Sometimes I forget to spit out the seeds…

Weddings and Funerals

As a child, I never would have imagined that in adulthood, there would be family members I would only see at weddings and funerals.  I don’t mean distant branches of the family tree, but close relatives…. grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins.  Even as my cousins and I seemed to have less in common as we got older, I still envisioned adulthood peppered with family reunions and occasional holiday gatherings.  I have written before about the gradual absence of all but my immediate family. But inevitably, that wedding or funeral comes around.

My grandfather died last week.  He was a very handsome Italian-American named Joe; the first generation of his family to be born in America.  Family rumor has him as one of 13 children, but everyone I’ve talked to can only name six of them; the rest are assumed to have died in infancy.  I have memories of he and my Armenian grandma taking us to the donut shop for donuts-on-a-stick and stickers from the vending machine by the door.  It seemed that every time we visited, he was eating basturma (I remember it pronounced BAS-too-mah), which is air-dried, cured beef.  He was always thrilled to see us; so proud, and so protective. Coast bar soap reminds me of him, and I’m not sure why.

At 87 years old, and in failing health after a couple of strokes, Grandpa’s death was not a surprise.  A midst the predictable feelings of sadness, there mingled a few other emotions as I began planning the logistics of our trip to bid him farewell.

Stress as I made arrangements for leaving our children behind while we spent two days in New Jersey for the viewing, funeral, and burial services.  My in-laws were more than willing to watch them for us, but I needed to type up instructions so the kiddos wouldn’t try to con their way into endless screen time and no chores.  Also on the docket were a light school plan and medical authorization forms, just in case.

Indecision as I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to bring our 3-yr-old with us.  She is needy at bedtime, and also my “baby”.  She would be a great buffer for those awkward moments with estranged family members.  (She ultimately came with us and was spoiled rotten.)

Embarrassment when I thought of showing up overweight after not seeing many of these people for several years.  Adding to that embarrassment was the struggle to find appropriate clothing to wear when I haven’t been shopping for my larger body.

Anger when I thought of those family members who’d shunned myself, my parents, and siblings with no explanation.  For years, I’d known the time would come when we’d be forced to spend time together.  That time had come, and it felt like I was about to enter a hostile middle school cafeteria.  No logic.  No rules.  Just “I don’t like you.”

Excitement when I thought of the ones whose love is evident.  The ones it is a joy to spend time with, no matter how long it’s been.  The ones I can talk to and laugh with and be myself with.

Anxiety at the thought of actually leaving my children, although I had no doubt that they were in capable hands.

I spent the week praying for grace, strength, safety, and peace.  I prayed that Jesus’ love would shine through me, regardless of what was going on around me.

In the end, the good moments far outweighed the bad.

The bad…. In addition to the terrifying drive around Philly, there was the anticipated family angst.  The “shunners” were very inconsistent with their shunning.  One moment avoiding eye contact and bee-lining it away from me, and the next carrying on what seemed like normal conversations, but felt like a big game of “let’s pretend.”  It was unnerving, confusing, and a little sickening.  But those moments were few.

The good…. I got to see many family members and friends, who all came together to honor my grandpa.  I enjoyed great conversations, good food, and laughter.  My grandma did not make her usual inquiry about whether or not I was pregnant again, to which she generally responds “thank God” when the answer is no.  In fact, she proudly announced to several people that I have eight children, and told one of my sisters what a blessing my kids are.  Wow.

I came home feeling inspired to make more of an effort to remain connected.  I thought about hosting a family reunion when our house is more hospitable.  I kicked myself for bringing my camera and not taking any pictures, especially of all the cousins together.  I don’t know if anything will change in our family dynamics.  My bet would be on “probably not.”  I feel sad but resigned to that fact, and just grateful for the good times that we had this week.

My grandpa and I weren’t really very close, but every time I saw him, his face lit up with a smile.  He liked to tell the story of when I was little and just learning to walk.  I’d fall forward and end up rump-in-the-air to reveal a heart on the bottom of my diaper cover.  I’m 36 years old, and until he lost the ability to talk a few years ago, that was still a memory he shared often, and with joy.  And he called me “my Michelle.”

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Family is Everything

I spent the first six years of my life surrounded by extended family. My cousin Joey was my first best friend, and our moms helped each other with life….one watching the kids while the other went shopping; drinking coffee and chatting on a regular basis. There were grandparent, aunts and uncles, and second cousins nearby, and very much in my life. Many of us would even go on vacation together every year, to a resort in the Catskills. I remember the entire caravan of cars pulling over when I got carsick. I’m not even sure how they made that happen without cell phones.

On Christmas Day, 30 years ago, my family moved to another state. My father’s profession is very specific, and jobs weren’t to be found just anywhere. He saw an opportunity and took it. My cousins then became my first pen pals. Family gatherings suddenly occurred only 2-3 times a year. It was a tough transition for my mom, I know, but as I remember, it was rather seamless for me.

Birthdays were celebrated with just my parents, my sisters, and myself.  Thanksgiving and Christmas were small affairs, as well.  There were no grandparents at choir and band concerts, talent shows, marching band competitions, or even my high school graduation party.  It sounds kind of sad, but in reality, I never felt the lack.  I credit my parents with that amazing feat.

