Sunday, July 23, 2017

Birthday Candle Magic




This birthday feels different.

Maybe it's because it's the last year of my thirties. Age 39 tends to be synonymous with midlife crisis, but if that's what I'm experiencing, I don't think it's a crisis at all.

It's more like an awakening. A rebirth. A holy epiphany.

I had 5 babies in one decade. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Just like that. Well, actually, no. Not just like that. Not just like that at all.

The last 4 were c-sections, so it was more like being strapped down, belly up, on a cold, metal dissecting table and being splayed open from hip to hip like a specimen in biology lab.

Strange alien lifeforms were extracted from my abdomen under a harsh florescent light. Now I live with these creatures every day and teach them words and show them how we humans do things.

It is a wonder to behold.

I remember the woman who blew out her candles last year. Overweight. Unhappy. A stranger in her own skin. Hiding behind the safety of the words wife and mother. Unable to recall who she really was because she had given too many bits and pieces of herself away.

She closed her eyes that day and made a secret wish for things to be different, for her life to radically change. Then, in the flickering light of her birthday candles, she took a deep breath and blew forth the winds of change. She must have ignited a tiny spark, too, that lit her up and made her glow on the inside.

Maybe it was some kind of birthday candle magic.

Today, after a swim meet in San Antonio, I caught the reflection of a woman in the glass doors of our hotel. She looked vaguely familiar, like someone I remembered from my past. I took a step forward, and so did she. I lifted my arm to open the door, and she did, too.

I looked again, only this time more closely.

I was struck by the fierceness and courage in her eyes. She looked strong. She looked happy. She looked whole.

I could barely recognize her, but it was me. We were at this very hotel a year ago, but I wasn't the same me back then. I remember sitting poolside in a deck chair, fully-clothed, while my kids swam in the hotel pool.

I was THAT mom.

The one who made excuses for why she couldn't swim with her kids. The one who was missing out on making memories.

But not this year.

This year, I bought a bathing suit. This year, I wore it. In public. No more excuses. No more missing out.

My New Year's Resolution this year was one word:

Transform.

I had already spun myself into a cocoon when I chose it. I knew I was in the midst of a metamorphosis.  So I waited patiently in the quiet darkness for God to do His thing.

And, lo and behold, wings.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Unknowing



"Courage is a love affair with the unknown." ~Osho


I'm sitting on a fishing pier in The Galleon Bay on South Padre Island. 

The hot Texas sun glistens on the water as it laps against wooden boat docks. The wind lifts my hair all around me. 

I feel like Drew Barrymore in Fire Starter

A woman with fiery red hair in a thick french twist casts her line in the water. She reels it in and casts again. A bearded man in a white apron flips steaks on a grill. Wafts of charcoal smoke curl up into question marks all around me. 

I'm breathing it all in--waiting for the words to come. That's how you know you're a writer. You swallow up everything around you and spit it back out in words. 

I started writing after Cohen died. 

Perhaps I had swallowed far, far too much sorrow. Yet, my insides were empty and bloated with grief. I could not contain it all. I guess I'm a little bit Taylor Swift. When I get my heart broken, I have to write about it. 

Sorrow comes out through my fingertips.

Every heartbreak contains within it an epiphany. It's a lot like a fortune cookie. Sometimes we have to be cracked wide open to find profound wisdom inside.

When my baby died I had lots of questions. Actually, I still do. But now, instead of needing answers, I am learning to make friends with uncertainty.

Questions encircle me like wafts of charcoal air and I breathe them in. 

I am learning to live inside the tension they create. The tension between restlessness and fulfillment. Between happiness and sorrow. Between childlike faith and manifold disbelief. 

Questions are what stretch us into what we are becoming. Questions are the rubberbands that catapult us forward on the slingshot of life. 

It takes courage to live with questions. Courage is a love affair with the unknown. Her gaze is shrouded in mystery. 

But when you touch her, she feels like home.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Reluctant Runner



"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our

eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." ~Hebrews 12:1-2





I'm doing my first 10k today.

But it's not just my first 10k-- it's my first ANY k. I hate running.

