Unexpectedly Expecting

My hair falls around my face, like gravity is pulling at my temples. I brace against the bathroom counter so my shoulders point at my ears, and I hold on with all I’ve got because I can’t quite wrap my mind around the reality of that second faint line on the stick.

The rim of the sink is cold, sterile-looking as I speak. “Babe, get in here.”

Just two days earlier he’d brought an anniversary card. We knew the weight of the words it scripted. I’d told him how this was the first celebration in several years that seemed happy.

You see, that bending posture, those buckling knees had become familiar when Chase and I almost didn’t make it through the marriage thing. Much of our story has not been told in this venue. So many times I’d clutched the edge of something, mouthed through blurring tears, I just don’t know if I can do this.

“Are you sure? How did this happen?” he asks me.
Oh, I think you know, Buster.
“The line is barely…are you sure?”
“Yes. Trust me, I’ve taken enough of these to know. Plus the four other positive tests are difficult to dispute.”

A few nights later when the house is silent, when my fears grow large, and I struggle to make sense of what’s true, I get eye to eye with the One that can settle my heart. The One who has promised to never leave me though life may leave me ragged. It’s enough to cause me to take the first real breath since I found out.

I call my mom to tell her and get this, she laughs. Right out loud and everything.
“Well the way you said it was so…”
“Like, why not?”
Why not build our own house, get a puppy for Christmas and throw a pregnancy on top? Why, the hell, not? 

It’s been an adjustment, happy as we may be. I wake up tired, feeling like I just went through the bulky cycle of the washer. I gag every time I brush my teeth, though I kinda do that anyway. Meals are every two hours. Though again, nothing much different there. I can’t stomach coffee, which is sacrilegious. And it’s all hit me faster than my brain can catch up. But I also know, I get to have a baby. I do not take for granted the gift that some would offer their soul to have.

“I still can’t believe you’re pregnant,” Chase says to me. “Oh my gosh, we’re going to be that family with all the kids.”

So we’re doing this. I take pause in the home he’s building us with his own two hands, where he’s shoveled 4 foot drifts for a concrete truck and organized every inspection with the county. Where we’ve prayed that this wouldn’t be our house but His. The place we want to make memories and bless and love well and do life. It’s in the center of the framed up living room when I look around and the swell hits me in the chest. You’ve given so much, brought us through when I thought You wouldn’t, and have filled this home in ways we never expected.

A friend who knows our story texted me after she heard the news. She’d uttered them over me, in my deepest season of hopelessness.
“I think you will have another baby. A healing baby to show the restoration of your marriage.”

Take hope my friends. Silent storms rage behind the scenes and though they may not be spoken of to very many, He is tender towards every tear you drop in secret. There is the other side. And when you think you can’t do it, you can. I’m living proof.


Just When I Think I’m the Teacher

I find her curled into herself, all knobby knees to her chest and tears sticky on her cheeks. She loves them to stay there, craves for me to see their dramatic fall. It’s the stuff of an aspiring teenager and that’s about enough to take the wind right out of me- the changing I’m witnessing.
With elbows on my legs I bend to meet her gaze and ricochet her emotions.

“You’re angry. I get it that Mondays are tough. And I see you.”

“I just hate going to school because it’s so hard for me and I couldn’t find my other slipper and I’m freezing (oh, the desperation). I want to be home with my family.” (Ah, yes. Bringing out the big “family” bomb sounding so well and good.)

We were in the aftermath of the flinging bootie, her burst of growling. I saw myself plain as day in those angry eyes.
“I’m really glad we had two days together. What if our government made you go to school 7 days a week?” (Which at the moment was tempting me beyond what I could handle.)

The brother interjects just like a brother. “Yeah. At least you have the weekend.” Not now, oh righteous one. Eat your Fruit Loops quietly. 

“Then we would get longer summers.”

“What if you didn’t? What if you had to go to a school where you couldn’t pick your own friends and the teachers made you hate God or you got in trouble?”

Why? Why do I say things like this? Guh. 

“I would still love Him.”
The crease in her forehead relaxes to curiosity. “Are there schools like that?”

“I don’t know.” It’s then I consider stopping but that would be wise and stuff so, I keep going.  “But there are people who lose their lives and even their heads for trusting in Jesus and not following other faiths.” And I believe in my bones He weeps at each family and limb torn apart, for every child found face-down on the beach or bloody and forgotten, every ounce of pain in every lonely mother.
“What’s great about where we live is we have the right to guns so we can protect ourselves.” I say it aloud so they’ll feel safe, and how do I explain that death means nothing when we know where we’re headed? How do I really even explain it to myself? Because what, Lord, of the things happening that words can’t contain? It’s heavy, too much.

The day moves on with a morning bell, an exhale in the car once the noise of the three of them hits the school sidewalk, me cursing my decision to say oh the many things. I scrub at tacky milk spills on the table and pick up wadded toilet paper from the floor and think, thank You that I never have to tell them we don’t have breakfast…or food at all. Thank You for not asking us to hide or risk being murdered. 

