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Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Real life nightmare.  Some people might consider this an exaggeration, but I'm the type of person who thinks of every possible worst case scenario in any given situation. My husband is too, but in a less anxious way.  I thought it was normal until college (actually, there were an awful lot of things I thought were normal until college) when my bff/roommate and I were stranded on the side of the massive highway with a flat tire, dead cell phones, dead car battery and a solid white 15 passenger van with whited-out windows pulled over to help us (or murder us, you decide). I told Amanda that I wasn't opening the door for him but we'd talk through the already cracked open window but if he tried anything sketchy, I'd kick open my door, shoving him into traffic. Don't worry my friend, I have  A PLAN.  A plan indeed.  Luckily that plan was unnecessary and we eventually made it back (but I think we were late for curfew). Amanda made it clear that this was not a normal default. Whatever. The point is, unfortunately, some nightmares happen and there is no time for a real plan.  There is only panic and hustle.

The scene is an average Wednesday morning.  It's becoming winter so it's getting colder and staying darker longer in the mornings.  It was a sleepy morning in our house and Myles and I were procrastinating with the whole "getting up" thing.  I bit the bullet and got up first.  I came out of the bathroom from brushing my teeth to find a sleepy Molli snuggling with her daddy in our bed so I took that as my invitation to snuggle too.  Molli climbed over Myles to get to me and we shared a pillow as I enjoyed snuggling my enormous six year old.  With a six year old, the cuddles are becoming fewer and farther between than ever before.  So I had no choice!  We snuggled until it was clearly time to get a move on.  Molli abandoned us and joined a freshly-awakened Baylor in his crib until it was really time to get going.

We brought the party downstairs to begin a slightly more hurried version of our morning routine.  That being a fancy breakfast of cereal while I braid hair.  We decided on two braids.  I got a brush, comb, spray bottle and hair ties ready, my hair-fixing arsenal. I brushed through her waist length hair while she ate and prepared the braids by parting it down the middle.  That was the beginning of the end for me.  I used the comb to pull the parted hair to it's proper side and spotted something horrible! So horrible.  I pinched up what I feared was a little bug and put it in a ziplock bag.  Bagging icky things in ziplocks is my M.O. in any given situation involving gross things small enough to fit. With an increasing sense of panic, I looked more thoroughly in her hair and spotted another buggaboo.  He joined his partner in the bag.  Now realizing this was not a fluke, I turned the reigns over to Myles and ran upstairs and started stripping sheets with haste.  Every inch of my home needed to be cleaned.  Or burned up. 

I hurried about the house clearing every room of anything that could be contaminated.  She was in my BED!  She was in Baylor's CRIB! Sheets, pillows, recently worn clothes! Since most of my local friends were most likely sleeping still, or getting their own kids ready for school, I did not want to begin a widespread panic and enlist anyone else in this war quite yet.  Instead, I texted an east coast friend who pretty much reinforced my plan A:

My mom works in a school office so she and her fellow secretary are fairly akin to the ins and outs of lice happenings and have knowledge and resources for such an event.  These ladies had my back and gave me a step by step of what needed to happen next.  I took their advice because the cleanup with their plan was a lot easier than the cleanup of the pile of rubble that would have been my home had I gone with plan A and lit the entire house up in flames. I cleaned Molli's room corner to corner, bagged up half her room and the play room, washed all sheets, blankets, pillows, clothes, backpacks, coats, and hats, vacuumed every possible squishy surface and wiped down all the harder types.  My washer and dryer ran nonstop for about two days. (I'm really excited to see our gas bill.)

I saturated Molli's head in olive oil to suffocate any living bugs left (gag) and wrapped it all up in saran wrap (see photo above) then gave her a spot on the (vacuumed) couch on top of towels and handed her the ipad, which was her best friend that day.   We washed her hair with Dawn dish soap to get the oil out then rinsed with vinegar to help the nits come out easier.  She claims that was the worst part of the whole experience.  I suppose if I was six years old, skipping out on all responsibilities and playing with an ipad for hours at a time, that would have been my least favorite part too. Once she was clean and dry I put on my headlamp and did my best momma monkey impression and spent the next three hours picking nits out of her hair.  So fun.  

