When It’s Hard To Celebrate.

There’s nothing remarkable about it, and I certainly wouldn’t notice it among other bracelets if I were jewelry shopping. But I can’t remember her ever not wearing it. I slipped it on this morning as I got ready for church, the same way I do on those days I need to feel her close.

If I’m honest, Mother’s Day is a weird day for me. Its supposed to be about celebrating moms. I have four kids. But I don’t like a fuss being made about me, my Mom has been gone for seven years (the exact number of years I have avoided the card aisle at Target), and I have too many family members and friends who are hurting today. And every time I looked at my mom’s bracelet today, my heart broke a little more. I don’t have her, and they don’t have their babies. For me, Mother’s Day has become a proverbial elevator encounter with a stranger. It is so painfully awkward, and I just want to get off.

But getting off won’t fix things. It won’t give me back my mom, and it won’t give them their babies. It’s not fair.

I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that God is grieving, too. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. The reason it’s so hard to experience death and pain is because we were not created to ever experience it.

We live in a broken world. Sin has stolen, killed, and destroyed so much. The pain we experience is God’s beckoning to trust Him and show us that His salvation is better than our losses and griefs.

I’ve shared this quote before, but it is so profound that I need to share it again. “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” Dear one… God is with you in your loss, your pain, your grief. He knows full well what you feel, because He felt it when He watched His Son beaten and hung on a cross for something He didn’t do. He allows these things so that ultimately we might seek and find Him.

If you’re one of the ones hurting today… I see you. I see your brave face as you sit in the church seats while all of those babies are being dedicated. I see you breath in deeply and hold your head up to smile for a picture with your sister who has children. I see the wind get knocked out of you when you find out yet another friend, who wasn’t even trying, announces she is pregnant.  I see your eyes glisten when you watch a friend and her 65 year old mom grabbing lunch and pedicures… and it has been months, or maybe years, since you’ve heard your mother’s voice. I see you reach for your tissues when you see a young man who looks just like your son did before he unexpectedly passed away. I see you. I’ve prayed for you multiple times today. Through tears I have asked that the Lord meet you wherever you are. Whether you’ve buried your baby, or buried your Mama. There is nothing quite like the pain of aching arms longing to hold a child or to be held by a mother.

God is with you. It may not feel like it. But He is. I pray that you would feel His presence and know His peace. That in your pain, and possibly anger… you would learn to lean into Him. Knowing He will not waste your pain.

One day there will be no more pain and no more tears. And everything will be made perfect and whole. In your grief, let your pain compel you to long for Heaven for which you were made. Where the broken will become unbroken, and your aching arms will ache no more.

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The Frailty Of Human Love.

Crap. I thought to myself. I need three cups of flour and I only have two. It was 1:00 this morning and I was baking Valentine M&M cookie bars for the kids’ lunches today. I wasn’t going to the store because of one cup of flour. I had already mixed together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and two sticks of room-temperature butter. I was too far in to back out. So, I took a scoop of the pre-floured goop out, crossed my fingers, and hoped the mixtures would even out and bake properly.

While my cookie bars were baking, I finished setting up the kitchen table for this morning. Cute little decorative plates, a vase of tulips, a smattering of pink, silver, and red Hershey’s kisses, little mailboxes for each kid with their favorite candy inside, and little wooden paint sets (Target dollar spot never disappoints). Finished with a cake plate of freshly baked muffins and store-bought chocolate Valentine’s donuts, and handwritten note cards to each of my babies. It was late, I was still in my scrubs from a busy day at work, but I loved looking at my decorated table. It took quite a bit of work, but it is so worth it to see my kids’ faces in the morning. It felt like Christmas Eve all over again!

Why go all out for Valentine’s? Of course, I want them to know how much they are loved. But if there is one thing I want to teach my kids about Valentine’s Day, this is it:

“God allows us to feel the frailty of human love so we’ll appreciate the strength of His.” -C.S. Lewis

Think about it. One portion of the population is all about roses, rings, and chocolates. Then there are parents running around looking for that blessed box of Star Wars cards with glow stick light sabers in them that little Timmy HAS to have. And not just one box, he needs two. Because his class has 20 students in it and there are only 18 cards in a box. FOR THE LOVE!!! And then another portion of the population just wishes it was the 15th already.

We all have reasons we love, tolerate, or hate Valentine’s. And I’m willing to bet, many of those reasons are other humans.

