"I'm hungry, I'm thirsty."

My husband and I kiss goodbye in the hotel. He goes to his work dinner, and I go in search of some food and what’s left of the days sunshine.

I find a cute little patio, give the waiter my order and dig into the book I picked up at the airport called “The Teenage Brain.” The author suggests that while our kids are teenagers, we are supposed to BE our kids frontal lobes until they connect to the brain. Being a stay at home mom while my kids were little has been a choice I've never regretted and a privilege I don't take for granted but as they approach the teen years, I am even more aware of how critical it is to be fully present in their lives, working or not.

A growling voice interrupts my reading. I look up from my book and see a man with a white beard holding a bunch of bags.   His words both annoy and soften me.

“I’m hungry. I’m thirsty.”

"Well come in then, you can eat my dinner.”   

I meet him at the door and bring him out to the patio. He sits down in a huff, talking up a frenzy and trying to light a cigarette and I wonder if I’ve just let the big bad wolf in.  

He looks down at my chicken dinner and says he likes steak.

I want to remind him that he has no teeth, but think better of it.

There is rice, soup, and bread too.

He says he isn't hungry. He is too depressed to eat.

I ask him some questions and he fills in the better part of an hour answering.   

Do you have a nice childhood memory? He does.

Do you have any friends? He doesn’t

Are you on drugs? He denies it.

He holds his side and winces and I wonder if it’s meth burning holes in his liver and kidneys.

I once took a stray and filthy dog into our home and into the shower with me. My husband was concerned that he could been sickly or carry rabies but the dog was the sweetest thing and so happy to be bathed and fed. He bounded out the front door wagging his tail like a puppy. The voice in my head now says: This is a complicated, potentially dangerous addict, not some stray you can shine up and feel good about!  And just what DO you plan to do to help? You can’t finance his addiction. Rehab rarely works. He won’t even eat the food you’re giving him. You are helpless to help.

I push the voice away.      

He is still talking. “I just got lost in the world. Do you think I want all this? He grabs at his beard.  People don’t know me and it’s not fair. They don’t KNOW me."

He’s right. It’s hard to see the man inside the addict. His body is jerking around. He’s paranoid and nervous. He shrinks back when people walk past our table. His eyes are wild and his speech is hard to understand. But he is a person with a name. Somebody’s child. He is Jeff from San Francisco. Jeff who worked at IBM. Jeff who skipped school and stole candy when he was little. A boy who grew up and made some bad choices possibly during those years when the frontal lobes weren’t yet connected.

Days later my husband drives me to the airport while it’s still dark and we see them walking in their sock feet as if the street is their living room floor. Their belongings are bags and their cravings are severe. They aren’t home. They are in hell. I feel safe in the SUV.  Safe from the zombies who’s bodies are bending over in pain, the drugs eating their organs for lunch.

And you wonder, what CAN one person do to help this mess?

“Do you believe in God Jeff?  

“God’s the only reason my feet are on this earth”.

He hugs me then for a long time, whispering "God bless you" in my ear. It’s a little awkward and I wonder what my dad would think if he saw me hugging an addict on the streets of San Francisco, but when I walk home, my heart all ripped up, I feel humbled to have embraced somebody’s lost child. I think about all the people who are missing their family members, fighting for their loved ones to get healthy again while the alcohol and drugs call to them like a sweet intoxicating wind.

Maybe all one person can do is just sit with the Jeff’s of the world for a moment, letting them know that lost or not, we are here together.  And maybe that is enough.


Becoming

I remember the exact moment I stopped trying to be like my mom. I was 16 years old. I cut off my long curly hair into a slanted bob, bought ripped jeans with pins in the sides and shopped for vintage jackets in thrift shops. It’s not that I thought this look was really me, it’s that the long flowered skirts, black pumps and my moms sweaters that I would sneak from her closet did not go over well at my high school.

28 years later, I found myself wandering into my moms favourite store. I noticed all the older ladies shopping and I almost turned and walked out but something inside of me said “there is something I want to give you” and I started pulling dresses off the wracks until my arms were full. I tried them all on until I stood for a very long time staring at the woman in the mirror. 
This. This is my mother. I am becoming. Her. 
I took the long black black dress with the white ribbon waist home and hung it carefully in my closet whispering “thank you” because not only am I back home in the city my mom raised me in, but I am back to being the girl I always wanted to be. The girl who wanted to be just like her mom.

They say we become our mothers. To that I say, I will never be as good as my mother. She was and is the most lovely woman I’ve ever known. But as long as I live, I will try to get as close as I can. And for as long as I live I will look for her in everything. In dress shops. In churches. In the faces of my children. In warm summer breezes and in cold snowy doorways.

I love you mom.

xo

She's Loud

She’s loud.  

This is what I told my daughters new teacher in the Texas school.    

I gave her that word as an offering.  A warning. A gift.

She gave it back to me.  She said; me too. I’m loud.  That’s who I am. And that’s who your daughter IS.  

The tears came straight out of me.  No time for the lump in the throat. Because this woman, this teacher gave me what I always hoped people would give me but seldom did.  She gave me Grace. Understanding. Acceptance. She said I accept you and your daughter AS YOU ARE and by the way, me too. I am. Loud. Me. Here I am.

Last week our family learned that my daughters science teacher from back in 5th grade at that same Texas school was murdered in his home.  By a neighbour. Because his household was loud.

