gel toothpaste. it don’t work.

“That’s gel toothpaste. It don’t work,” she said matter of factly.  I looked at the tube of toothpaste I was holding, a brand I didn’t recognize, and I told her I would go look for another type in the closet full of toiletries that can be shared with the homeless women who make their way to the church every Sunday evening for a meal, a shower, and a place to sleep.

I returned with Kid’s Crest, of which she took gladly because that “gel toothpaste is awful.” I told her she should take the kid toothbrush also because the toothbrush I found was less than desireable. I held it out to assure her I wasn’t holding out on her, and she again said, “Eww, that’s a gel toothbrush, too. It don’t work either.”

I looked at her with sincerety and curiousity—-“ I didn’t know this was a gel toothbrush or that was gel toothpaste. I’ve never used it.”

She looked at me like I was not so smart and smirked as she exclaimed, “Well, you hadn’t been there, so how would you know?!?!”

In the next three seconds it all hit me; any confusion I had was cleared right up as I realized she wasn’t saying “gel toothpaste” or “gel toothbrush.” She was saying JAIL toothpaste and JAIL toothbrush!

Aahhhhhh. Indeed, she was correct. I have, thankfully, never been in jail and never had to use their toothpaste or toothbrush. 

It was a funny moment, but also a bit sobering. By the grace of God, I haven’t spent any time in jail. By the grace of God, I won’t spend any time in jail in my future. Sometimes someone who has walked a rocky road sheds light on my smooth road. May I always take note—-not that I am better than them or have worked harder than them or am smarter than them, but that the grace of God has marked my life in ways that drastically made my path smooth. Not easy, but smooth. And I am grateful.

Moral of the story? Stay out of jail. Their toothpaste is terrible.

Adorning the Dark by Peterson, a review

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Adorning The Dark by Andrew Peterson

Currently, I am sitting in the living room with Molly eating lo mein noodles while Rolo watches every move she makes.  Mack is taunting the dog and begging Molly for a taste of her food. Ruby is in and out of the kitchen while they wait for some appetizers to be finished. The tv blares with the LSU football game. I sit here with my laptop open, my stomach hurting (I have GOT to take my lactose intolerance more seriously), and I can’t eat anything they are about to devour—nor do I enjoy football or anything that comes on tv for that matter. Yet, I don’t want to disappear into my little upstairs sanctuary. I want to be with everyone—I think. Lots of talking, lots of smells, lots of loud commercials. 

But I am typing in order to encourage someone to read more this coming year. I absolutely love to read. I currently have about four books going at the same time, a habit I have doubted, but not broken over the last few years. I think one book at a time is a great goal, but I am sometimes stuck in the carpool lot and only have one certain book in my purse, so I read. Then, at night before bed, I look over to my nightstand and see a different book, so I read. Sometimes I am upstairs in my office and pick up yet a different book on my desk, so I read. Hence, three books going at once. Can’t seem to help it. 

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson is a book about using one’s creativity for God, in particular the creative work of words. Writing. He shares his journey, his struggles, his victories and God’s grace all along the way. I particularly took away this simple truth:  Writing is work. Hard, hard work. Early on in the book, he says, “At the risk of repeating myself, this is how it works. It’s not magic. It’s work. You think, you walk, you think some more, you look for moments to hammer it out on the piano, then you think again.”

His analogies between creative work and nature were insightful. “Sometimes you’ve done all the planting you need to do, and it’s time to start weeding the garden.” (page 43)

He mentions songs as 100-meter dashes and books as marathons. “They both take work. Different kinds of work, but it’s all work.” (page 77)

He recommends Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which I am about to order after I finish writing this post. And he shares the importance of boiling down your writing to what is most excellent, most needed, most essential. Much of the work I probably need to work on in my writing is what to leave out. He shares a quote by Lamott—“The best thing you can do to write your book is to stop not doing it. Just stop it.”  So simple. So true.

He recommends Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer and encourages artists to find “resonators.” “They need someone who gets what you’re trying to do, who is moved by your work and will encourage you to keep fighting when the battle is long.” (page 145) I’ve done a few things this past year to put myself around “resonators,” and I have taken note of those ladies in my life who usually reach out with a word of encouragment to me after a blog is posted. These sweet faces make up my audience. They are all most definitely worth any work I do with words. 

As a writer (still unsure I should call myself that?), I am often discouraged in the process. I am bombarded with my lack and many voices saying, ‘What’s the use? Who really cares?’ Peterson lays out encouragement in the last chapter and shares his own vulnerabilities, challenging anyone who has a story, to share that story.  “One day, perhaps, when I’m dead and gone, and my songs and stories lie in the ruins of some old forest and no one remembers my name, whatever good and beautiful and human thing that he King of Creation called forth from me will fall to the earth and grow brambly and wild, and some homesick and hungry soul will leave the well-worn path and say, ‘Look! Someone lived here. Praise God, there are berries everywhere.’”

