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.
I was a little girl riding shotgun with my grandmother. We were driving through our small town where everybody knows everybody when Mamaw spotted Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones was probably in her 70s, thin as a rail, still working hard. She was about a block into her long walk home from the grocery store, carrying a big brown bag on each hip. Mamaw explained to me that Mrs. Jones didn’t have a car and this was the exhausting way she had to go about getting groceries. My grandmother immediately pulled over and, in that sweet Southern way that leaves no room for argument, asked Mrs. Jones to let us drive her home.
Several years later, I looked around a large room and felt my eyes well up with tears. We were visiting family for Thanksgiving and, along with my aunt and uncle, my parents had brought us kids to help serve a meal at the soup kitchen. I was holding a baby so her mother could eat a rare hot meal. There were so many hungry people. There were not enough seats. At 11 years old, I remember a hopeless feeling because I thought there wasn’t enough that I could do to really help.
In much the same desperate way that I wanted to buy Mrs. Jones a car, I wanted to buy every person at the soup kitchen a home filled with food and clothes and love. I dreamed of being super wealthy and surprising people by anonymously meeting their biggest material needs. I became discouraged and even dreaded outreach projects because I wanted so badly to fix it. Fix it all. And it was so frustrating when I couldn’t.
Eventually, I accepted the fact that I couldn’t fix it all. I couldn’t buy new cars or new houses for all the deserving folks I wanted to surprise. But I could serve a meal, sweep a floor, hold a baby.
There are so many ways to show love to our neighbors.
It doesn’t always require a major gift or a trip to the other side of the world. (Of course, that would be amazing and I’m sure we would all jump at the chance! But I don’t want to wait for those opportunities to spread acts of love.) I feel so blessed to be surrounded by loving and compassionate people who are always giving me great examples of how to spread the love of Jesus by blessing others. Here are just a few ideas that don’t require a passport:
- Operation Christmas Child ~ This has been a great way to involve the kids and allow them the opportunity to do acts of love. Even from a very young age, we’ve tried to explain to our kids that not all children are able to have Christmas gifts. We’ve taken them with us to collect supplies and goodies to pack a shoebox to send to a child for Christmas. We pray for the child represented by each box that he or she will be blessed and feel loved.
- Swap ~ We recently held a swap with my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. The members of our group showed lots of love by donating so many things. Nice things. Things that they could have posted on Craigslist and made money for their family. I know I can probably speak for the majority when I say it was an incredible blessing. I was able to bring things that we no longer needed and I left with several items that we desperately needed (but would have trouble affording) for our new baby coming this spring.
- Share Box in the Car ~ My mom kept a box in the van that contained bottles of water, snacks, and toiletries. Whenever we were out running errands and we saw someone who could use any of those things, we’d stop and hand them out. Just today, a Facebook friend suggested adding gloves, coats, and blankets to our cars for sharing with those in need. It’s a great idea for an act of love as the Florida temps drop below freezing.
There’s a song by Jason Gray that I just love. I need to listen to it every morning when I wake up as my daily reminder. With every single act of love (big or small), we are showing the love of Jesus to our neighbors and teaching our children how to do the same. Fostering a compassionate heart in our children can be as simple as just letting your kids see your own acts of love.
“With every act of love, we bring the kingdom come.”
~ With Every Act of Love, Jason Gray
Step right up, folks, and I’ll tell you the tale of the biggest (emotional) roller coaster I’ve ever experienced. There are extreme highs and sudden drops, with lots of loops and twists thrown in for fun. You must be this high to ride.
It all started about a month ago with two (highly unexpected) itty bitty pink lines. How unexpected? Well, the last of our baby stuff was hauled away over a year ago. Once we picked our jaws up off the floor, we were thrilled, of course.
I’m somewhat of an oversharer (not exactly a shock, I know) so keeping a secret this big was going to be super hard for me. So I began to journal little blurbs to have an outlet. Here’s a little bit of what I wrote after a week of expecting:
“So many nerves this time around! We’ve had some time to get used to this new idea. I’m excited. Attached. And that makes me so nervous. I’ve had two healthy pregnancies. Statistically speaking, am I due for my share of heartache? It seems that for every happy ending you hear about, there are nine horror stories. It’s not fair for me to be exempt. Praise God for grace. Just have to walk one day at a time, trusting in Him no matter what.”
