How To Get A Tattoo In Twenty-Five Easy Steps.

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Last Saturday, I got my first tattoo. Some people were shocked, others not at all. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the process, so I thought I would break it down step by step for you if you are considering your first tattoo.

 

1. First things first: you finally land on the tattoo you want. Years and years of throwing ideas around, you’ve finally got it. You think about how you’ll feel about it ten years from now, 40 years from now. You still love it.
2. You decide you are ready. You are 31 and you have wanted one since you were 18. But thank God you didn’t get one back in 2003 because Lord knows it would have been a hibiscus flower on your lower back.
3. You hit up your brother and cousin who have tattoos and ask for a referral to a legit artist. You will not go to a tattoo parlor attached to a Chinese restaurant that says “Tattoos While You Wait”. You know if you did, your arm would contract gangrene and fall off by next Thursday. Not interested. Brother doesn’t return text (maybe because he is busy, but probably because he doesn’t believe you’re actually serious). Cousin texts “What?? Who are you?!?” Clearly, she saw this coming.
4. Finally, you land on a legit parlor. After no less than 1724 back-and-forth conversations in your head, you work up the nerve to call them. You attempt to sound like you know what the crap you are talking about, “Yeah, hey…. man… uh… So I’m looking at getting a tattoo on Saturday. Do you have any availability?” Your tattoo is small (I mean duh, you’re brave, but also a freaking chicken) and the dude says to walk in when they open at 1, they’ll work you in.
5. You don’t tell anyone. Not even your best friend. Because if you chicken out (which is highly likely) you don’t want to admit it.
6. Anyone you see who has a tattoo you ask how bad it hurts. You tell them where and what you want. Some tell you it won’t hurt at all. They didn’t even feel it (spoiler alert: they are liars lying out of their lying liar holes). Some tell you it feels like a continuous carpet burn or a cat scratch. And you don’t even know how to process that, but suddenly you are attempting to scratch your own arm to gauge your pain tolerance. Because your trim, rounded fingernails are probably so similar to a cat’s sharpened claw.
7. Saturday comes. You eat at noon, knowing if you don’t, you’ll hit the floor the moment you walk into the tattoo parlor out of sheer fear and wake up on a stretcher. Every fry you bite, you shake your head. There’s no way you’ll go through with this. You should just go back home and put your pj pants on and watch Friends until your heart rate returns to normal.
8. You park your car in the back lot of the parlor. It’s 12:58 and you are about to get stabbed and jabbed until you cry or pee or pass out or run away. You walk into the parlor as cool as a cat being given a bath.
9. The manager, Fox, tells you it will be closer to 2 before you can be worked in. You don’t know if it’s a chance to relax and calm down or a sign from God to run like hell.
10. You calmly tell Fox,, “That’s cool”. And proceed to tell him what you want, ask him how long it will take, how bad it will hurt, how do you clean it, what’s that sound, can you watch someone else get it… He smiles at you. The kind of smile that says he has dealt with many an idiot before you. Yet here you are. When he finds out you’ve had four kids he laughs and tells you, “I’m pretty sure you’ll be just fine.” And he tells you the sound will probably bother you more than the pain. Suddenly, all you can hear is the sound of needles buzzing. You look through an open window at a girl getting her tattoo on her upper back and you just know you are about to see your burger and fries again.
11. You go sit on a pew. Yes, a pew. In the tattoo parlor. Against the window. Clearly, it’s a place where people say their last prayers. Have mercy the sun is beating through that window. Is it really that hot, or is it another sign to high tail it out of there. I think I should take my migraine medicine now.
12. 2:00 rolls by. Justin Bieber walks in the parlor. Well. The closest look-alike you’ve ever seen. You cannot help but giggle over this man-child and his hat with a flat-bill (I’m certain there’s a cooler word for that that I’m unaware of), his tank top, his skinny jeans, and his silver high tops. Give that boy a mic and “Baby, baby, baby, ohhhhhhh!” You even snap a picture from behind like a fangirl. Whatever takes your mind off the impending doom. Fox informs you that Steve will be doing your tattoo, but he’s not ready yet.
13. You have talked with your friend, your cousin, and her bestie. Yes, you had to bring a support group. The cousin who has all the tats informs you that if you try to bolt, she will smack you and force you back in the room. Praise the Lord for her understanding and gentleness.
14. 3:30 rolls around. Steve comes out and introduces himself. He has blonde braids, a backward hat, sunglasses, sambas, and 47273 tattoos. You stand up to follow him, but he tells you he just wants to know what you want so he can draw it out. Oh. Okay. Well you tell him you want an outline of North Carolina. He leaves, you sit down and realize you haven’t breathed in the two minutes you thought you were about to go back to Steve’s room.
15. You juuuuuuust start to calm back down, check Facebook, instagr- oh Steve is back. You pop up like a jack-in-the-box thinking “OKAYTHISISIT!!!!” as you wring your hands until your knuckles turn white. Nope. Steve just wants to make sure you like the outline he drew up and the size. Now he has to go set up. He leaves. You sit. You are about to the point you need jumper cables to make you breathe again. Maybe you should just leave. The door is right th-
16. “Okay, Steve is ready for you” says Fox. It’s go-time.
17. You pass Bieber, who is laid out on a table to your right, getting his sleeve worked on. You cannot help but giggle again. You get to Steve’s room, with your entourage. You should have brought him an Edible Arrangements or something, poor dote has no idea who he is about to work on.
18. You immediately tell Steve you want a single dot first- so you can take a picture of it and send it to your bestie with a Friends quote from the time Phoebe and Rachel go to get tattoos. Phoebe chickens out (like you know you’re about to) and gets one dot and runs away (she has always been your spirit animal….). She says “It’s exactly what I wanted. It’s the earth as seen from a great great distance. It’s how my mother sees me from Heaven.” Surprisingly, Steve laughs and tells you that you did an incredibly good impersonation. You’re flattered that Steve knows Friends, the two of you now have a bond. He has you lay down and tattoos a dot on your arm- and you think “Oh that wasn’t bad, it almost felt like it was licked on by kittens” (another Friends reference. Sorrynotsorry). You take your picture. Now, back to that kitten-licking.
19. You get the stencil ink pressed onto your outer wrist and make sure you like the placement. You do. Steve has you lay down and rest your arm on his little table. Here goes nothin’. If you wanted out, you shoulda done it earlier. Your cousin is blocking your getaway anyway. Steve tells you if you need a break, just let him know.
20. The needle starts buzzing, and the kitten licks turn into the cat scratches. Ohhhhh. Okay. It’s okay. You have this. You’re shocked how the second he takes his needle off, you don’t feel a thing. How is that possible? You ask Steve about his tattoos and his calming, monotone voice comforts you as he talks about his back piece that took a year and a half. You wince. You have the wrist of an 8 year old, all of your skin is thin. But mannn, when he gets to the NC coast, you are biting the tip of your tongue and desperately trying to dig your nails of your other hand into your flesh to deviate the pain receptors, all while trying not to flinch as his needle travels south from Elizabeth City to Sunset Beach. And then the smattering of the Outer Banks.
21. Suddenly Steve puts his needle down. Tells you “You did great!” And you look at the clock and realize he finished in 8 minutes. A perfect outline of North Carolina, your home, adorns your wrist. Forever.
22. You take pictures. Keep calm. You talk your friend through her tattoo while Steve buzzes away on her. 20 minutes later, you pay, tip, and walk out of that parlor like the bad-ass that you are.
23. You get in the car and SCREAM that you “JUST GOT A TATTTTOOOO!!!!” And say it every five minutes. For the next three days.
24. You don’t really know what happens after five days. Because that’s only how many days you’ve had it before you write an entire blog post about it. It itches. It’s ridge-y. You’ve texted your cousin a dozen times with “is this normal” questions. She tells you to calm down. Over and over.
25. Five days in, you really, really love your tattoo. You thank God you waited so many years to really decide what you wanted. For you, personally, to make sure it wasn’t just something connected to one thing, but something that encompasses as much of your life as possible. North Carolina is your home. It holds your childhood, your entire adulthood so far, your dreams, your pains, your losses, your faith, your laughter, your friendships, your memories. You made a good choice. Or maybe it chose you. Either way, it’s there forever now. And you may or may not already have ideas swirling for another tattoo.. or two.