The entire time I was scouring the house and being a psycho, I was freaking out internally over phantom itches in my own hair.  Seriously, lice induces insanity.  My internal thoughts were an anxious mess and I couldn't stop googling everything.  It was awful.  My AMAZING friend and fellow lice survivor came over and searched my head (what a champ!) then when I got the all-clear, she helped me go back through Molli's hair again.  I slept with oil and plastic wrap on my head, just in case. The thing about nits is that they're itty-bitty.  They're small and not, like, bright purple or something super obvious. They're crazy easy to miss, no matter how closely you look or how bright your headlamp.  For 2-3 hours a pop Molli's head was searched and ridden of all nits.  Hallelujah, we are free! My friend searched my head one more time a few days later, just in case and I started to breathe again.  We re-joined the land of the living and immediately the kids got fevers and we had to coop back up.

(This was pretty much the regular view in my house for a while.  Everyone vegging out watching shows and movies while I searched Molli's head.)

Here are some of my thoughts from the other side:

1. Thank goodness for friends to search heads, deliver iced coffee and babysit lice-free siblings.
2. The internet has a way of making you believe anything.  If you are hoping to not have to clean like a mad-person, you'll find 6,000 sources online saying it's unnecessary.  If you feel dirty and crazy like you need to clean it all, you'll find 12,000 sources saying it's the only way out.
3. You don't need to use chemicals/pesticide shampoo to get rid of lice.
4. It's unpleasant but mostly for the creepy, ick factor.  Lice don't actually harm anything, have diseases or necessarily affect everyone (Molli was the only one in our family who had any!)
5. The length of hair doesn't matter all that much.  As long as it's healthy and not unusually tangled, it takes a while a to nit pick through, but it's not unbearable, and even kind of relaxing when there's nothing left (I can't believe I'm saying that.  I'd turn on an audio book and get comfy). Don't bother considering chopping.
6. Other survivors come out of the woodwork with heaps of sympathy when they find out your battle. It's not a sign of anything dirty or bad parenting (but still such a stigma!).
7. You don't need a magnifying glass to search these things out.  Lighting is key- get a headlamp!
8. Lice (not nits) are certainly contagious, but mostly by head to head contact.  There must be a balance when you have a kindergartner who wants to hug her friends.  For now we are snubbing friends, when we remember.
9. It doesn't have to be such a big deal.  I mean, yes, it totally sucks, but if people could just tell people who might need to be more aware (aka- people who have been in close contact with the person/family) then everyone could be proactive and it wont have to go around and around.  Catch it before it gets out of control! Communication, folks. Day one I was communicating with the school office, nurse and Molli's teacher as well as the childrens ministry director at church, Gavin's teacher and the preschool family with whom we carpool. As well as our close friends.
10. Some facts. Lice are small. They reproduce sexually and the females have one sexual encounter to last their lifetime but can lay several eggs (nits) each day. Lice cannot live more than a day or two off a head. A healthy louse will not purposely leave a head, except to join another head. This is pretty much a death sentence for it. Without wings or hind legs they can't fly or jump.
11. I'm going to be doing regular checks on all my kids for the rest of their lives, and you should too.

So my friends, we survived the nightmare of lice. I'm not proud, but I'm sure why I should bother being ashamed.  We caught it and dealt with it as thoroughly as we could, aside from jumping ship completely. I wracked my brain trying to think of where it could have come from, but the truth is, it doesn't matter.  It's not as uncommon as we all probably assume.  I currently know of 5 families at 5 different local elementary schools with it.  So if you're local, be aware and check your kid's heads!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Molli's growing up!