They never spoke of the absence of family; at least not with us kids.  They made a lot of effort to keep those other relationships close, and didn’t complain when it seemed to be a one-way street.  But when it came right down to it, and those people were missing out on our growing up, my mom and my dad filled every gap.   We were always enough for each other.

When I began to have kids of my own, I started to realize what had been missing in my life.  The way my kids are growing up became a clear contrast to my own childhood.  While I never felt deprived, they surely are blessed.  Every birthday party is attended by grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and cousins.  Every soccer, basketball, and baseball game is attended by one or both sets of grandparents.  They’ve grown up in the same church as my in-laws, and more recently, my parents as well.  I’ve rarely needed to find a babysitter outside of the family.

Christmas Eve is always at my parents’ house (pizza bread, shrimp cocktail, and antipasto!).  After our own morning traditions on Christmas Day we head to my hubby’s parents’ house (ham, turkey, broccoli salad, pink stuff!).  Later in the day, my parents come by our house to hand out presents.  For Thanksgiving, we alternate years; each year content to be where we are, but missing the other side of the family, as well.

We do have family members out of state, most notably my sister and her family.  We miss them so much, but we make the effort to keep close, despite the distance.  We also have some family that we rarely see, though they are close by, and that is sad.  But our cup is overflowing, and I’m so thankful for that.  I’m thankful that God hasn’t put it on my plate to be far from family, as I know He’s done for others.

This fall, a wonderful thing happened to my family.  My grandma and step-grandpa moved to town!  We haven’t been able to visit them for several years, due to health-related issues.  Now they are only 25 minutes away, and will be present at birthdays, holidays, and many things in between.  My children are now getting to know their great-grandparents, which I think is amazing.  Their childhoods are so richly steeped in their heritage, and I hope that will resonate with them throughout their lives.

Family is not an important thing.  It’s everything.  ~ Michael J. Fox

There’s a lot of darkness in this world.  Depression.  Illness.  Lack.  Anxiety.  Crime.  Loss.  Sorrow.  Sometimes it all comes at once, closing in on us.  We reach out in desperation for something to hold on to, to keep us from swirling away in that darkness.  I reach out to Jesus.

I reach out for comfort and clarity.  The comfort usually comes immediately, as soon as I say His name, because I know He is there.  But clarity.  That one can evade my grasp indefinitely.  And the harder I strive for it, the more elusive it becomes.  I think Jesus wants us to have clarity, for sure.  He wants us to step forward in life with confidence in His plan.  But He also wants us to trust Him.  If we had the whole picture, we’d have to push really hard against the temptation to let that trust shift to ourselves.  So He only gives us a glimpse.

Instead of trusting “the plan,” I’m forced to simply trust in Him.  Trust in what I know for sure.  That He created me in His image.  That He loves me more than I can grasp.  That He wants only good for me.  That I am righteous through His sacrifice.  As I circle around, clinging to those truths and waiting for what comes next, I’m still in the midst of my hectic life, keeping it together for the sake of my family.

It occurred to me, the other day, that the Lord has orchestrated my life for such a time as this.  He has given me the medicine I need to bring back my joy, and then bring it back again and again when I lose it.  He has given me children.

I am in a somewhat unique position.  While I do not have a baby right now, nor do I have any adult children, I’ve got pretty much everything in between.  The joy in parenting is different for each stage of childhood, and right now, I feel like I’ve got it all!  God has blessed me with eight amazing little (and not-so-little) people.  Not just for a lifetime; not just for eternity; but for this day.   I want to bring you an ode to my children….the tools through which God is the “lifter of my head.”

Fourteen-year-old boy.  It is surreal and almost giddy to see him, so tall, strong, and handsome.  I see that when he gently roughhouses with his tiniest sister, he’s not just avoiding his school work….he actually enjoys it.  He rolls his eyes and runs away when his sisters try to tackle him, but I can see that it pleases him, and he lets them catch him.  We are still working on respect, but he is getting it.  He’s working hard.  He’s still a kid, and would rather be playing, but when we call on him to help out, he does it diligently and with 100% effort.  Joy number one.

Thirteen-year-old boy.  He recently offered a greeting and a goodbye to family members, unsolicited, and unprompted.  That is huge for this boy.  My heart swells to see him engaging in conversations, looking others in the face, and smiling when he does it.  With a memory like a steel trap and a voracious appetite for reading anything and everything, I can see that God has equipped him to overcome those blind spots in his mind.  While his stories and his LEGO creations are intricate, he finds pleasure in simple things, and the whole world knows when he is amused.  Joy number two.

Eleven-year-old boy.  I see him seeking out the little boys at church, letting them hang on and pummel him.  He begs for a baby brother;  but while he is waiting for God to give him that, he embraces his role as big brother to five sisters.  In school, he struggles only against his desire for perfection.  Learning comes easily to him, and I am glad.  He loves to hear, “I love you,” and always says it back.  He might even let me hug him.  Joy number three.