Maybe this is a good year for you. Maybe you have a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day for the first time, or maybe the first time since whatshisname broke your heart a few years ago. Maybe you received a bouquet of roses at work today, and your dinner plans included candlelight and wine.

Or maybe this isn’t a good year. Maybe Valentine’s just reminds you of just how lonely you are. Maybe it stings to log on to social media and see all the gushy posts about “I’m married to my best friend and soul mate and I would die for him!” while you’re *still* single. Maybe it hurts to see pictures of Father-Daughter dances because you never got to experience that with your dad- maybe he wasn’t around, or- maybe he was, but emotionally and verbally abused you, and otherwise completely ignored you. Maybe your spouse left you. Maybe you’re happily married, but your significant other doesn’t do anything to make you feel important on days like today, so you steel yourself and put on a front and “Oh I just don’t even care about Valentine’s Day, it’s just a commercialized Hallmark holiday that people just waste too much money on. Really, it’s stupid. I would rather pluck my eyelashes out one by one.” (Calm down Susan). But really, there’s a part of you that really, really hopes there will be flowers when you get home… even though you know there won’t be.

The last thing I did before crawling into bed at 2 this morning was cut out red, white, and pink hearts. On each heart I wrote a Bible verse about love. And then I placed them on the wall next to the table in the pattern of a cross.

The Bible says that God “has set eternity in man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) What that means is there is a God-shaped void in every human heart. Every human has a longing for God- but we all fill that longing with other things. Often times these are good things. But if we keep filling a God-shaped longing with other things, that longing will never be satisfied. And those things have a nasty way of dictating our self-worth.

So, the cross shape on my kitchen wall and the verses on each heart are significant. Because even though I want my kids to know how much I love them, I’m also going to fail them. A lot. I want to point them toward the One who will never fail them, leave them, or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6). I want their hearts to stay steadfast in assurance of the love God has for them- that He loved them while they were yet sinners and had nothing to offer Him. He saw every dirty and nasty sin they could ever commit, and He said they were worth dying for. He sent His Son to live a perfect life that they could never live, to pay a debt they could never pay. And He did that because He loves them. He did that because He loves YOU.

Having a date on Valentine’s is wonderful. Sending your daughter with her daddy to a dance is precious. There’s nothing wrong with flowers and cards and candy. But ultimately, where are your longings for love being directed? Are you filling that God-shaped hole in your heart with other things, and other people? From my own experience, the more I fill that longing in my heart with God, the less I fill it with other things and other people.

Filling your heart with what God says about you will be an anchor for your self-worth, so no matter how you experience the frailty of human love, your soul will find rest in God alone and in the strength of His love for you.

It’s Time To Move.

February 2nd is a hard day for me. She didn’t pass away for 12 more days, but the 2nd is the day I found out she wasn’t doing well, and didn’t have long.

For me, this day is actually harder than the day she passed away. I relive exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out… the confusion and shock followed by gut-wrenching sobs. Then the frantic gathering of my things- hair still wet, no make-up, no shoes, as I calmed myself just enough to press a quick kiss onto my then-three year old’s forehead before running out the door. I flew down Falls of Neuse Road, driving like a bat out of hell- weaving and passing in turn lanes and running lights. I was only six miles from Duke Raleigh Hospital, but it felt like an eternity getting there in the middle of lunch time traffic in Raleigh. My mom was dying.

I ran into the waiting room, and the front desk could tell by my face exactly who I was there to see. My sister appeared, her red nose and splotchy face giving away what her older sister brave face was trying to protect me from. I followed her to the back, and saw my mom curled in a ball on a gurney, her frail frame looking more like a 12 year old than a 61 year old. I curled up right next to her, getting as close as I could, tears soaking her pillow. Weak and barely able to speak, she quietly said, “Oh honey…”

Once my brother arrived, I excused myself. I couldn’t watch him fall apart, and I couldn’t watch her trying to comfort him. He was always the favorite… the bond between him and my mom was unmistakable. Just seeing her looking up at him was enough to drive a stake through your heart.

They moved her to a private room at the hospital, and the pain meds began to work. She was able to sit up, cuddle with her two grandbabies, and entertain an endless stream of visitors. She received a call from her nephew that his son had been born, named after her beloved grandfather. She faded in and out of sleep for two days, but managed to keep us laughing. My favorite story was when she went to the bathroom to “take a shower”, turned the water on, and suddenly we smelled cigarette smoke. I went and found the nurse, because what else do you do when your dying-but-stubborn mother lights up in the hospital?? The nurse looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said “Honey, she doesn’t have much longer. I ain’t about to tell her to stop now.” And I watched in amazement as the nurse knocked on the door and called out, “Ms. Marcia? You may want to put a few towels at the crack under the door so your shower steam doesn’t get out.” Followed by a surprised, “Thank you” from my mother. I swear she got away with everything.

Those two days were filled with friends and family, and visits from mom’s lawyer, signing the power of attorney papers, and making decisions about hospice care. We began the 12 days of saying goodbye and letting our sweet and stubborn mother go.

I was 26. I was too young to lose my mom. We had only just begun to heal from many painful years of estrangement. All of my teen years and the beginning of my twenties, I held on so tightly to the ways I felt she was wrong, and the things she did that I didn’t agree with. I wasn’t able to process them maturely and allow her to just be herself, agree to disagree, and not let it affect our relationship. Finally, after having my first baby, I realized how much I needed her. By the time I had my second, she had become my on-call doctor, my seasoned counselor, and my comedy relief. My love for my children showed me my mother’s fierce love for me and my siblings… and broke down my guarded walls as I realized that a mom can mess up, but still be a good mom.

I can’t get those lost years back. I wish I had known then, what I know now. That messing up and making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human. I have wept in sorrow over my judgemental years and how the plank in my own eye caused me to miss out on so much. But like the good mom she was, she loved me when I loved her least. Once I let her back into my life, she never held how I handled things against me. She acted as though it had ever happened. Her ever-present love was the forgiveness I never knew I needed.

How about you? Are there lost years? Maybe not with your mom, but perhaps someone else? Dear one, you never know when you will get that call. I never expected my mom to die at 61- and she had had cancer for 17 months. I am forever grateful to the Lord for softening my heart so I could have those three short, but precious years before she died.

But we don’t always get those chances. Don’t wait for that person to apologize, or apologize the exact way you want. Often times when we dig our heels in and want God to move someone else, He is waiting on you to move. To first, get that plank out of your eye, and then move toward forgiveness and healing. You may never get an apology… but you don’t need one to offer forgiveness. Don’t let your bitterness and stubbornness eat you alive and steal your joy, and rob you of precious years.

Make the move. Today. The enemy doesn’t want you to. He wants you to stay comfortable in your misery and indignation, and remind you of all the ways you have been wronged that the other person needs to right. Don’t wait. If you do, it could be too late. I know it’s hard. Forgiveness is costly. It’s costs you your right to be the judge. When you have a hard time forgiving, look to the cross. It was costly for Christ. But He willingly was beaten and nailed to a cross, to die a sinner’s death that He didn’t deserve… all to bring you to God. You were worth it to Him.

If you believe that, and you have been forgiven of much… then you have the power to forgive much. The more you see what all you have been given grace for instead of punishment, the more you are able to extend grace to those who sin against you. If you are struggling, know that you can ask God to soften your heart. Forgiving doesn’t make what that person did okay. Forgiveness simply takes the burden of being the judgment-bearer off of you, and rightly places it on God.

Don’t lose one more minute. Whenever your February 2nd happens, you will be eternally grateful that God softened your heart.

Because He Loves Us.

I got my first tattoo a year ago. I had decided a few months prior that I wanted to get the outline of North Carolina, my home state. I had to build up my courage to actually go and get it (you can read about the ridiculous debacle here, if you dare). I was going through some pretty painful things, emotionally speaking, and distinctly remember thinking, “I’m going to get my tattoo this weekend. I’m actually welcoming the physical pain.”

That likely sounds crazy. But I think the reason I wanted to experience that physical pain is because I knew it would hurt like crap, but then it would be over. And it wouldn’t hurt anymore.

Emotional pain isn’t like that. It hurts, then hurts some more, then weaves its way into every other area of your life. It can threaten to swallow you whole… and you wish it would. But it doesn’t. It just keeps hurting, and it’s a feeling that won’t end. You go to bed with it, sleep restlessly because of it, and wake up with it right in your face.

Maybe you’re in that season. Maybe it’s not like Winter or Summer, that only last three months each. Maybe this is a season that doesn’t feel like a “season” at all… but more like a life sentence. There are countless reasons you may find yourself in pain, left feeling like you’re in the dark, not knowing which way is up, or which way is out.