We've reached a milestone.  Molli is officially in all-day kindergarten at public school.  We've been part of a sweet little private school family for the past couple years and have grown very attached, so it was a big deal to send her off to her new school.  Where there are FOUR kindergarten classes.  Where she will be all day.  Where she will eat lunch. Where she will make new friends whose families are strangers to me. Where I can't just text her teacher and check on her if I feel like it.  It's a little bit of a doozy as a mom to absorb all these changes! I'm not one to breakdown crying about things like this, and I haven't cried, rather I've been floating somewhere between mourning and accepting the passing of her earliest childhood and placing one foot in front of the other as we venture into the great unknown of being a school-kid. I'm still embracing the little kid in her too as I'm still not correcting some of the weird little kid things she says.  Her teacher will be so confused the first time she tells her her nose is "hogged" (clogged, but it's hogged to her!) or any number of little Molli-isms that are worth it to me to keep around for a bit longer!

The Friday before school started Molli went camping with her brother, dad and some family friends.  It was a great time for them, although as I was at home with Baylor I couldn't help but worry about them because, you know, I'm Mom.  More specifically I'm Erin. My little rule breaker couldn't even handle the one rule I set for her for that weekend.  I NEEDED her to stay little for a bit longer and she decided to go on ahead and grow up without me! And by that I mean she chomped into a s'more and her wiggly tooth came out. She didn't realize it at first and spit it out without thinking much of it. Good thing my friend was there!  She's also a mom and knew that the little tooth (which, once upon a time, my baby painstakingly cut through her sweet gums!) needed to be rescued.  It took a team and some flashlights, but the camping gods or the tooth fairy or someone had mercy and it was found! Alas, my baby girl became a big kindergartner with a missing tooth all at once. I'm embracing the hole in the smile though because those big permanent teeth don't have room in there!
So wiggly-- eew!

Translation: The tooth is hidden in an owl. Bring it to mom's room. Back door.

What it means: I made her an owl shaped tooth fairy pillow to put her lost teeth in that hangs on the back of the door.  Thus, the tooth is hidden in an owl.  Back door.  She wanted the tooth fairy to give me the tooth and not take it away.

Reward for a lost tooth!

This big girl has been embracing these new grown up things and is adapting very well.  It sounds like she is making friends at school and is enjoying it so far.  She's gotten up every morning on her own at 6:30 (well, with her alarm clock) and hasn't complained once.  She's even going to bed at night without issue so lets give a big shout out to full day kindergarten for making a dent in a life-long area of struggle!  In the mornings her clock changes from blue to yellow and plays the music to "If You're Happy and You Know It" and I know she wakes up to it because I hear her shout "AMEN!" most mornings at that part of the song.  It's adorable (and saves me a trip to her room to make sure she's up).

We've left on time for school everyday so far, even in time to go out for recess before school (which she loves). On the first day of school I began doing a short devotion with the kids in the morning. We leave for school early and do it in the parking lot.  This ensures a few things 1) We get a parking spot 2) we start our day with our hearts and mind in a wholesome place 3) we don't part ways in a rush.  All of these things have been good for us, I think.  It's nice doing it in the car too because most of the time the kids are still buckled and sitting down so there's not a ton of distractions.

All in all, I think things are going very well.  She's still my princess monkey bottom, and doesn't mind that I still need her to be little sometimes.  When I tuck her in at night she asks me to turn on her ballet music (classical) even though she is fully capable and always requests that I snuggle with her and hang out a while.  I oblige as often as I can, knowing that it's precious time with her and that she won't ask for that forever.  I love her so much and I'm very proud of the person she is becoming!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Long days, short years

For the past several weeks our family groove has been thrown off and we are finding a new one in the chaos.  Myles has been working very long hours everyday and it’s put a kink in the normal way of life for me.  The office where he works is right next to Molli’s school so he had taken on the task of bringing Molli to school when he headed to work in the morning and picked her up at noon when she got out and he had a lunch break.  Not a bad setup for me!  Lately though, his long hours have him long gone by the time the kids get up and he comes home just in time for a quick story and a kiss goodnight.  It’s been a lot on my shoulders to maintain some sort of normal life with all the kids and maintaining the household.  I’m not doing amazing, but we are surviving.  Mostly, at least.  

