Thursday, September 27, 2012


The tire blew out and I was headed for the guard rail.  I was taking the corner at 120mph and despite my effort to over correct my steering, I was doomed.  I saw the ocean waves crashing below and felt the steering wheel shake uncontrollably and the impact of the car exploding...then the familiar three octave alarm and the GAME OVER alert flashed across the screen.  Whew...what an adrenaline rush.  Maybe that's the draw of video games, 100% risk in a 100% risk-free environment.

Yesterday was one of those "cantilevered over a precipice" days for me.  I remember 11 years ago when we bought home our first born child, we were so in love and so overwhelmed all wrapped up in one.  I would pull crazy sleep shifts trying to stay on top of her feedings and diaper changes.  It was physically draining and a day when I would sleep through the night seemed like a fantasy.  To have those days back knowing what I know now, would be a dream.    Never did I anticipate that entering the tween/teen years would leave me longing for formula canisters and the diaper genie. (hmmm...ok, maybe not the hassle of changing the diaper genie...)

Social media, the Internet, technology, secular music, pop stars...they all have such appeal for our kids.  My oldest is enamored by all things media related.  She's taking risks and making sneaky decisions that terrify me.  That word seems to be one I use regularly in conversations that involve her.  The term World Wide Web conjures up a vision of a giant spider web with tons of insects wrapped beyond recognition in its shimmering strands. 

This week I was given the chance to start unravelling it's hold on her.  But what happens when we are wrapped in anything too tight for too long, is that we lose feeling in our body.  Our feet fall asleep when our shoes are tied too tight and our fingers lose sensation when we apply a band aid too tight.  We lose feeling and become numb after a while and we sometimes forget what it feels like to have feeling in those areas leaving us oblivious to our own restriction. 

My kiddo was bound too tightly to a social media account and I had no idea.  I knew she was drifting a bit from the family and she was spending lots of time in her room with the door closed, but every time I would open the door or ask her to do something she got more and more annoyed.  I wrote some of it off as her changing hormones, and felt good about the filters I had put on the family laptop and our decision to not get her a phone.  I, however, had not taken precautions with my electronic tablet or with her girlfriends phone and she slipped into the web under my radar.

I made the discovery when she failed to properly delete her history on my Kindle Fire and being the night owl that I am, I uncovered it about 1am.   How ironic that I was once again pulling an all-nighter, but this time I was not caring for my infants physical needs, I was pouring over every aspect of my tweens emotional, spiritual and mental needs.  After scrutinizing and ramping up every area of our home Wi-Fi network accessibility, each of our devices and every post, email and website she had visited over the past two months, at 6am her Dad and I were ready to confront her.  We pressed on through her initial denial, and finally she came clean.  Her tears flowed like a broken dam and I saw my sweet daughter begin to imerge again.  I felt my heart connect with hers and I assured her that our love for her has no conditions, but did come accompanied with some severe punishments.  We prayed with her and listened, and as I dropped each of my kids at school a few hours later, I was drained.  I had nothing left to give.

Enter my Wednesday afternoon small group.  Is God's timing perfect every time, or what?  He blows me away.  I am blessed to facilitate...not lead....they lead me...a group of ladies each week who brighten my life.  We recently began a new study entitled "Unglued" by Lysa Terkeurst.  It challenges us to identify why we come "unglued" in moments of everyday stress and how to work towards an attitude of Christ by seeking His face before losing's a process of imperfect progress.  Well after the overnight I had just been through, there was no example I could offer on how to remain "GLUED" together.  Remember the out of control race car?  That was me, but I held it together and did my best to stay present.

Finally when we began to talk about being "chiseled" I couldn't stand it another minute.  I let it all out.  I spilled my heart like an avalanche on this group of dear ladies. I cried and talked and cried and talked and they didn't run away, they didn't judge me, and I didn't for a second worry that what I was saying would be fodder for them to gossip about my parenting or my kiddo or my perceived parenting failures.  Some of them even cried with me!  They offered me love and reassurance and they gave me courage when I didn't have any left.  Then they did the most beautiful thing, I get teary thinking about it, they put me in the center of a circle and they all put their hands on my shoulders or my arms or my back and they prayed for me.  They prayed that I not be discouraged, that I press on to bond even deeper with my daughter, they prayed for my mental health, for my physical health and for my influence with her and her peers. 

