Thursday, July 7, 2016

Do More Than Be Silent

My draft folder is full. I have written many a post on current events only to decide it's better left unpublished. I struggle, wondering most if what I've written would be helpful, or if it would just stir the pot.

This last month, though, has been such a painful month. The shooting massacre in Orlando, the ISIS bombing in Baghdad with so little care expressed, and the African American men killed by police, so much pain, I find myself struggling again. Struggling with words. Struggling with the feeling that I need to say something. Struggling with the questions, "What can I say? What can I do?" I have done my best to profess my sympathies and concern in a personal way to those closest to me in these communities, but more and more I feel like I need to say something more public. In an attempt to be helpful, to at least choose not to be silent, I am offering these words to members of the African American community, the LGBT community and to the victims of ISIS in Baghdad.

I see you. I hear you. My heart aches for you. When I say I'm praying, it isn't just lip service. I mean that I have and will continue to tearfully kneel in intercession before my God asking him for healing and peace for your communities, asking him for justice and change in our country and our world, for understanding and direction in my life and in my community.

When you express your anger and disillusionment, your fear and lack of hope, your graciousness and love even in the presence of hate, I take it in, all of it. I consider every word and lay out my heart to be broken, my mind to be changed and my life to be given in service.

I would offer my shoulder, let me cry with you. I would offer my presence, let me stand with you. Let me hold your hand as you walk through the pain, and let me carry some of the burden. Let me pray with you and for you. I know my God loves each and every one of you, and I know he hears from heaven and intervenes.

He sends people, people like you, people like me, ultimately people like him, created in his image. He sends us to help each other, to learn from each other. Tell me your story and let me learn from you. I give my word, I will listen and hear you, and my silence will then have purpose as I absorb what you share and use it to do more than be silent.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Feeding a Broken Heart

My sweet potato casserole with both nuts and marshmallows.
In my Memaw's house, there was one cure for every ailment, love, and while that love may have taken on many forms over the years, it was usually expressed with food, all kinds of food. Holidays or just weekly dinners at her house, if she knew your favorite, it would be waiting for you at her table. Even if you were the only one in the house who would eat it, even if you protested her going through all the trouble, it was always there. If you were sick or sad, that called for special measures, and she pulled out all the stops. If you had something to celebrate, you could bet she would find a special food to fit the occasion.

Her recipe collection was extensive. She was always trying something new, testing another recipe on her all too willing subjects, the grandkids. I remember her talking about the failures she made, but oddly, I don't ever remember tasting one.

She put together a book of recipes for everyone a few years back, and my favorites are the ones in her own handwriting. We used to talk about the recipes in there, the ones she wanted to try, the ones I had tried. I called her as a new bride embarrassed I didn't even know how to make mashed potatoes from real potatoes. She laughed, told me what to do, and shared a couple stories about her cooking as a newlywed to make me feel better. I called her for holiday recipes when I wasn't able to make it home to her table for the meal. I sat and brainstormed with her when I learned of Jackson's allergies. I called her when I tried something new, just to share it with her. I loved talking with her about food. It was never a dull conversation, and more often than not, I walked away feeling more loved.

Sweet potato casserole in her casserole dish on her buffet table.
She used to tell me how proud she was of me, working so hard to cook for Jackson, making sure he had the best food possible. She used to say she didn't think she could have done it, which always blew my mind because I always thought she's where I got my need to feed. I heard similar words from others in my life, but her compliments meant the world to me because I knew food was her love language. I knew she was telling me she was proud of how I loved him.

She passed away in October, at 90 years old. This Thanksgiving, my family is scattered, but I know we all feel her absence. This Holiday in particular is hard because it's about food and family, exactly how you would describe her heart if you could only use two words, food and family. I had a few teary moments getting ready this morning, but as I prepared the sweet potato casserole, the dam burst. A flood of memories came to my mind, followed by a flood of tears.

It all came as I pulled out the casserole dish she gave me before she moved the last time. Her ability to cook had left her, and she wanted me to have some of her dishes. Today, reaching in, anxious to get it in the oven, I took one look and fell apart.