I read a Bible story with my kids every night. A few weeks ago, one of the questions at the end was, “Why does God let bad things happen to His people?” My 8-year-old son answered, “Because He loves us.”

Now, I don’t know if he just misheard me, or if what I’ve been teaching him is actually clicking. But I. was. floored.

His answer doesn’t seem right, does it? It actually is.

When we think of “good”, we naturally think of happy things, pleasing things. Things that are of gain, advancement, approval. But what is our standard of “good”? If you are a believer in Christ, then your definition of good should be “God”.  Myrna Alexander writes about some of the attributes of God in her book, Behold Your God. Here is an excerpt from her book from the fifth chapter; God is Good:

“When Scripture proclaims, ‘God is good’ (Nahum 1:7; Psalms 25:8; 86:5; 119:69), the absolute declaration being made is that God is the source of all goodness in the universe. Therefore, good cannot be found apart from God.

Because God is absolute good, He has never done nor can He ever do one thing to you that is not good. God also cannot change, and so has never been more or less good to you than He is right now.”

If you are a believer in Christ, then you know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

You may be wondering, “If God works ALL things for my good, then how can my infertility be for my good? My job loss? My son’s drug addiction? My mom’s cancer?”

Believer, if you believe that the definition of good is “God”, then here is your answer:

Anything that makes you more like Christ is good.

If your infertility drops you to your knees to cry out to God and in doing so, you draw near to God… that is good.

If losing your job makes you pick up your Bible and lean on Christ through prayer and tears… that is good.

If your son’s drug addiction makes you constantly come to the Lord, praying protection over your son and deliverance from his addiction, and asking God to guide you and give you peace in the process.. that is good.

If your mom’s cancer diagnosis breaks you to the point where you give up and tell God you don’t know how to handle this, and causes you to cling to Him for peace and hope… that is good.

My pastor was preaching on Jonah back in June. Brian stated that God uses two methods to draw believers to Himself. Theology and affliction. First, He uses theology. When that doesn’t get our attention, He allows the painful circumstances. But His sovereignty in our storms is always directed at a purpose: to break down our self-reliance. To draw us near to Himself.

I just read an article from The Gospel Coalition this week by Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic.  She said a Bible study friend of hers from the 70s said ten words that set the course for her life:

“God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

The article continues, “God hated the torture, injustice, and treason that led to the crucifixion. Yet He permitted it so that the world’s worst murder could become the world’s only salvation.”

Friend, understand this: God hates your infertility. He hates all the crap you have to go through while trying to bring new, precious life into this world. God hates that you are in financial distress and are fearful of how you’ll pay your mortgage and provide for your family. God hates that your son has a drug addiction. God hates cancer. Yet, He is permitting it for the sake of Christ in you. To draw you close to Himself.

Yes, God allows bad things to happen to His people because He loves them.

It hurts God to see His people in pain. But, I’m going to say something that you may not like. God is not for your happiness. He’s not. I have not seen a single verse in all of the Bible in the years I have been reading it where God says He is for your happiness. No, He is for your joy. Happiness is circumstantial, but joy can be yours in the darkest hours of your life (James 1:2, Romans 5:3-5) and produces perseverance, character, and hope in Christ. Steward your pain well, knowing it is not in vain.

This world is broken.. our lives are filled with hurt. Sometimes God moves mountains… and sometimes He makes mountains unmoveable (my life song right now is “Even If” by Mercy Me… have a listen if you are going through pain right now). Let your pain compel you to the feet of Christ, knowing He is for your good (Christ in you!). Know that Jesus is the Light of the world, and whoever walks with Him will never walk in darkness (John 8:12). Cling to the Lord and yearn for the hope of Heaven, where one day all the brokenness will become unbroken.

 

Aim Small, Miss Small.

*I used working out as my example for resolutions- mainly because its a very common resolution. Your resolution my be to read 12 books in 12 months. Or to volunteer at a homeless shelter every month. Or to spend less time on social media. Or maybe you don’t have one. And that’s okay. Maybe you hate resolutions. But I’m willing to bet there is something you hope is different in 2017. Let me be the first to encourage you: go for it. Learn to save your money (“Never spend your 5s is my motto!). Go on Date Nights once a month. Tell your best friend about your suicidal thoughts. Ask for help with your newborn, colicky baby. Cut ties with that toxic relationship. Go to that counselor. Dye your hair pink. Get a tattoo (I have a guy if you need a Raleigh referral!). Read the Bible all the way through in a year (Need a reading plan so you know where to start? Click here.) Whatever you do (or don’t do), make sure that the result will be a healthy you. Physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally. You don’t have to benchpress a Buick to be healthy. 

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

His Good Heart.

I have been a stay-at-home mom for over nine years. My babiest baby is not even two yet. I had zero plans of changing my at-home status until she was in Kindergarten four years from now. Even then, I would look for a part-time gig.

Things change. God opens and closes doors at will, and we can either resist or follow. Following doesn’t always mean glitter and gold… in fact it can downright suck. But there is purpose in the suckage.

The second-to-last week of August, we moved into an apartment (after owning a home for 7 years, this has been interesting to say the least). The next week, I walked my second and fourth graders into their classes. The week after that I walked my pre-K and toddler into their preschool classes. The week after that, I suited up in my old faithful scrubs, donned a mask, picked up a scaler, and was launched back into the working world as a full-time orthodontic assistant. Just like that, I went from being home 24/7, to being gone until 5:30 every day.

I love orthodontics and love assisting. I was trained on the job as a measly 18 year old, fresh out of high school in 2003. I worked at this office for four years, until I had my first baby, and stayed home after that. I filled in here and there for a while, but home was my calling. This summer, when it became evident that going back to work was the next stage in my life, I immediately got in touch with my former boss. I didn’t want to be away from my babies. But if I had to, then I had to love my job. There was no other way. I was hired back immediately, welcomed by my boss, a new boss, and an entire staff eager to have me working with them again. I won’t go into all the details, but it was very clear this was exactly where God wanted me. I tear up any time I think of it. I love LOVE my job.

But its not all sunshine and butterflies. My job is fantastic. But I am struggling in so many areas. I am used to being on top of things, over-preparing in advance, and moving at my own pace. Now, life is mostly dictated by a clock (and traffic. Raleigh drivers, get your crap together). There aren’t enough seconds in a minute, hours in a day, or ounces in a coffee cup.

The hardest part? The mom-guilt. In no way have I ever looked down on or judged a working mom. But myself? Well, I guess it’s true that we are our own worst critics.

On Thursday morning, I had a 7:40 conference with my son’s teacher. His teacher and I hadn’t really clicked yet. Which I, of course, internalize and blame myself for. If I wasn’t working, I would be more involved with his class instead of just hastily initialing his weekly behavior sheet and clipping Box Tops. I knew I needed to be up front with his teacher from the get-go of the conference. I owed it to her, to myself. Within two minutes I broke down in tears and apologized. She thought I was apologizing for throwing a take-home-reader book away (#ihaveitalltogether #allthetime) and tried to encourage me that it was no big deal. I sucked in my breath and squeaked out, “No. Not that. Well, yes, I am sorry for that. But that’s not what’s going on.” She waited patiently and let me lose it for a minute. I shared with her a few things, none of the least of these, were my failings as a mother. I had never been away from my kids, and am struggling. Struggling with being away, with not being able to stay on them and their assignments, not being intentional with reading, not being involved with class, not knowing the kids they talk about. My life has been thrown into overdrive, and I get home and after I smooch all over my kids and hear three excited stories and one excited jibber jabber, all at the same time… I begin dinner. While dinner cooks, I’m prepping four lunches for the next day. In the middle of slicing strawberries, I’m signing permission slips and behavior charts, writing notes to a math teacher, reading through paperwork, throwing books away by accident, forgetting to pay for school photos, forgetting water bottles, burning the (frozen) pizza, all while holding my baby who doesn’t want to be put down and listening to a fifteen minute shpeal on a Wax Museum Project and asking my son if he read to his nanny, and getting my four year old out of the Halloween candy at the top of the pantry, and stepping on goldfish (internally screaming as I type this by the way), suddenly smelling a poopy diaper, breaking up an argument, sending kids to get their pjs on… then dinner. Then clean up. Then bed time. I’m trying to balance a very busy job, errands, chores, the gym, relaxing, and being with my babies. I told my son’s teacher that I feel like I am failing as a mother. In every. single. way. Not being home is ruining my kids for the rest of their lives. Through tears and sniffles I told her, “I promise I’m a better mom than this. I promise I’m not this horrible of a mother.”

