5 Things I Learned From Living My Worst Case Scenario

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's hard for people to know what to say to me right now. I get it. It's hard for me to know what to say, too. Some ask very pointedly, "How are you?" Some nervously say, "So .... single parent ... that's really hard, right?" Some say nothing at all. And I appreciate every one of them - every awkward conversation, every stuttering question, every avoided conversation to honor my space and privacy. I love every attempt to bridge the gap between my life and theirs, no matter how awkwardly we walk across it. Because, let's be honest. It takes courage to have coffee with me right now. I'm a walking cautionary tale.

I am living most people's biggest fear. What if you marry the right person, read all the books, follow all the advice, and your life still falls apart? What if you pour your whole soul into something that shatters into a thousand tiny shards? What if you give your life completely to something that fails?

What happens next?

my best weapon against grief.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I have so much I want to say - about how I think raising a big family is easier than a small one, and the powerful ways our theology ripples through our lives, how I don't know what it means to trust God anymore and how, in a few weeks, I will get to post a link to a story I cannot WAIT to share. There's so much for us to talk about, friends, but I come to this space and I stare at the blinking cursor.

Because since the last post, I've felt sad. 

on All Saints Day

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The first thing I want to tell you is this: I only cry in the car. The second is, I never miss the man I left.

It’s 6:25 on a Wednesday evening, a night when the kids have a standing engagement and I usually work alone for a few hours. I send him a text: I’m at the Thai place if you want to swing by. He responds a second later: Just picked up take-out from there 10 minutes ago. Great minds. Next time, I type. About once a month we share a meal. We chat about bosses and kids and upcoming family plans. Every few days, one of us texts the other with a piece of trivia, an old inside joke. Sometimes I’ll even ask, “Do you remember that time when we …” Most often, he doesn’t. 

when it's time to trust again

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The other night I had a dream. In it, my family was all living in only a segment of our house. We were cramped into a couple of bedrooms and a kitchen, but the house had another wing. Another long row of great big bedrooms with good light and a great view of the mountains, which we could access from a little walkway from a side door. In the dream, I found the door, and realized we had more room than I thought, and our lives would be harder if we didn't use it. I was excited about the possibilities, and went out (with toddlers in tow, naturally) to check it out.

But there was a catch. Two, really.

First, someone had once lived and died in these rooms. If we were going to use them, I would have to clean them out. They weren't gory or unsanitary, but they were full of stuff - blankets, papers, clothes, pictures. Reminders of someone I  loved who was now gone.

Second, the walkway ran between the row of rooms and a swimming pool. The pool had no fence or rail. My kids could easily fall in at any time.

In the dream, I had to make a choice. Was I willing to walk with my kids past that pool every single day to make better use of our house? Would I gather the belongings of deceased loved ones to make room for a sunlit, spacious future?

I woke up to a day I'd dreaded for weeks. My priest had asked me to speak in front of my church's leadership team about my marriage. He had a good reason for the request, and he was quick to say (over and over) I was not on trial, I did not need to defend any decisions I'd made, and I was already a  valued and respected part of our community. But our leadership team needed to make a decision that could affect my family, and they wanted to be sure they were genuinely honoring us. In order to know if they were doing the right thing, they needed to hear more of our story.

I was scared to death, friends.

I'm over at Middle Places!

Friday, September 18, 2015

"It’s gorgeous, right? The lighting is perfect. My children are clean and color coordinated. Everyone is looking at the camera at the same time. They are even SMILING. My hair isn’t doing anything weird, and my toddler isn’t pulling on my dress. My very talented photographer friend managed to capture a single moment when everyone is doing what they are supposed to do. It’s absolutely beautiful. Only, this moment didn't happen."

I'm over at Middle Places talking about family portraits, and the composites we offer to one another. 

Ever lost a friend over politics? Me too.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

I once lost a Bible Study friend to the Iraq War.
It was 2003. The air was thick with political and social tension in the months before the US bombed Baghdad. She was a fiery pro-Bush, pro-war advocate. I was a vehement anti-Bush, anti-war enthusiast. One night before our small group Bible study began, conversation drifted toward politics. Typically our equally strong personalities encouraged the other, but that night they clashed. We were both convinced our way was not only more accurate, but the more faithful response. In the middle of our discussion, my friend picked up her purse, stood up, and said, “I can’t listen to this anymore.” She hurried away from my apartment. I watched her leave, dumbfounded.
Read more over at Venn Magazine. 