She didn't have a special recipe for sweet potato casserole, but she was the first person I called when I was trying to figure out my own. She said she liked the marshmallows on top, but Granny (her mom) liked the nuts until she couldn't eat them any more. I remember telling her, after I had figured it out, that I liked to do both, and then giggling with her about how that seemed like the perfect solution. I loved her giggle.

I'm grateful she gave me her casserole dishes before she moved. I'm also thankful for every recipe she left behind. They're like memories with taste and smell, like she's still here loving me even though she's gone. I know she's much happier now than when she was here stuck in that failing body, but I miss her so very much. And, I can't wait until we're feasting together in heaven, and I never have to tell her goodbye again.

Happy Thanksgiving, and a special prayer for peace and comfort if you have an empty seat at the table this year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Public Apology

So, reading back through my first paragraph,
I decided I was pretty much describing my Memaw.
She passed in October, and I miss her so very much.

You know those people who are on top of things, who always know what to say for every situation, the people who always give the best gifts with the best cards at the perfect times, those who organize their calendars and never forget important dates or commitments, the people you can drop in on and always feel welcome finding a neat house with something cooking or brewing, those people you know you can count on when you need them because they are just those kind of people? I'm not one of those people. I want to be. I really do, but I feel like I might have dug a hole so big, it might be easier to just keep digging and find my way to the other side of the world.

If there were a need, I think I might be able to teach a class on what NOT to say in certain situations. There's a running commentary in the back of my head of all the terrible things I've said to people. Dumb things at weddings, baby showers, even funerals. If I'm able to respond in writing, I'm much better, but you can't be in a hurry because I have to type it out and mull over it. And, let's not even talk about Facebook. Even though, technically, it's in writing, there's something about that medium that lends itself to really stupid comments, of which I think I might be in the running for the most stupid.

I am probably the worst gift giver alive, and I am painfully aware that it is NOT the thought that counts. I've seen enough polite smiles and heard enough insincere thank yous to know the truth about just how much the thought counts. I'm always thinking about people, praying for people, but when it comes time to show it in a tangible way like a birthday or wedding, it's bad. Really bad. When you're married to someone who needs the thought AND the gift, i.e. the thoughtful gift, it's just plain awful. Too often, if I don't know what to give, I don't give. Another reason it isn't the thought that counts. I can think about it all day long, but if it never materializes into a gift, then it's like I didn't think about it at all.

My calendar looks like a 4 year old sat down with a box of crayons and created a masterpiece. There's no room for error, but it happens every week. I forget something, some activity, some important date, and sadly the people attached to those activities and dates suffer. It breaks my heart. I promise, I usually remember, but it's often not until midnight or 5 am the next day. Then I spend the rest of the time trying to figure out how to make it up to whoever or whatever I forgot, then I never get around to that either.

I think the last time I sent out a thank you note was my wedding. That's 13 years ago for those of you who don't know. I LOVE getting them. I know it's important. I plan every birthday or event to do better, but I just can't manage to pull it off. I've almost decided that the next time I send out invitations to an event, I'll just slip the thank you note into those. Be proactive, you know.

I crave order and neatness, but I usually end up with C.H.A.O.S. (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). I love to cook and feed people. I love how the early church worked, food and fellowship, and I crave that in my own life. I have always wanted a home with an open door for anyone who needed a meal, a place to stay and/or a listening ear, but when you home school during the day and have one or more activities each night of the week with at least two activities on the weekend, you don't have room for a neat home and a home cooked meal not to mention a place at the table for the surprise guest.

I think the worst problem about being so busy and absent minded is the fact that I don't feel trustworthy or stable. It's in my nature to help and nurture people. I want so much to be that person you can call knowing you can count on me, and it hurts me to say I can't help.

I'm a mess. For real, and I'm always surprised at the people who still feel like I love them. I'm even more surprised at the people who really know me and still love me. Not that I'm unloveable, but the longer you know me, the more frustrating all my absent mindedness can get.

So, here's my public apology, all typed out and mulled over.

I'm praying for things to change, if not anywhere else but in my own heart. I want that running commentary of all the stupid things I've said to stop playing. I want to let go of all the failures and forgotten things and move on from here not trying so hard to get it all right. I want to really believe that praying isn't nothing. That sometimes it's enough to remember the people I love while I'm on my knees in communion with my God. I want to allow God to change how I view success and failure in my life. I want to accept the fact that I cannot work harder or do better, that I must rest in Jesus and allow him to make the difference in my life and in the lives of those I'm called to reach. As strange as it is, I want to believe He does know best. That I need to be still to be busy, slow down to go faster, and rest to get more done.

Help me, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

We do the loving. He does the changing.

The gospel isn't different for different groups of people. It doesn't change based on need or ability.

The gospel for the homeless isn't to get off the street.

The gospel for the depressed isn't to choose to be happy.

The gospel for the gay or lesbian person isn't to be straight.

The gospel for the alcoholic isn't sobriety.

The gospel for the workaholic isn't to balance work and family.

The gospel for the sex addict isn't to control themselves.

The gospel for the obese isn't to get skinny.

The gospel for the church lady isn't to just keep being perfect.

The specifics of our faults, flaws and struggles are irrelevant.

The gospel isn't about fixing us. It's not about correcting a real or perceived fault in our lives so that we fit a better mold. It isn't about making perfect little followers that look nice in the church pew.

The Gospel is the revelation of Christ. It is Jesus and his saving truth. It is the good news of his deity, his sinless life, his sacrificial death, his burial and triumphant resurrection by which he offers life everlasting to all who seek Him.

ALL who seek him. And those who find him, he called to seek others and lead them to Him. Seek them, not fix them. Lead them to him, not force them into our chosen church culture. He's the one that heals and changes. His people are here to lead the lost to a savior, to bear burdens, to fill bellies, to share cloaks, to turn cheeks, to offer love to the lonely and hope to the hopeless. We are here to work and serve together showing God's love and healing to others, something we are only able to do as we allow his love and healing to change us first.

Jesus didn't come and die so we could be popular and successful. He came to change us, to make us more like him, to allow him to use our hands, feet and hearts to love the world and everyone in it, the homeless, depressed, gay, lesbian, alcoholic, addict, obese, church lady and every other person we come into contact with. We do the loving. He does the changing.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Think God is Beautiful

I haven’t done a serious post in a while. I tend to be a pretty transparent person, and I’m ok with sharing all kinds of things many people wouldn’t dare. I’ve been warned by other mommy bloggers, though, that while being transparent with those I interact with on a daily basis can be a very good thing, being too transparent on my blog could be a problem, especially in this culture of outrage we live in. I've been warned to weigh it out and decide if I'm prepared for the potential backlash. I don’t think there are too many people that follow this blog that don’t actually know me in person, but I can see the potential issue with misinterpretation or that nastiness that too often comes out when generally decent people get behind a screen. I've been there, on both sides. It's not pretty.

However, I have dozens of posts in my draft folder, posts that flowed out in great urgency and through tears and prayer, posts that would ultimately not be published because I wasn’t sure I wanted to put those raw feelings out into cyberspace. Posts on feminism, sexism, racism, terrorism, marriage equality, the church, the government and my little dot on the map. Serious political, emotional, controversial stuff, not really what I usually post on this blog. Sometimes I wonder if something happened to me, would anyone go through my draft folder? What would they think? Would they delete it all as the ranting of a crazy person or publish it all as powerful words from the grave? Maybe I should clean that folder out. Or not. Or write a post with instructions about what to do with everything in it if something did happen to me. Or just hold onto them all and ponder the courage it would take to hit that little orange button and put it all out there.

Anyway, I do post about my son with autism and food allergies. My most popular posts are my recipes, but many posts about our specific issues with his development are frequently visited, too. Having reached a very manageable point in his development, there’s not much to write lately. Sometimes I wonder if this is just the calm before the storm. Puberty is coming, and I wonder sometimes if that mixed with autism will throw me a curveball or just go haywire like a possessed pitching machine. Time will only tell, but every now and then, I’m reminded of the different way he thinks. Sometimes it adds a certain level of frustration. More often than not, though, he moves me to tears or changes the way I see things in our little conversations.

The other night he asked me in all seriousness, "What does God look like?"