Then this was written a few days later:
“Dear Baby, Your life is so precious. We thought we were done but God had a different plan. He meant for you to be. Your tiny heart is starting to beat. It beats for the glory of the Lord. Your very existence is such a gift.”
Four days later, as we were getting ready for a dinner party, I began to miscarry. Once my mind registered what was happening, my heart sank to my toes and I began to sob. I knew there couldn’t be any hope. We were advised to go to the ER to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. This is what I wrote that long, horrible night:
“The ceiling tiles needed cleaning. There was a cobweb dangling over me like a crib mobile. The tech apologized for the warmth of the room but I felt like I was frozen through. A tear slipped silently down my cheek and into my ear as they discussed KFC’s latest chicken creation. The ultrasound wand was heavy on my abdomen as if it carried the weight of my fear. It pressed hard against the still, quiet place where you were. Instead of the relief that comes with the sudden rhythmic whirring, there was only the silence. The sound of our hearts breaking.”
Once the official report came from the radiologist, a big tough doctor brought us into this little room where he told us that I had miscarried. They could see the beginnings of a pregnancy but there was no heartbeat. He looked terrified that I would burst into tears on him. I felt like I was already cried out. For now. I was to follow up with my OB in a couple of days to make sure everything was progressing as it should.
This was from my follow-up:
“Sitting in the OB’s waiting room in the furthest corner I can find. The isolation doesn’t protect me from happy, rounded bellies and cheerful ultrasound photos. I wait. Try not to let the tears fall. Try to sink into the floor and disappear. Please call my name. Let me get this over with. Put it behind me. Move on. Can I? I’m still so queasy. Unfair… Dry mouth. Hands shaking. Trying to chug water from bathroom sink. Hands still shaking. Feeling sick… Waiting in the room for the doctor to talk to me. There’s a large painting of a raccoon staring at me… Still waiting. Raccoon is still watching to see if I’ll cry. The ultrasound is next… Nothing has changed. There’s still no heartbeat but I’m leaving with more questions than answers. The OB isn’t ready to call it a lost cause. I have to wait for the phone call tomorrow to tell me what my HCG numbers are doing. I’m afraid to hope. My chalkboard at home is a huge drawing of the word HOPE. I don’t believe in coincidence.”
That night, I had a long drive from my parents house back to my home. It was a rare solo drive and I had the song, Oceans, on repeat. After I sobbed it out, I cried out to the Lord to breathe life into our baby and to help our teeny tiny one grow. I spent the entire drive in prayer. I kept remembering what I had written the week before. “Your heart beats for the glory of the Lord.” I had to come to a hard place of realization that God would be glorified even if baby’s heart never beat. My heart would be broken, but I would still praise my God. A peace came over me that I cannot explain. This child was God’s idea. His gift to us. As hard as it was to let go, I had to mentally release this baby back to God. This little life was in His hands all along.
The next day, the only words I could get onto paper were these:
“Waiting for The Call. For this child I have prayed. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
A nurse called at the very end of that Friday. My numbers had not doubled as they had hoped. But they had increased. If they had decreased, then we would have known it was a loss and we’d be waiting for the next step. But they had gone up. The nurse warned me not to get my hopes up but to come in for another ultrasound on Tuesday.
“It’s time for the ultrasound. What will we see? Lori’s kind voice is extra sweet today. She remembers the limbo we were left with the last time I was here. The bed raises until I can almost touch the ceiling. I grip Jake’s hand tighter and try to control my breathing. The screen turns on. Lori gasps and almost giggles, “We have a heartbeat!!!” We turn to the screen. There is a beautiful, glorious flickering. The tears once again stream down my face and into my ear. She allows me the moment I need to totally lose it. We have a heartbeat. Baby’s heart is beating steady and strong. We are speechless. Basking in the grace and mercy of our mighty God who is writing one heck of a story for this little one. Glory be to our God.”
We’re having a baby.
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.