And yet, here I stand, buckling my two littlest into a jogging stroller. The older one is wearing a Nike tee with My Time Will Come inked in blue. I'm pinning my racing number to the front of my shirt... 643.

And why did I sign up for this?

Because. When you're done having babies and you hit midlife, you have to start investing in yourself again (or so I've been told).

So that is what I am doing: "Investing in myself."

We roll up to the starting line right before the race begins. We are dead last. But I'm not in it to win it, so no worries.

...And we're off!

The chatty Cathies in front of us are more interested in rehashing the zombie show they've been binge-watching on Netflix than they are in actually working up a sweat.

One of them asks the others, "Do ya'll bitches wanna run?"

Another snaps back, "Hell the fuck no."

Time to pass on the left.

As much as I am enjoying eavesdropping on this conversation, little ears are listening. But now the complaining begins.

"Mommy, I want to get out of the stroller." She flicks a flower she picked earlier.

"No," I answer adamantly, picking up my pace. "You are not getting out of this stroller."

"But mommy, I want to run!" she whines.

"This is not about you," I shout with short, choppy breaths. "I'm running and you are riding in the stroller with your sister."

"But, please can I get out? Please?" She is relentless.

I stop and squat down to her level. My doe-eyed three year-old sucks her pacifier and looks back and forth at both of us.

Suck-Suck-Suck...Blink-Blink-Blink.

"You know what?" I ask rhetorically, unbuckling her. "Fine. Get out and run. Let me know when you get tired and want to ride in the stroller again."

I take the scunci from around my wrist and throw her hair into a messy bun on the top of her head. She prances off on knobby little Bambi legs, her shiny curls bouncing like an open slinky with each tiny trot.

Runners passing in the opposite direction on their way to the finish line immediately take notice. Praise and adoration for her come pouring in:

"Good job, little lady!"

"Way to go, sweetheart!"

"You can do it, honey!"

"Oh... my bad," I stammer. "This IS about you. This is TOTALLY about you." In a few short minutes, she is out of sight, leaving me and her little sister in the dust. I guess her time finally DID come.

A little while later, she passes me again, this time going the opposite direction on her way to the finish line. She waves and yells, "You can do it, mom!"


Eventually, I crossed the finish line, too. And did I come in dead last?


Hell the f*ck no.


Those zombie bitches behind me did.














Sunday, January 29, 2017

Unorthodox






God works in mysterious ways. 


We've all heard that trite cliché. But I'm gonna venture a step further and say that God is completely unorthodox. He does not conform to your traditions. Your social conventions. Your feel-good philosophies. Your religious dogma. 


God can't be put in a box.


He will use any means necessary to reach you. He uses foolishness. He uses the mundane. He uses the miraculous. Even the inappropriate. He uses methods that perplex and confound the wise.


I write about God a lot. 


I guess I'm a bit of a Jesus-freak. (Sorry not sorry if you're not into that.) 
I can't help it. That's just who I am. But it's because I've seen Him work in my own life. I've heard His voice in my dreams. I've felt His presence in my body. Now do I sound like a weirdo? Well, I guess I'm okay with that.


I'm not the only weirdo, though. 


Two-thousand years ago, Mary got knocked up while she was still a virgin (Matthew 1:18). That is freaking weird, dude. The Creator of the Universe was growing inside of her. She was making the One who made her. 


Wrap your brain around that.



In the Old Testament, God made a donkey speak to Balaam to prevent him from pronouncing a curse on the Israelites (Numbers 22). He made the sun stand still in the sky at Joshua's request so the Israelites could defeat the Amorites in battle (Joshua 10). He told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and make babies just to illustrate a simile: "for like an adulterous wife, this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord" (Hosea 1). He commanded the prophet Isaiah to walk around naked for three years just to send a message and talk smack to some foreign kings (Isaiah 20). 


That's how God does international diplomacy.


But perhaps you don't believe any of these stories. Perhaps you believe the Bible is foolishness. Outdated. Antiquated. Irrelevent. That's okay. No judgment here.


I, too, once thought I had it all figured out.


But the older I get, the more I realize that I am just beginning to understand the pervasive grace of God. The unfathomable depth of His love for humanity. The lengths He will go to woo me. And the lengths He will go to woo you, too. 