I stopped for a moment to consider my answer because this is the child that panicked at the Sunday School verbiage about God coming into his heart. His literal reasoning told him that trying to fit something as big as God into something as small as his heart would likely be painful if not deadly. I knew I had to be careful in how I answered this question. I couldn't go to Revelation and the description of Jesus, although that's the most literal way to go about answering that question. I didn't feel like that was what he was asking. He asked me as if I would know because I've seen God. I love how he assumes I know the answers to his hugely complicated spiritual questions, and as I considered what to say, my heart became overwhelmed by the answer and what I desperately wanted to teach him about who God is.

So, my answer?

"God looks like you. He looks like me. He created us in his image and for his glory. That means that every bit of our humanity, your boyness, my girlness, our hearts, our souls and our minds, it all started with him. So, when you want to know what God looks like, look at the people around you. You can find him in every face you see."

We talked until his little mind was satisfied, and after we prayed and I told him to go to sleep, he told me, "I think God is beautiful." He was satisfied, but I walked out of his room with tears in my eyes and a very heavy heart. Oh, how I wish the world saw itself the way he does, the way God does.

When you love God with all your heart, your soul and mind, then loving the humans around you is easier. You can love the boy with the straight limbs and great athletic ability and the girl bound to a wheelchair and a feeding tube because you can see God in them. You can love the beautiful woman dressed to the nines and the homeless man wearing everything he owns because in their eyes you see God. You can love the people who look and speak different from you. You can love the people who disagree with you, those who pick on you. You can love the bully, the mean girl, and the person who goes out of their way to be friends with everyone. When you love God and seek his face, you can even love the angry man who may take your life because he sees a God he hates in you. You can love like that because God IS love, and the more you seek him the more like him you will be. The more you seek him the more you see him in the people around you. Seek his face, and you'll find it in the lost and hurting around you.

I could blog about every current event and issue we face right now and do little more than toss my drop of water into the ocean, or I could love like Jesus and create the kind of current that guides lost vessels to safe harbor, the most important of those vessels being my children. I can teach them about prejudice and injustice, or I can lead them into a relationship with the God who knows no such thing. I can teach them to seek the God who is no respecter of persons, the God who loves the persecutor and the persecuted, the discriminator and the discriminated, the God who sees into the broken soul of every human being and desires to heal and restore each one to himself above all else.

That is who God is, and that's what he looks like, like you and me reaching out in healing and restoration. I found myself on my knees begging God to help me teach my children that one thing, because I feel like even if I get everything else wrong, seeking the God who created them and loving every other person he created, there is nothing more right.

I don't think I will ever forget those precious little words, "I think God is beautiful." Yes, Baby, he most certainly is.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pinterest Success: Pizza Waffles

You know those things you see on Pinterest and think, cool idea, but after you try it you realize it's just a poorly thought out theory. Or, at least, for someone with your skill set. Well, I saw this cool idea on Pinterest.

Pizza rolls on the waffle iron? Awesome. I had to try it. The pin used biscuit dough which isn't possible for my kiddo. So, I used premade pizza dough from the grocery store. I rolled it out, and cut circles out with a biscuit cutter.

Yes, I smooshed the handle pushing down on the dough.
Why is the handle even there? I usually push down on the sides anyway.

Then I filled it with marinara, cheese and whatever toppings each person wanted.

How cute is that little pizza? I almost wanted to stick it in the oven,
but onto the waffle iron it went.

I put spinach and garlic in mine. The kids wanted bacon and/or ham. I did a few with just sauce and cheese.

This was my tester roll, the one I put on there to see
if it would explode or otherwise ruin my waffle iron.
Success! It did not explode OR ruin my waffle iron.
Super yummy, and easy enough the kids can do it.

I'm excited that I had a Pinterest success, and that this is potentially something I can make and send with my crazy picky daughter for school lunch.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

On Record, Off Pinterest

You know how people claim to hate social media because they hate seeing all the perfect people posting their perfect lives and it upsets them because either they know it isn't true or they compare themselves and come up short? (I get irritated when people post so much negative it makes me want to block them from my news feed, but that's a topic for another day.)