It was a risk to spill my heart to them, but the benefit of having ladies in my life who know me is so much greater.  To have ladies who would rather pray with you than talk about you is so uplifting.  I am so blessed by these women.  Our study about why we come "unglued" is going to leave us all glued together in ways we never could have anticipated.  I pray you have women in your life today who are sticking by your side, they are treasures. I love you UNGLUED girls!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Is your FAKE ID for sale?

This time of year always makes me reminiscent of my college days.  I went to Murray State University...a beautiful campus sent in Western Kentucky just 20 minutes north of the Tennessee state line.  That geographic explanation is crucial to understanding the culture of the campus...the "dry" alcohol free campus.

Murray was smack dab in the center of a dry county and that meant no seedy bars, no liquor sales at the corner Shell gas station and no beer in the coolers at Wal-Mart.  Alcohol was not sold and not available at any restaurant in the county.  When I moved onto campus and begin meeting girls in the all freshmen dorm, I kept getting the same question from new dorm mates..."what county are you from?"

This was the typical way of identifying where your hometown was in an area that was peppered with consolidated schools and tiny towns, but it was new to me.  In my hometown in Southern Illinois we rarely heard about counties, unless we were under a tornado watch and our eyes were glued to the ticker on the bottom of the TV screen!

I was also completely taken off guard by the concept of a "dry county".  I had never heard of this and really didn't get why my parents thought this was such a great concept for their only daughter's new home-away-from-home.  However, after going through sorority rush and attending my first fraternity party as a freshmen, it all began to make sense to me. 

Any facade that my parents may have bought into about the "alcohol-free utopia" was a joke.  When it came to fraternity parties, Murray was the "wettest" dry county around and the only boundary the alcohol free restrictions enforced was that students had to plan ahead for parties, allowing a 45 minute round trip drive "south" to gather supplies.   It was a ritual that usually began for students on Thursday after class, driving to the Tennessee line to bring back cases of Milwaukee's Best to start an evening of revelry.

Who was being fooled by this "dry county" business?  Did the locals not see the cars heading out of town at the end of the week and weren't they suspicious when the same line cars paraded back through town 30 minutes later?  It was as though the whole county had a giant FAKE ID; a desire to present itself as something that it wasn't by restricting the sale of liquor.

Now before we get sidetracked and begin condemning a body of municipal leaders for their rules and regulations, let's examine our own reflection.   What are you presenting yourself as that might not be accurate?  Are you wearing clothing that would allow others to assume you are available for a tumble in the backseat of the nearest car? Are your conversations filled with judgement about others and a critical spirit, but in your mind you just long to find friends who will like you?  Are you watching movies and listening to music with lyrics that you would never verbalize if they weren't set to a tune, but you know in your heart God is leading you in a different direction?

God longs to buy your FAKE ID!  He wants you to leave those facades with Him.   If you are working  harder to memorize the stats on your fake ID card than you are walking in the truth of who you were created to be, you will never find happiness.  

Nearly 20 years after I graduated from MSU, (REALLY?) the laws have changed.  Packaged liquor is not readily available, but they do sell alcohol by the drink at restaurants.   I have no idea whether those shacks across the Tennessee line are still selling cases of beer, but I have no doubt that as parents of incoming freshmen dropped off their students for the Fall semester, they were not lulled into a false sense of security by believing that a "dry campus" was something that it was not.  Are you still carrying a FAKE ID?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Walk the line...

Isn't it fitting that I found this quote on the bottom of a shoe?  The symbolism strikes me as extremely hopeful.  Is it easier to walk alongside popular opinion or is it more difficult?  Is it possible to step out in faith and set your own course while still embracing the current fads and trends of the world?  Why do we even desire the world's approval?

My favorite night of the week is Thursday.   I am beginning my 5th school year as a small group leader in our senior high youth program at church.  I love those girls.  The ninety minutes I spend listening to them and encouraging them is one of the highlights of my week.  When I began serving with the senior high students five years ago, I questioned God's selection.  I feared I was not "cool" enough or "trendy" enough or "non-judgemental" enough to gain their trust or respect.  My desire to be popular among them plagued me like blister on my heel that rubbed in my shoe each time I stepped into the youth room.  It nagged me and worried me.  I questioned my potential advice and wondered if I was kidding myself to try to connect with girls who were much older than my own children. 

The weeks began to flow into months and despite my insecurities, I kept showing up week after week.  I sat with the girls and they began to reveal snippets of their lives.  Stories surfaced of loneliness and friends who chose boyfriends over childhood friends.  Tales of physical temptation and academic frustration poured out.  Tears came and laughter bubbled over and my insecurities about being cool enough or popular enough or wise enough vanished.  

As we throw back the kickstand and climb on for a wild ride into the fall season in my household, I am again dodging the potholes of my desire to be popular.   I frequently question my teen girls on what their boundaries are in relation to their physical promiscuity.  We talk about what their "lines" it their neckline or their bra line or (hopefully not!) their panty line?  What are their predetermined "u-turn only" lines?   It is no accident that God has been requiring me to specify my "lines" as well.  

With three kids in our house the opportunities for extracurricular involvement are overflowing.  The offerings are many and the temptation to be involved in everything is great.  Why can't each of my kids be involved in multiple sports and musical classes?  They are all great aspirations and all promise to offer my kids fun or self-discipline or lasting friendships or academic advancement or increased physical coordination; all great things and my kids would love to do them all and I would love to be the most popular mom in town by saying yes to them, but I can't.  What is my line? 

As popular as all of the worlds offerings are and as tempted as I feel to keep up with other families in their quest for the most "over-scheduled" kids in town, I must reassess my boundaries.  Isaiah 53:6a tells us "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned his own way."  My husband and I are not popular with our son when we tell him he will have to miss Wednesday night football practices to attend AWANA.  The world screams in my head..."what if he's not able to play at the Sunday games because he missed a practice?"  When other first grade mom's cringe and tell stories of tired classmates who don't go to bed until after 9pm, I struggle with mom-guilt and resist the temptation to pull my kiddo out of religious education knowing she doesn't get tucked in until well after 9pm every Wednesday. 

What is my line?  Unless I choose to be unpopular and make hard choices for my kids future, who will?  If my kids have the busiest schedule around and are the most skilled athletically, academically and musically but fail to have a foundation of faith, why will popularity matter?  Walking away from the crowd may be the first step in crossing our children's threshold of faith, a line that I can only conciously cross when I am seeking a relationship with God and not popularity among my peers or my kids.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The week time stood still...

Life was good and we were enjoying our recent relocation to the East Coast.  As born and bred Midwesterner's, life in the Northeast was full of new experiences.  We had to adjust to curving parkways and hidden sunsets.  Scott and I had just moved from Central Illinois where the cornfields stretch out like ribbon unwinding from a spool and the end of the days are marked with sunsets that flood the sky.

Living halfway between New York City and Boston allowed us the opportunity to explore two cities we had only heard about on TV and in the movies.  When family and friends came to visit, one of the "must see" trips was to the Twin Towers in NYC.   That trip was a must for a special visitor who came to stay in August of 2001. 

Scott had become a Big Brother through Big Brother's Big Sisters just two years before we were transferred to Connecticut.  It didn't take us long to build a strong bond with our "little brother," Philip.  We couldn't wait for him to arrive for a visit a few months after we had moved.  He flew out solo and we anxiously picked him up from the airport and began several days of activities focused on him.  I was 8 months pregnant at the time and although I kept up with the guys on most of their adventures, I bailed on the day trip planned to NYC.  It was hot and sticky and the thought of trekking around the city with my growing belly was not enticing.

After a thorough review of the train schedule, they made their plans to leave early on a Saturday morning for a day trip.  I elected to stay home and finish up the nursery. I spent hours on a chair in our soon-to-be-arriving baby girls bedroom stenciling pink bows on the walls.  They spent the day touring and Philip excitedly came home that evening with an "official" NY Yankees jersey and lots of stories and pictures.  The pictures were of all the usual tourist haunts, the Empire State Building, Times Square and one picture I will never forget of our sweet Philip standing in front of the World Trade Center Towers.  That trip was six weeks prior to the tragedy of 9/11. 

After sending Philip home with a full suitcase and his head dancing with memories, we settled in for the countdown to Abby's arrival.  We were planning on a due date of  9/10/2001.  She was born on 8/27 and what a surprise it was, a procrastinator by nature, I was not ready a 7lb. baby who rocked our world.   My mom, however, is a planner.  Thank goodness!  She had purchased her plane ticket for her "inaugural grandma" visit months in advance.  The timing was to be perfect, arriving on 9/18, exactly a week after the anticipated delivery and a week after Scott's return to work.

I was rocking my newborn in the nursery, admiring the stenciling I had gotten done just under the wire, and listening to the radio when the first news of the terrorist attacks hit the airwaves.  The broadcast didn't make sense and I turned up the volume to better understand what was being reported.  Indeed it was true, the towers had been hit...the same ones our sweet Philip had just posed in front of weeks before.  The news media erupted and for seven days all of the local Connecticut news affiliates played around the clock footage of the carnage. So many deaths and so many missing people.  There were so many families that we knew who had friends and family members who were affected.

Just as regular television programming was grounded, so was all air travel.  Suddenly the excitement of living so close to the big cities and the draw of following our aspiring careers, seemed empty.  I was home alone with an infant that cried and cried and I spent hours holding her as the news unfolded and I cried and cried.   I wanted my mom and she couldn't get there.  It was such a long week and we waited everyday to hear whether or not air travel would be reopened in time for her 9/18 flight from Iowa to Connecticut.

Reflecting on that time now, I can still remember the desperation I felt as I watched so many personal stories unfold about children who couldn't find their dad's and wives who were listening to recordings of their husband's voices on answering machines.   The world seemed out of control and my new life as a mom felt out of control too.  I wanted my mom to be there and what I had previously taken for granted, the ability to hop on a plane, was suddenly gone. 

As we recognize "Patriots Day" tomorrow I wonder what your memories of that day are.  Have you shared them with your kids?  We have always talked about 9/11 in our home.  I talk liberally with my three kids about the casualties and the heroes. It's important for them to know how quickly life can change.  They need to know why I always save the last voicemail from my husband before he boards a plane.   I don't want to scare them, but I want them to understand that our moments together on earth are short.  God promises those who believe in Him an eternity in paradise, and by teaching them the fragility of life they begin to see the value of God's promise.

A week after September 11, 2001, the dust began to settle and the death tolls continued to mount.  Television reports scaled back to regular time slots and we began to hear music again on the radio.  The best gift of all was that on September 18, 2001 air travel resumed and a plane bound for Hartford, CT from DesMoines, IA landed safely and my mom met her first granddaughter and we hugged for longer than I ever remember hugging my mom before.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Morning madness...

My motives for driving my three kids to school each morning are purely selfish.  It began two years ago when I made the commitment to myself and to God that I would pray with my kids individually before they hit the door.  The idea was not my own and I'm honestly not sure why the desire to embrace them with a blessing before they left me each morning was so strong. 

Perhaps it was the college campus shootings that I'd seen playout on the prime time news or a new awareness of my own mortality as a result of my liver diagnosis in 2008.  The reason didn't matter, I just knew I had to begin to pray with each of them before they left my care.  Now don't get the wrong idea, our house is just as crazy as anyone else's with multiple kids in the morning.  I'm not conducting a worship service at the kitchen island, there is no singing or theology, there is yelling and rushing and me standing at the bottom of the stairs pleading with my son to "Hurry Up!" 

There are the last minute requests for signatures and the wrestling of water bottles from backpacks that should have been emptied the night before.  We pile into the car and have the daily jockeying for the front seat and the regular eye roll from my oldest when I turn off the music and insist that her ear buds come out. 
I turn the key in the ignition and we begin our two mile drive to school.

Then comes my favorite part of the morning.  It's really a simple routine as a reach back to hold my
backseat passengers' hand and pray for his safety and good health throughout his day.  I pray that he has a chance to shine his light and that he has an opportunity to be a good friend and perhaps encounter a situation to help him shape his character.  We pray for his teachers, his classmates and for patience and then with a quick parting hand squeeze, it's over.  I repeat the process with my front seat rider and after a mini-hug and kiss on the cheek (only allowed if I'm not wearing my red lipstick!) they hop out of the car. 

Then comes the selfish part.  The nonverbal thread that binds my kids' hearts to mine.  The look back.  The glance over their shoulder to see if I'm still watching them.  The split second look back when their eyes meet mine and they get one last smile from me and they smile back and I know the prayer has penetrated their hearts.  It's the moment when I release them to God's care and humbly thank Him for the gift of being a mom.  

I'd like to tell you that everytime I pray for them it's sincere and heartfelt.  It's not.  There are times when it's dull and I'm frustrated with my kids.  There are days when I can't wait for them to climb out of the car because the morning has been so stressful, but I pray anyway.  The exercise of praying for them is an act of obedience for me and a lesson for them that prayer is our cornerstone.  Despite tough mornings and arguments about clothes, homework or school lunches, God is our foundation and when we reach out to Him at the start of our day, things can only get better.