We get a mailer of a handsome boy in Africa whose name we try pronouncing. We’re told of the way he doesn’t learn ABC’s or 123’s because he has to work for his family at his tender 6 years old. How the prevalence of auto-immune diseases threaten his existence, and his favorite food is rice.

I become frustrated at their giggling, their poking each other’s sides in tickling. When I’ve washed my hands of them, put them to bed, she sneaks down to me in the dim light coming from above the stove. As I whip around to march her back to her room I see the way her hands cup the box. Tears come again but this time she’s keeping them full, rounded like bubbles at the crests of her lids.

“Here, Mom. He needs this more than I do.” The words hang in the kitchen with the lingering smells of dinner. I choke and grab her to me, the whole of her many months of saved dollars smashed between us. The doll she’s giving up, an afterthought.

Just when I think I’m the one teaching, she gives me the lesson of my life.

“…and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
      …for they put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”   -Mark 12:41-44


“Perfectly Willing to be Perfectly Human”

Midwestern cold knows not mercy. It crawls and creeps into every crevice until even the breath you take is sharp against your lungs. The kind of bitter that leaves you nauseously trying to warm your fingers against your dad’s chest when you wear the wrong gloves.

I held the barrel as steady as I could but still it wavered. My adrenaline made it difficult to sight in that small spot behind the shoulder where he’d always told me to aim. On an exhale, with the heat of my breath forming moisture beads on the gun, I closed my eyes and pulled tight the trigger. The deer never took another step.
“You got ‘im,” my dad said. All his words were edged with giddiness and somehow the mistake of washing my hair with Pantene instead of doe urine was forgotten. (I may be admitting a near 20-year secret that this wasn’t by accident. Sorry Dad- we all have our limits.)

Trauma works in a similar manner. Sounds, smells, images on a billboard or commercial, and suddenly like the deer I cannot take another step. It’s a bullet between the eyebrows of my past. Unseen until it’s too late.

This anxiety disorder thing I became aware of when I was thirteen and pimpled. This thing I’m still learning to manage almost two decades later. It can throw me into defeat about as fast as a deer drops. I start to believe I’m stuck and wonder if I’ll forever be doomed to a life of fear. Talk of hope begins to feel like a hoax.

Professionals call it “all-or-nothing” thinking. Isn’t that a dainty little package? I prefer to name it a “slippery slope of lies,” or possibly even “perfectionism.”

When I can pull myself far enough away from this type of thought-processing I start to ask questions like: What if I embrace the difficult, ugly bits of my life along with the graceful? How would it look to say yes to the hard the way I say yes to the easy? What if beauty is in the ashes and connection happens from being vulnerable about our wounds?

“What if part of God’s message to the world was you? The true and real you?”   -Donald Miller, Scary Close

My past doesn’t define me. Speak. Believe. Repeat.
But it is part of my story. And I think that might just be okay.

“I am willing to sound dumb.
I am willing to be wrong.
I am willing to be passionate about something that isn’t perceived as cool.
I am willing to express a theory.
I am willing to admit I’m afraid.
I’m willing to contradict something I’ve said before.
I’m willing to have a knee-jerk reaction, even a wrong one.
I’m willing to apologize.
I’m perfectly willing to be perfectly human.”   -Donald Miller, Scary Close

Whispers of Adventure

They were like raindrops on paper, nearly undetectable with a simple glance. Right there in the middle of my pillow, forced through the sheet were five nail brads. 

Don’t react, I told myself. It’s only the most sacred of places where I lay my head after the children have been awake all the livelong day and are finally perfect- as in asleep. But don’t panic. 
I called my son upstairs because let’s face it, girls don’t randomly want to puncture furniture with sharp objects. Very often. 
“Um,” I said pointing to the nightmare before me. “Were you mad or what made you want to do this?”
“All right so what’s up?”
“I don’t know.” 
Wildly insufficient right now, Sir. “What were you mad about?”
“Always having to do stuff I don’t want to do.”
“I get that. I don’t like doing stuff I don’t like too. Actually I’m frustrated right now so should I go cut up your favorite ball cap?”
“No.” His voice cracked just a bit as the pieces of understanding started to fall together. “But the girls told me to do it.”
Yeah, no. “Let’s come up with better ways to be angry.” And by the way you don’t get candy, well, ever again.  
It’s not even this civilized sometimes. In the four weeks since they’ve been out of school I’ve already found myself not wanting to parent several times. A day. I get into a pattern of trying to manage them apart from me instead of engaging. It becomes a chant. 
“Don’t touch that.”
“Get down. Settle down. Slow down.”
“Quit it.”
“Take that out of your mouth.”
“Why did you hit her, cut those, carve this…” 
To which they say, “I’m about to pull down my pants so you better get out of my room!” 
These aren’t the kinds of coping skills I’m modeling for them, I assure you. Hilarious though it may be. 
Last night I did one of those desperate pleas to my husband: “I beg of you. Please. I must get coffee. Alone.” They weren’t sentences, just a series of gasps. I took with me a book that had radically changed my approach to parenting when I first read it, and my own understanding of God’s view of us.
“I think a Father’s job, when it’s done best, is to get down on both knees, lean over his children’s lives, and whisper, ‘Where do you want to go?’ 
God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us,  He whispers, ‘Let’s go do that together.” -Bob Goff, Love Does
This comes from a chapter where Mr. Goff describes taking all three of his kids on an adventure when they turned ten. It’s a dramatic act of whimsy that celebrates thinking outside of schedules and preparation. Literally, he and his daughter leave for Europe a week after she suggests she’d like to sip tea in the fashion of royalty. 
When I got home I snuggled between my oldest two and draped my daughter’s legs over my own while we watched Harry Potter. Imaginary worlds and heroism in the face of evil- past bedtime? Let’s do this together. 
“…when Jesus invites us on an adventure, He shapes who we become with what happens along the way.” -Bob Goff