Mrs. G was so gracious. As I went through eighty-seven of her Finding Dory tissues, she encouraged me and told me that I was doing the best that I can, she understood.. and was ready and willing to help on her side of things in any way I needed. We proceeded to the actual conference, instead of my therapy session. Levi was doing extremely well in math, which didn’t really surprise me. Math clicks with him (he did not inherit that from me). But the reading that I was sure was spiraling downward because of my absence… he is already at the level 2nd graders need to be at by the end of the year. I was further surprised when his teacher told me that he gets taken out of class with a few other students in the grade to be in what they call a “Book Club”. That’s the PC way of saying he’s in an advanced reading group. I was floored. Utterly floored. I had no idea. His reading log is crumpled up at the bottom of his backpack, and I don’t remember the last time he wrote an entry (never mind that he’s supposed to log it every single night).

We were wrapping up the conference when his teacher closed her notes. She said she wanted to tell me something else. An unnamed boy in the class had recently been identified on the autism spectrum. He had been struggling. But Levi… my sweet boy. Mrs. G informed me that Levi talks with this boy all the time (mostly about Pokemon), doesn’t ever seem to notice a difference about this boy, and sits with him every day at lunch- that the boy always saves him a seat. She wanted me to know that Levi’s character was amazing and it was obvious that whatever he was being shown or taught at home was making an impact on him.

You guessed it. I cried like a baby.

Suddenly, his math scores and reading level didn’t seem to matter. My son befriended a boy who many would label “different”. My son intentionally spends time with him and loves him like Jesus does. Every single day. I sat Levi down later when I had some time. I told him that I was proud of how well he was doing in school, and asked him why I didn’t know about the Book Club. Then I grabbed him in my arms and looked into his huge blue eyes,  and I told him I knew about his special friendship. He didn’t seem to think it was a big deal (which, actually, I’m glad about)… but I told him that though I was glad he was smart and works hard, nothing made me prouder than knowing he was loving others and showing them Jesus. I didn’t care if he was the smartest boy in his class, or if he had to repeat second grade- the most important thing was loving others well. That that was enough. He was enough.

I was so thankful for that conference with his teacher. Beyond academics, I needed that conference for my soul. It was encouragement I didn’t foresee, and certainly struggled accepting. I beat myself up constantly for not being able to do it all. I’m in a season of my life where just about nothing is in my control. And a lot of the time- it is dark for me. I’m trying to balance my priorities- which, FYI- dishes are low on that totem pole now. I’m trying to keep up, and most days I feel like I am absolutely drowning.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Other than to share that I’m struggling. Maybe someone else needs to know they aren’t alone with the balancing and the mom guilt and the thoughts that they are ruining their kids’ lives. My facebook would probably make people assume that everything is hunky-dory. Dressing up as a hotdog and dancing around Target, or riding a bike with a unicorn helmet and life jacket on around the store, or chasing people with a light saber and a Ninjago mask on… it looks fun. And it is fun. But it’s not an entirely accurate picture of my life right now.

A more accurate picture would be if you followed me into Harris Teeter Friday afternoon with all four of my kids. One screaming that she wants to walk as I push her through the entire store, one asking incessantly if we can get this, and get that, and get those, and get this, and and and and (internally screaming again), one telling me every food he hates as we walk past them (which is about 98.6% of the store), and the four year old disappearing and climbing into shelves of toilet paper, touching every product at her level, running away, reappearing with apples she has already taken bites out of, the food-hater pressing the call button at the butcher counter over and over as I’m getting onto the apple eater for apple eating before apple buying. The baby screams when she sees food she wants (why did I go to the store at 4:30. That’s an amateur move, Emily). Everyone wants a different colored apple. We’ve lost a paci, so now we backtrack through the store because that stupid paci was $18 (it is a pink giraffe wubanub. It made sense when I was sleep-deprived.) and I refuse to lose that thing. We go to check out, and I forget a few items. But they are on the other side of the store so SCREW THAT. I made the mistake of going to self-checkout. Not only am I keeping up with four children, I am now arguing with a machine about my item in the bagging area.

Just when I’m about to snap, this older mom and her mother walk past me. I had seen them several times throughout the store. As they were heading out and I was shoving dollar bills into the machine, I hear, “You’re doing a great job”. And a kind smile offered by both women toward me.

You guessed it. I cried like a baby.