I have always loved tattoos. I genuinely enjoy seeing people who have them. They tell so many stories! It bothers me to no end when someone looks at or says something unkind or toward another person regarding their tattoos. We really should stop looking and assuming based on outward appearances and take more time to see someone’s heart. The world would be a much richer and more beautiful place.

My advice if you’re thinking about a tattoo: Do it for you. Not for anyone else’s approval or disproval. Make sure you know what you want, and make it mean something to you- whatever that is. And let it be a part of your story. Tell your story. Be bold. Be you. Or get there and hear the buzzing sound and run out so fast Usain Bolt’s head spins. Whatever. Just be you.

God Does See Color.

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Years ago I heard a story. It was about this little boy sitting at his mom’s feet while she cross-stitched. His mom was busy plunging and scooping her needle, he was busy playing with his toys. Now and again, he would look up to see her progress. From where he was sitting, he just saw a mess of colors and knots underneath. He asked his mother why she would make such a mess. She smiled and just told him, “Just wait. I’ll show you later.” He didn’t understand, but continued playing with his toys. When his mom was finished, she scooped him up on her lap and showed him what she had made. It was a gorgeous, stitched picture of a sunset. The little boy’s eyes were huge as he took in the marvelous splendor of colors and how they all weaved perfectly together. He turned the fabric over and saw the knotted mess again, only to turn it back and see that the sunset was still there. The story was to portray how we see things from our point of view, and question God. We see a mess, and He sees a masterpiece.

I have been hearing a lot lately, how God doesn’t see color. I understand the context in which it is being said. God sees our souls and each life has value regardless of the color of our skin. Which is true. However, God does see color. He created each color, individually and intentionally for His glory.