Nine-year-old girl.  This beauty is a fascinating blend of her father’s athleticism and her mother’s introverted mind.  His singing voice, my book addiction.  Her insanely thick hair gives me vain pride, and her nurturing attitude makes me smile.  She still climbs into my short lap, with her long legs, for a snuggle.  On the brink of adolescence, tears come more easily to her now; and while I know that the coming years may be filled with emotional upheaval, I’m excited for what we’ll get to share.  Joy number four.

Seven-year-old girl.  I see her big smile – teeth overcrowding her little mouth – and freckled nose, and can’t help but smile back.  Her laugh is at times a guffaw, and so contagious.  She’s usually included in the “big kid” activities, but she’ll also take the lead with the younger kids, engaging them in a tea party or block-building marathon.  When doing chores, she does more than is required of her, without complaining.  Her servant heart is emerging.  Joy number five.

Six-year-old girl.  We call her “Brutus.”  Since she was a baby, she has come at life with a great force and boundless energy, sometimes trampling those in her way.   She stubbornly refuses help when she’s reading, often books that are beyond her ability, and just makes up words when she is stumped.  The results are pretty hilarious.  She is fearless, and thinks she can do it all.  Even her rascally escapades exude creativity and ingenuity.  Joy number six.

Four-year-old girl.  Her fake-looking eyelashes are ridiculously beautiful on a child, and her eyes captivate me.  Four is a fun age, filled with curiosity, drama, and rapid learning.  She speaks with a bit of a lisp.  She admires the older boys in her life….brothers, cousins, and friends of theirs.  They can usually tolerate her hanging on their arm or putting their name in a song, because she is so adorable.  I think she forgot how to walk, because she seems to leap or skip wherever she goes.  Joy number seven.

Three-year-old girl.  She will be three in one week, but it seems like she’s already been three for months.  I’m not one to rush through life’s stages, but she has been a very articulate two-year-old.  We crack up daily at her observations and explanations of  life.  Her snuggles lift my spirit immediately.  If you’ve never had a toddler bury their face in your neck while patting your back as you embrace, I highly recommend it.  Even her fake tantrums (“fake” because she’s not really upset), with her arms folded and an exaggerated pout on her face, fill my heart to the brim.  Joy number eight.

I could write for days about both the trials and the joys of motherhood.  But the Lord has brought these joyful moments to the forefront for me….like one of those trippy hidden pictures that were all the rage in the ’90’s.  You’re looking at a crazy, swirling, confusing, and frustrating mess.  Then all of a sudden, you see it.  The picture seems to magically rise to the surface.  And I realize……children are the best medicine.

That’s Not My Calling

Once in a while, I hear homeschooling referred to as a “calling.”  It perplexes me.  I’ve never, ever thought of it that way.  I’m always a bit intrigued as to why someone would see it that way, when to me, it’s just one of a thousand parenting decisions I’ve had to make along the way.  So I looked it up.

Calling.  Vocation, profession, or trade.  (  By that definition, I suppose homeschooling could be a calling.  It’s definitely a vocation, i.e., a job.  I’m teaching my children for several hours per day, plus grading, planning, testing, shopping, etc.

A strong impulse or inclination.  (  Yes, it fits here, too.  I always knew I would homeschool my children.  I received a good education through public school up until high school.  I chose to switch to homeschooling for both academic and social reasons.  The familial benefits were not a factor initially, but definitely became apparent after the fact.  So yes, I would say I had a strong inclination toward homeschooling my own children.

But these are both secular definitions.  “I was called to ….” takes on a whole new depth of meaning when spoken by a Christian.  It’s more spiritual in nature.  “Calling” becomes Christianese… of those words that potentially confuses and turns off unbelievers and Christians alike.  So what does this special version of “calling” mean?

Calling.  The God-appointed vocation of a Christian. (Wikipedia Glossary of Christianity)  This definition implies that God spoke to you, through one of the many ways that He does, and put forth a special request on your life.  Something specific to your gifts and talents and passions.

Some would still say, even by this hyper-spiritualized definition, that homeschooling is a calling.  I disagree; and here’s why.

If you are a parent, it is your responsibility to train and educate your child.  That is biblical, moral, and logical.  All parents must decide how they will go about that.  They may choose to send their children to a public or private school to be educated.  Responsible parents who choose those options will still be involved by getting to know the teachers, helping with homework, and familiarizing themselves with the curriculum being used.  (Side note:  In public school, I had mostly decent teachers, a few amazing ones, and a couple of duds.  Don’t settle for a dud!)

Other parents will choose to educate their children themselves, taking on the full responsibility.  Some will do this for their child’s entire academic career, and others will utilize public or private schools at some point.  In any case, we are each responsible for the education of our children.

I did not choose homeschooling for my children because I felt called by God to do it.  I chose it because I felt it was the most favorable of educational choices.  I had to make a decision about how to educate my children, and I made it.  Other parents view the same options and decide that sending their child to school is the most favorable choice.  Are they “called” to do this?  I think most would say they simply made a choice.

This post is not about homeschooling, though.

