here to there. It’s as if there are seasons when our lives become a piece of performance art for “The Flight of the Bumblebee.”

While today I’m over with my Orlando moms, there’s a piece of my a-bit-fragile heart I’ve held close this summer that I will timidly share with you in the next few days. Because I’m still here. I’m still searching for (and finding) the beautiful Joy hiding in plain site on this journey.

Until then, maybe join me at Orlando Mom’s Blog?

It’s been less than 10 years since iPhone changed our country, our culture, our world. Gone are the days of pay phones and Facebook via the desktop.

As a member of the generation with my childhood riding in cars without movie entertainment and my adulthood running pace with technology, I have welcomed many of the changes brought to us by our hand-held computers.

But then I became a mother of a middle schooler. With a phone….continue reading here.

Posted in Motherhood, Orlando Mom's Blog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

For the Teacher at Summer’s End

I’m sitting at my desk. Music quietly plays in the background and a steady, soft rain falls outside my windows. My classroom is as ready as it can be.

I’m not.

In just a few hours, I will be gulping down nerves as I meet new parents and students at Open House. My stomach will be in knots, and I’ll wipe off my sweaty palms dozens of times. I will smile, and my face will light to see faces I know. And I will be excited about this school year. Because I am.

But I’m not ready.

Maybe you’re not either.

Just a few months ago, as the final bell clanged, I was filled with so much promise. Hopes and plans and projects and goals were going to be accomplished. I was going to get so. much. done this summer!

I was going to look over new curriculum for those three different classes, find two new AP novels to teach, help my daughter refinish a bedside table, play with my Court Jester more, snuggle on the couch each night with my Prince, start eating healthier meals, visit family, send off a manuscript to an agent, catch up on blogging, and, and, and…

Ask me if I accomplished any of that list.

Or don’t ask. That’s okay, too. Because my answer of ‘no’ swims in guilt.

I’m beginning to think teachers treat the last day of school as a time to make unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. In the same way February rolls around slapping us with the shame of unmet resolutions, August hits us with the fiery furnace of unmet goals.

That’s why I’m never ready to come back. I feel like I fail at summer. Every year.

I never get enough rest. I never get enough accomplished. And I never want to leave my family. And I never want to go back to the paperwork and the grading and the planning and the hoops to jump through.

Sure I’m ready to meet my students. I want the beautiful structure and schedule that comes with the school year. I’m tired of hearing my two children fight each other all-the-live-long day.

There are perks to going back to school.

Still. Summer’s edges taunt. I look at July fading in the distance with a deep yearning to dig my heels into the sand and refuse Monday’s first-day-of-school bell.

Here’s the thing about teacher-guilt at summer’s end. When it consumes us, as it so often does, we fail to see all our summer did hold. And as crazy as it sounds, the way to rid ourselves of our grumbling and foot stomping and arms crossing?

Gratitude.

Because I’m thankful for much. For the books I did get to read, even if they aren’t going to work for my classroom. For the time to introduce my Ella-girl to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For the mornings (okay…days) spent in pajamas. For watching my Court Jester ride his bike without training wheels for the first time. For nights my Prince and I did get together. For our first, for-real family vacation ever.

So much of my summer was beautiful. I miss seeing those glimpses of beauty when I’m mired in the guilt of unfinished plans or the frustration that comes with being a teacher in today’s culture.

But, my friends? Look at what we get to do.

In the coming weeks we get to build relationships with students. We get to influence the lives of future doctors, nurses, politicians, mechanics, lawyers, business managers, clerks, and every other possible job on earth. We get to see that light flicker in a student’s eyes for the very first time. We get to be a part of the change. We get to be a bright spot in what can be dark days in the lives of our students. We get to love our kids.

And loving our students? That’s why we do what we do.

May I just encourage you from my own struggle? I am making a conscious choice. On this day, I choose to be grateful for the beauty in my summer. And I choose to be grateful for all I get to do on Monday when that first bell rings.

I may not jump out of bed when that alarm goes off, and I may be dragging my feet with coffee in hand. But I choose to be excited. And then I may or may not also silently count my days until next summer…

Pray for me, my friends? I will be praying for you.

It’s going to be a good year. And we can do this. We must. The future depends on us.

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Posted in Struggles, Summertime, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments