Because the Village Still Matters

We sat across from one another sipping our coffee. She was traveling back to her college campus and had asked if we could meet. I jumped at the chance to hear about how her life was going. We talked for hours. I smiled at the adult she’s becoming.

It’s the best part of my job—these deep and true conversations with students who’ve left my classroom but still desire to connect, to seek advice, to fill-me-in on their lives.

I left that afternoon with a heart overflowing. I was grateful. Grateful her momma, my dear friend, allows me to be a part of her daughter’s collective village. Grateful my friend had no expectations that I share the conversation I had with her girl. Grateful I have so much to learn from my friend…

To continue reading, please join me this afternoon as I share why the village still matters with Orlando Moms Blog.

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Because Sunday Always Comes

Today, Love was crucified.

Today, Hope was buried.

Today, Light was shut in a tomb.

Grandma always said the sun hides its face behind a darkened cloud at some point on Good Friday afternoon. As if nature still remembers the blood spilt and poured—the blood of the innocent.

The earth considers, and still it shudders.

On this day I always imagine the disciples, the followers, the Mother of Jesus. How hopeless they must have felt.

I imagine they expected a miracle, maybe? They watched a tortured, beaten, bloody Jesus in agony. Surely the Christ would call forth the angels? He walked on water, wouldn’t He save himself?

Surely.

But then Jesus takes his last shuddered breath. They watch as his body is lowered. A tomb is found. His lifeless form is sealed behind a giant stone and giant guards.

Hope is lost. Not even a crumb left to feed the desperate soul.

It is finished.

They didn’t understand God’s plan. They didn’t realize the greatest miracle was just ahead. They didn’t know Sunday was coming.

Good Friday was nothing good 2,000 years ago to the followers of our Lord. Good Friday was the definition of a hopeless world. In their eyes, death had won—to evil the spoils of victory.

How darkness must have clouded their hearts. This is not what they had signed up for. Doubt and sadness and confusion. They had just walked with Jesus yesterday.

Yesterday.

And now He’s dead.

Theirs was a crucifixion that had yet to taste the sweet relief of Resurrection.

But we know. We know Sunday’s coming.

When I try to match my hopeless moments to those who witnessed Christ’s death, I realize I don’t know hopeless as they did. I don’t know hopeless because I live in a world of the Sunday Resurrection.

I am never without Hope.

Hopelessness is a world where the Light never cracked open the tomb. It’s a world where Hope stayed buried. It’s a world where Love never rose again.

But I live in a world of the Sunday Resurrection.

You do too.

Today may seem dark. It may seem as if evil has crept in and pressed down hard. Life may feel as if all is lost. Your dreams and goals have shattered, and you’re walking through the broken glass.

But Hope is not gone, my sweet friend.

No.

Because Sunday’s coming.

Sunday always comes.

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Slipping and Sliding and Finding a Rhythm

Sometimes I go slipping and sliding over the rhythm of a day, a week—never finding a cadence, a beat.

Recently my Court Jester has been all about the basketball. He carries it through the house. Bounce. Bounce. Bouncing. The muffled puff, puff, puff as it pounds carpet. The ting, ting, ting as it taps tile.

There’s a rhythm.

And there are days I wonder if I’ll find mine.

Off kilter. Running willy nilly through the hurried days of here and there and everywhere with this kid now and that kid later. No space between the bouncing left to breathe.

Bouncebouncebouncebounce. Puffpuffpuffpuff. Tingtingtingting.

But maybe that’s a rhythm too?

I don’t know that life truly has a singular tempo because for almost forty years, things are ever changing. Instead? Maybe life dances along a symphony of rhythms and notes. A symphony no one’s ever played before where keeping time can be a guessing game. We’re sight reading sheet music before a panel of judges, skipping notes and missing beats.

I hear all these ideas on how people should have balance and rhythm, and I’m sitting here wondering all the time if the “people who should” actually includes me?

Because what if my life of bounce. bounce. bouncing one day becomes bouncebouncebouncebounce the next?

And what if that’s beautiful too?