Well, mommies be scrolling through Facebook to 'connect' or flipping through Pinterest thinking they'll be inspired only to find themselves giving up, popping the top off a carton of Ben and Jerry's and starting an all night binge of Parenthood or Law and Order. Oh, wait, maybe that's just me. Anyway, the pressure is enormous. We can't just be good moms anymore, we have to be fit and healthy, fun and funny, perfectly styled, perfectly organized, always ready for a photo shoot or impromptu dinner guests serving the healthiest foods of course. These days it's easy to feel like you have to be June Cleaver mixed with Martha Stewart plus a little Ellen Degeneres and Beyoncé to round out the edges.

I had surgery over the Summer, and it was a little surprising to me how many of my friends saw me as a super mom. There was real concern that my children might starve or turn into vagabonds roaming the streets searching for someone to care for them. I might be exaggerating, just a little, but I heard it from more than one friend insisting that they bring us food and help in some way. My poor children suffering without their perfect mom being perfect. (Awesome people, too bad I'm super crappy at accepting help.) During all that I decided I must be WAY better at hiding the crazy than I thought. So, that's a plus. Go me!

Anyway, there actually was a time in my life when I tried insanely hard to be crafty and creative in a fun mom sorta way. I have spent countless hours and many sleepless nights in the kitchen cranking out allergy safe food and fun healthy treats for each of my kids' class functions (mostly Jackson). I got really good at scratch cooking inadvertently ruining my appetite for many store bought and even restaurant made food. My kids will quote me, "this is good, but mine's better." I can make my own fondant from scratch, and then mold it into things like fish and mermaids, and it doesn't taste like cardboard paste. Seriously. I can make killer cinnamon rolls, fresh breads, even bagels, and according to my kids, I make better nuggets than Chick Fil A. On top of that, I can paint portraits and mold clay into tigers complete with realistic fur. Plus write awesome blog posts that only people who know me read. Clearly, the ability is there, but the time and desire no longer exist.

The time is gone because we're overscheduled. I have 3 talented, smart kids and a need for everything to be fair. That probably comes from being the middle child. So, they are all three very involved in several different activities. I love it for them, but it stretches mommy pretty thin.

The desire isn't there because I know what makes my kids think I'm the best mom ever, and it's not found on Pinterest. Well, that and the fact that when I do have free time, I'd rather be running or reading or sleeping. Sleeping is my favorite!

The point is, I'm ok NOT being super mom, well at least the version of super mom I see floating around the Internet these days, but I think my desire to stay mostly positive might paint a different picture of my life.

Most of what I do is not Pinterest worthy. And, even the stuff I post is edited. I think it's just the polite thing to do. You do NOT wanna see selfies from my bedroom with the hashtag #wokeuplikethis, nor do you want to see carefully filtered pics of the empty takeout containers cluttering the table on the all too often night I was too busy to bother with dinner. I don't think anyone wants to hear me complain or rant or post unkempt photos. At least not as often as they happen in real life. Right? How 'bout an amen from all my moms who understand the behind the scenes is very different from the highlight reel.

See this picture?

Fat, funny looking little things

This is the Pinterest image of the snack I was supposed to bring to school for my daughter's special snack day. All the moms have to do a few each year, and there is a calendar with instructions in our parent binders from the school. It's Kindergarten, and apparently the transition from preschool to grade school requires special treats on Fridays. This is my third time through this, and the magic has faded. Especially since I made an allergy safe version of EVERY one of these treats EVERY Friday the entire school year for my last kindergartner. I'm special treated out, but because she's precious and I don't like being the mom that drops the ball, well at least not on purpose, I planned to suck it up and get it done.

To start things off, we lost the binder. The parent binder her teacher gave out to every parent with all the special instructions for the class that had printed on the cover, "please return at the end of the year." Yeah, that binder. I had to ask other moms in the class to post a pic of this week's snack so I knew what to do. Fortunately I was able to find the same snack on Pinterest for further instructions (hence the pic above).

Did I mention I hate Rice Krispie treats? Well, at least the ones made with store bought marshmallows. I make my own, of course, but there was no time for that. Can you hear it, "these are good, but mine are better." Yeah, as I was saying...