We have to stop assuming the worst about each other. Just because you see a white police officer, it doesn’t mean he is looking to shoot a black man. Just because you see a black man, it doesn’t mean he’s concealing a weapon and ready to take out a cop. Just because you find out someone is a Christian, you cannot assume they hate gay people. Just because you find out someone is a  Muslim, you cannot assume they have a suicide bomb strapped to their chest. Our mentality has become “guilty until proven innocent”. We hear or see one thing about a person, and we let it dictate how we feel toward them and act toward them.

Here’s the thing. There are bad cops. There are bad black guys. There are bad white guys. There are bad Christians. There are bad Muslims. There are bad Liberals, and bad Conservatives. Here’s the other thing. There are far more outstanding police officers than not. There are far more good black guys, and good white guys. There are great Christians (notice I didn’t say “perfect”… there is no such thing). There are wonderfully peaceful and kind Muslims. And there are stand-up Liberals and Conservatives alike. Just because someone looks different or believes differently than you, doesn’t give you a right to treat them with any disrespect, and doesn’t give you a right to assume the worst about them.

My stepmom told me something many years ago that I have always remembered, and repeat to myself often. It doesn’t matter what people say or think about you. It says more about them than it does you. Stop judging a book by it’s cover, stop taking the one single thing you know about someone and letting it dictate how you treat them.

God does see color. From our perspective, everything right now is a knotted up, tangled mess of thread with no design, no purpose, no beauty. If we would all just take a moment to look at things from God’s point of view, we would see how each of our colors weave together in the breathtaking tapestry that is God’s own heart.

Be the best you, and believe the best in those you come in contact with.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com

 

 

Be You.

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This weekend my three year old daughter came downstairs with an impish grin on her face. It was half-mischievous, half-elated. A closer look revealed a pile of glitter in her hair. I sighed… and smiled. I asked her why she did that, and she put her hands out dramatically to the sides like she was about to run through a field of flowers, and answered, “Because its fwetty. And it’s beau-ful.” I grinned and told her that yes, it was. I made her run in the grass and shake as much of it off as she could. Todd comes outside and says, “If you think that’s bad, you need to go look upstairs.” His tone made me stop in my tracks. I already knew I was going to walk up to a disaster, but how was I going to handle it? I decided right then and there to give grace. Before she even knew she needed it.

You ever hear those crazy sayings about unicorns farting glitter? Well, now you have.  My house looked like a herd of unicorns came through. Every single room. An empty glitter container on a bookshelf. Apparently a two inch tall container with 2 ounces of glitter equals approximately 3,092,834,091,341,092,834,049 teenie tiny sparkly silver pieces of unicorn dust. It was everywhere. Every surface. Across the entire carpet. Between the sheets. Blanketing every toy. Across window sills. In the bathroom, floating in the toilet. Up every step. I took it all in, and just laughed. Every time I found more piles- yes, piles– I laughed harder. I grabbed the vacuum and started the arduous task of cleaning up the herpes of crafting supplies, and I looked over to see my daughter with a fistful of clovers, dancing and twirling in her piles of glitter with a football helmet on. She was in her own world. I thought to myself, I love her so much it hurts. We left a bit later to run some errands, and every step she took, glitter sprinkled all around her, falling from her hair. What three year old girl wouldn’t love that? That’s Disney Princess status right there.

This little girl. In the last few days she has doused our house in glitter, drawn on cabinets with a pen, colored on the stainless fridge with an entire tube of chapstick, colored her face and paper with my eye shadow, scraped out my blush onto the carpet, drawn on the couch with a banana, and painted the carpeted steps with (blue!) nail polish. She is crazy. She makes me cuss and she makes me laugh. She fascinates me. I hope she never changes, not one single solitary bit.

Do I condone throwing glitter around (the week we are moving out. #sorrynotsorry about the glitter, buyers.)? No. Do I love cleaning up her messes? HARDLY. But I do always want to encourage her to be herself. To let her know I see her crazy, and I love her crazy. That its okay to be crazy. Not only is it okay, it is life-giving to be real, to be genuine. I want her to always feel safe and secure being herself.

But why. Why do I love her crazy.

Because she’s me.

I have always been silly and crazy. But it took me until a few years ago to accept it and stop wishing it away. I never felt comfortable in my own personality. I listened too much to other people, and held tightly to their words. I had a hard time meshing  godliness and goofiness. They seemed like two total opposites that couldn’t have anything to do with each other. I had to pick one or the other. I would be silly with my closest friends and family, because I felt safe with them. They know my heart and they know I love Jesus, but cuss sometimes. But elsewhere, I would tuck the silly away, and pull out the gentle and quiet spirit that I felt was expected of a mother of four, church-going woman. Sure, I had a sense of humor. But I toned it way down. I wouldn’t want people to think I’m immature. I already look 12, I don’t want them to think I act 12. I struggled. And finally, a few years ago, it clicked.

Silliness is a personality trait, and godliness is a character trait. The reason I struggled so badly trying to separate the two is because God made me that way. I was fighting who I am. Who God made me to be. Why in the world would I try to mask or change who I am? Once I realized this, I accepted who I am. Not only that, I loved who I am. Not in an arrogant, cocky, or self-righteous way. But in a way that I have found so much joy in being real. Being genuine. Being original. If God wanted me to be like everyone else, He would have made me like everyone else. But He didn’t. He didn’t make anyone like anyone else.