Who cares if we label something a “calling” or not?  Does it matter how we categorize our decisions?  In contemplating this, I tried to think of what my calling in life is.  I don’t mean my purpose….I know that my purpose in life is to love God and to love others.  I don’t mean my job… job is to be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children, raising them by the grace of God to adulthood.  I honestly have never had the experience of a spiritual calling to any specific choice, ministry, or vocation.  What if I had waited for it?

If I’d waited to be “called” to have children.

If I’d waited to be “called” to homeschool.

If I’d waited, as a non-crafty and very shy mama,  to be “called” to plan and teach crafts to fellow moms in my MOPS group.

If I’d waited to be “called” to serve in children’s ministry at my church.

If I’d waited to be “called” to use my writing to glorify my God.

The bottom line is that if I’d waited to be supernaturally “called,” I would have missed out.  I’d have missed out on so much blessing, so much grace, so much learning, and so much joy.

I’m not trying to minimize the impact of a true “being called” experience.  I know many who have had these specific moments in their lives.  But I don’t believe that all of God’s work comes about in this way.  It often comes more quietly, in the seemingly unremarkable decisions we have to make.  It comes in the service we give out of a sense of obligation, which then blesses us like we never expected.  It comes through the natural progression of God’s plan for life, and marriage, and families.

I encourage you to not miss out on God’s best for you by saying, “that’s not my calling.”





The “M” Word

It’s ironic how a prim and proper word like “modesty” has turned into such a dirty word.  It’s seen as judgmental and legalistic.  And it’s probably a bit cliche for a Christian blogger to write about it, especially in the spring.  I’ve read other bloggers’ takes on this (surprisingly) controversial topic.  Their posts are sometimes greeted with a resounding, “here, here!”, but just as often with mocking and scoffing at the ridiculous notion that public near-nudity is a problem for anyone.

I want to start with a few disclaimers to un-muddy the waters.

1.  A blogger I follow, and heartily enjoy, by the name of Matt Walsh (, recently wrote about how modesty is about more than just clothing.  Modesty is about not bragging.  Not showing off.  I agree, wholeheartedly.  However, in the smallness of my immediate world, it’s physical, bodily immodesty that seems to crop up most often.  So it is that that I’m writing about today.  Physical modesty is not the most important measure of character or Christian faith.

2.  I’m not going to evaluate any specific articles of clothing in this post.  There’s value in those discussions, and they certainly have their place among friends, fellow moms, mothers and daughters, and yes, sometimes even a blog readership.  But we will never all agree on how many inches of cleavage or thigh is acceptable, or how long a shirt must be to sufficiently cover a legging-clad booty.  There will be those that argue that culture dictates modesty (which it does, to some degree), and as long as you are more modest than the rest of your peers, you’re good.  Those conversations are worth having, but they are worthless and actually do become all about legalism if we don’t also discuss where modesty comes from:  The heart.  True modesty can not be dictated; it must be heart-felt.

3.  If you know me in real life, or have read my blog, you know that I have recently become overweight.  It’s a mystery to me, but it is my reality.  I have seen other bloggers torn to shreds about their position on modesty because, apparently, being overweight means one thing only… are jealous.  My position on modesty does not in any way stem from jealousy of thin women.  Believe it.  Or don’t.  Whatever.

4.  While both men and women struggle with lust, men are more visually stimulated than women.  In general.  It is not an all-encompassing rule, as there are many exceptions.  However, this generalization is a scientific fact.  Google it.  Likewise, it is not only women that are guilty of immodest dress.  Men do this, too, but it’s not as prevalent.  Generally speaking.  Please assume that when I’m referring to women (how they dress), it also applies to men; and when referring to men (how they respond), it also applies to women. 

5.  Yes, men already know that you have breasts, and a rear-end, and legs, whether you are dressed sexily or not.  Yes, they can be distracted by the sight of a “hot” woman, even if she is dressed modestly.  Let’s not ignorantly claim that it doesn’t make a difference how you dress because men are pigs who will stare and gawk anyway.   Let’s use common sense, ladies.  Does a well-built man look the same in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt as he does in just his underwear?  Either way, you can tell what his best features are.  But….not. the. same.

6.  Men are not pigs who have no control.  But they are hard-wired to respond to visual stimuli.  Again, Google it if you don’t believe me.  Yes, they are responsible for their own thoughts and actions and should work to control them through the grace of God.  Discussing modesty is not about blame.

So with all that as a framework, here’s what I want to say:  Modesty is, first and foremost, about love.  You know, that 2nd greatest commandment, right from the mouth of Christ?

Matthew 22:35-40    One of them [a pharisee], an expert in the Law, tested Him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Pharisees hated Jesus, and were trying to trip Him up, asking Him to choose just one of the ten commandments (“the Law”) as the most important.  Jesus’ answer summed up not only “the Law” in one word, but also His entire mission.  Love covers it all.  If we love, we do not murder.  If we love, we do not cheat on our spouse.  And it’s the love of our Savior that enables us to love others.  So how does this apply to the topic of modesty?