All the kids are in bed, my husband is settled on the couch and I set to work creating these little monsters, uh I mean darlings. I can melt butter and marshmallows and mix in the Rice Krispies, among other culinary feats I consider impressive since I'm not a chef, but apparently I can't mold this sticky mess into snow men.

The racket from the kitchen drew my husband in. I would imagine like a train wreck, you just have to look. Amid my complaining, "Why couldn't it be cupcakes? I can handle cupcakes....I hate store bought marshmallows....My hands are covered in butter. Why is it still sticking to my hands?....They might end up with Rice Krispie bars with snowmen faces drawn on. That I can do. I can sculpt animals from clay, but I can't make a decent ball out of stupid Rice Krispies."

I don't really remember what he said, but I do remember how effortlessly he picked up a glob and rolled it into a ball. The ultimate "I can do anything you can do better" taunt. Only he didn't taunt me. He jumped in and started rolling more balls amid my complaining that he still wasn't doing it right and that I had already decided on a plan B. Pretty much how I handle unwanted assistance across the board. He showed me how, and I started rolling, too, very irritated by the fact that my left brained, math/science minded husband was showing me up. Pretty soon we had 11 little snow men (one for each kid, the teacher and her assistant) but no icing to stick on all the candy embellishments. "Icing wasn't on the list of ingredients. I have to have some in the pantry somewhere!" Yeah, if I hadn't abandoned my kitchen exploration for baseball and ballet. All the icing tubes were rock hard and expired. I suppose we should have rolled faster and used the still sticky marshmallow goo to adhere all the pieces. Whatever.

So, while I was busy washing uniforms and packing back packs, he went to the store to get some icing to use for glue. It was nearly midnight, and he was ready for bed not midnight shopping at Walmart. Of course, he probably could have gone just like he was and no one would have noticed, or someone would have noticed, snapped a pic and immortalized him on the 'People of Walmart' page. Anyway, he returns and starts shaping scarves out of fruit roll ups.

I started 'gluing' on chocolate chip eyes, and jelly bean hats. He even complimented me on how the white icing looked surrounding the candy buttons.

We're gonna pause right here to interject the fact that this man has pushed me to the worst moments of my life. I have contemplated, even filed for divorce (didn't follow through, obviously) and considered murdering him in his sleep on more than one occasion, but at this moment, calmly (I HATE how he can stay calm when I'm falling apart) and carefully helping me, I remembered why I married him.

This is how they turned out.

I think they kinda look like little evil clowns,
but you know, I like hating on Rice Krispie snowmen lately.
Certainly not perfect, but close enough. Not one single snowman made it home. They were each completely and, according to my daughter, happily devoured. Mission accomplished. And, if I had just posted like usual, I would have posted the pic without all the back story and let you think I'm a Pinterest genious, or at least a fun mom with some crafty good skills and a hubby who helped, IF I was feeling generous enough to include him.

I looked at our creations, snapped a pic, and then panicked, "Oh, great, I haven't planned out an outfit for me. What am I gonna wear? I can't go in running clothes. Can I?" To which my husband replied in my favorite quote to date, "How 'bout some yoga pants or leggings?" (Inside joke, #butyouwanttotalkaboutleggings.) Then after a good laugh and shamefully without a thank you from me, he quietly retired leaving me to transfer my irrational panic onto what I would use to cover my body. Don't worry, I came to my senses and thanked him the next day. ;-)

So, please keep posting your adorable kid shots in the one spot of your house that doesn't look like a tornado hit it, and your gorgeous selfies that make me jealous because I'm so very awkward with those. I keep trying though; I'm gonna get it figured out. Please keep posting all your accomplishments. I really do want to see your adorable cupcakes and yummy dinners. The European vacations your husband surprised you with, and your girls night out shots that make me miss college. I know it's not like that always. I have plenty to edit out of my film reel, too, but the highlights, they're fun and inspiring. I like them.

Of course, I like real and honest, too. Just don't dis on yourself too bad. You're so great the way you are, every wrinkle and gray hair, every yelling fit that could easily be aired on Jerry Springer. God sees it all and loves you anyway; so, I can, too. And, when you scroll through Pinterest or Facebook and start feeling like you must be the most boring untalented person on the planet, remember the best things in life aren't found on Pinterest.