And our hearts.  Could not understand.  Could not process. Could not.  This sweet man with the birthmark over his eye, this tender and kind and smart and honest and patient, and smiling smiling smiling and oh hey Paige, there you are, nice to see you, man.  

Mr. Ladner.  

He was a dad and a husband and a teacher and a human.  He was and now he is no longer. He is not. And he will never be.  And our hearts are broken and breaking still.

And I wonder, what if.

What if there are MORE of them out there.  More people, right now, making lists of grievances. More people plotting to come knock on our door, without words.  Without handshakes. Without casseroles. Without questions. Without patience. Without forgiveness. Without softness.  Without grace and understanding and acceptance.

What if they are coming at us with anger and guns.  To shoot. To kill. To finish us. Because we are too much.  Too loud. Too messy. Too strange. Too different. Too anything.

I am a mama on my knees before God asking God please make us people who knock on doors because we want to be known and understood and we want to know and understand.  

And dear neighbours, we are imperfect.  We make mistakes. Sometimes we say the wrong words.  We are late, we are selfish, we are forgetful and sinful and flawed and beautiful and human.  We are asking for grace because we can’t live this life without being messy. We can’t. We are going to mess up in a month from now and in two minutes from now.  And if we think that our neighbours are coming to slaughter us, to quiet us, to finish us for being WHO WE ARE. For being human. Then there are not enough tears on earth to express how devastating to humanity that is.   

Mr. Ladner opened the door to his neighbour, because that’s who he was.   

And my girl.  

She is loud.  

And she is forever and will be my beautiful free spirited child with the curly hair, running in the sand toward the water.  Towards her life.

She is loud.  That’s who she is.

For you, Mr. Ladner, with love forever.


A Thousand Times More Beautiful

The sun is in her blond hair while she steams the fish.

A long stemmed wine glass in her hand

An apron tied around her waist.

She is so beautiful

Her smile lighting up the kitchen and his heart

Her husband, a hunky German, as tall as he is kind.

Their kitchen table is long and inviting.  A farmhouse style table. When I see it I want it.  I want everything she has. The window that overlooks acres and acres of green.  The twin boys rough and tumble putting their dirty boots at the door, the dog running at their heels. She has everything.

My guy tells me that when he and the hunky German were in college, she made them spaghetti once a week.

She smiles at me from the stove.  She is like a young Goldie Hawn. Laughing.  Laughing. Laughing.

More wine.

More laughter.

Until the night sky grows dark and all the bottles sit empty.

The night my love drops a diamond in my wine glass, theirs is the first house we go to.

We can hardly wait to jump in the car and wrap our arms around them.  We call them on the way. We did it! We’re getting married!

We are wearing sweatshirts from the gap and my nose is running.  He had fancy plans to propose at N’awlins jazz bar on King St. but my runny nose…

So we sat on the floor of his living room and he just couldn’t wait.  

The moment we pull into their driveway I see the ground on fire but when we get closer I see

It’s lights.

She’s put dozens of candles on the ground in the shape of a heart to welcome us.  To celebrate love.

We celebrate until the night sky grows dark and all the bottles sit empty.

They visit us in Texas and we show them around, the kids are little and jumping all over the place.  We drive in the heat to the places that are important to see but none of it matters. We are just happy to be close to our friends.  

And then I notice just one little thing that makes me pause for just a second.  She’s back in the house to get something before we drive some more. In daylight.  In the heat. Something in the fridge. A little bottle she empties in daylight. ~

I’m sitting in my living room watching the snowfall.  The trees are covered and the fireplace is making a whirring sound. My 10 year old is upstairs coughing.  The teenager is at school in the city. My phone lights up.


You there?

Yes, what’s up?

(phone rings)

Things are really bad.

What do you mean

She’s in hospice.

What?

She was drinking again but this time it shut everything down.

We have to go!  We have to see her.  We..

And I’m choking on the lump in my throat.  And my nose is running. Running.

I just want to see her again one last time.

But we can’t.  

Because the window to the acres and acres of green are gone

And the bottles are empty

And their marriage is broken

And she is lost

And everything is sadness and loss and darkness.

There’s so much we didn’t know, he says.

Years we lived away

Darkness

History

And all those bottles sitting empty in the dark and in the daylight.  

But all I remember is

They danced at our wedding

They were “them”

A couple

They had twin boys with tousled hair and hockey dreams.  

A beautiful life

Summers at the cottage

And dinners she cooked for hours

For her hunky German

They had the life I wanted

A dog that sat at your feet

And a farmhouse table

Now she is in a coma at the hospice and my heart hurts for her.  For all of them around her. Broken. Broken. All those empty bottles.  Broken.

I hear my daughter sniffle upstairs.  Her cold growing bolder.

There’s nothing we can do, but sit and cry and remember.  

And I think of her standing beside all those pretty lights glowing in the dark, lighting up her smile.  See her laughing. Laughing. Laughing.

And I know that the lights she made for us, will be a thousand times more beautiful for her.  

When he comes to take her home.

His light and his heart, healing her, making her whole.  


Beautiful

Let’s face it.  The world worships beautiful people.  

And so for those of us who are average, who’s faces show scars, wrinkles, sun spots and less than chiselled jaw lines, faded eyebrows, receding hair lines and sagging skin, are we to just hide away in the shadows?  The pressure to fix and correct and cover and enhance can be overwhelming.  But WHO started this whole lie?  The one that says botox and plastic surgery, hair transplants and skin whitening, nose jobs and fillers will make you happy, worthy, accepted, youthful, beautiful and loved?  