Love one another.  Love your spouse (current or future) by keeping the precious gift of your body just for them.  Love the men and boys in your life by not giving them one more picture of overt sexuality to be tempted by.  Love the women in your life by helping to protect their men from unwanted sexual images.  Love the young girls in your life by modeling self-respect and true beauty.  Love God by keeping His gift of sexuality in its proper, and more glorious, framework.

One blog post I read on the topic of  modesty was followed by pages and pages of arguments, and hundreds of (mostly) angry comments.  An astounding quantity of them were from self-described “Christians,” vehemently defending their right to wear whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, claiming no personal responsibility for any repercussions, and if men were tempted to lust by their appearance, too bad.  Is this love?






Rotten Day

During my lunch “break” yesterday (in other words, while I picked the meat off a leftover chicken carcass, dipped it in buffalo sauce before eating it, then worked on school corrections) I watched an episode of the show “Revolution,” which I love, and has also just been cancelled (not sure if I have any friends to commiserate with me on the injustice of that decision).  The show takes place 15 years after a worldwide apocalyptic blackout.  Life is primitive, and brutal.

In one scene of this episode, our hero, Miles Matheson, is racing in his horse-drawn wagon to evade a band of bad  guys trying to kill him, as usual.  The wagon overturns.  He is a sharp-shooter, so as soon as the bad guys catch up to him, he has no trouble doing away with most of them.  With one guy left standing, Miles is out of bullets, darn it!  They reach for their swords, and Miles eventually kills his opponent, but only after sustaining a severe stab wound to the gut.  Ouch!  He wanders off in search of his friends.

Coming to the ruins of a house, Miles stops to look around, and falls through the rotten floor boards into the basement. Obviously injured further, and wincing in pain, he looks over to see a First Aid kit on the floor next to him.  He can barely reach it, but when he does, he finds that it is empty.  “This is a really bad day,” he says.  Just then, a teetering brick wall of the ruins falls over, crashing over the opening to the basement, where he is now trapped.

I’m not sure if the writers of this intense sci-fi drama intended for that scene to have a touch of humor, but I laughed out loud.  One life-threatening situation after another, and he says it’s a “really bad day”?  It was the ultimate understatement, and it was also a statement I could relate to.  I was having a really, really bad day.  Here’s why:

1) The health issues I have blogged about have impacted my sleep pattern in a big way.  I used to wake up early enough to work out, eat breakfast alone, shower and dress, and do some light yard work before my kids woke up.  It was glorious!  I felt relaxed, put-together, and ready to face a day of parenting and home school.

Now I can barely drag myself out of bed, usually after a few of my kiddos are already up.  After 7 or 8 hours of sleep, I still feel like I could sleep for hours, and each step of getting up takes a concerted effort (open eyes, remove covers, swing legs to floor, sit up, etc.). I have no alone time, and I’m rushing to get ready for the day when my kids are already asking for help with their school work.  I have neither the energy nor the time for working out.  As a result, I’m grumpy.  A lot.

2)  Also due to the changes in my health, I have a negative, self-depreciating narrative on a loop in my brain, which I fight against constantly.  I pray it away, but it just comes back.  I feel like crap most of the time, both mentally and physically.

3)  On this particular morning, my three younger daughters, who are required to amuse themselves while the big kids do school (that’s why God gave you siblings!), could not seem to get along.  First the middle one came crying that the other two won’t be her “best buddies” anymore.  Then the older one complained that the little girls won’t play with her, or that what they’re playing is stupid, or that they’re stupid, or that I’m stupid because I look unimpressed with her tragic dilemma.

4)  We were having a rough school day.  Warm, breezy weather distracted us.  A dead mouse on the porch was uber fascinating.  The work was too hard.  The teacher was unfair.  The teacher hates the students.  By lunch time, I had spent all my time breaking up arguments and fielding complaints, while the correction pile had grown to a leaning tower of workbooks (how they actually got any work done is still a mystery).

So my lunch “break” arrived and I endured a few interruptions (no, you may not have Pepsi.  yes, please eat the leftovers.  do whatever you want, but for the love of God, please let me eat!).  I chuckled at Miles Matheson’s “really bad day.”  I smiled.  Ok, so maybe my morning wasn’t so bad.  Deep breath and move on.

Only… day didn’t get the memo that we were moving on from rotten.  Ready for act two?  (If you are still reading, I promise there’s a point to all this…..I hope…..still waiting for that part to download.)

5)  Bad school attitude continued until it was time for chores to begin.  Most of the children complied, but two little ones laid on their bedroom floor and refused to clean up the ankle-deep dress-ups and dolls.  Stern discipline was employed, followed by wailing.  I had a hard time drumming up tenderness for the follow-up hug.

6)  After a relatively smooth preparation for a family outing to my husband and son’s church league softball game, I realized on the way there that I forgot to take my vitamin D supplement, which affects both my energy level and my mood stability.  Great.

7)  We arrived at the ball field to find gusting winds.  It cut the humidity, which was nice, but posed a problem for our dinner plans.  We rarely try to eat at ball games, but this night we had take out Haitian food from a fundraiser.  Strong winds do not mix well with serving rice, beans, and chicken on paper plates to small children.  Food went flying, and my church friends got to hear the opposite of my “super-patient-in-public-you’d-never-guess-I-have-a-temper” voice.  I was so irritated that I was only slightly embarrassed at my tone.