Is life really supposed to be unhurried and balanced? Slow is different from rest and worship—life-giving necessities. Without doubt there’s a time for the slowing to meander. There is the life that is too busy. But lately I’ve wondered if I yearn for a slow that’s never meant to be.

Because when I slow, when I find myself slipping through more than a few days of nothingness, I can quickly spiral into the dark. Depression always lurks, waiting in the shadows.

If I’m honest with myself, I thrive when my life’s tempo is quick and fast paced.

So my question becomes—What if I learned to dance with the vast and various rhythms of life instead of attempting to control them?

I’m beginning to see life is about doing the things in front of you well—one action at a time. Walking through the slow bounces of the ball. Running when it speeds up. Knowing when to stop ting.ting.tinging the ball on the tile. Giving yourself permission to acknowledge that the beat is ever-changing.

Rhythm would be boring if it played the same beats always and continuous without ever stopping. I think that would be even harder to bear.

My Jesus promises a full, abundant life.

He doesn’t promise slow. He doesn’t promise same. He doesn’t promise easy.

But a full and abundant life of beautiful, varied tempos and symphonies of music and bouncing basketballs?

Those are rhythms I don’t mind slipping and sliding along with.

And there it is.

Life is playing my song.

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Will the Real Valentine’s Day Please Rise?

Valentine’s Day.

I have a love-hate relationship with the day. I know I’m not the only one.

It began in middle and high school when I would watch girls parade through the halls with their flowers and teddy bears and chocolate and balloons. I was a senior before I had a real valentine.

My sweet Daddy always sent flowers to the school so I wouldn’t be empty-handed. Bless his heart. I’m smiling now at the tenderhearted gesture. I’m a blessed girl to have a daddy like him.

Yet, every year as the Valentine’s floated through campus, I felt disappointment well up. I felt left out. I should have realized Daddy’s roses were sweeter than the gift of a teenage boyfriend. But I didn’t.

The inner-Valentine turmoil continued into college.

There was the year “I was but I wasn’t” dating a guy. We were just friends. We had mutually decided not to celebrate the day together. Yet I secretly hoped…

I was left disappointed.

Sharing my Valentine’s Day heart with the mommas of Central Florida today. Please continue reading over at Orlando Moms Blog.

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To the Momma Rolling Her Eyes at My Students,

I know watching 40 teenagers walk into a fast food restaurant must have been intimidating. They were loud. They were large. There were so many of them.

I know our line stretched through the aisles. I know you weren’t expecting us.

I know how you were probably clutching to the edge of sanity with your newborn and two toddlers in tow. And how meeting your friend sitting next to you with her children was your moment to breathe today.

I’ve been there. I get it.

But when you rolled your eyes at my teenage students? When you mouthed angry words into your cell phone about a bus full of teens interrupting your lunch? When your body language huffed and puffed?

My hinges loosened and the glue sticking my emotions together just about lost its grip.

From my place in the back of the line, I silently dared you to say just one mean word to my students. Just one. Because I would have asked you some questions.

Questions that might have gone something like this…

Have my students touched your children? Have they yelled obscenities across the restaurant? Did they run through the aisles shoving people out of the way? Were they disrespectful to you? Did their eyes roll into the back of their heads when they saw your adorable children happily eating their nuggets?

I watched. I watched my girls ooo and ahhh over your babes. I watched my large-taking-up-lots-of-space boys attempt to make themselves small to avoid bumping your table. I watched their uncertainty at the crowded restaurant.

You did nothing to help their insecurities. (Teens are full of those…)

They were a bunch of high schoolers trying to each lunch.

Just like you.

Yet you instantly assumed my students were hellions bent on destroying your playdate. They weren’t. I promise.

Can you remember sixteen? Because I sure can. It was torturous. I felt lost, unsure of what identity even meant, much less owning my own.

Students today? Oh, how their lives face a sea of issues that didn’t even exist when we were their age. For teenagers right now? It. Is. Hard. Like the kind of hard we can’t define or put shape to.

I feel like you need to know some things about my students.