Throwing us off kilter even more is the wrapping up of the school year, soccer and dance.  We finished soccer season (with a roaring hallelujah) and just brushed off the sparkles leftover from the end of this semester of dance.  These extra curricular activities are great fun but I’m not sad to say goodbye to some of the scheduling headaches. This week alone Molli had a field trip on Monday and on Tuesday, dance class on Wednesday, dance rehearsal on Thursday morning (during school) and a recital Thursday evening then the last day of school on Friday. All good things, but it’s like boom, boom, boom, one thing after the other.  Plus babysitters and nap schedules.

Today was the last day of school and I showed up for the tail end of the closing service with an all too eager three and a half year old and a toddler sound asleep on my shoulder (again with the scheduling/nap difficulty).  Molli was among the crowd of students and families somewhere and I got to thinking that this was her final hour at the school she has attended for the last two and a half years.  These walls have seen her through some of the most precious years of her life, and certainly have left an impression on her little heart.  Just as I was thinking all this, the group recited a prayer of thanks together and I got choked up realizing the value of what I was witnessing.  Communal prayer is beautiful, especially from the mouths of these young kids who are together each day learning about Jesus.  They are receiving an academic education, but more importantly, they are being filled with the Word and are being influenced by some incredible adults who love the Lord.  What an incredible blessing and honor it has been to be a part of such an institution.  Even at the tender age of five, Molli seems to have a greater understanding of spiritual concepts than many adults I know.  

She will be going to a public school for a full day next year and I am a more than a little bit heartbroken.  I have nothing against public schooling, at all, but it is scary to imagine sending a little piece of my heart into the world where things will be different. For the first time, she will be in an environment where those around her will not necessarily have love for Christ as their guide. There will be people who don’t know or care about Jesus, and that will be an eye-opener for her. Almost nobody in this great big school will know her and she will have to make a start for herself, without me present.  It’s important for her to spread her wings and have these fresh experiences, but man, it’s tough knowing where she’s coming from.  I am already praying for her future classmates and teachers, that she will be placed among people who will be beneficial for her.  I want her to build relationships with safe, Godly people.  There is no sense in pretending that I can protect her forever, but I sure hope that we are doing a good job at home instilling in her all the good things I want for her, because the most important components, she won’t receive at school any longer.  Her teachers will not tell her that Jesus created her perfectly when she messes up, or guided to pray for others who are hurting.  She won’t receive the life-giving words of scripture at school or pray as a group before snack time. This really increases the importance of my job as her mom. I will pray hard for her new teacher, just as I have prayed for those teaching her the past couple years. 

We have been blessed with the most incredible teachers at Grace Lutheran.  They’ve made their way into our hearts and I know Molli will miss them tremendously next year.  Thankfully, Gavin will be starting preschool in the fall so they will remain a solid part of our family. Gav is SO excited to be in Mrs. Hinz’s class!  He is already very comfortable at the school and makes himself right at home in her classroom, for better or worse.  It seems that he already loves her just as much as Molli does! As much as Molli has learned in these preschool and kindergarten classes, I am interested to see what Gavin will be like when he’s moving on to the big public school with Molli.  I hope that his experience at the school is similar to Molli’s and that he grows similarly to her.  I just cannot believe my babies are already at this stage of life.  

As hard as the days have been lately, I’m trying my best to treasure these kids.  They are living proof that they grow up right in front of my eyes and I hardly notice it.  The constant too-small clothes should be a sign that they’re growing, but I don’t see it clearly until I take a step back and reflect.  Reflection makes me emotional. I know one day, not long from now, I’ll be amazed at how little she was today.  She seems like such a big girl, but she’s still little, I just won’t know it until later. As I’ve been told a hundred times, “the days are long, but the years are short.” 

(Wasn't this like a week ago?)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Tide's coming in

The waves flow onto the sand, reaching as far as they are able before begrudgingly drift back out into the sea. Over and over the waves roll up and back out. Methodically coming and going, increasing and decreasing in a smooth, stable pattern.  Ocean waves are a familiar pulse. The waves are insignificant, quick flashes of a greater motive; the tide. It typically rolls in slowly with the waves, gradually creeping up the beach and back down again in its time.

Likewise, life ebbs and flows with various tides.  At certain times life seems to radiate from each experience, each connection. There is a brilliance during these times.  Perspectives shift and the world is a more beautiful place.  In other times, a sense of emptiness looms as the struggle to find genuine meaning increases. These darker times are seen through a sepia lens, void of the vast, captivating palate that is intended to highlight magnificence.

I sense the tide rising in my life. The desire to connect deeply with people, the need to use my time learning about my savior, the urgency to recognize His hand and to approach Him with gratitude.  My heart, sometimes literally, feels like it is being molded and shaped in a way that I haven't experienced in a long time.

The chorus to Dividing the Plunder's song "Perimeter of me" has been playing in my head as I reflect on where I am and where my life is headed.

And I want to live with wider eyes,
There's far too much to see
To think of nothing else
But where I've been and where I'll be
I've been longing for the freedom
That is waiting silently
In the life that's just beyond the small
Perimeter of me

Before this shift in tides, I had been feeling fairly disconnected from some of the most important connecting points in my life. The day to day tasks elevated themselves and became priorities, drowning out the pieces of life that should have been in those lofty positions.  My marriage, my kids, relationships etc. But I'm finding myself hurting more deeply for others and valuing my relationships more. I feel a sense of urgency to make sure I'm putting forth the best effort to build up my marriage, raise Godly children and reach out to hurting people. These are all normal components of my life that are expected of me, and should be, but the need to step it up and really live in a more selfless manner is weighing on my heart.

My prayer is that God would flood me with this feeling to connect; first with him, then with the people I'm in contact with in order that my insignificant perimeter expands and my eyes are open to what He sees. I want to love the way He loves and live accordingly. I want this tide to continue coming in fiercely and wash away the selfishness that I tend to lean on and just be swept away by who He is.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fancy fun

My typical fashion is pretty much yoga pants and a hoodie.  We don't even have to be best friends for you to know this about me. If you know me, even just a little bit, you are probably well aware of this.  I dress for comfort and also for forgiveness.  Until Nike comes out with fringed and sequined yoga pants, I won't be fringed nor sequined.  Well, I also live in Alaska, so Nike will have to come out with them, then wait five years to get to us, then it has to stop being a top trend before I gain awareness, and at that point I'll catch on and wear them.  I'm pretty sure that everyone at Molli's school assumes either I workout constantly between drop off and pick up (HA), or that I only own oversized tops and pants primarily made of spandex. The stretch factor is important to me.  I don't need my own clothes making fun of me and hurting my feelings.  I'm a delicate flower, not to be burdened or broken down by buttons, zippers and other such atrocities. My love handles are more lovely snuggled up to some stretchy waisted pants and tucked in with a cozy hoodie.  It's my life.

Some moms may read that and nod in solidarity, or raise the roof because they're ahead of me in the game. (It's cool, I don't mind). Other moms might not have a clue what I mean because perhaps their kids are older and they have a life that doesn't equate pajamas with happiness. But let me tell you something.  I'm feeling large and in charge because I went to a fancy schmancy cocktail party tonight.  You guys, do you even know how many times I've ever been invited to something like this?! zero.  Because my friends aren't fancy and neither am I.  An outing with the girls typically involves the grocery store and coffee if we're lucky. (Except for the time girls outing ended up in the four of us getting tattooed, but that's another story). Anyway,  it wasn't just a boring fancy cocktail party, everyone went with the 1920s theme and dressed all up!  I can't get over the fact that everyone seemed to have THE perfect dress for such an occasion.  Like, what the heck, is it normal for a house full of women to be able to pull off the same look when we have like 1.5 stores that sell clothes locally? The fringe, the fishnets, the sequins! Oh my.  It was so good.   And the cocktails were fabulous.

(Belinda, Tamara and I are set to go!)

I'm not going to lie, when I first saw the invite, my initial reaction was "wow, they're going to have such a good time!" I automatically excused myself from going because I don't go to things like that.  But then I realized something.  If I say no, I'll be perfectly content to be home with my family and watching Lost when the kids go to bed.  No complaints! But what if I said yes?  What if I squeezed myself into something that made me a little uncomfortable and stepped out there among other women and pushed aside the discomfort of the social awkwardness and just rolled with it? What then? Would it be worth it?  I RSVPed affirmative and told Myles that I was going to a cocktail party and I need to figure out something 1920s themed to wear.  I'm sure he thought I was a little nuts for a minute because it's so far from anything I typically do.  The homebody in me is pretty persuasive and has probably talked me out of more than one outing in the past.

So, with some help, I pulled together enough accessories to make an outfit work just fine and got to work.  A friend and I knelt by my bed as we haphazardly followed along with an eye makeup tutorial on YouTube. Who knew that eyeshadow requires like 5 colors and 12 different brushes.  Good thing I saved all the clinique makeup samples my mom gave me whenever she bought her perfume.  The eyeshadow didn't matter anyway because I had a fantastic bright red lipstick to detract from my apparent lack of smoky eye skill. Pretty much, between the makeup, hairspray, and accessorizing, I felt like a five year old having a blast playing dress-up and trying out these new things.  I'm not going to say I looked like a superstar, but it was fun to get all done up and look like a very different version of me.

A few friends and I went out there together and we had a great time!  Being among other women was such fun, even if we only knew a handful of people. Now that I'm showered and relaxing before falling asleep, I realize that this little outing was more than a party to me.  It was a tiny bit of liberation from succumbing to the easier assumption that the fun things are for other people.  It was also a reminder of the innate desire to connect with other women.  Every lady in the house was there because there is something in us that craves company. It's the same craving that drives us to invite someone over for coffee, to spontaneously call/text a friend or to show up when it is easier to pass.  I'm sure I won't say yes to everything I get invited to, but to those who do the inviting, THANK YOU! It means a lot to me to be asked to join in on fun things and even if I don't always say yes, I appreciate the gesture, probably more than you know. And to those who are invited to things, consider putting yourself out there and saying yes.

So with that, I am back in my non-sequined, fringeless yoga pants and I'm excited for a (hopefully decent) night of sleep.  Being gussied up and around people is draining for this self proclaimed introvert.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Friendsgiving 2015

I've started this post three different ways and none of them are quite right.  I feel like I need to offer background on who I was ten years ago, in college, compared to who I am today, a mom.  I want to provide an explanation of the friendships I have from college and the deep connection we share. But the thing is, words are just not working out to do that. It all feels inadequate unless I commit to write an entire book explaining the history of our relationship, which isn't happening this morning.  I have limited time until I have to be Mom again so here's what I have to offer...

Once upon a time, last week, I got a shitty tattoo.  It's true.  Those who know me now would probably be surprised at what might seem an impulsive decision.  You see, the friends I have and see on a regular basis know me primarily as a family person.  I am a mom.  I stay home with my kids and most of what I do is for and because of them.  My days are simple and consist of diapers, meal making, cleaning, and whatever glamorous tasks come along with homemaking and parenting.  I make decisions based on the state of my crew; how close we are to nap times, who's hungry, the time span between bathroom breaks and general attitudes of the team. This is my life. Each tiny decision is weighed and measured along a subjective canon. 

Back up like a decade.  College.  I can't even begin describing such a time. It was full of so many experiences, most of which wouldn't even make sense to explain. Partially because my memory is terrible these days.  I can't remember details of actual experiences but I certainly have accurate memories of my feelings, if that makes sense. The primary feeling that I recollect from that time is connectedness.  I have a tremendous bond with a handful of friends that continues today.  I don't know if it's because of the vulnerability shared as roommates, the camp-like feeling of Bible college, or if we would have hit it off in any other time of life.  Regardless, we have a beautiful friendship and recently lived out a dream we shared back in the day.  

We met up in Pennsylvania for a friendsgiving reunion.  This doesn't sound like a huge deal, but here's the low down: Jeff and Allison have the youngest child so we met near where she lives. We rented a big house and all gathered there with 9 kids and 8 adults. Andrew and Chandra drove from Ohio with their son, (An)Drew and Amanda brought their two girls up from Miami and we flew (and drove) from Alaska.  It was such a long journey with three young kids but we made it.  The week was not exactly restful, but was so, so good!  There was a lot of coffee, food and fun.  It was beautiful seeing our kids together and getting to know each of them a little bit.  I love that I have an idea who each of them are now beyond what can be explained.  My favorite part of the whole trip was probably watching my friends interact as families.  In particular, having known each of these girls so well as individuals, it was extra special seeing them as moms.

The first night there, the guys were in the living room around the fire and the girls were in the kitchen with wine and chocolate popcorn (typical). One by one we had to leave the table as we forced our kids to go to sleep. We were discussing the possibility of getting a friendship tattoo together on the trip and wanted to come up with the perfect image for us.  We tossed around several ideas and went back and forth many times. We made a decision to get two arrows crossing, which is a symbol Native American symbol of friendship, with four feathers at the base of the arrow, to represent each of us. We wanted it to look more natural/organic like sticks with leaves rather than sterile, perfectly straight lines like the more presently trendy look.  It's funny now that we were concerned with something looking too perfect. Andrew drew it up for us and that was that. 

In true mom fashion, we had no idea what to do when we decided to take a girl's day out.  So we found our way to town and popped a squat at an herbery for some coffee/tea.  It was nice just being together, talking, with only one child present.  While we were there we called the local tattoo place and  when he called back he said he'd be ready for us in ten minutes.  OH MAN!  We got our hustle on and  showed up at the door to his tattoo basement.  Once again, words will fail to explain this situation. Basically we were greeted by a pirate/wizard hybrid.  An old eccentric dude with a long white beard and a crude sense of humor opened the door and assaulted us with bizarre comments, unexpected jokes and references to people we'd never heard of.  We told him we'd be in touch and walked out shaking our heads because there's no way that was going to happen.  But after talking with a tattooed husband, we filled out bellies with some Mexican food, stopped by the grocery store and called the tattoo guy back.  Next thing I know, the ice cream in the trunk was the biggest concern we had, which in hindsight, is also funny. 

First things first when we got to the shop one of us had to poop.  If you know the four of us, you probably already know who. We asked to use his bathroom and it was weird for several reasons but mostly because there wasn't a sink. What kind of bathroom has a shower but no sink? Anyway, Amanda went first, then Allison, then Chandra then me. My friend locally saw the tattoo and told me I'm a very good friend for going last.  That pretty much sums it up.  We each put our brave face on, took our turn and ended up with a tattoo that makes me wonder if his moonshine joke was a joke at all. I don't think any of us really realized in the moment how bad they looked until we stepped out the door and walked back to the car.  At that point we could either laugh or cry because TATTOOS ARE PERMANENT!  We chose to laugh and are continuing to do so as we settle back into post-vacation life.  A hilarious memory was made, and so are appointments for tattoo fixes.

All in all, this week was very representative of us. It was so much fun even though it wasn't perfect.  There was a little drama, vulnerability, laughter but most of all togetherness.  And that is the stuff friendship is made of.  We have remained in close contact since the glory days of Bible college.  We may not remember a whole lot of the academic components that seemed important at the time, but college brought us together and I'm so happy for that. Truly this Thanksgiving was one for the books, or at least for the blog. Here's to friendship, family and plans for future trips together... maybe with more ice cream and less tattooing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"The Church" is such a deeply abstract concept and the more I think about it and hash things out with my husband, the more I realize that our model is so fundamentally flawed. The things that seem to matter to the church in our culture would make zero sense to Christ's original followers and that is so very sad.  We have people whose lives are dedicated to building up this church and it's a box step that repeats itself until circles are spun but very little progress has been made. We can count our steps, add our events, tithes, studies and groups but unless disciples are being multiplied and led toward baptism by the actual hands of the church, this family is little more than a complicated math problem with no objective solution. I went to Bible college so it's extremely safe to say that I am no mathematical prodigy but I am also inclined enough to spot a calculation error.

I love the church and I love each of the congregations I've been a part of.  I've had the pleasure of walking through the doors under a variety of steeples. The one that meets in a school. The one with great worship. The one with soul touching sermons. The one where we all sit on folding chairs on a carpeted basketball court. The one with sermons that I can't understand or follow. The one that only sings hymns. The one where the preacher sits on a stool with carpets on the stage. (Let's get church-funky.) Candles, organs, drums, teams, information booths, communion services, foot washing, potlucks, small groups, VBS, Sunday school, Bible study, seminar, retreat etc.

The focus seems to have somehow shifted from collectively dirty fingernails to a very efficient, streamlined program where numbers somehow trump hearts and no one notices the ripe soil sitting next to them because everyone's too busy craving spiritual water and setting up chairs. Jesus created this church to be a family but it has been painted in hypothetical GMOs and pesticides, robbing the organic chemistry that is foundational.  Christ's bride has a veil so dense that it's created a lens through which she sees everything and spends her time and energy to fix things that aren't even the real problem.  If we could all just pull back the veil, look into Jesus' eyes and allow ourselves to be transfixed, we would not need all the silly things we count as "church."

Let us sincerely grab hold of each other and get real. Let's expose our inch thick dust and have people over for dinner. Let's bust out a bottle of wine for heaven's sake, play games, laugh and have conversation!  Let's be vulnerable to admit when we've screwed up and laugh at ourselves as we brush the dirt off our butts when we fall on them.  Let's be people we can trust to help raise each other's kids and not be afraid of the mistakes we will make along the way.

Our poor kids.  We love them and want the best for them, but they're being presented with a very confusing world that is not going to be gentle on a young, Christian heart. No matter how we may try to protect them, bits of societal ugliness will seep through their precious skin and will influence them in some way.  Social catchphrases will be the norm for them and they won't bat an eye at the concepts of transgender, abortion, divorce, sex, STDs, terrorism, polygamy etc. We can't just drag them along on the same spiritual wave we've been riding because it won't work.  Statistical observation shows that a good majority of them will fall off that wave and come close enough to drowning that returning to church will not even be worth considering. I don't know how to protect my kids on this level but I have to assume that keeping them sheltered and only exposing them to people who think exactly like we do is not going to help them in the long run; it will just delay the exposure to a time when my influence is eclipsed by the world. Meanwhile it is fully my job to teach my kids about Jesus, love, discipline, sacrifice, and what it all means to them.

I don't have all the answers, and I'm certainly not pointing fingers at anyone or any congregation in particular (unless you feel convicted, then roll with it).  I'm just having a hard time connecting the great plan for this family of God when it's so easy to get lost in weird details that we've unnecessarily created and progress seems to go sideways instead of forward much of the time. I want to look at the church and be proud of people banding together, loving people in their community with no expectation of repayment, association, or anything else that would detract from the ultimate goal; one person engaging with another person creating relationships that point to Jesus. It's got to be so much more simple than we've made it. Older people, train younger people do to it right and let's influence a healthy cycle. Elders, that's you! Lead the church and train people up. Let's get some mentorship going on up in here. Everyone, be like Jesus and get to know people, meet them where they are and show some love. Do it outside of the umbrella of "ministry" and let it be your life.  It's a good thing!  If it wasn't, Jesus wouldn't have said to do it.

While this is all coming from my heart, part of it is coming from the small corner of my heart that tends to be task driven rather than the bulk that is relationally driven.  There is a place for tasks, but I'm realizing that it is not my goal to do things for the sake of doing things.  If I can foresee something inflicting stress on me that does not center around relationship building, it is not for me.  There is a time and a place, and surely a person for the job, but it's not me.  Saying no isn't my cup of tea, but with the right parameters set, I might be doing more of that in the near future.