So. Here I am. Being honest with you about my struggle. My struggle of not being enough. My struggle of failing miserably as a mom, even as a person in general. I don’t have much to offer in advice right now. But if you’re struggling, just know you’re not alone. If the happy-go-lucky lady dancing in the hot dog suit is struggling, you’re allowed to struggle, too. I imagine you’re at the end of your rope. Struggling to keep your head above water.

The good news, and what I cling to- is that God is with you. A few weeks ago my pastor said something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. That you can trust God’s good heart when you can’t see His good hand. There are times we struggle or suffer, times we are in the dark and are hurting. We can’t see God’s good hand in the situation. But we know God and we know He is a good God- that He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He loves us so much.. so much that He gave His only Son as a ransom for our souls. If He spared not His own Son to show us how much He loves us- we can trust His good heart when we can’t see His good hand.

Another Cup Post.

Monday night, I was beat from working all day and going straight to trick or treating. I went to bed early (for me) and decided to just take my shower in the morning and make the kids’ lunches then.At 2:58am I get a wake up call from my almost two year old. I calm her down, crawl back into bed, close my eyes, she cries out again. I go back in, calm her down, go back to bed, close my eyes, she cries again. This continues about 7 times before it wakes my four year old up and now I have two to calm down at 4:02am. I get the older one to sleep and start to drift off again myself, when my baby cries out again. I’m getting a migraine from the constant disrupted sleep. “Screw this,” I think as I swing my legs over the rail and climb into her crib. I laid with her for 45 minutes, she was quiet, but her eyes were wide open. I doze for snippets at a time. Meanwhile, I’m having dreams of her crying out and not being able to calm her. She has stayed quiet long enough where I decide I can leave her. I climb out of the crib, go back to my bed, annnnnnd she cries out again. I have to be up in like seven minutes. I pulled my pillow over my head as I apologized inwardly to my baby for ignoring her in the name of sleep and sanity. I sleep for mere minutes before my alarm goes off to shower.

I can’t skip. It’s staff photo day at work. So, I jump in. Half leg in of shaving and my razor head breaks off the handle. Of course it did. Why wouldn’t it? I proceeded to shave the rest of that leg and my other leg with two hands steering this tiny razor head, taking three times as long as normal. Now I’m running behind. I have to dry my hair and put my face on… I don’t have time to make four lunches. I know….I’ll send cash with the big two and they can buy lunch. Now I only have to make two lunches. I scramble between finishing lunches, counting out quarters for the $2.25 lunches, blow drying and straightening my hair, and putting my war paint on. Of course I get a zit over the weekend that takes residency on my left cheek. Seventeen layers of putty, caulk, and paint and it’s still laughing at me out of my peripheral vision. I’m going to have to pay this photographer for some photoshopping. Whatever. I have to go.

It’s Novermber 1st. No matter how ridiculous my day has started off, I know I can count on my first Christmas song. Yes, I am one of those people. I peel out of the neighborhood scanning the radio. I can’t find a Christmas song anywhere. I was a little irritated, but- no matter what is going wrong this morning… I’m going to Starbucks. Because November 1st is Red Cup Day. It should be a recognized holiday in my opinion. Anyway. I walk into Starbucks, thrilled TO DEATH that there is no line (unheard of at 7am). I asked for my Tall With Whip Vanilla Latte. I see her grabbing a white cup. No red cup in sight. My heart rate starts to climb. “Um, ma’am? Where are your red cups?” With a smirk, she answers “There are no red cups.” “Until when? When do you get them in?” “Never. No red cups this year.” I passed out cold.

Not really. But my blood pressure bottomed out and I was light headed. Controlling the confusion and hurt, I managed to choke out, “Ever? This it my favorite day of the year. I have looked forward to Red Cup Day since last Red Cup Day. Are you sure?” She laughs and says she will have a red solo cup for me tomorrow morning. I couldn’t even fake a courtesy laugh. She mentions that the red is gone because of the uproar about it last year. That ding dong with the “Merry Christmas” mess ruined Red Cup day for me. I told the lady I had written a blog post about that debacle last year. She shakes her head, and says this year the cup is green. But they didn’t have those yet. I cannot believe this is happening. I was broken. Crushed. This day just went from bad to terminal.