He will never stop pursuing us. 





No matter how far we run.





No matter where we hide.





No matter what we've done.




Saturday, January 7, 2017

Becoming Brave


"For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, 
but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
~2 Timothy 1:7~


The word "timid" has plagued me all my life.

When I was in first grade, the teacher would call us to her desk and make us spell a list of words. If we misspelled one, she would ask us that same word the next day and the following day until we got it right. I spelled all my words correctly except for one. Give you one guess which word I missed.


tim·id
adjective
  1. showing a lack of courage or confidence; easily frightened.


So, of course, I got that same word again the very next day. And the next day. 
And the day after that. I kept getting that word over and over again even though 
I swear I spelled it right. It was like a bad dream. 

A nightmare.

In my young, impressionable mind, that word grew larger and larger day after day until it was as tall as a skyscraper. It was insurmountable. It's towering presence loomed over me. It cast a dark shadow blocking out the sun. It grew an evil mouth that mocked me and laughed his sinister laugh every time I got it wrong.

But it didn't stop there. He grew legs and began to follow me.

Throughout my childhood. Into my teenage years. He has always been near. 
Even now, I can hear him laughing, whispering lies into my ears. Taunting me. 
His cold, bony fingers grip my shoulders, holding me back from all I could be.

But no more. Enough is enough.

Inner demons only have power over us in the darkness. Not in the light of day. When we keep them a secret, we remain a prisoner. Blindfolded. 

Gagged and bound.

"We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind, we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes" (Isaiah 59:9-10). Staggering like a drunkard.


But light dispels the darkness. And the truth shall set you free.


So I'm outing him.












Sunday, January 1, 2017

After the Ball Drops



More than one ball dropped during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve in NYC last night.

If you tuned into ABC on NYE, then you unfortunately saw Mariah Carey drop the ball, too. It was a major fumble. Arguably a worse performance than Mike Weber's slippery hands in the Ohio State blowout game a few hours earlier.

But all football analogies aside, the undisputed Queen of Christmas perhaps had a little too much bubbly to pull off a stellar New Year's Eve performance. It seemed that everyone in Times Square was singing Mariah Carey except for Mariah Carey. The queen definitely lived up to her diva reputation. Scepter in hand.

Worst. Lip-sync fail. Ever.

We had a major fumble at our house last night, too. Right before the ball dropped, mommy and daddy realized we forgot to buy confetti and one of our daughters (give you one guess who) decided to have her own diva moment. Complete pandemonium ensued. But in her defense, what is New Year's Eve without confetti? It's kind of like a Mariah Carey concert with no singing. Am I right?

This is not the first time I have dropped the ball as a mom.

As a wife. As a human being. The only difference is, this year, I'm dropping it on purpose. Just like Elsa, I've decided to let it go.

You remember Elsa, right? The other undisputed queen?

Last year, Elsa ruled Christmas. Every single present we unwrapped had something to do with Frozen. We sang Let It Go so many times the lyrics melted on our tongues like snowflakes. It was Arendelle overload. Even though I now despise that blasted song, I am grateful for one thing:

I, too, am learning to let it go.

I'm letting go of all those hats I force myself to wear. All those plates I've been balancing and spinning in the air. All those balls I've been juggling. That line I've been towing. My need to control everything. To have everything just so. The expectations I've been lording over myself. I let go of the good girl I always had to be.

{Cue Frozen Music}

It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
The fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all

It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I'm free!

{Music Fades}

Something amazing happens when you finally decide to let go.

The ship doesn't sink. Eventually, an able-bodied sailor picks up a mop and swabs the deck. Another mate hoists the anchor. Another reads the skies and takes the helm. Do they always do it the way I would do it? Nope.

But they're doing it. And that's the point.

So thank you, Elsa. Thank you, Anna and all the citizens of Arendelle. Finally, that perfect girl is gone. And I'm totally cool with that. I'm never going back. The past is in the past.

With every fumble, there's always a recovery. It's not always a bad thing to let it go. And I don't care what they're going to say.

It's what happens after the ball drops that matters anyways.