Did you know one of those big-tall boys played with my five-year-old Caleb for hours at a football game this fall? And that was before he knew the kid was mine. My student simply saw a lonely little boy tossing a football in the air when he began to play catch with Caleb.

Did you know the bus of students had just cheered on our school’s cheerleaders at a competition? Did you know their hearts were broken when our girls lost?

You didn’t get to see how those same students cheered for other teams who had no one at the competition to support them, did you? You didn’t get to see that.

Did you get a chance to see how patiently they waited for their lunch? Or did you notice not a single student was disrespectful to the staff? And that these scary teenagers did everything the other chaperone and I asked them to do? (Without a single eye-roll, I might add.)

Did you know those babies at your table will be teenagers before you can even blink? How do you want the world to see them?

I know I offer my observations from a biased perspective.

But here’s the thing. I see these students every day. I know their rough edges. I know their flaws. They aren’t perfect. I know that. Neither am I.

I’ve cried with the teens who’ve lost parents. I’ve held the shaking shoulders of students facing the wound of a broken friendship. I’ve watched the blank eyes of children walking through their parents’ divorce.

I also know their hearts. And given the chance—teens can show you souls deep and wide. I see how they want to make a difference in this world. I see their dreams.

They hold your future.

So, Momma Who Rolled Her Eyes, I’m just sad. Disheartened because you didn’t take even a split second to see.

To see the humans in front of you.

They’re more desperate for your approval than you realize.

Than they realize.

It only takes them one hot second to read your judgment. Because teens? They see right through a façade. Right straight through.

So yes. They saw you roll your eyes. They may have played it off, like no big deal—just another adult in their world that doesn’t take the time.

But even though they don’t know you. You still hurt my students.

And that’s not okay.

Do you know what I hope? I hope the next time you see a teen, or even a group of teens, I hope you smile. I hope you make eye-contact. I hope you say hi.

No. They may not say hi back. They may be too busy being surprised.

But you’re the adult. You’re the one needing to set the example.

How else will they learn?

Sincerely,
Momma Bear Teacher

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If you enjoyed this blog, you may also like reading: Because Teens Are Incredible Humans, Lessons My Students Teach, I Need You to Fight For My Students, and A Letter to My Students.

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Dear Momma Fighting Depression,

I know.

I know what it’s like when the bravest moment of the day is when you crawl out of bed.

I know what it is to stand in the shower longer than you should—willing yourself to face the day.

And when your children look at you with their soul-filled eyes, begging you to engage, but you just can’t. Your stomach wrenching because you really aren’t the mother they need today.

How many moments do I miss because the talons of darkness have clutched and ripped out the light? Maybe you ask this question too.

I understand what it is to sink into yourself, watching your spouse bear the burden of the house because you’re chained by the hopelessness in your head. Your husband doing his back-breaking-all-day-work and his fragile-soul-carrying at home.

You’re overwhelmed and overcome by the guilt, locking you up in more chains. Because the cycle is vicious, and this guilt etches itself so deep in your soul.

You want to be strong.

But you think brave is every other woman. Not you. Because you can’t even play Candy Land with your kid.

Sometimes you plaster the immovable smile on your face because great is your answer to the how-are-yous. Making sure the world never knows the days you struggle. The days every ounce of your being keeps you standing with your pasted grin. The days you make it through the motions at work because you have to, leaving you ready to crawl into a hole when you get home.

But those kids, your spouse. And their eyes. And your responsibilities.

There’s the anger that comes too. The fist clenched and shaking toward heaven. Why me?

Oh Momma, I know.

I almost didn’t write this. It’s too depressing. And then I realized, well, yeah. That’s what depression is.

It’s depressing.

It’s dark.

It’s a prison.

You need to understand, Momma. You’re not the only one craving the Light. And you’re not alone in your fight. There are so many of us. So many who ran through their list of coping skills today and not a single one worked.

You exercise. Pray. Read your Bible. Toss back your tiny pill. Surround yourself with positive people—the ones willing to hold you up by your heart-strings. You do everything you should. And still. The darkness creeps and lurks, ready to pounce.