We can't look away.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

"Faith is homesickness.  Faith is a lump in the throat.  Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch.  Faith is waiting.  Faith is a journeying through space and through time." - Frederick Buechner
This week, images of a lifeless little boy washed up on a shore have outraged the world. As they should.

I'll be honest. At first I couldn't look at the images at all. They reminded me too much of the image of my own little lifeless boy, and even knowing the picture existed raised my heart rate. Then, today, I made myself look at it. I made myself acknowledge this is happening right now, in my lifetime. Families are running away from chaos and into dangerous uncertainty. My mind went immediately to all the pictures that are never captured by professional photographers, all the mothers carrying their own indelible images just like mine. All the mothers who did not have the tremendous advantage of trained professionals to save their children's lives, the fathers who board a boat one life vest short, and must gauge which child would stand the best chance of survival if he fell. At this very moment there are parents making excruciating, unimaginable decisions to try to save their children's lives. And mothers who died this week alongside their toddler boys, never living to see their personal tragedy played out on CNN. May light perpetual shine upon them.

The big lie about parenting

Friday, August 7, 2015

The dark hour before dawn is sacred space. It's my only waking hour in a silent room, and I typically guard it carefully.

But that morning, all I wanted to do was wake up my kids.

The night before, in that other still space, the one where children quiet just before they drift off, my son told me the truth. "You always say no. I'm frustrated because you say no to every single question."

It's been a hard summer. Our first months on our own, my first months working in several years, their first long break after their first year of classroom school. Too many changes, too little routine. The characters are all the same, but nothing feels quite normal, and we've had nothing but time together to ruminate in our juices.

I'm over at The Mid!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I scan the crowd, looking for my childhood best friend. We are at the cheap theater, and the movie is about to start. I take stock of the lobby until I see her, and we both wave and hurry toward one another. "Are you getting popcorn?" I ask right away.

"No," she says, "I snuck my own candy." I giggle and say, "Me too!" Once again I think, I can't believe we get to do this.

I'm over on The Mid, sharing how my best friend from elementary school and I have spent the summer together. You can read the rest over there. 

closing the gap

Monday, July 20, 2015

I love this space. A Wide Mercy is sacred for me, born out of a need to find God in the mess of my life. Over time you guys have all joined me. Together we have made sense of my experiences, and yours - of losing God and finding Him in new places, of moving across the country while raising a bunch of little kids, of struggling with changing marriages. I thank God for the space to sort through all of that, and for the strength we all find when we stand together and say, "Me too."

Over the past year I have shared less and less on A Wide Mercy. The reason is simple: I wanted to create an honest space, and I didn't know how to share my life as it was honestly. I had no idea how to begin to articulate what was happening, because I barely understood it myself.

me too.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I was so excited about my morning. My new in-real-life friend (but long time online friend) Kira and I were taking our kids to the zoo. Kira is wise and kind and gentle and funny, and I leave every conversation with her feeling as though I can breathe a little more deeply. I knew my kids were tired, and they've been over-the-top crazy lately, but we went anyway. There was no way I was going to give up a few hours with my friend.

when it's not a part of God's plan

Friday, June 19, 2015

Today, this passed through my newsfeed:

The proceeding comments fascinated me: "This is why I'm an atheist," "It's just something people say to make themselves feel better." And the one that took my breath away: "After my father was murdered, I heard this phrase all the time. I finally told someone if it was true, I needed a new religion." 

on bathing suits, lost children, and why I see my summer in a new way.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

photo credit here 
In a few hours I’m going to wear a bathing suit in front of other grown-ups. For the first time since I was eight years old, I am excited to go. My body looks exactly the same as it did a year ago, with the same 20 baby pounds I simply don’t have time to shake, and the same mid-30’s-and-four-babies flab I swore I would tone before this moment arrived. My body has not changed at all, but my attitude has shifted dramatically. To understand why, I have to tell you a story.

On faith, manipulation, and the healthy faithful response to the Josh Duggars in our worlds

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Let's talk about the Duggars.