I mosey over to the counter to wait for my stupid white cup. I have never been sad waiting for my Starbucks. I was beyond sad. I was morose. This Vanilla Latte is going to taste like toilet water now. In my head, I’m writing a eulogy for the Red Cup, when suddenly, the cashier barista looks past the barista at the espresso machine, to some ruckus in the back. “Hold that cup right there” she says to the barista. “Don’t make that drink in that cup.” The girl looked so confused. The cashier barista and I locked eyes and she gave me a mischievous smile. My endorphins were on high alert. Did they find a magic stash of red cups? What is going on?! The anticipation was killing me and I was about four seconds from hopping the bar and running to the back. The male barista pokes his head around the door and grins. And then, a cup appears. A green cup. For me. Just for me. He walks it out to the barista to make my drink, and I was close to tears. I was overjoyed. They made my whole day.

It sounds ridiculous. But it’s true. I really do love November 1st. I’m not big into Halloween- I do the costumes and love taking my kids trick-or-treating. But my favorite thing about Halloween is the fact that the next day Christmas starts. The music, the Red Cup, the hustle and bustle, the lights and decorations. I love it. Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I want to stretch it as long as I can. November 1st-December 31st (as much as I love it early, I do not like it extending into January. Or April… looking at you, people who still have icicle lights on the porch for Easter.) I had had a rough start to my day, so I was really looking forward to my Christmas in a Cup. And when that wasn’t going to happen, I was bummed. And super annoyed at the dude who got the country in a tizzy over the Red Cup last year. I would have loved to have had his phone number at 7:03am. But that Barista humored my sulking, and found me the next best thing- the Green Cup. The one they hadn’t put out yet. He got it out just for me. It made me squeal and clap, and I actually had tears in my eyes. Not because the Green Cup was that amazing (let’s face it, it will never be the Red Cup), but because they went out of their way to make my day. It was so simple, but meant so much.

I’ve shared my Tuesday Green Cup story with anyone who will listen. Today, I got on Facebook only to find that there was an article, “Starbucks’ New ‘Unity’ Cup Draws Fire”. I have never groaned so loud or rolled my eyes so fast in my life. I didn’t want to even click on the stupid link, but click I did. And it confirmed my fears. More people being offended by a Starbucks cup. That the Unity Cup was “political brainwashing” and “liberal bias”. And some were angered that the cup didn’t carry “a stronger holiday message and accused the company of attacking Christian values.” Can somebody please explain to me how Unity automatically means liberal bias and anti-Christian?

Anyone?

 

Bueller?

 

Bueller?

 

Bueller?

 

I mean, do we really not have more important things to talk about right now? Like the fact that we have “Fall Back” on Saturday night which every mom of young children hates because the kids don’t get the extra-hour-memo and instead of waking at 6am, they are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5am? Or the fact that Brett Eldredge came out with his new Christmas album, Glow this week and he sounds like Frank Sinatra and everyone needs to pick up a copy (Yes I said “pick up a copy” because I don’t do iTunes and don’t have a clue how it works and I still live in the 90s. Sorrynotsorry.).

The only uproar I’m interested in regarding the Green Cup is protesting in order to bring back the Red Cup. I mean, when Chick-fil-a replaced their original barbecue sauce with that nasty Smokehouse Barbecue sauce this summer, the masses went into uproar and tweeted the fire out of Chick-fil-a. One person even tweeted, “If I tweet you everyday for a year like Noah wrote Allie in the Notebook for 365 days will you bring back your original bbq sauce?” And guess what? CFA IS BRINGING BACK THE ORIGINAL BARBECUE SAUCE. This month. I’m convinced it is because they love me and it’s a birthday present to me. But that’s another post for another time.

There is a glimmer of hope. Articles addressing the “offended” (using quotes because in order to be offended, there has to be an offense. and there just isn’t one.) mention that the Green Cup may not be the company’s holiday cup this year, because Starbucks’ statement said the cups were for a “divisive time in our country” and made no mention of holidays. So I’m crossing my fingers and holding off on my Red Cup eulogy.

As for the “brainwashing” and “bias”… if promoting unity in a country that has had SO much divisiveness this year (hello, elections + police + BLM + everythingandanythingapparently) is brainwashing and biased and wrong… then I don’t want to be right. I say kudos to Starbucks for reaching across lines and wanting to join people together. We have all heard it before- United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

Go to Starbucks and pay for your overpriced latte in a Green Cup. Or stay home and use your Keurig. Whatever you do, find something more important to do than talk about what is or isn’t on a cup. I’m sure your toilets could use a cleaning.