The bravest woman I know can’t smile because her brain can no longer send the message to her face to do so.

The most generous and loving woman I know has sun spots and wrinkles and glasses.

The sweetest woman I know is so busy loving others and opening her door to the needy that she runs out the door with messy hair and wrinkled shirts.  

The most thoughtful woman I know was teased for the shape of her nose.

These women with hearts of gold and voices of angels and spirits of faith and hands that serve are are busy loving other people.  THEY are beautiful.  

So maybe the world just has it all wrong.  Maybe you don’t need to change your face.  Maybe you just need to open your heart.    

My kids sit in the back of the car listening to me read a magazine out loud.  Well guys, I say to them, this actress is saying she would rather look like plastic than look old.  Her words.  So do you think mommy should get botox?  my kids.  They shouted out in unison.  NO!  Nooo!  Mom, please don’t!  If you did, then you wouldn’t be you.  And I thought about me with the freckles, sunspots, wrinkles and frown lines that sometimes make me look mad.  The lines that prove I’ve smiled a LOT.  Proved I’ve cried a LOT.  Proved I’ve put my face in the sunlight and have done some hard things, spent years up at night raising babies and years smiling at strangers.  Ya’ll.  I wouldn’t erase those.  My face is where you’ll find my emotions rising up to the surface.  It’s where you’ll see you’re loved when I look at you.  When you look at my face you don’t wonder where you stand with me.       

And yet at times I feel the pressure.  When I scroll through Instagram.  When I look at magazines or watch a movie.  I see the worlds standards for beauty and I wonder…am I enough?    

And in those moments, the words that whisper to my spirit are ones that ground me and turn my face away from myself.   

We weren’t created to WORSHIP people.  We were created to LOVE people and "To truly love someone is to see the face of God.” 

That's a face that never changes.  That’s the face I want to run after with arms wide open.  

Yes love, you are enough.  

  

You were made for this

I stepped into the pool at the gym this morning and all the ladies stepped out.
I was left alone in the water staring at a sign on the wall printed in large red letters: 
"In case of an emergency use this phone to call 911.” 
And because I’m a mom of a teenage daughter I started thinking about how middle school must feel exactly like this! 
You walk into the room and feel as though everyone is walking out. You are trying to navigate the waters (what to wear, who to trust with your feelings and secrets, how to fit in) feeling like at any moment you might drown in the embarrassment and utter annoyance of life and your only lifeline is literally just out of reach.

To those sweet kids feeling like the world is backwards and everyone is out for themselves, feeling like you might drown all alone under a ton of teenage drama, just know this one tiny thing that might save you.
You were made for this. 
When everything feels broken. You were made with the STRENGTH you need and a desire to repair and restore broken things. 
When you feel alone, know that you were made with a COURAGE that keeps you pressing forward, even when everyone has bailed on you or is going in a different direction. 
When you feel like everything has gone BAD, from your friendships, to the pressures you feel, to the circumstances that were not what you imagined for yourself. You. Were. Made. For. This. And YOU will be ok.
Because you were made with a HEART that seeks the GOOD in this world. That reaches out for connection. For purpose and love.

So step IN even if everyone is stepping out and remember that sometimes the best help of all is the help that is already built inside you.

Zombies, couches and Jesus.

Recently I got a check in the mail from a movie production company.
I was cast to play a barfly in a zombie movie, but the director didn’t end up using me, so basically I got paid for sitting on a couch. 
And it got me thinking about sitting on couches because I tend to do a lot of that and maybe you do too?
Last year if you saw me you might have thought it was my full time job.
And it kind of was.
Because when I hear bad news or when things are unsettled, or when my heart feels heavy, I sit on the couch and pray. And when life is beautiful and things are working out well, I sit on the couch and give thanks.
That’s how I honour my life, how I fight for my people. 
But sometimes I wonder if my efforts fall short because truth be told, my mom is still sick, our friends cancer keeps coming back, people don’t seem to have boundaries or be all that kind to each other anymore and the guns keep coming for the innocent. So if my prayers aren't being answered in the ways I expect, I question myself and I think maybe I’m not doing enough. Maybe I’m not enough. Maybe I should try praying from the rooftop? 
And yet.
I hear a whisper deep inside that says:
Your prayers in secret to me are heard
by an army of angels
and don’t you see? I am paying you in grace, and love and tenderness and mercy. I am paying you in the sunset and the wind and sound of the birds calling from the treetops. I am paying you with your child's hand in yours and your neighbours friendship and the bread on your table and the breath in your body. 
I have paid FOR you and I am here WITH you. 
Grace is yours. And tenderness is yours. And I am yours. 
Your mother is mine.
Your sick friend is mine.
The lost are mine.
The broken are mine.
Because the story…is mine. 
That whisper lingers like a fog over a still lake
And I can literally hear the sound of a burden lifting.

So the check I got from the production company is on my fridge. It’s a small amount but enough to go out for a nice lunch and coffee with a friend. I’m not going to cash it just yet. I enjoy looking at each morning when I turn on the news and prepare my kids lunches for the day. It reminds me that:
1. when you are cast in a story you may or may not get used.  2. You can’t take it personally and you have to trust the director
3. You will always be rewarded for just showing up.

Carry on prayer warriors. Carry on.

BRADLEY

I press the button. It talks.

Bradley has no reaction.

I press the button again.

And again.

Once more.

And again.

Bradley points his finger at the door and says “Go. Just go.”

I am stunned. He says it like a 30 year old man might say to his wife after they’ve had a fight and he has nothing left to offer.