You have nothing to complain about in your first world life. Happy children. Doting spouse. Fulfilling job. Everything in its right place. And still. The chains overwhelm and cripple. Then the guilt–because life is good–only tightens the shackles.

The world doesn’t always understand just how brave you are for getting out of bed.

But know.

I know how brave you are. How courage is one foot in front of the other in spite of the fear. How Hope can be fragile and wrapped up in your ability to breathe deep in the pitch-black. How strength builds muscles in your soul every day you face the darkness.

I wish I had answers, Momma.

Because you can love Jesus with your entire being and still fight depression. Because sometimes you run so hard to the pin-prick light in the distance only to watch it drift further away. Because some days you stay in bed.

I don’t have answers.

But I have one promise. A promise wrapped in Hope.

Echoed twice in Scripture are these words, these beautiful, Light-giving words: I will never leave you or forsake you.

We are never alone, my sisters.

Never. Ever. alone.

In our weakest moments. On our darkest days. After our courage disappears.

He is there.

Always.

I’m here too, holding tight to the hands of countless sisters.

Because we know.

Understand this—We never fight alone.

Let the words of Christ echo. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will never leave you or forsake you.

Let this be enough to gingerly lift the covers and climb out of bed, into some small, soft rays of light.

My brave, beautiful sisters. I know.

And I love you.

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Posted in Struggles | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

When Did We Stop Twirling?

The other night, music softly playing in the background, I watched you dance. I peeked around the corner so you couldn’t see me because I knew if did, you’d stop.

I was right.

When you were just a little bug-of-a-girl, you would twirl. Everywhere you went, your soul found the music and you would spin. Grocery aisles and church aisles. Nothing was safe from your dance.

You didn’t care who watched.

Your tiny body laughed as joy bubbled while your dress spun straight out. Your cheeky smile still fills the space of my mind where memories live.

When did you stop twirling?

You may dance in your ballet shoes for audiences, for your instructors, for practice, but somewhere along the way—this way toward adolescence—you stopped twirling.

DSC_008520150502_122623FB_IMG_1432486212049I can’t blame you. Because somewhere along the way I stopped twirling too.

My sweet girl. I don’t know what this is—this afraid to dance to the music of our own souls when others are watching. But I know we’re not the only ones.

Women, girls everywhere have stopped too.

Sisters, when did we stop spinning joy? When did we allow our own insecurities to take up residence in our hearts? When did we force ourselves into hiding?

I remember the teacher who put my desk behind the filing cabinet in first grade because I couldn’t sit still or stay quiet. Maybe it was then.

Or it could have been the bully in fourth grade that punched me in the stomach. I can’t remember why.

Or possibly it was the friend in sixth grade that told me to suck in so I didn’t look fat.

Or there was the note I found at camp where the cute boy had written I was ugly.

Or maybe it was all those times and the others.

You see, my darling. We tend to listen to the loudest voices. To the voices that cause great pain. I don’t know why, but we do.

We allow the wrong people to define who we are. And those wrong people? We’re afraid of them. Afraid of what they might think of our twirling and spinning and dancing through life. Even if they’re not around—we’re afraid of them.

Isn’t that crazy?

We allow a world that really isn’t watching to keep us from dancing through the only life we are gifted to live. We allow those who bully and laugh and point fingers to tell us who we are.

This is not God’s desire for you. And only your Creator, the One who breathed life into your soul, can define you.

His voice, His soft whisper, is the one to cling to. The voice that pulls you close, reminding you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a young woman of beauty. Of strength. Of dignity.

I know it’s easy to say don’t worry about what others might think. So easy to say those words…

But to live them?

Sometimes we can’t see the top of the wall we must scale to overcome our insecurities, our awkwardness.

So maybe, my sweet girl, maybe if we joined together? You and me and our sisters—the wives and mothers and daughters of our world. If we joined together and learned to twirl again?

Because being a woman is something to twirl about.

It will take all of our courage. We will need to be brave. But we can do this. And we’ll be glad we did.