Breathing the Bracing Air of Liberty


“True patriotism springs from a belief in the dignity of the individual, freedom and equality not only for Americans but for all people on earth, universal brotherhood and good will, and a constant and earnest striving towards the principles and ideals on which this country was founded.”   -Eleanor Roosevelt

“The Founding Fathers established a nation under God; ruled not by arbitrary decrees of kings or the whims of entrenched elites but by the consent of the governed. Theirs was the vision of a striving, God-fearing, self-reliant people… Living in the sunlight of justice and breathing the bracing air of liberty.”  -Ronald Reagan

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  -Declaration of Indepedence

“Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”  -Benjamin Franklin

  “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”  -Harry S. Truman

“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men…”  -John Adams

In the Belly of My Closet

It isn’t a thumping like they say in books. Nor does it sound like the hard edging of her slipper hitting the floor- bomp, bomp, bomp. It’s a river, a desperate rush of adrenaline that mimics the overflow of our Colorado spring.

I am stuffed into the dark belly of my closet, clogging my ears with fingertips so the only thing I hear is my pulse. Crouched and spent I begin to speak honestly.
I’m unraveling. I can’t do this well.

Because I could scream and cuss and take out all my frustration on them the way they’ve been doing with each other. God knows I want to.
Oh I’m sorry, do those statements make you uncomfortable? Well. Welcome to the guts of good parenting. The place where you put yourself in timeout for the sanctity of everyone’s survival. The moment that brings a meshing of surrender and relief. Sometimes it’s enough to just choke out loud, “I cannot. Do. Another second.”

Her screaming seeps through to my hearing and so I make a mad dash to the door. “Is there something you need?” I ask as she flails in the hallway.
“I don’t want to be out here!”
I consider kneeling down to join her but how would that be helpful. “We are all split up and taking a break. You need to look at books quietly before you can get up.” And also so I don’t call the psychiatric ward on myself. 

The morning has been reduced to this. The broken glass because he was doing chores because he’d hit his sister because she was copying his every nuance because her sister was egging her on because no one in this house can have breakfast in civil fashion.

Summer vacation is supposed to be laughing and pools and s’mores and relaxation and book-reading and you know, a vacation. But the thing is, they are always, just always there. And they are always fighting. (Ok not always.)     

When I can finally trust that my voice will stay at manageable levels I gather them close. We sit on legs, feet, and the little one rolls on her back. I approach with a question since listening, I’ve learned, is actually more telling.

“What do you think about how things have been going? How do you feel about the way we’ve been acting?”
“Stressed,” says the oldest with a half-smile. Don’t start with me, girl. 
“What do you mean by?” says the other with her toes in the air.

“Pick one of these: sad, mad glad, scared.”


“Yeah, and why?”

“Because she was-”

“Eh!” I close my eyes in dramatic gesture. Maybe there are times when they need to listen. “We’re all guilty here. And we don’t treat each other the way we have been. We’re a team that has each other’s backs, loves well, and helps out.”

“Ok but can I play the Ipad?

What have I…don’t even…”No.”

“Let’s all try to do better.”

They scatter and I open the fridge to find the milk jug decorated in my son’s signature design. Some things aren’t worth the energy.

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy

My bedroom feels new since we put in blackout curtains. Hanging them may have been the smartest decision of my adult life. So when my youngest comes in all snuggled as a bug on my stomach, it’s easy to drift into the serenity of our breathing.

“Hm?” I keep my eyes closed.
“No, Mommy?” She demands my full attention as well as visual contact. If I play dead she will stop this early morning insanity.

“Mom? Mommy? Mommy?”

I consider not inhaling, or exhaling.


Don’t. Give. In.

She becomes music, matching what was once our rhythmic slumber. “Mo-mmy, Mo-mmy, Mo-mmy.”

“What.” Period intended.

“Does maybe mean yes?”

Are you for real right now? 

Folks, it’s only week one of summer break.