I don't want to, and I'm sure you don't either.  But I can't get away from it. The story has permeated my life this weekend. In every circle - every online group, every walk with a friend to the park, every email or FB message - no matter where I am, everyone I know is talking about it. Why? A famous person from a  reality show confesses to sexually predatory behavior. Why are we so shocked? On its face, why are we more unnerved by Josh Duggar than, say, Bill Cosby? Why does this one matter so much?

on what it takes to change a life

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is Wendy.

She doesn't know it, but Wendy changed my life.

on bravery, honesty, and the thestral staring me down on the playground

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Yesterday I did something I almost never do. I volunteered to speak to a crowd of people.

I'm not shy, not even a little. But I am not a public speaker. Some people use nervous energy to propel them forward and excel on stage, but not me. I stand there, dry-mouthed and stuttering, forgetting my point and doing my best to just make it stop. All the same, yesterday I offered to tell a story to a group of women I've grown to love, a local moms group I joined in January. Because yesterday was the first time words have bubbled to the surface, and a language for the story I need to tell began to take shape.

The theme for the group this year is bravery. The call is to step up, to do something you wouldn't normally do for the sake of being true to who you are. As I listened to another mom share her "brave" story, mine suddenly crystallized. All at once, I knew the bravest thing I did this year was to tell the truth.

After my baby nearly died, I wanted to feel overwhelming joy and gratitude that he was okay. I wanted to praise God publicly, to look at my son's face and feel soul-bursting happiness and contentment, knowing I get to have more time with him. We got to walk away from that day with our son healthy and whole. Most of the time, that doesn't happen. I witnessed a resurrection, and I wanted to be able to revel in it.

Instead, I felt fear.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I'm back.

I hadn't planned on leaving, but as we all know, not all of life can be shared with the wide wide world on a screen. I had to take some time to live life before I could write about it. But there are things I want to tell you - like the time I went swimming with my kids and did not care, even a little bit, about being in a bathing suit. Or that time I took four kids out of state alone - and actually had fun. I want to tell you what I learned from the Holy Week liturgy this year, and how healing happens so slowly, and even the things you think should be easy never are. I want to share some new friends I've made along the way. So I'm coming back.

I hope you are well, too. I've missed you guys. It's good to see you again.

on the less-than-perfect childhood

Thursday, January 22, 2015

click here to find photo credit (and a recipe for oatmeal)
He's standing on the kitchen counter.

I look over and see the familiar leather school shoes against the cuff of jeans that aren't quite too short. Balanced between a peanut butter jar and a loaf of bread, his head is in the spice cabinet, and he's searching for ... what? Everything he could need is already on the counter. Oatmeal bubbles on the stove, and I'm working fast. Nobody wants pasty oatmeal. I reach for nuts, vanilla, and cinnamon while removing the boiling pot from the heat. Kids are swarming around, lunch and breakfast prep are both underway, and he's standing on the kitchen counter.

"See?" I said, and I heard my own note of irritation. "You ask to help me in the kitchen, and then you get in here and mess around. That's frustrating."

walking in the dark

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Yesterday marked six months. Six months since I saw my son's life pull away from us like a wave, then wash back two minutes later. Six months since I realized children can just ... die. You can give them the very best of who you are, you can feed them fruits and vegetables and curtail their media and make sure they go to bed on time, and still they can wander away and just die. As my friend said so eloquently, my life stood on a razor's edge that day. No matter what happens - and we had the best possible outcome - you can never go back.

I'm on Huffington Post today!

I'm over at Huffington Post, sharing an open letter to Millenials. You probably hate open letters, right? Usually they aren't my style either. But this one is different. I'm not poking fun, and I'm not ranting. I'm sharing why we need Millenials to do exactly what they are doing.

"I'm a Gen-Xer, and the media once disparaged my generation too. We were the latch key kids, the ones who raised ourselves while our mothers climbed the corporate ladder for the first time. I grew up in public schools back when children were still left behind, and I remember reading the articles (in print, of course) despairing how my generation would ever be educated enough to lead. They were wrong about us, too. I see you, and I remember what it felt like to be 23. To be convinced if I loved hard enough, worked long enough, hoped big enough, I too could change the world."

You can read more here.

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