It’s hard here on this broken earth to believe in the good that God has given to each one of His children, to actually put to use the talents that belong to God and are to be stewarded in you and in me. As Andrew Peterson puts it, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor, too, by making worlds and works of beauty that blanket the earth like flowers. Let your homesickness keep you always from spiritual slumber. Remember that it is in the fellowship of saints, of friends and family, that your gift will grow best, and will find its best expression.”

So, I highly recomment Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson.  You will be challenged, encouraged, and enlightened on your journey to use creative outlets for God’s glory. And maybe I will share more book reviews over the coming months—as soon as I finish the four books I have going at the moment. Happy Reading!

Two Rules.

Two Rules for My Sanity

I was weary of walking upstairs and glancing in the girls’ rooms and seeing messes. Clothes scattered. Beds unmade. Dishes strown here and there. And overflowing trashcans. Mack’s room, which is across from our room, was no better. Messy, messy people that will clean up “tomorrow.” Always tomorrow. Well, I had enough. But I wasn’t willing to rant and rave; and I was out of energy to force them to follow through with actually cleaning up their rooms. Instead, I implemented Rule #1: CLOSE YOUR BEDROOM DOOR. It was simple, really. And maybe you think I am lazy. I’m ok with that because I most definitely am not. I am tired. And I am in need of some easy in my life where I can get it. So, CLOSE YOUR BEDROOM DOOR seemed to solve my constant agitation. If I found things of theirs around the house, I would just make a stack and take it to the kid’s room, open the door and set it on the floor in their room, squinting my eyes shut so I couldn’t make out the mess and close the door back.

So Rule #1, CLOSE YOUR BEDROOM DOOR AND KEEP IT CLOSED, probably got us in the perdicament we were in yesterday when I had to implement Rule #2…

Nothing strikes panic in my heart like the words, “Mom, the dryer isn’t working.” I sit paralyzed for a few minutes and then will myself to walk up the stairs, praying all the while that the kid is just temporarily confused about how to turn on the dryer. (I mean, this wouldn’t be a stretch considering this kid had 8 loads of laundry to do because of major procrastination. read: laziness. Read: she has kept her door closed for a couple of weeks now) 

But, indeed, the dryer wouldn’t start. Josh piddled around and figured it was likely a blown fuse. I called a repairman who said he could come tomorrow. I was fine with that, considering this is Christmas week, but I also couldn’t stand the thought of not having a working dryer and having wet, clean clothes sitting for over 24 hours. And what if it wasn’t just a fuse? And what if I had to spend my Christmas at a laundromat while the rest of the world enjoyed Christmas? (I know—dramatic and ridiculous and wouldn’t have happened, but I NEEDED these clothes clean and put away and I NEEDED my dryer to work.)

So with the repairman coming to see us tomorrow, I piled all the clothes in the car and went to a laundromat, where in 1 and a half hours I was finished washing, drying, and folding eight loads of laundry.  

In this process, I realized that I was washing enough towels to keep a small army showered and dry. I counted the people in my family again…still only five…and then decided that each kid will receive ONE clean towel, ONE clean washcloth and ONE clean handtowel. I had already whittled their towel stash down to two each because I noticed a ridiculous amount of towel loads, yet somehow they had found the extra towels…I am sure they were out of their two clean towels and just took matters into their own hands, building their towel stash back up to 75 towels each. Or something like that. 

I explained to each kid why they were receiving ONE clean towel, washcloth and handtowel and told them what I would do if I were them about actually doing their laundry on a regular basis.

Rule #2- Use your ONE towel, washcoth and handtowel. Wash, dry and fold your ONE towel, washcloth and handtowel. Repeat.  

So maybe you, too, feel like a bit of a failure when it comes to having taught your kids about simple cleaning techniques or proper laundry habits. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. Our lovely world of social media doesn’t quite highlight crusty plates and overflowing garbage coming from your teen’s room.  And no one wants to hear my rant about abusing one’s use of towels. But sometimes we need to share our challenges and some of our new rules so that some other mom in the world knows they aren’t struggling alone. I hope you will implement Rule #1 or Rule #2 if it will help you end your year without a mental breakdown. Merry Christmas!

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And even though each of these kids gives me gray hair in their own unique ways, I love them dearly and enjoyed spending an evening at dinner with them and Josh talking about life, enjoying good food and looking at Christmas lights. I think I will keep them.

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WHACK-A-MOLE

Whack-a-Mole.

Have you ever played the Whack-a-mole game? You hold a big hammer and as the mole sticks his head out of the hole, you whack it over the head back into its hole and get points for success. Oddly, I never found much success. Just not quick enough. Just not sly enough to know which little mole was gonna really stick his head up for me to whack.

I recall a young mom writing a blog about kids’ bedtime being like whack-a-mole. It was hilariously true….you think you have all the kids settled and then one of them appears out of nowhere, “I’m thirsty.” You handle that kid’s need and swiftly get that kid back in bed only to spot another one out of bed by the time you get back downstairs. And on and on this goes and then the author of the funny blog concludes that Bedtime should be in the morning when mom is well-rested. It’s a cute story and one I related to when I read it, though our little mole was just Molly…over and over and over again popping out of bed.