But Bradley is 3 years old, sitting on his hospital bed denying his talking stuffed animal. Denying me.

I’m 22 and my ego is offended. I mean, I am good with kids. I love kids with all my heart! Kids are drawn to me because I like them. Even my dolls got fed real applesauce with our kitchen spoons when I was little because I cared that much. This is why I am a volunteer at the hospital. Not because I need the hours or because it will advance my career. I’m here for the kids. And yet. This one is done with me.

The first things I noticed about Bradley were his huge eyes and round blond head. After that, I noticed his sippy cup was filled with chocolate milk. When I saw this I wondered how the nurses were ok with this until one of them leaned over and whispered in my ear.  

"He can have as much as he wants, because he’s not going home."

He’s 3 years old and he’s never going home.

I put the talking stuffed animal down and look Bradley in the eyes.

"Do you know how much your parents love you?"

And then I break just one little hospital rule when I ask him:

"Do you know how much God loves you?"

"Yes," he says.

And then he scoots closer to me.

The thing is, souls can be 2 or 22 or 92.

Kids are not just little minds and bodies that need to be entertained. Kids are souls looking for connection like the rest of us.

When we feel anxious, alone, afraid, unworthy or worried, that thing in our hand? That phone, that computer, that gucci purse, that degree, that trophy, that title, that toy, that accomplishment, they can’t do what we need them to do. Those things are really great. Really really great. But what our soul needs to make the anxiety fade and the feeling of being alone fade and the fear fade and unworthiness fade and the worry fade is connection to another soul.  Eyes looking into eyes saying not just I see you and hear you but I am here WITH you. You are loved not just by me but by something greater than me.

It’s been over 20 years since you passed away but I still think of you little soul. You remind me that if the thing I hold in my hand is in the way of the things that really matter, I need to put it down and scoot closer.  To love. To God. To my kids. To my husband. To real life.

xo forever in my heart.  

What The World Needs Now...

I stood at the counter of the pharmacy, the cards I picked out for the kids teachers in front of me. I had to borrow his pen.  As I wrote, he hovered, asking me questions.   I looked up from my writing to study his face.    

“My husbands waiting for me in the car”, I said. 

The man behind the counter continued with the questions, and then he started telling me about his marriage.  Just offered up all the broken pieces and nudged them toward me as if I had the glue to put them back.  

I put the pen down.

“She’s more interested in the kids than in me”

"How many kids do you have?"

"Six."

"Maybe she’s tired.  That’s a lot of kids!"

"Most of them are grown"

And then he dropped this word down on the counter and I knew I had to pick it up.

"Bored.  I’m bored."

And then, somewhere inside of me, a stirring.  A prayer.  A rant.  A rising.   

"I believe in fighting for marriage.  My parents have been together for 50 years."

"The same woman?"

"Yes"

"Ah.  But a girlfriend on the side?"

"No!"

"Being bored isn't a bad thing.  It’s good.  Essential even.  When you go looking for excitement, you invite chaos in.  Chaos can mess with your family.  It can hurt them."

(and then I’m saying the words I’ve heard a thousand times on Dr. Laura’s satellite radio show)  

"Go home and treat your wife like she’s your girlfriend.  Bring her flowers.  Look at her like she’s your girlfriend."  

"She tells me we are too old for intimacy. I don’t feel too old.  But she says we are."

At that moment, I will my husband to bust though the door to see why I’m taking half an hour to write “thank you for being a good teacher”  

It doesn’t work.  This isn’t homeland security. 

I want to tell him that my mother is terminally ill.  

That her eyes are going but that my father sees her heart all the more.

That she can barely walk, but that my dad holds her up.  Holds her tighter.  Closer.  

That her speech has slowed down, but that my dad has never listened to her more intently. 

That her sparkle is fading, but that my dad is more in love with her than ever.

But I don’t say any of these things.  Because their marriage is sacred.  It’s theirs.  And I don’t want to offer it to a man who hasn’t earned the right to hear their story.     

"I’m sorry I have to finish these cards, but I wish you the best with your family.  All I know is I’ve been married 16 years. Family is everything to me.  It’s not perfect.  Its hard sometimes, but it’s worth holding onto."  

"Wow, he says.  Most people I meet, they marry 2-3 years and then they move on to someone else. There is a restlessness here."  

"It’s everywhere," I tell him.    

"I don’t know why I tell you all these things in my heart, he says.  I just see your kind face and Its all coming out."

I give him back all the broken pieces of the puzzle he's nudged to me.  

"I’m sorry.  I don’t have answers for you.  Your wife does.  It’s in her eyes.  In her walk.  In her words.  In her beauty.  In the routines she keeps with you.  I hope you’ll notice these things and hold on to them before it’s too late."      

I grab my cards and go to the car, where my husband is listening to the radio.

"What should we have for dinner tonight?" I ask him.  

"I don’t know what do you feel like?"

"I don’t know."

 I put my hand on his and feel his warmth.  The pharmacy fading behind us.

-For my father who when I told him I thought he was a great man, replied: "No.  Not great.  Just a man."  

Well then dad, the world needs more men.  Real men.  Just like you.

xo 

When you feel unseen.

All eyes were on the pretty 18 year old as she walked in.  You could see it happening in slow motion if your head wasn’t in your phone.  The young men looking.  The old men looking.  The women looking.  And then she was gone and everything returned to a normal speed again.  

Except.