8)  Haitian food got mixed reviews.  Some children started asking for snacks.  I had brought none, of course, because we were having dinner.  Here’s a Dum Dum, kid.

9)  It was dry.  Like, desert dry.  And you remember I said it was windy, right?  It was an action-packed game.  With every mad dash to steal a base, or slide, or really, even a batter getting walked to first base, an immense cloud of dirt wooshed over us.  Only on our side of the field.  The wind never changed direction, the whole time.  I could taste it, gritty on my teeth.  My hair went stiff with a coating of dirt on it.  It’s in my eyes.  I had to close them for 5 minutes when dirt got stuck under my contacts.  I almost ripped them out of my eyes to throw them away, but my tears finally did their job.

10) When we left the game, it was almost 8pm on a school night, and every one of us needed a bath or shower when we got home.  It started to rain, and then we were driving in a torrential downpour while I clenched my armrests and prayed.  We made it home alive.

And that’s it.  The rest was cake.  I filed the kids and adults through the shower, one after the other.  Here, eat a banana.  Night-night.  As I walked through the final, and peaceful by comparison, hours of my day, I began writing this post in my head. It seemed too ridiculously frustrating and real not to share.   But I kept coming to a dead end.  What was the point?  Where is the lesson?  What grand conclusion will I wrap up with a pretty bow to give this rather long-winded list of bad-day events some meaning?

Well, folks, it’s nothing profound or new or insightful.  This is real life.  Whether you have 2 kids or 20, there are bound to be days when everything goes wrong.  Some people assume that because I have a large family, life must be chaotic.  (On a side note, be careful what you say in front of your kids.  I once had a young child say to me, “You must be SO stressed out with SO many kids.”  Gee, I wonder where she heard that?)  The truth is that my life is no more chaotic than it was when I had a smaller family.  Really.  On most days, there may be a squabble or two, or one kid is a little grumpy.  Days like yesterday, when everyone seems to be in a foul mood, and things go wrong the entire day, and my body and brain can’t keep up with it all…..those are few and far between.

At the end of every day, including the rotten ones, I can rest in the arms of my Savior and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He has my back.  When I fail, He covers my mistakes with grace and love.  He shows me how to love my children when the you’re-so-mean’s make it so, so hard.  It’s in His power that I mother, on good days and bad days.   Period.  On my own, I’m weak.  The inevitable failures destroy me and leave me without hope.  But with HIM, there is always hope.  Sweet, life-saving hope.

The Courage to Fail

Since the birth of my youngest child, 32 months ago, I have failed.  I have failed to make my body respond to healthy habits.  After repeatedly trying and failing to lose the weight I gained in pregnancy, I realized that I don’t have the power to make my body do anything.  I just don’t.  I can do all the “right” things, and every version of “right” things that is purported by experts, and it doesn’t work.  I not only didn’t lose weight while eating healthy (first cutting out this, then adding that, then eating this way, at that time, etc.)  and working out (at night, in the morning, longer, harder)….I not only didn’t lose weight, but gained it.  Seven pounds in a week, with no changes in my lifestyle to explain it, and they stuck.  What was left of my hope was shattered.

Shortly after that unexpected and shocking weight gain, I stopped trying.  We were busy getting ready to move, so it was easy to drop my workouts from my schedule.  Then the holidays, and the fatigue, and settling in at our new place….I never did add them back in.  I started giving in to my cravings.  Vanilla coke every time I went grocery shopping.  Something chocolate every day to top off my lunch.  Cheetos for the crunchy and salty binge.  My husband has this idea that the holidays are all about pepperoni and cheese, and I gladly joined him in that indulgence.

In the months since then, I’ve been digging for a medical explanation.  Several symptoms were added to my list that for a long time only had “cannot lose weight” on it.  In a recent post, I described my devastation at finding out that nothing was wrong with me except for a vitamin D deficiency.  I told about how I demanded to see my endocrinologist again, when it seemed like she was brushing me off.  (Come back and see me in a year!)

When my furious haze dissipated, I cancelled that appointment.  She’s already done what she knows to do, so it would be irrational to harass her with my desperate cry of, “Help me.  Fix me.  DO SOMETHING.”

The vitamin D supplementation is helping.  My fatigue and brain fog are quite less than they were.  If I miss a dose, the difference is clear.  I thank God for the help it has provided, and I hope that in time those symptoms will disappear altogether.

I’ve been in this uncomfortable body for long enough that my younger children don’t remember me being a healthy size.  They know Mom as chubby, and to them, it’s no big deal.  It’s the norm.

A few weeks ago, I faced the scale for the first time since dropping my efforts.  I hadn’t stepped on it in months, and I was scared.  The result?  No. Change.  Was I relieved?  Yes, of course.  I didn’t want that number to go up.  But at the same time, I was horrified.  It was confirmation that I’m broken.  Who goes from binging on veggies to binging on jalapeno poppers and doesn’t gain an ounce?  Who goes from daily, intense workouts to no exercise at all, and still weighs the same?