But this blog isn’t intended to focus on bedtime troubles. My kids are at ages that they tuck me in bed on occassion. Mama is tired and can’t function past 9:00 very well.

But the whack-a-mole illustration came to mind when a problem arose, and I was frustrated because I am usually pretty good with this certain area, so I was surprised that I was challenged and feeling defeated. I said to myself, “Just when you get a few things going in the right direction, WHAM! Something you usually don’t worry about ends up taking you out.” 

 I recall a few recent past success….

BAM! The “mole” of all the tests and quizzes and grades and homework. It was so hard to get a handle on what was my role and what was each kids’ role with our transition to traditional school, but we have gotten into a rhythm. It isn’t perfect, but I don’t check their grades every four hours anymore. And I don’t ask them about grades as soon as they get in the car at the end of the day. And I don’t sit with Mack throughout his whole homework session. Whacking that mole back into its place. 

BAM! My attitude about something has been R-O-T-T-E-N lately, and I was having a hard time shaking it. I would get in the mire of negativity and feel like I would drown there. But, God helped me in several ways, and I was grateful and it felt like shackles dropped off my wrists and freedom was sweet. Whacking that attitude back in place. 

BAM! I have been tracking my food on a health app and chatting with a nutritionist some in order not to take ten steps back during the holidays with food choices. This isn’t easy, and I actually do not like journaling every bit of food I eat, but you better believe I feel like a winner over the “mole” of mindless eating or emotional eating during this busy season. Whacking that fork out of my hand every now and then is needed.

And I could go on. Steps of freedom. Steps of obedience. Steps toward people. Steps closer to health. 

So when this last “mole” popped up, I didn’t even have my hammer in my hand to whack it back where it belongs. No, I sat there and had a conversation with it and let it ruin my yard. I let it stick around and convince me of my rights and what I deserve and how unfair life is sometimes and how this problem will probably always be with this way. 

On the way to school this morning, Mack was reciting his Bible memory verse. James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” 

God gives wisdom. God expects that we will need it. God generously gives His wisdom if I ask. So instead of just letting that mole keep living in my mind and wreaking havoc, I got out the hammer of God’s Word and asked for wisdom in how to best handle this situation. And I can trust that at the right time, He will ensure I have the wisdom I need to make the next right decision in my situation. I immediately felt relief and felt a softness come to my heart towards what I was dealing with. It was so simple once I obeyed a truth I had heard a thousand times.

How about you? Do you have a situation that needs a big old whack of God’s Word to set things in order? Do you need His wisdom? Have you asked? Or are you still relying on your own skills and wit to get the job done? Get the hammer of God’s Word out and get to whacking at what is trying to ruin you. Don’t just sit there, helpless. You aren’t!

2 Corinithians 10:5 “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

 

thanksgiving. solitude. compassion.

Well, I made it through Thanksgiving.

And while I enjoyed being with family, there was a constant heaviness of loss with my mom not being here.

Oh, I tried to just keep moving, stay busy, wash the dishes, stir the Mac-n-cheese, make sure I had all the food set out.

But there was a weirdness to the whole day that I couldn’t shake. Just a realization all over again of how different life is now.

I know holidays are going to be different–everyone says the “firsts” are the hardest. But you can’t cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas just because you’re not exactly feeling festive.

Life goes on. The sun sets and rises on its same schedule.

As I laid in bed Thanksgiving night wide awake, I kept thinking back over that horrible morning in May.  And I kept wondering over and over and over again, “WHAT HAPPENED?!” How in the world is this my reality? What the heck happened?

As I read Matthew 14 this past week, I noticed with new perspective Jesus’ response in his grief over John the Baptist’s death.

Verse 13 says “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself…”

Jesus heard the horrible, traumatic news of John’s gruesome death and felt the weight of it. This time of year we dwell on the fact that Jesus came to earth in a body–and all of its frailty and limits.  He felt hunger. He felt physical pain. He felt joy. He felt the heaviness of grief and wanted to be alone.

It’s ok if I want to be alone and to have more moments of quiet instead of parties. God has allowed this season of life to be one where I have plenty of time for solitude, for prayer, for groans and big sighs. I am grateful for all of those times.

But, like Jesus, who once He went ashore after His time alone, “saw a large crowd and felt compassion for them,” I hope I will have more compassion for other people when I am out and about these next few weeks preparing for and celebrating Christmas–in the mall, in the grocery store, in my neighborhood and with my family.

Jesus repeatedly met major needs for people and then sent the crowds away. I think this is a beautiful invitation in this Christmas season (and every day!)– to draw near to Him for help and healing and comfort and peace and then go out and BE the light and hope of Christ. There is no better time of the year to shine! A weary world is waiting…