Except…there was something lingering.  A feeling.  And it seem to whisper like a breath of dark smoke.  

You.  Are.  Irrelevant.

Because in the moment it took for everyone in the room to notice the young girl, everyone also ignored the old woman who was walking by too.  

This is our culture.  

The old woman who’s heart is as deep as an ocean.  Who’s wisdom is a well of understanding.  Who’s experience is wide and who’s soul knows both sorrow and joy.  Who’s hands have served.  Who’s heart has broken and mended a thousand times.  Who's hair has shrunk back and shrivelled short and who's body is betraying her.  Her shine and her gloss are inward and you can’t see them…unless.  Unless you look her in the eye and ask…who are you?  But people rarely do.   

The 18 year old shines up nice in the mornings.  Her hair a mane of wild proportions.  Her eyes sparkle and her body announces itself like a bird landing on a platform.  I am here.  Her shine and her gloss are outward and you can see them without asking.  You can take them in.  And people do.

This is our culture. 

It’s the man packing up his desk because the boss has not picked him to stay and he wonders at his age if he’ll ever be picked again.  

It’s the woman who’s counselled dozens of women who come to cry on her couch while they sip coffee and eat the sweets she’s prepared.  She prays for their souls and their hurts and their hearts and later she sees them on Facebook at their parties. Their wine gatherings.  Their celebrations.  She is never invited.  Not once.  

It’s the woman who’s children are old enough to care for themselves.  Her empty house groans.  And inside she aches.  To be chased.  To be seen.  To be needed.  To be wanted.  

As we age, it’s as if we are ushered by flashlight into this dark room where we are told to wait.  There is no celebration here.  There is loneliness.  There is fear.  There is longing.  There is hoping if we can get on the treadmill and go fast enough, we can outrun the clock.    

And yet.  We keep walking into rooms unseen. 

Seen and heard.  That’s what the world says we all want.  To be seen and heard.  But what if it’s not at all what we need?  What if what we need is to listen.   What if in that slow motion moment we are not meant to notice being noticed or unnoticed, but to hear a voice.  Can we replay that slow motion moment another way?  Where BOTH women, the 18 year old and the older woman turn their heads away from the eyes of the world toward the voice as it speaks:

I see you.  I want to pursue you.  You are worthy.  A treasure.  Worth far more than rubies.

Don’t inhale the dark smoke.  Don’t believe the lies.   

You are a masterpiece and I’m not finished with you yet.  

I.  Pick.  You.  YOU!!!!   

The thing is, the world only has the ability to see us as we are now. Unfinished.  The 18 year old is just barely growing into her true beauty.  The old woman is almost there.  

Human eyes are limited, but God can see us all at once.  

Our ENTIRE life is in his eyes. 

ALL of the mess and the beauty and the stretching and growing, the aching and the longing, the triumphs and the challenges.  He sees us in our entirety.  How beautiful is that?

The Gift of Right Now

I was throwing the dog his favourite ball across the living room carpet, listening to my friend on the phone.  It was easy conversation.  The sun was making it’s way into my windows.  And then she said something that made me dig my ear into the phone a little deeper.

“I don’t want my kids to be left behind”

And it kind of stuck to me.  Because words do. 

And all I could think was,

Left behind of what?  

Is there a bus coming for us?   Did I forget to buy tickets?  

Left behind.

But it wasn’t just my friend who said these words.  I hear them everywhere, from everyone.  From all of us.  

All of us who are rushing, running, striving, heaving, longing, sweating, beating, chasing, craving after this THING that’s going to leave us behind.  This thing that’s making us believe we aren’t ENOUGH.  

I listen to my friend speak for a long time.  I hear her pure heart.  I hear the love she has for her kids.  I hear her. And I want to say to her, you are a good mom.  You are.  Not good because you’re trying so hard.  Good because you just ARE.  Because you love your kids.  Because you kiss their faces and you squeeze them tight and you give them everything on earth that they need…your love.    

The truth is, there’s no bus coming for us or our kids.  There’s just this life that we carve out for ourselves. This moment and the next.  And at the end of our life I’m pretty sure God doesn’t stand at the gate like the host from the Amazing Race saying congratulations you are the FIRST team to arrive.

Maybe it’s ok to go at the pace our spirit says to go.  Not fast.  Not slow.  Just. As. You. Are.      

The dog has curled up in a circle and made my pillow into his couch.  The sun keeps coming in and out of the house like it forgot to say something and I sit still on the floor listening to the sound of the wind.  I think of my girl and I watching all the other kids run ahead to get to the next best thing while we walk real slow, holding hands, singing silly songs, sweeping our rubber boots into puddles and I think, it’s ok. 

It’s ok to be “left behind” because maybe NOT rushing ahead of everything and everyone allows us to experience the best gift there is…the gift of right now.   

What does it look like to carry your cross

Years ago a mentor friend introduced me to the concept of “Dying to yourself.”  When I first heard it I thought, that sounds horrible, and what does it really mean? 

The world tells us to take selfies, be STRONG, Girl power, leave your marriage if he isn’t making you “happy”.  BE competitive.  STRIVE.  Collect more, have more, BE MORE.  The world demands our blood, our broken backs and 24 hours of our time because if we aren't striving to be successful and if we aren't number one and if we aren't the busiest one on the block, then we've got to step it up so we don't get stepped on.  This is the pulse of the world right now.  And power is the prize at the finish line like a flashing vegas street sign.  But here's the dirty little secret no-one is talking about.  The finish line is dust. The finish line is death.  And I'm pretty sure there isn't an angel in heaven handing out a ranking of 1st place medals.    