I’m desperate for us to lift our arms together toward the heavens, wherever we stand, and begin swaying to the music of our own hearts. Dancing to the rhythms of our individual souls. Twirling for the One who gave us each our own song.

What a breathtaking site that would be.

My sweet girl. Shall we dance?

Posted in Beautiful Life, Beauty, Motherhood, Struggles | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Searching for Christmas

A quick glance over my last several posts may look like I’m in a funk. A dip. A low. That may be true, but I think it’s more. I think it reveals a search.

A search for Christmas. A search for intimacy with my Creator.

They are connected. Intertwined. One does not exist, for me, without the other.

One evening a few weeks ago, I took my Court Jester to the park. Our time together lately has been short and not altogether sweet. We needed a date.

The park is situated on a picturesque lake in our area, and the sun sets just over the horizon. As my son and I arrived, we spent some time talking to wizened men fishing off the dock with their buckets for chairs and cane poles for rods.

The fish weren’t biting and the park was calling.

As Caleb climbed towers and defeated evil villains (or was one, I’m not sure…), I watched from a bench. Slowly more children began to drift in and, as only children can, strangers became friends.

The sun filled the sky with its pink and amber colors. Two teen girls entered the play area, and it wasn’t long before they began spinning the children crazy on the merry-go-round and games of chase ensued.

When the father a bench over from mine started softly strumming his guitar, I was undone.

The laughter. The sunset. The music. The teen-hearts. The simplicity.

The moment wasn’t quiet but it stilled my soul. Tears seeped from the corners of my eyes.

Often I find myself looking for Christmas amongst the glitzy, the shiny, the sparkly. Sometimes I can find it there because Joy can be found in brilliantly lit places.

But Joy can be found in the humble places too. Sitting on that park bench, with its beautiful mix of humanity, gave me a sweet glimpse of heaven on earth. Nothing glamorous, nothing flashy.

Yet Christ shimmered in the midst.

The night Jesus was born the hay didn’t sparkle. The teenage mother wasn’t picture perfect. The shepherds, poor and dirty, were invited to visit first.

Nothing special. Nothing we know of Christmas today. There was nothing extravagant in the setting that first night.

Only extravagant Grace.

This Silent Night brought Joy to the World. And both heaven and nature sang.

When I’m looking for Christmas, I sometimes look too hard. I forget the humble beginnings. I forget the quiet restoration of humanity offered by a babe so small.

Beautiful places don’t reveal Jesus. Jesus reveals the beautiful. It’s His beauty we see in the humble manger. And it’s His loveliness we witness in the songs and traditions of this Season.

My search for Christmas begins with Immanuel—God with us. His fingerprints are everywhere.

Maybe that’s why my search will never end. Because I can find Him wherever I go.

I only need to be searching.

I never want to stop seeing Him in corners of this world. Whether they’re brightly lit or darkened by sadness.

The lights, the packages, the decorations. Those can hold Christmas. But peaceful evenings on a park bench can hold Christmas, too.

Mary DSC_1406 Wonder

Posted in Beautiful Life, Christmas, Joy | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Dear Momma Trying to Make Christmas Perfect

Please stop.

I know your stress. It’s deep. It’s binding—the chaining of emotions to unattainable perfection.

I used to be you.

My young married years were spent attempting to be Martha Stewart. I’d spend endless hours crafting homemade gifts, baking delicious desserts, and decorating every nook and cranny of my home with properly themed colors.

Before we were married, my husband and I purchased a small Christmas tchotchke at the Dollar Tree—Christmas lettered out as a train in cartoonish fashion. For years I hid it from plain view because it didn’t match my themes.

Those early years soon led to children who helped hang ornaments on the tree. In huge clumps. Gaping holes everywhere. At night I would secretly rearrange their vision of beauty into my idea of perfect.

The sad truth is I spent so many hours attempting to create perfection, the joy of the season escaped me.

In more recent years, I uncovered a secret.

To continue reading, please click here as I share my heart with Orlando Moms Blog today.

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When Christmas Fails Our Expectations

My first hint of danger? I found the idea on Pinterest.