Despite all of this evidence of brokenness and failure, I’m considering trying again.  My fatigue is lessened enough that I think I could handle some exercise.  I miss it.  I crave it, even.  I love how it makes me feel.  I could do it just for that benefit, with no expectations.  But is that even really possible?  When I feel my heart rate accelerate, and I get hot and sweaty with my effort, and my muscles get sore and tired….I’m going to expect to see changes in my body.  But I won’t.

I’m not sure I have the courage to face failure again.  But I know The One who does.

After weeks of brooding over my “normal” diagnosis regarding my thyroid function, I called my endocrinologist.  I asked for more tests.  I braved the hospital lab early on a cold Saturday morning.  I met an angel phlebotomist who, when I started to cry, asked me, “Have you been tortured?  I can always tell the ones who’ve been tortured.”  She promised me that she would only stick me if she was 110% sure, and she kept that promise.  I smiled when she assured me that I was, in fact, bleeding freely.

Four pages of tests.  Ten vials of blood.  I don’t even remember all that was on the list.  Celiac, rheumatoid something, hormones galore, adrenal function, vitamin levels.  A week and a half later, I heard from my doctor’s nurse, Frankie.  She went through the list, saying, “That’s good,” every time she said that the result was normal.  My heart sank with each item, and my brain screamed, “This is the opposite of good!”  Being unwell with no explanation is not GOOD.

Finally, she let me know that my vitamin D was low, and that I should supplement.  And also, did I want to come back to see the doctor in a year?  I nearly threw the phone on the floor at that suggestion.  I was supposed to just live with my growing list of symptoms for twelve months, go back, and what?  Have her tell me that there still was “nothing wrong with me”?  Vitamin D was not going to fix all that ails me.  I insisted that I need to see her soon, and got an appointment for next month.

I won’t give the details of my physical reaction in the aftermath of this conversation, or the plummeting of my hope for healing, or the desperation that was skillfully calmed by the wisest woman I know (a.k.a. Mom, of course).  Instead, I want to share with you the joyful prayer of thanksgiving that escaped my lips, when I decided to focus on all that my body has done and can do, instead of the ways it is deficient now.

1.  My body has grown 8 healthy children within it, through normal, uncomplicated pregnancies.  Though not without their discomforts, I did not spend all those months vomiting, or bed-ridden, or in fear for my or my child’s life

2.  My body has given birth 8 times; again, normally, and without complications.  I was blessed to give birth 6 times in the comfort of my own home, with amazing support and care all around me.  I experienced the beauty of God’s design; although fraught with the pain that came when sin entered the world, I am in awe of what He made my body to do.

3.  My body has nourished 8 children with the milk it produced, on average for about 16 months each.  They all thrived on that perfect food, and the joy that came with warmth and overwhelming love was more than enough to counter the few “issues” I had with breastfeeding.

4.  My body shed the copious pounds put on during pregnancy seven times.  Seven times I gained and lost an average of 50 lbs.   Beginning with my third pregnancy, I had to work for it, but my body always responded to me treating it right.

5.  My body rarely gets sick.  I don’t often get colds, and I’ve never had an illness worse than strep throat.  I get a stomach bug maybe every other year.

6.  My body has never had a broken bone or needed stitches.  That may be more a testimony to my lifestyle and choice of activities, but I’m thankful for it nonetheless.

7.  My body has never needed surgery, aside from dental surgery.  I have never had to be admitted to a hospital, for any reason.

8.  My body is fairly well coordinated, and I have a good sense of rhythm.  I’m pretty sure I would rock at Zumba, if I ever had the chance to try it

As I tearfully thanked God for all of these things, my mind kept trying to interject, “but what about…”  But I shut it down, again and again, and returned to the things that I am thankful for.  As my mom reminded me, I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).  Whatever else may come, that will always be true.

Snarky.  The last two blog posts I attempted to write were incredibly snarky, and probably inflammatory.  They both were inspired by real-life, snark-inducing events.  While I doubt that the subjects of those posts would ever read my blog, if they DID happen upon it, they surely would recognize themselves in my words.  I don’t want to be that blogger who uses my posts as a virtual diary, so raw and transparent that they serve no purpose but to vomit out the angry contents of my brain with no attempt at finding any redemptive lesson in the thing.

As I’ve contemplated these two blog-inspiring events, I did see a common thread, and perhaps even that redemptive lesson.

I have a sister who is nearing the end of her teenage years, eagerly anticipating the end of her drama-filled high school days.  I wish I could assure her that the drama does, indeed, vanish when you hit adulthood.  I wish.  These two recent events in my life, one of which is actually a long-term situation rather than a single event, are full-on adults-causing-drama events.

1)  Adult person hates myself and all of my adult immediate family members for no apparent reason, with no explanation.  “Hates” is my word, not theirs.  But they have cut off all contact with us, defriended us on facebook (and we know that facebook friendships can be merely perfunctory, with no real value….even that was intolerable to this person), avoided being in the same place as us.