Dying to yourself is the exact opposite of the power the world says you can achieve.

I learned through my friends example and through the bible that dying to yourself is about service, sacrifice and sanctification.  It has tremendous power.   It can stop arguments, infidelity and divorce.  It uncovers truth and shines light on unconditional love.  It brings freedom and hope.  It quiets jealousy and calls out our unique gifts.  It is essentially serving God and others instead of serving ourselves.           

It looks like laying down our expectations of how we think our kids should perform.  

It looks like yielding when we think we have the answers and asking God first what should come out of our mouths.

It looks like serving the community without seeking recognition.

It looks like respecting our elders. (That includes in laws people!)  In words.  In actions.  In sacrifice.

It looks like getting up in the dark to brew coffee and prepare breakfast for the people that live in our homes.

It looks like not comparing ourselves to others, but rejoicing over their successes, their miracles and their joys.

It looks like not striving to be first, but working to lift others up.  

It looks like honouring our spouses by the words we use to describe them.

It looks like setting a table for others, not for the compliments, but to create a space where people can feel loved and cared for.  

It looks like not counting numbers or likes or seeking the approval of others.  It looks like seeking the will of God.

It looks like encouraging others and calling out their gifts. 

It looks like pouring out ALL of our gifts without asking God for payment.

It looks like leaving a job without listing everything we've contributed, and instead listing everything we've appreciated.  

It looks like continuing to praise God despite the pain in our bodies.

It looks like choosing to call out beauty and light in the darkest of places.  

It looks like total surrender to the one who holds the true power. 

It looks like taking the time to be on time, to show up, to mentor, to listen and to pour into another person. 

It looks like taking a step toward Jesus even when we are completely broken, battered, lost, hungry and hurting....because He is there with his hand reached out saying;

I KNOW suffering. 

I know YOU. 

You are KNOWN. 

Dying to yourself is discovering that love isn't something you get to make you happy, it's something you give that makes you holy.   Maybe if we all thought this way, the world would groan a little less, demand a little less and thrive a little more.     

Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice.  For carrying your cross so we could be free in you.  Thank you for modelling what it looks like to have faith, hope and love even when everything hurts in this world. This Easter, we honour YOU and the fullness of your sacrifice for US and we choose to seek you above all else.  In Jesus name Amen.    John 3:3-7

Happy Easter Weekend everyone!  Enjoy the moment you’re in and take some time to reflect on the life of Jesus and what his sacrifice means to you personally.  

Carry Everything to God in Prayer

She is 12 years old standing in my bedroom with a tag sticking out of her shirt and my instinct is to cut it out for her.  When she was little she used to bring me her clothes and say mama will you cut out the tags?  It hurts!  My itty bitty 4 year old so sensitive to anything touching her skin.  I would cut them out with the kitchen scissors and watch her get dressed and skip away so happy and comfortable.  

I want it to be this easy.  I want to bring my mom my clothes and ask her to cut out the tags.  Cut out the hurt.  Because it hurts so bad.  The pain of her disease sticking to  me. And the Dr. can't take it out for her.  There is no cure.  It will not get better.  The symptoms are so devastating I can't speak of them,  lest they come true.  I pretend they won't.  But they will.  And all I can do without going crazy in my mind is to bring everything I have like a big pile of laundry and lay it at the feet of Jesus.  

I do this in my mind, and I ask the Lord if my mom can come too, and He says,  

"Your mom is already here."

 I look and see her praying at his feet and I think, that’s mom, always near Him, going to Him first.  Why do I take so long to come to Him?  Why do I think I can carry this heavy burden and not get tired.  I waste so much time trying to figure it out on my own.   And then I hear a beautiful Hymn playing, not from Him, but from an army of angels. They sing softly at first then get loud like an anthem.  

I whisper, "mom, He will take this burden for you, for all of us won’t he? And then the pain will be no more?"

She smiles at me without a word, because she believes He already has.

I sit with her in this moment and vow going forward to get dressed every single morning believing it too, just like her.

 

What a Friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge—

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,Thou wilt find a solace there

What are you Waiting For

 

 

It feels like our family has been ushered into a dark room with a single candle on the table, 4 chairs and a sign that says “please wait here, someone will be with you shortly.” And we sit and we wait.  Each one of us anxious for different results, that seem to be dangling over us as if the right news at the right time will make everything RIGHT.  If you’ve been there, you know.  Waiting is hard.    

I walk the dog in the morning just after I get the girls to school.  

We come to the end of the path just before the street begins and I see them.

The birds.

There are hundreds of them camped out in a tree. Dozens at a time lined up in bare branches.  I watch as they fly from tree to tree.   Back and fourth, dipping, gliding and soaring, their wings whirring and swooshing past my ears and when I get close enough I see that each little grey bird has a splash of painted yellow on the inside of their wings.    

That’s when I hear a whisper and these 5 things.

  1. I care for them 
  2. They are in community
  3. Their beauty is hidden
  4. They don’t mind what tree they are in.  Just that they have a tree to go to.  
  5. There is a collective singing when they are in the tree.   

I listen to these five things and I carry them home with me and write them down because sometimes when God gives you words, He’s inviting you to give them back to Him in prayer.    

Dear Lord,

Thank you for CARING for us.  That even in times of uncertainty, you are there waiting to hear from us, to tell us how much you care for and love us.