I’m rarely a get-crafty-with-the-kids momma. But sometimes I see something that looks easy—simple—and I think, Well, why not?

With that innocent thought, I found myself late Saturday afternoon standing over my stove cooking dough to be molded and cut into ornaments with cookie cutters. (Note to self: Read directions before promising children super, fun Christmas crafts.)

For the sake of brevity, let’s just it’s Monday and finishing touches still need to be added to these easy ornaments. The experience did not meet my expectations.

Are the ornaments cute? Absolutely.

Did the kids have fun? Yes.

Am I glad I did it? I think so?

I had ideas of a blissful few hours creating gorgeous Christmas ornaments with my children and one of their sweet friends. But true to my normal life experience, I felt frazzled and tired as messy chaos ensued.

My expectations met reality. This is a trend.

I’ll be honest. I’m facing the Christmas season tired, overwhelmed with work, and cranky. Having to put so much effort into finding the “Christmas spirit” has left my heart tender and aching.

I want to sit in a quiet house, stare into the soft twinkle of tree lights, listen to “O Holy Night” in the background, watch snowflakes gently fall outside my window, and sip hot chocolate from my special mug. I want all of these things. I want every moment of the season to be packed with those perfect images. I want Christmas to be perfect.

Or at least like the perfect image set up by Christmas movies, social media, and our culture.

I feel like a spoiled brat because I want. I want. I want. And I live in Florida, ruling out snow on Christmas for all time. I’m now having a tantrum.

Sunday morning our small group watched a video portraying how the first Christmas probably played out.

As I watched a laboring Mary and a scared Joseph , all I could think was how nothing about the night of the Christ-child’s birth met their expectations.

To begin, Mary was having a baby and Joseph wasn’t the daddy. (Just imagine for a moment having that conversation with your teenage daughter as she protests again and again she’s a pregnant virgin.) Scandalized and poor, this is the beginning of their marriage.

Then at nine months pregnant, Joseph drags his wife across the desert so they can complete what the government requires for a census. Not sure about you, but I can’t imagine being all smiley and cheerful about that detail. I mean, they couldn’t even enjoy the Christmas lights along the way while drinking their peppermint mochas. (See. Spoiled brat. What do I know about hardships?)

And when they get there? Not a single, solitary room to rest their weary heads. Oh, but there’s this barn out back. I think I would have looked at Prince Charming in that moment and gone ballistic. Like, I don’t care what you have to steal, who you have to kill, how much you have to pay—get. me. a. room!

We don’t know Mary and Joseph’s conversations. But I can imagine the fear, confusion, and sadness that comes with unmet expectations.

No midwife. No hospital. No bed.

Just a dirty barn with manure, filthy animals, and a feeding trough.

An imperfect beginning to what we now celebrate as Christmas.

Friends, I am reminded that Christmas has never been perfect. And no matter what I do, I can’t ever make it so.

I feel like much of this season is an illusion, a deterrent. We hustle and bustle around in an attempt to find the ideal Christmas spirit, but we’re not looking in the right direction. We look to the lights, the carols, the decorations, even the traditions. While those things are beautiful and good and joyous, they won’t meet our expectations.

Ever.

But the one place I will find the Christmas spirit, lose my bah-humbug, and sink into the comfort and joy of this season? The one place?

The manger.

When I quietly peek over the edge of the feeding trough and lift the swaddling clothes, I find the perfection of Christmas I’ve been looking for.

A baby.

Immanuel.

God with us.

Christ. The perfection of Christmas.

When I am looking at Him, the tiny miracle baby, my Christmas expectations shift. Nothing I do will make Christmas perfect or holy. The joy I experience this season cannot hinge on my striving and straining to create the ideal.

To find my Christmas spirit, my eyes, my expectations need to be on the manger.

Only then will I discover the comfort and joy and peace the season brings. I will find the rest I crave during this chaotic time of year.

The babe in the manger.

Only He is perfect.

He is Christmas.

Baby Jesus

Posted in Beauty, Christmas, Relationship with God | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments