Hi! I’m so glad you stopped by. I hope you’ll feel welcome here. This is just my little nook in the great big world of the internet where I like to share my stories and hear yours, too. I believe that God is writing a story in each of our lives. Some days it’s an adventure, some days a tragedy, and a lot of days feel like a slapstick comedy. No matter the day and no matter our story, I believe we’re meant to share them to encourage one another. Wherever we might be in our story, we can’t give up. We never know what God has in store for us just around the next bend. We just have to keep turning the page.
When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the story of Cinderella.
Here was this girl who had a rough go of it but she worked hard and followed all the rules and her life turned out happily ever after. She made it seem so easy.
As a teenager, I assumed that if I worked hard and followed all the rules, my life should turn out happily ever after, too. Makes total sense, right?
(I know, I know. Quit laughing.)
These days, when the dishes and the laundry are piled up and there’s some unidentifiable stain on my clothes and I have to think really hard to remember if I brushed my teeth this morning, I wanna throw something at Cinderella. Seriously. Even during her floor-scrubbing days, she looked perfectly lovely and always ready to try on new shoes.
I think Mommy Groups can be a lot like Cinderella.
When I first walked into my MOPS group, I was such a mess. I felt like I was failing at just about every aspect of my life. Just that morning, I had yelled at my kids, snapped at my husband, and the dishes from last night’s fairly unhealthy convenience meal were still in the sink.
The ladies I met that Wednesday morning were very welcoming and sweet, but I honestly considered not going back. They were all so put together. They all had real clothes on. And smelled nice. It sounded like their families were perfect. Being there, in the presence of these moms, confronted the idea I’d been clinging to that no mom was perfect and no one had it all together. Because these women obviously did.
They were just like Cinderella.
I am so glad that I eventually decided to go back. Within a few meetings, I began to get to know their stories. These women who seemed so perfect? They had the same fears I did. They felt the same sense of failure. They had overcome hardships, too. Once our walls came down, the relationships were built up and bonds were formed.
I took another look at Miss Cinderella.
Now, I like to imagine her with mashed carrots stuck in her tiara and the royal diaper genie overflowing. I wonder if her daily mom uniform would be a pair of yoga pants with “Princess” bedazzled across the seat. I’ll even admit to giggling at the idea of that beautiful glass carriage with cheerios smashed into the upholstery.
I bet she might have even felt kind of alone while Prince Charming was off running the kingdom. She probably only had her two step-sisters around to give her that amazing parenting advice that comes so easily to people without children.
Real life is not a fairytale. Not even close. Real life is messy. It’s hard. And it can be lonely.
This is what I love about MOPS and why I feel it is so incredibly important in the life of a mom. When we can connect with other women who are experiencing the same unique season of life and are fighting the same battles and asking the same questions, we begin to see we’re not alone in this. We are given the opportunity to look around the room and see that we have sisters with us in the trenches of motherhood. Despite my mess, I know we all have our messes, and together, we can support and encourage each other.
A good mommy group will provide a safe place to tear down walls and reveal the vulnerability hidden there, allowing us a chance to say – “Me, too!” – and then relationships are built from the ground up. But we have to be willing to go to that sometimes-scary place of honest reality.
Sometimes – okay, maybe a lot of times – motherhood can be very lonely.
A few years ago, I was just on this side of Caleb’s autism diagnosis with Grace in the terrible twos and Jake in nursing school. Most of my friends had moved away. I was feeling pretty lonely when a new friend invited me to a meeting of MOPS (mothers of preschoolers).
MOPS International “is a grassroots movement that believes moms are world influencers.” (MOPS.org) It has been one of the best things I have ever experienced. I know not all “mommy groups” are actually beneficial to a mom’s sanity. Sometimes, they can be cliquish and competitive and miserable. But not this one! This group of women has been caring, supportive, and fun.
The best way to build relationships is to first tear down the walls we have surrounding our vulnerability. And the only way to get a group of mamas to do that is to be willing to say, “I’ll go first.” So last year, I volunteered to coordinate the group with another awesome mom.
It’s been an amazing year. We wrapped up our theme, “A Beautiful Mess – Embrace Your Story,” and are so excited to get going with plans for next year’s theme, “Be You Bravely.” If you’re not a part of MOPS, I definitely recommend it!
I recommend it so much that, even though there are a million and one parodies of Let It Go, my friend and I wrote our own version because MOPS needs one, too! Think of it as a jingle. =)
Time for MOPS! (to the tune of Let It Go)
A mess spread wide in the kitchen tonight
Not a helper to be seen.
A kingdom of dirty dishes
And it looks like I’m the queen.
The baby’s howling despite everything I’ve tried.
Can’t keep thoughts straight. My brain is fried.
Where are my keys? My phone is where?
Can’t remember when I washed my hair.
But just hang on – We’re almost there.
We’re almost there!
Time for MOPS. Time for MOPS.
Yoga pants are welcome here.
Grab a chair. Sit right there.
Eat food you don’t have to share!
You don’t have to wipe a nose.
You just sit and breathe!
Maybe during crafts, we’ll make a wreath.
It’s funny how these cuties
Can make us feel insane.
But twice a month, we’re reminded –
“Mom” is not my name.
It’s time to see what we can do
(Besides laundry or cleaning poo).
It’s Wednesday morning and I’m free –
To be me!
Time for MOPS. Love this place!
They show me love and grace.
Mentor moms, chats galore.
I’m always learning more.
Here I come
Down Killarney Way!
So glad it’s Wednesday!!!
The laughter’s floating through the air – I love that sound!
My troubles lifted by these sisters I have all around.
Through highs and lows, I know we’ll have each other’s back.
I know who I can call
When my mind’s about to crack!
Time for MOPS. Time for MOPS.
There’s a place for everyone.
Moms Night Out – Give a shout!
They’re always so much fun.
So here I am!
And here I’ll stay!
Let the coffee flow!
I might age out but I’ll never go.
Many families facing various challenges will hear things like: “I don’t know how you do it” or “I could never handle it so well” or “You guys are superheroes.”
While I’m not saying there aren’t days when I feel like someone should hand over a cape, the truth is? We don’t do it. We can’t handle it. We aren’t the superheroes in our stories.
God does. God can. God is.
I’m frequently reminded of our utter dependence on God and that no one said life would be easy. I always think of this post from New Year’s Day 2011 and remember that, three years later, I’m still learning to be grateful for the refining process.
(The following post was originally published at my previous blog, Stinker Babies.)
Is it possible to sum up 365 days with just one word? Or to wrap up all your hopes, dreams and desires for an entire year into a neat and tiny one-word package? We’ll see. I’m going to try my best!
I’ve already posted about my lack of tears over seeing 2010 finally draw to a close. It was not an easy year to get through.
Jake hit the ground running with nursing school. Between studying, class, working, clinicals, and more studying, he was gone pretty much all the time. Sometimes, I would wake up at 3:30 am just to make sure he had come home. At one point, we found ourselves explaining Caleb’s statement, “My daddy is not at my house anymore.” Ouch.
School alone might have been enough to make this year interesting. But we were really on our toes when it came to figuring out Caleb.
For the last nine months, we suspected, denied, suspected again, advocated, waited, learned, and waited some more. Eventually, just before Christmas, we received a diagnosis of autism for our sweet boy.
Add Mama’s fatigue due to a dying thyroid, Grace entering the Terrible Twos, and learning that Daddy will be in school an entire year longer than we anticipated. I am not going to lie. It was entirely overwhelming at times.
So what word would I use to sum up the craziness that was 2010?
According to ehow.com, refining silver is necessary in order to separate the pure silver from the dross. The process includes such pleasantries as nitric acid and being heated to 1200 degrees Celsius. Ouch.
God never promised that following him would be easy.
We all go through times in our lives when we are pruned and refined. I’m learning to be thankful for those times. It means that God still finds me worth improving. It means that I still have a role to play, small as it may be, in His plan. That’s very humbling.
So after a year like 2010, what word would sum up my hope for 2011?
This is our prayer. We pray with confidence because we choose to believe His promises.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” – Titus 3:4-6
You probably wouldn’t notice it at all.
But I do. Every day.
When I decided to start this new blog, I decided to start fresh with my mind “right.” Or at least as right as it could be. I wanted to really think about what my goals are here.
What do I want to accomplish?
I want to encourage you.
It’s a little funny because this goal is the exact same goal as when I started my first blog, Stinker Babies. I wanted to encourage any readers I had by being honest and real. I wanted to help others know they weren’t alone in what they were feeling or experiencing.
But something got in the way of that simple goal. There was one little thing that I naively added to the first website. Just like an adorable gremlin, I thought it would be this interesting little thing that ended up being a controlling, freaky monster.
My stats monitor became my measuring stick of how “good” I was.
The stats didn’t measure how encouraged people were or if they left feeling less alone in the world. Even if I was achieving my original goal, I didn’t feel successful unless a certain number of hits were happening.
I found myself writing with clicks, comments, and numbers in mind instead of hearts touched or smiles brightened. It was scary how easily it began to be about campaigns and recognition. For me.
I found myself constantly comparing stats with others. I felt discouraged, lonely, and frustrated because I would never measure up.
Once, I wrote a post that I was feeling really great about. It was original. It was funny. It had something for everyone. I loved it. Barely a week later, another blogger wrote a very, very similar post. But she did it absolutely beautifully. And it went viral (as it should have). And everyone sang her praises for weeks (as they should have).
And I had all the feelings. And it was not pretty.
I was too busy looking at the stories that others were living out and trying to make mine look like theirs. I picked the ending I wanted for my story and I was trying to force the plot to move in that direction. That does not make for a very good story. I more-than-momentarily forgot that my story is the only one I’m meant to live out. Not hers. Not his. Not yours.
I took a long time away from blogging to refocus. My posts were very few and far apart this last year. I spent some time praying and really listening to see if I was even supposed to keep writing at all.
I feel like I’m starting fresh where I’m meant to be and it’s not with a million visitors. It’s not with paid advertisers. It’s not with a book deal.
And it’s definitely not with a real-time stats monitor.
It’s with a new home on the web and refocused intentions and you.
Why Turning Pages?
I have always been a big believer that everyone has a story. I truly believe that God is writing a beautiful, messy, adventurous story for each of us. One that’s full of trials and celebrations, mountains and valleys, grace and mercy.
Hebrews 12:2 says we should “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”
I love this because my faith? It wasn’t always an easy thing for me. Yes, I had faith that Jesus was my savior and God was sovereign.
But faith is like a muscle. The more it’s exercised and worked, the bigger it grows. Those times in your life when your story is most exciting? Those are usually the times that are growing your faith.
If the last decade or so of my life were a novel, it would be interesting to note the foreshadowing that started with our wedding. Our first dance was to the song, “Come What May,” from Moulin Rouge. (Yes. We’re those artsy fartsy people who weren’t ready to let go of our theatrical streaks.) But honestly, I think God was prepping us for the story he was writing.
In the fall of 2005, we were new at our church and I wanted to get more involved. The ladies Bible study seemed like perfect timing so I jumped into Beth Moore’s Believing God. If you’ve never done it, I strongly recommend it.
Early on in the study, maybe even the very first week, Beth pretty much tells you to put your money where your mouth is. If you truly want your faith to be increased, she dares you to pray for that.
Let it be said: God always answers your prayers. The answer may not come in the form you were expecting (or hoping), but he answers. And he answers perfectly. Every. Single. Time. But we can’t always see it when we’re in the middle of our story.
We just have to keep turning the pages.
For the next decade, God was like a personal trainer totally devoted to working out my faith muscle. And he started just two days after I wrote that simple little prayer in my Believing God booklet.
My job fell through due to a paperwork issue between counties (and took our healthcare coverage with it), we had just closed on our first house, and two little pink lines popped up on a pregnancy test I wasn’t expecting to need for a year or so.
That was the beginning of a thrilling, terrifying, exciting, frustrating rollercoaster ride. God would allow us to get to the very brink of hopelessness and then bless our socks off with a huge reminder that he had us.
He was always there.
With each job loss, each setback, each sleepless night while Jake was in nursing school, each diagnosis that came for me and my children, through four years of deciding if we could pay for electricity or diapers, he was there.
Just when we were convinced that this would be our story forever, God would turn the page.
I remember one time when I was at the very edge of sanity. This time, instead of crying out to the Lord, I mostly screamed. I was in the middle of trying to get dinner ready for when my mom dropped the kids off. Something snapped. I was completely broken. I was sobbing on my kitchen floor.
In all honesty? I was mad. I felt so abandoned and betrayed by God. I had been faithful to him. Where was he in all of this?
After I cried it out and I mean, cried. Every. Tear. Out. Until I was dry. I was lying there on the cold tile and a song came on the radio. It was a Barlow Girl song that says, “I cried out with no reply and I can’t feel you by my side. So I’ll hold tight to what I know: You’re here and I’m never alone.”
God used that to teach me a huge truth. Sometimes, faith means choosing to believe. Sometimes, it requires real work. It’s when everything is stripped away. When you are broken down to your core and there is nothing left. Then, what are you going to do? What are you going to say? What are you going to believe?
In that moment, I stood up and I chose to believe that he was there. Even when I didn’t feel the warm fuzzies. Even when I didn’t hear a reply. I held tight to what I knew – I’m never alone.
There wasn’t immediate sunshine and rainbows like in the movies when the hero finally makes the smart move. It was more subtle than that. It would be a scripture brought to mind just when I needed it. A new song on the radio to encourage my heart. A MOPS speaker who seemed to be there just for me.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Now I have the privilege of looking back over the years and seeing how God was weaving our stories together. Stories that built my faith so strong.
Since those kitchen floor days, I’ve realized that every hard time I’ve been through was God choosing to mold and shape me. He considered me worthy of his time and attention. He was (and is) writing my story. Finally James 1:2-3 made real life sense to me. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Our stories are given to us so that we can share them with others. You never know who needs to hear your story. God brings people across our paths every day. People who are going through things that we might never even know about. You could have just the story they need to hear. God is giving you your story so that you can give it to others.
We just need to keep turning the page.
(This post was originally published on my former blog, StinkerBabies.)
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!
It started like every other night. It could have been any other ordinary day. Any at all. The same instructions had been given. The same teeth-brushing arguments, both pro and con, had been repeated. The blessed melatonin had been given. We sat down and pulled open the devotion book but we never read past the date – April 2nd.
Before I even realized what I was saying, I asked the kids if they knew that it was World Autism Awareness Day. They looked interested and were being exceptionally angelic at the moment. So I took it a little bit further. “You’ve heard the word, ‘autism,’ many times. But do you know what it means?” They shook their heads and wanted to know more.
It was happening. We had anticipated this moment for four years. When would we tell Caleb about his autism? How would we tell him? We decided on the gradual method of slowly, bit by bit and inch by inch, laying down the groundwork. We wanted them to have a firm foundation in knowing that everyone is different and that is a beautiful thing. We wanted them to be solid on the fact that God has created each and every one of us so beautifully and wondrously and intricately and intentionally. We wanted them to have the practice of loving others and seeing past differences to the heart and soul.
Years of anticipating this moment, sometimes eagerly and sometimes anxiously, and it was here. Even in those first few moments, I was unsure if I should shut it down. Jake was still at work. He was missing this milestone. But the ball was rolling and it was rolling down a steep hill. It felt right to allow it to continue on its path. Wherever it led.
We talked about what ASD is and how it can make some things easier and others more challenging. I told them about some common experiences among those who live life on the spectrum. And I simply asked if it sounded like anyone we might know. I could see his wheels turning. I showed them the episode of Arthur (“When Carl Met George”) and within 35 seconds, it happened.
And right there, right smack in the middle of our messy living room with the laundry piled high and the dinner dishes still on the table and the trash waiting to be taken out, with us and the dog all squished together on the couch, it happened. It started with his eyes. They looked brighter. After five or so minutes, his face had changed. He looked older somehow. By the time the video was over, he was eagerly asking, “Mom? Do I have ASD?”
I took a shaky breath and said confidently – no wait – I said proudly, “Yes, buddy. You do. What do you think about that?”
And he knew.
And just. like. it happened to us when we received his diagnosis, his life began flashing before his eyes. He was seeing it all with a fresh understanding. His filter had changed.
And he understood.
And he told me about how the things, the hard things, he now knows were the challenging parts of his ASD. And we talked about how far he’s come. And how much he’s overcome. And how he has done the hard things and how he can continue to do the hard things.
And he was proud.
Jake came home from work to find his boy had grown. Caleb seemed to stand taller as he told his dad about ASD and how God had made his brain special.
He went to bed that night having diagnosed our dog with autism as well. “She loves her toy like I love trains.” And any loneliness he might have felt dissolved away in the solidarity of puppy kisses.
He woke the next morning, ready to share himself with the world.
So, world? Get ready. You’re about to get a whole lot of awesome.