Thank you for our COMMUNITY.  We’ve had seasons where our community was very big and seasons where it was very small, but we know that the friendships you bring us, no matter if they are plenty or few, are gifts from you.

Thank you Lord for being our BEAUTY.  For reminding us that we don’t have to work so hard at making ourselves look good in this world, because it’s not how we look, or about any of the labels that we or others put on us that make us beautiful.  Our worth comes from you.   

Thank you Lord for reminding us that the grass is not greener no matter if we are in the South or the North. YOU are everywhere.  Our safe place to land in good times and bad.  Our homes, our jobs and even our health will come and go, but you Lord endure forever.  Let us build our future on you. A SURE and STEADY FOUNDATION.   

Lord, hear our SONGS OF THANKSGIVING.  We are grateful in the little waiting room because we know that no news delivered by a person can crush us, or elevate us.  Only you have that power and so we don’t wait for the news of the world.  We wait for the whisper of your spirit.  And we sing thank you, thank you.  Thank you.

 

Living With Loss.

 

We watch her walk down the isle of the plane.  Blond hair pulled back into a pony tail.  Black framed glasses resting on her nose.  A newspaper and carry on bag in one hand, a Tim Horton’s coffee in the other.  My husband takes her coffee and I take her newspaper and tuck it in the seat in front of her so she can manage her bag.  She’s so grateful and makes a fuss.  I watch her out of the corner of my eye as she spreads out her newspaper and takes out a pen.  She reminds me of a character from Scoobie Doo.  (Note to self: Read the newspaper more and get a pair of readers.)  She circles something on the front cover of the paper.  She’s a reporter?  An editor?  She’s in the news?  She is.  Her house is one of many that burned down in the Fort McMurray fires.   

“Yup. It’s gone.  Burned down with the rest of them.”  

Her tone is easy. Fluid.  She speaks like she’s not got a care in the world.  I wonder if she cried out all her tears, told the story so many times that it’s just a script now.  She shares more about the fires.  The evacuation.  The dynamics of the neighbourhood folks.  Says she lost all the art she collected from around the world.  Her photos from childhood.  

“That was tough.  But, well, ya know, what are ya gonna do.”  

She mentions her husband, who she is divorcing.  Speaks about him in such a respectful manner, complimenting his character.  

"He sounds so nice.  You should marry him!" I say.  We both laugh.  

"We are two different people.  He likes to be alone.  I got married to not be alone.  So it’s for the best.”

 The best.  I let these words linger a while.  I think about everything this woman has lost.  Everything.

 Maybe some people don’t see losing as having lost.   A new adventure she tells me.  New art to collect.  A different place to live.  Someone to not be lonely with.  Lovely things waiting to be found.  

She tells us that she used to be an airline stewardess but now she’s a pilot.  Um...Canadian bachelorette...have you met this girl?  Never mind.  I get the feeling she wouldn’t be into that kind of thing.  We talk about flying and what it takes to get your license and then we’re landing and she’s on the phone saying,

“I met this really nice couple and just wondering if you know anyone that can upgrade their seats on their next flight”  

We’ve literally done nothing.  She’s the one who could use a favour and yet she’s pulling out the stops for us.  Because when you’re nice to the nice, nice things tend to happen?  Maybe.  But THIS girl!  She’s rubbed off on me.  This cute, smart, generous, resilient, humble Canadian girl from Alberta,  she circles her burned down house in pen like it’s the right answer on a test and then folds it up and puts it away.  THAT’S how I want to live with loss.  Thank you Jen.  You just upgraded our seats without even knowing.  

Have Courage and be Kind...to Yourself When you're Husband is Travelling.

He’s got another business trip booked.

I get it.  It's hard.  

It’s even worse when you have toddlers, because once kids are on the loose, you can forget about having even one cup of fresh hot coffee. And if you happen to find your coffee in the microwave a day later growing mold scum, you’ll actually horrify yourself when you press reheat and drink it anyway.  This is the life of moms of toddlers.  

Where was I, oh yes, it’s hard when you’ve got a travelling husband, because moms need a break,  adult conversation and someone to take out the garbage.

I recently saw a movie where the mom goes to jail and the first time she sees her three kids, she tells them how happy she is that she gets to CHOOSE between doing the dishes and the laundry.  Jail.  Ya’ll.  Jail.  Raising kids is hard, hard work and even the best of us have our fantasies sometimes.   

(insert confession here) There may have been a moment when my kids were tiny and velcroed to my legs where the idea of being tucked into a hospital bed having some kind of minor surgery with a tray of food beside me sounded like a wonderful retreat.  

And why is it when husbands travel is the exact moment everything goes wrong or breaks down?  

This is NOT a wives tale.  It’s a nightmare.  (Ask me about the rattle snake on the front porch in Texas story) 

Sometimes our minds can be our own worst enemy.

Someone’s in the basement waiting to murder us the second our husband gets on the plane.

The plane that you’re sure is going to crash.

But not to worry because our husbands travel companion Angelina Jolie will hold his hand and help give him oxygen from her own body when that mask thingy fails. 

And does it really matter that we have no idea what all our online banking passwords are?

Or how to change the digital clock in the car?

Or use the remote control?

And let me warn you now, kids know how to play you when you're flying solo.  When my kids were really little they used to turn on the waterworks the moment I said it was time for bed.  

“I miss Daddy!  I can’t sleep!”  (floods of tears) And then they would drag their blankets, pillows and stuffed animals into my bed and tell me the popcorn I made (to watch Bachelor or Parenthood) needed a lot more butter.  Rascals!  