2)  Man-boy (technically an adult, but barely) verbally abuses someone I love (among other unmentionable offenses), and makes disparaging remarks about my children.  Man-boy is a product of his environment, but as he is an adult, that excuse doesn’t fly with me.  Time to suck it up and act like a decent human being.

Both of these situations can be attributed to the offenders being jerks ignorant petty  <—ok, truthfully, those things, too, but mostly they are….

Broken.  They are sad, and miserable, and broken.  That is the only reason I can think of that a grown person would participate in such drivel.  There may be a small percentage of adults that actually like drama, and even thrive on it, in the same way that many teenagers do (you know, the ones who are always simultaneously posting about how much they hate drama and giving a play-by-play of the intimate details of their lives).  But I do not believe that the majority of adults fall into this category.  (For the sake of humanity, let me be right about that!)

No, the ones who continue to lash out in hateful and hurtful ways….they are broken.  And guess what?  Bottom line is, they need Jesus.  They need Him just like I need Him, to make them whole.  I have to remind myself of that, when these things resurface, as they always do, and threaten to disrupt my happy world with nastiness and hurt.  I need to see them as Jesus sees them.  And even (gasp) love them.

I’m not in a position to love either of these people in an active sort of way.  They are not directly part of my life, nor do I wish them to be, for the time being.  But I can dial down the reciprocating animosity in favor of compassion.  I can dismiss the ranting in my brain in favor of a quick prayer for them.  In fact, whenever I feel my anger rising again, I can combat it by praying for them.  There is peace available from my Savior.  For them, and for me.  Thank you, Jesus.


If you’re emotionally stable and secure in your worth as a human being, you’ve most likely left your high school labels behind you.  I was a nerd (i.e. got good grades in advanced classes) and a band geek (i.e. was part of the most awesome extracurricular compilation of musical genius and stunning choreography – 1992 New York State Field Band Competition Champions!  woot woot!)  These labels were not synonymous.  Plenty of smart kids were not in band, and there were many jocks, cheerleaders, and other assorted popular kids in marching band.

I hope that when I run into my old classmates, they see me for who I am now, and not just a nerdy band geek.  I certainly don’t see those traits as negative….on the contrary, they are my earliest realized strengths, and I fully embrace them.  But I am so much more than smart, musical, and physically coordinated.  (Those marching band sets are no joke!)

I had an infuriating insulting interesting experience several years ago.  My husband graduated a year ahead of me from the public high school that I attended, though I ultimately did not graduate from there, but from home school.  Due to my superior intellect (ha), I was in several classes with upperclassmen, and thus knew many of his classmates.  The idiot man in this anecdote, however, I knew because of his lack of intellect.  He had to repeat a class after failing it, and was the cute, but dull, boy in front of me in French 2, who had a habit of  turning around to flirt with me instead of paying attention.  I’m pretty sure he failed the class again.

At my husband’s ten-year reunion, we were both excited to see old friends and show off pictures of our four gorgeous kids.  While making the rounds, we ran into Cute Dull Boy.  In making conversation, he asked what I was doing these days.  I told him, with a huge smile, that I was very busy raising our family.  He looked at me, incredulously, and said, “Oh.  I thought you used to be smart.”

I can hear all you mamas out there, with your collective gasps and ” Oh, NOOO” ‘s.  I KNOW.

I immediately replied, somewhat lamely, “Yeah, and I still am!”  Clearly, this man DID remember my high school label.  And he expected me to still live up to it, although his criteria for that was sadly misinformed.

This incident was 9 years ago.  I have four more children, and I’m still at home full-time, raising and educating them, not to mention running my household.  Do I care that this imbecile  implied that raising a family is a waste of my academic abilities?  Nope.  Of course not.  My mind brought it up recently when it went on auto-blog after a cashier at the grocery store smiled at me.


This particular cashier had rung me out dozens of time before, always greeting me with a look of…..annoyance.  Disgust?  I don’t know, but she definitely wasn’t cheerful.  However, last week, as I started putting my groceries on the conveyor belt, this girl was talking to her co-worker about a boy they had gone to high school with.  The co-worker had seen him somewhere, and the cashier asked her friend, “Did he remember who I was?”  When the co-worker answered in the affirmative, this sullen, grumpy, bored young woman broke out into a beautiful smile, and even turned it on me as I paid for my purchase.

Now, I, of course, do not know the back story.  Perhaps he was a guy she had a crush on.  Perhaps he was just uber cool, and being remembered by him was, like, special.  But as I returned her generous smile, I thought, “It’s nice to be remembered.”  Unless you had such a horrific high school experience that you are filled with hate at every mention of your alma mater, you would probably react the way that this girl did.  It is nice to be remembered.

I am glad that Cute Dull Boy remembered me.  I am glad that he remembered that I was (am) smart.  It was, after all, my defining characteristic at the time, not having yet figured out all of my other awesome qualities.  I would have been more irritated if he’d pretended not to know me, after all that flirting.

But please, for the love of all that is kind, and just, and rational…..don’t judge a nerd/jock/cheerleader/druggie/metal head by her high school persona.  It’s nice to be remembered, but we are all so. much. more.