This truth broke down walls in my own heart toward not only myself, but toward others. It showed me where I was judgmental and self-righteous. Learning to love how God made me helped me learn to love others how He made them, too. It’s how I learned to love people who have entirely different beliefs than I do. I may roll my eyes at your Bernie Sanders bumper sticker, but I’m actually more likely to assess your parking job than anything. I’ll hold the door for you at the grocery store, and talk to your baby. And you’ll probably be one of the nicest people I have ever met. I don’t care who you vote for. You have a Darwin fish on your car? Okay, so you don’t believe in Creationism. Wanna go grab coffee together? Let’s do it. You be you, I’ll be me. Just don’t judge me for my grande caramel macchiato with extra whip (yes. I know it doesn’t come with whip and I have to ask for it extra. this is where that not judging part comes in.) One of my favorite pinterest quotes is “Look, I don’t care what religion you are as long as you use your blinker.” I could put that on a shirt.

I’m silly. I look for the humor in just about everything. If you don’t believe me, read my last post where I planned my own funeral, complete with bouncers and Justin Timberlake. Humor and silliness is just as much a part of me as my love for Jesus. When they go hand-in-hand, you get the real Emily. When you get the real Emily, you get a safe place. I love reading the Bible and learning more about God, just as much as I love hopping into a grocery cart and flying around the store with my BFF Christine, talking like Bon Qui Qui and telling the clerk she’s trying to steal Rolos after I shove a pack down her shirt.

Whoever you are… be you. If you are an introvert and don’t like crowds or attention- that’s awesome.Be comfortable being you. If you are a nerd and love math and drink green tea- go for it. If you are an atheist and like to run marathons and only drink black coffee- be you. If you love Jesus and wear pj pants to the store and have Bachelorette viewing parties (looking at you, half of PBC ladies. Solidarity, sisters. See ya tonight.)- own it. If you work out five times a week and eat kale and actually enjoy it- more power to you. Whoever you are, just be you. Don’t force your beliefs or non-beliefs on anyone else. Whether its Jesus or black coffee. Don’t go there. If your friend wants to try black coffee, they’ll come to you. If your friend wants to try Jesus, they will come to you. Be you, and let be others themselves. How boring would it be if we were all alike? Genuine people attract other genuine people. Whether you seem to “go together” or not. Whatever your “glitter” is… leave a little sparkle wherever you go.

Now, for another round of vacuuming. I think my Dyson has met it’s match.

The Very Best Funeral.

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My best friend lost her beloved grandmother last week. It is the first person she has lost. The only funeral she had ever been to prior to Mama Ruth’s, was my mom’s. Ashley told me that the hardest part was seeing her Papa Joe weeping over her casket. My heart broke for him, for her.. and at the same time, rejoiced in that rare and precious love after 65 years of marriage. I said as much to Ashley. And, being the best friend that I am, I piped up that “Todd wouldn’t do that. He would holler for someone to “come nail this thing shut and wheel her outta here!” Ashley laughed, and her spirits lifted.

My favorite thing to do with Ashley, besides just being around her in general, is to make her laugh when she needs it most. Back in high school, she came into class one day bothered to death about something. She wouldn’t talk about it. So while our annoying teacher was yapping away about something, I grabbed Ashley’s milky pens (hollaaaa!), popped the cap off and just stared at her as I dragged the pen from my forehead, straight down my nose, and landed on my chin. Her eyes got huge, and the little stars (she has the prettiest eyes, y’all) that were missing came back and were dancing. I grabbed another pen and did it again, this one was green. She smiled. Whispered, “Can I do it?” and I nodded. She grabbed another color and drew more lines on my face. She started giggling, and in minutes my face was covered in all sorts of milky shapes and lines. This Monday, I had her daughter while she was in Tennessee for the service. After the service she read my updates, one of which was, “The girls and I may or may not have accidentally walked into the men’s restroom at Chickfila today. And I didn’t even realize it until Evelyn saw the urinal and squealed ‘EW IT’S A BOYS!!!!!!!!!!’ We saw nothing. No men were in there and no one was eternally mortified. But in my defense, at every other CFA in America, the women’s restroom is on the left. Except this one. I just go left by default’.” She responded how hysterical that was and she needed to hear that in the midst of the sadness. She even added two crying-laughing emojis, so I knew it was legit.

Today, after talking with her about how hard Mama Ruth’s service was, and then getting her to laugh, I started thinking about all the funerals I have been to. I have been to at least 10, my first at age six. Funerals are so hard. Even when they are referred to as “Celebration of Life” services. Even when you know that you will see that person again in Heaven. Sometimes its hard to wait until then.

I started thinking about my own funeral Celebration of Life service. What it would look like. I decided I cannot handle people being sad. So, I started texting Ashley my plans. If you don’t have a friend you can text random crazy crap to, you need to find one, buy one, rent one… something. Just get one. Like yesterday. Anyway. I have literally been thinking up these ideas all morning and could not wait to get them written up. I’ll share them with you. By the time I’m done, you’ll be looking forward to my funeral. And if you don’t know me, you’ll want to meet me just so you can come.

First things first- there will be a few mandatory rules.

  1. No one is allowed to wear black. The only exception is my sister, Holly, because it’s all she wears and I don’t want her to have to spend money just to come to my party. The rest of you- happy colors. I’ve rarely paid attention to ettiqute. ettiquite. ettiquit? (looks up correct spelling) ETIQUETTE, so I’m not about to start. Wear your pinks and greens and blues and patterns. My bouncers will not let you in otherwise. (Shout out to my girl Siri for helping me spell the E word).
  2. No one is allowed to say or write “Rest in Peace” or “RIP”. I will not be resting, I will be teaching Jesus and the other brethren how to Dougie and how to Whip and Nae Nae. With a guest appearance from Stanky Leg. And I’ll probably be hollering at my mom that “This is not the time for the Electric Slide. You’re embarrassing me. Mom, stop it.”
  3. There will be no tissues anywhere. They will be replaced with dozens of colorful, confetti-and-glitter-filled balloons. I don’t want anyone being sad. If anyone even sniffles, my bouncers will stand behind you with pins and pop balloons. You will be covered with glitter and confetti, and you may have to change your underoos, but you will not be crying anymore.

 

Okay, now here is where it gets fun. Once you get past my bouncers with your colorful outfits,you’ll be greeted by Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” If you live under a rock and haven’t heard it yet, go click on that link and watch. You absolutely cannot sit still or be sad when that song is on. Which is exactly what I’m going for here. Now, if you’re done watching and dancing, let’s continue. There will be a table that has a bunch of colorful programs AND MILKY PENS (that one’s for you, Ash). In the program will be a space where every person has to write down the most ridiculous and funny story they can remember about me. Another page will be a crossword puzzle (you know, while you’re waiting for the service to start. If you aren’t dancing to JT.) and the clues will be in my obituary. That I wrote. It will be composed entirely of FRIENDS references.  Another page will be my favorite movie quotes. Actually, that may end up being about seven pages long.

I’ll have a table with Chickfila nuggets with every type of sauce you could possibly want. I considered the broccolini-kale salad for you health-conscious peeps, but this is a party, and kale will never be at one of my parties. There will be frozen margaritas, or for those of you who don’t drink, the new frosted coffees from Chickfila (have you tried those yet? HOLY NECTAR FROM HEAVEN you are missing out. Go grab some change- you’ll need $2.92 for a small- and go through the drive-thru today and get one. You can thank me later. With one. So you’ll actually need $5.84. I’ll take mine with whipped cream. Go big or go home, don’t judge me.).

The service will be almost entirely led by you. My people. Remember that ridiculous memory you wrote down on the program with your milky pen? Now’s your chance to throw me under the bus. I can’t do anything about it, so make it a good one.  I want everyone to walk up to the microphone and read their memory. Like I said, go big or go home. I want everyone laughing until they need the Depends that will be strategically placed under their seats.

When you leave the service, I want you to pick up a bottle of bubbles and a party favor. When they wheel my casket out (that will be in the shape of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach thankyouverymuch), I want those bubbles making a canopy for my grand procession. I opted out of sparklers because once when I was seven, we were doing sparklers for the 4th of July and a spark burned a hole in my sock and burned my skin. I have literally never held another sparkler and I am deathly afraid of them. Bubbles are safe and don’t scare me, so sparklers are out and bubbles are in. And who can resist smiling when bubbles are flying everywhere?

Your favors are going to be a booklet of my favorite pinterest humor cards. Current favorite: “I hope that wherever my hair ties go, they’re happy. That’s all that matters.” I want you to read them and laugh, and then put them on your coffee table so that other people can read and laugh. Or maybe you should put them in your bathroom so there aren’t any awkward moments on your couch.

——

Y’all. I had the best time thinking this stuff up. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed sharing it. I don’t know if my funeral will be when I’m 35 or 95, or if Jesus will come back before then and we will all be taken up in glory. I have been to my fair share of services, including my own mother’s. Funerals are hard. Waiting until heaven is hard. I hope my funeral plans convey to you the joy I have in Christ and in living. And all of the joy and laughter in this service of mine is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the joy that is waiting in Heaven when all the broken things become unbroken. Where all the tears will be uncried. Where all the grief will be unfelt. Eternal joy is waiting for those of us who love Jesus, and is available to anyone who calls on His name.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go dance to some JT because if I’m honest, I’m a leeeeeetle bit jealous of all y’all who get to come to my service. Also, contrary to what you may believe, I was not approached by Chickfila about advertising for them on my blog or at my service. I am just obsessed with what is basically my second home.

Cheers,

Em

 

Image by dailyscocktails.com

I Got To.

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My hands are covered in Elmer’s glue, pen smudges, and marker. I have dirt under my fingernails and scattered across my living room floor. My daughter’s third grade science project is due tomorrow- a poster presentation on a cabbage plant (which is miraculously still alive. if you read my last post and prayed for her cabbage, I’m asking God to give you a special jewel in your crown.). In project world, we go big or go home. Mecaden decides she wants to receive a 4- the highest grade- for her project, so WE DO FOUR WORK. It required two straight days of cutting, coloring, gluing, writing, and graphing. In addition to her project today, I was fixing meals (including lunches for school tomorrow), wiping faces, bottoms, and tables. From a dining chair, I scraped off mosaic artwork… which was actually pieces of processed cheese slices my three year old tore up and stuck to the back of the chair. I sent noses to corners, tantrums to bedrooms, and pee-pee dances to the bathroom. I played chase with my 16 month old and ran errands with my 8 year old. I folded, hung and put away laundry, unloaded the dishwasher and loaded it back up for another run. I read bedtimes stories, sang and prayed. I came back downstairs to pick up toys, set out backpacks, and wipe things down again.

I’m exhausted from another day of motherhood. But it is a joyful exhaustion.

My pastor spoke this morning of Biblical Womanhood, and how God purposefully designed male and female with distinct and valuable roles and character traits in order to give the world a glimpse of God. Eventually, he led us to Proverbs 31, where we read about noble character in a wife. In Proverbs 31, over and over, it is mentioned how the woman takes care of her home and the people in her home. She quite literally makes her home. She helps shape the people in her home. Often times in our society, being at home or even being a mom has become ridiculed. It has become a sign of weakness. But that’s not how God views it. My pastor said “The home is the building block of culture. God did not call women to build the home because He believed she was unable to do greater things. God called women to build the home because there is no greater thing.” Being a mother is one of the highest callings… making our homes and shaping the lives that come out of it directly affects everyone and everything else. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, or you work outside the home- that’s neither here nor there. Your calling as a mother is the greatest thing you could ever do.If you have time, please watch the sermon I linked above. It will be well worth your time.

No, I didn’t get the day off today. I didn’t have “me time”. Had I not heard our sermon this morning, I might have been a little bitter about the posts on facebook where moms got the day off. (There is nothing wrong with that. I hope you got your nails did, and your summer wardrobe updated, and didn’t lift a finger all day. I love that you were able to get “me time”.) As I was tucking her in, my oldest asked me if I had the greatest Mother’s Day ever. I smiled and stifled a giggle thinking of the cheese on the chair and the dirt all over my living room. I told her that yes, I did have the greatest Mother’s Day ever. And I meant it. Projects and discipline, messes and chase- they don’t know it’s a special occasion. They didn’t get the memo. But they certainly do make today exactly what it’s about- celebrating motherhood. Celebrating that I get the unmerited privilege of making my home, and shaping my children, and striving to point them toward Christ.

I just re-read the first paragraph I wrote up there. But I read it differently. I added in “I got to” before each line. I got to help my third grader with her project. I got to scrape cheese off my chair. I got to play chase with my toddler. I got to do laundry. I got to fix meals. Tears are streaming down my cheeks. I got to be a mother. And I get to, every day. I have four littles to love and shape. I have friends and family who have struggled or are still struggling to have children. They would do anything to scrape cheese off chairs and work on school projects. It puts things in perspective and humbles me. I’m incredibly thankful for this high calling on my life- every sticky, messy, silly, and lovely thing about it.

Happy Mother’s Day

Emily

 

For my sweet friends who are struggling today… whether you are single and long for marriage and children, are married or in a relationship and are trying for a baby, or have a baby (or more) in Heaven, or are missing your own mother today… you are not forgotten. I am praying for you- those whom I know, and those I don’t. it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to not even want to get near social media on days like today. You are not weak, you are stronger than any of us can even imagine. I am so sorry for your grief and your pain. I am praying that God would fulfill the longings in your hearts and the aches in your arms, but if not- that you would be able to trust the He is still good. And that one day, all the  broken things will become unbroken. Wish I could hug each and every one of you precious things.

I Cannot Handle Your Marigolds.

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“Mrs. Bennett! Wait one moment, Capely left her flowers yesterday, let me go grab them for you.” I smiled and waited, then panicked. Please don’t be real flowers, please don’t be real flowers, please don’t- “Here you go!” Crap. “Thanks!” I replied as I turned toward my car. Crap. CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. Real flowers. Real flowers that my daughter’s teacher helped plant, water, and keep alive. They really did have such a bright future. Until they were placed into my hands.

I put the small cup of newly growing Marigolds in my cup holder and drove home. Five of them. Five unsuspecting and innocent baby marigolds. Just staring at me. I should probably just throw them out the window and go on and get it over with now. I got home and did what I assume you’re supposed to do. Put it by the window. Maybe, just maybe, they will make it this time. Capely comes home later, sees her “flow-lers” and is thrilled she gets to watch them grow. Every time she goes to check on them, my heart drops a little more. This is not going to end well.

It has been a week. I have kept her “flow-lers” by the window. I have watered them when I remember. But slowly, and just as I expected, we are already down to just one. I think I can actually hear them crying. This is not supposed to be difficult. If my three year old could get them to live and grow in her class, her 31 year old mom should be able to do the same at home. But I cannot. I have finally accepted the fact that I am basically a Plant Hospice. I’m just here to keep them comfortable until they meet Jesus.

Meanwhile, my three year old is losing her mind. Her paper is wrinkled, I wouldn’t let her buckle herself, and now all of her precious flow-lers are dead. And all I can do is tell her I did my best. I tried. It doesn’t matter that my mom could take dead and dry plants and bring them back to life. Her Christmas cactus bloomed all year long. She was a Plant Whisperer. Apparently, this skips generations. Along with cooking. But that’s another post for another time.

Teachers, if you are reading this: for the LOVE, please stop sending real plants home with the children. It may be “fool-proof”, but not all of us parents got that memo. Some of us are struggling to understand why we put the milk in the pantry and a Bible in the refrigerator. We are not adult enough to handle your marigolds. Maybe 95% of your students have parents who are adultier adults and can handle their milk and Bibles AND your marigolds. But for the 5% of us who just CANNOT, please stop sending them home. After the third marigold flops over and starts shriveling up, my daughter stops believing me when I tell her “Oh, it’s just taking a nap.” Well. It never wakes back up. We didn’t do anything to deserve this, and our poor children have to deal with the consequences of our black thumbs. We didn’t choose the black thumbs, the black thumbs chose us.

 

Side note: If you could all please say a prayer for Mecaden’s cabbage. It is her fourth quarter science project, due next week and hers is the only one that doesn’t have a head on it. The struggle is real. Send help. And oreos. And milk, because mine was in the pantry.

Socks and Big Girl Panties.

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Yesterday I had a meeting with my oldest child’s school counselor and the county audiologist. It was slated to be a quick meeting, an annual review of her 504 plan. 504 plans are in place so that she gets preferential seating (and other similar things) in class in order to maximize her listening environment in class. We went over the routine questions, and confirmed that her ability to hear and learn in her classroom setting has gone extremely well this year. We continued on to discuss medical and safety plans. Suddenly, a quick annual review turned into a counseling and therapy session for me.

Most people who know me know that I’m pretty laid back. I enjoy being silly and have seemingly endless energy. But in regards to life and circumstances, I don’t get riled up easily. I don’t worry unnecessarily. I rarely worry at all. I was raised to take what life handed me and either do something with it or get over it. I was taught to be grateful for what I had, to not whine and complain, and if something didn’t go my way- TOUGH COOKIES. I also learned to do things myself. My grandmother had a saying, and that was to “pull up your socks and be somebody.” In other words, put your big girl panties on.

When Mecaden was born, I had less than a day of innocent newborn bliss. I remember her first night with me… I hadn’t slept the night before due to contractions, labored all day, had her late in the evening, and pushed for over an hour. It didn’t matter how exhausted I was. I gave birth to my (surprise) baby girl and all I could do was stare at her. I literally stayed up the entire night and stared at her. My 22 year old self was just in complete shock and awe at this incredibly breathtaking baby girl. All of God’s grace in one sweet little face. I didn’t care if I ever slept again.

The next afternoon, the nurse wheeled her squeaky bassinet back into my room from a nursery assessment. I was about to reach in and scoop up my darling girl when the nurse turned to leave and nonchalantly said over her shoulder, “She had her Hep B shot and she didn’t pass her hearing screening.” And the door swung closed behind her. I just froze. Hearing screening? What hearing screening? She didn’t pass? What does that mean? I literally don’t remember what happened from then until we were discharged the next day. Not one thing. Two weeks later, she didn’t pass an outpatient hearing screening. Ten weeks later she didn’t pass an ABR hearing test at UNC. Our baby was deaf.

I cried. I cried hard. Really hard. But after some wrestling with God and His peace settling into my heart, it wasn’t long before I was pulling up my socks and putting my big girl panties on. I couldn’t change the situation, but I was determined to do everything I could to ensure my daughter would have a normal life- hearing or not. She was fitted for teenie tiny hearing aids that same day of her “No Response ABR” test. From then on we dove head first into Auditory-Verbal Speech Therapy. Parent and child therapy sessions weekly that taught me how to teach her to speak through listening. The hearing aids didn’t help her at all, and the day before she turned one, she got her first cochlear implant. We continued speech therapy- the weekly sessions were just a drop in the bucket of all the speech therapy we did with her. For years I narrated everything. “Open the cabinet! Take the glass out. Put it on the counter. Open the fridge. Take the milk out. Take the lid off. Pour the milk. Put the lid on. Put the milk in the fridge. Close the door.” That was just to pour a cup of milk! Input. Emphasis. Input. Emphasis. Sing-song-y. Constantly. For everything. For years. There is no wonder why she never stops talking now.

At the park, I hovered. It was not in my personality to do so. But it wasn’t just any toddler who had to learn how to climb. It wasn’t just any child who falls and cries. If she fell and hit her head, she could easily damage her internal component of her cochlear implants, and we would be looking at another surgery. If the slide was too static-y it could wipe out her program channel and settings on her implants. Not to mention, I was still inputting. “Go up up up the stairs. Down the slide. Weeeeee!” Inputting sound was woven into every single thing. I never could go to the playground and just chat with other moms while we watched our kids play. I was the mom climbing up into the equipment and ignoring my mom friends.

Mecaden is almost nine now. I don’t have to narrate everything anymore. I don’t have to hover at the park. She scares the crap out of me with how she flips over the bars, hair and legs flying, sticking her landing as she lets go. My concern for her safety has left the playground and has found new fears. Emergencies. My friends giggle over this. I don’t blame them. It feels silly. I have a fear of her class evacuating for a fire, or running for cover inside the building during a tornado warning. I know they practice drills so everyone stays calm if it really happens. But my brain goes to the worst case scenario, and all I can think about is what if in the chaos, she gets bumped, her processors fall to the ground, she stops and looks for them… by the time she hopefully finds them not stepped on and broken, her class is gone. She doesn’t know where they went because the alarm is so loud and suddenly she is by herself. Or what if she can’t find her processors, or they get stepped on and broken, and she can’t hear instructions, or a comforting teacher’s words during a frightening event? I can’t tell you how many times my fears have pushed me to picking her up from school on days there are tornado watches. I can’t handle thinking about her disoriented, scared and confused, and not being able to hear.

I opened up and shared this at the 504 meeting today. I was a little nervous that the counselor was going to reprimand me for taking my kids out of school based on a silly fear that likely won’t ever come true. Instead, she and the audiologist both affirmed and encouraged me. Not to keep taking her out of school, but they validated my fears. They validated my desire to protect my little girl. They brought up how it is another stage of the grief cycle. It’s a different grief than when I first found out she was deaf. It’s a different fear than when she was put under for major surgery. It’s a different sadness than when she first cried about not being able to hear while she swam. But it is grief.

I cried. I cried hard. I opened up and shared that I have had a lot of hard things in my life. (Actually, I told them I have been through a lot of crap.) I shared that I’m not used to worrying. I’m not used to giving into fear. I’m used to sucking it up and moving on. I’m used to taking whatever hand I am dealt, and making the most of it. I’m used to being strong. I’m used to pulling up my socks and putting my big girl panties on. The counselor gently said, “It sounds like you have a lot of baggage. You’re used to being so strong- for you and for other people. And being in control of your emotions and not letting things get to you. It seems like you let all of your fears and worries come through in this one area- Mecaden’s hearing loss and safety. It’s like it’s the one place you’ll allow yourself to express it.” I cried and admitted, “Sometimes I’m just tired of pulling my socks up.” And I cried hard.

I wiped my eyes, and cleared my throat, and said “I don’t like to whine or complain. I am so blessed. I have so much to be thankful for.” The counselor gently offered again, “Yes. But no matter how much we are thankful for, we all experience hard things. And it’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay to hurt. You need to give yourself grace and let your socks sag sometimes.” I cried again.

I cannot tell you how much weight was lifted from my shoulders. She helped me pull layers back on issues I didn’t realize I had. Here I am, seeing how so many others go through hard times and I try to do everything in my power to encourage them to give themselves grace. I tell people all the time that sometimes life sucks, and it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry, and to cry hard. I didn’t realize all this time I have been bottling up my emotions about so many circumstances. I mean, I’m not made of stone. I typically cry hard initially… but then I read and speak Truth into my circumstances, and I pull up my socks and move on. I suppose all this time, I felt like once I pull my socks up, they have to stay up. No use in crying over spilled milk, right?

Wrong.

Sometimes its okay to cry over spilt milk. No, you can’t un-spill it. It is already done. But you know what? It stinks that you spilled it. It stinks that it is wasted. And don’t get me started on crying over spilled breastmilk (not sorry, fellas. not sorry.).  So much work, down the drain. Or on the floor. Or all over the fridge.

I’m pretty sure I could speak in strictly idioms, being from the south and all. I digress. I just wanted to share what has been going on in my trench. And I really want to encourage you to give yourself grace. There are really, really hard things in life. Remember: the reason these things are so hard is because we were never meant to experience them. It is okay to cry. It is okay to cry hard. It is okay to wrestle with God over it. It is okay to wish these things were not happening. Even Jesus cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). He was referring to his upcoming brutal death on the cross. He knew it was coming, He knew it would hurt. He knew the only way to bring salvation to man was if He died for and instead of us. He understands your pain. He understands your fears. And do you know that He collects every tear of yours that falls (Psalm 56:8)? He is there. Even when no one else is. He is there, and knows ours prayers even when we cannot form them (Romans 8:26). It’s okay to let your socks sag. You don’t have to have it all together, all the time.

And when the time is right, you can pull your socks up and put your big girl panties on. But do so in the strength and grace of the Lord. When life hands you lemons, you can make lemonade. But unless you have water and sugar, your lemonade is going to suck. You can wipe your face and toughen up and move on when life is hard… but unless you face it with help from the Lord, you’re going to take a beating from life again before you know it. Don’t misunderstand me- just because you do things in the Lord’s strength doesn’t mean you’re going to perfect it and it will be easy. You’re human, and you will get knocked down again. But if you’re walking with the Lord through life, His grace will catch you when you fall.

From my trench to yours,

Emily

 

Photo Credit: allthe2048.com