Is there anything sweet and good about travelling husbands?

Of course!  You get a chance to miss each other.  That’s so sweet and romantic.  Let’s just ponder  that for a minute.  Awww.

There’s also FaceTime.  

That’s when you get to see your husband eating steak in a fancy restaurant and he gets to see you pulling Kraft dinner out of your hair.  

No, that’s not all, there’s also handing the kids over when he gets home and then running to Super Target or Starbucks to find yourself again.  

But lean in real close because I’m going to whisper something really true now.

We CAN do this.

We are strong, capable, independent amazing women who are really good at multi-tasking.

We are our kids BEST moms

And our husbands BEST partners

Just the other day my husband swooped me up, looked into my eyes and said, “Oh my queen, you are the most beautiful creature on earth!"  Oh wait, I might be thinking of a conversation between Fernando and Kimmy Gibler from Fuller House.  But our husbands really DO appreciate us holding down the fort and raising the kids while he slays dragons and we really DO... not like dragons at all.     

So hang in there mamas.  You are NOT alone!  Bust open your front door, wheel that stroller down to your best friends house and walk it out…together.     

Have courage and remember, Borax is your best friend.  1/2 cup to each wash for fresh smelling everything.

 

Just For You Love.  

1.  Get out of your head.  When you're husband is away and you are someone who has the gift of an elaborate imagination, now is the time to keep busy, get together with people who love you and TRUST your husband with your whole heart.  

2.  Go to bed when the kids go to bed!  You have the WHOLE bed to yourself! Wash the sheets and spritz them with vanilla or lavender.  Relax, read or watch something funny or happy on Netflix.  Give yourself a facial mask and rub your arms, hands and legs with lotion.  Put leave in conditioner in your hair and call your mom, dad, sister or your grandma!

3.  The 30 minute bath break.  If you have toddlers, put them in the bath every single night with sugar free popsicles, water colour crayons or bath toys and sit on the toilet and read your favourite magazines.   This isn't so much about getting kids clean as it is about giving yourself a little break.  :)  

4.  Hide your phone.  You're a man down.  Your kids are going to be all over you.  It's tempting to want to escape into scroll mode on Instagram or answer every work email you receive, but I promise you that's only going to do two things for you.  Make you anxious and make your kids crazy for your attention.  Hide your phone and live in the moment with your kids.  Feel their soft skin, breathe in their shampooed hair, look into their enormous innocent eyes and listen to all their sweet squeaky words.  They are little and they are yours...for a time.  Run away together if you need to get away from your laundry.  Because your laundry is a mountain that calls to you like a swiss yodeller.   

Got any funny husband travelling stories or single mom survival hacks?  Share in the comments!  xo  

Just Breathe

Does God only exist where the sunrise looks like the sky has been painted with fire and gold?  And if you happen to live somewhere where the sky does nothing but spit bombs and bullets and smoke, has God forsaken you?  

And if your gut aches because the loneliness has gripped you, or your head hurts because your loved one has betrayed you, where on earth can you run to to inhale goodness?  Is there a corner of this earth that is whole and pure and a place for you to lay your weary head and feel protected and at peace?  

Why do good people get sick and die young and bad people rise up to success and grow old.  Our heads spin out of control trying to make sense of it all.  And sometimes we just have to hold our hands palms up and say I surrender, because I can’t carry this all on my own.   

I believe there is a God who paints the sky a thousand different ways, who waits with us in our suffering, who whispers in the stillness, yes child, you are enough.  I believe we all reach up under the SAME sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly sky looking for the answers that make sense to our hearts.  I believe that when we reach out to one another in love and in truth there between us exists the whisper of a God who loves us more than we will ever understand, and I believe that when we exhale, the weight of the world drops and the next breath we take is a reminder that this beautiful messy life is a gift.  

If you’re not so sure what you believe, it’s ok.  Can I at least be one gentle voice that says go ahead and breath darling.  Just go ahead and exhale. 

Ten proven ways to beat the winter blues:

1. Light lots of candles and linger in a bath with scented oils, bath bombs, or bubbles.  Self care!  

2. Don't wait for special occasions.  Buy yourself flowers for the table.  Lilies smell especially pretty. 

3. Bake something that makes your space smell like heaven.  If you don't trust your baking skills, you can buy pre-made cookie dough.           

4. Talk it out with your friends over ginormous cups of tea or coffee.  Make a list of the top cafes in your city and frequent one a week.  

5. Have something to look forward to, even if it's just bed time because you washed your sheets and they smell like lavender.     

6. Netflix.  Of course!      

7. Crank the tunes and move your body!  Winter sports, the gym and even just walking the dog can boost your mood.  Not into breaking a sweat?  No problem.  Go for a car ride and shimmy your shoulders to broadways greatest hits or stay in your pyjamas and rock out to the 80's while vacuuming the house.  Just bust a move!          

8.  Double up on your dose of vitamin D.  

9.  In a relationship?  Make out.  A lot.  More than normal.  Kissing increases endorphins.  Scientifically proven.  Not in a relationship?  Hugs and chocolate baby!                 

10.  If you're an introvert, hunker down with a good thick book and your favourite blanket.  If you're an extrovert, host a gathering and make it a theme party.  Re-charge your battery your way.  

Bonus:  Book a therapy session.  Some people feel like a million bucks after deep massage.  Others just need to get what's in their head OUT.    

Hang in there honey!  There is light at the end of this long winter road.