Choosing Again


My head ached and my stomach roiled as I looked over the papers the other night: the lease for what we had been dearly hoping would become our new home. This was the next step in a new chapter for our little family, and I felt as though all my sense and surety had fled and failed me. All my certainty seemed to wobble underneath me, all that I was sure of before lost in a haze of “I don’t know,” and “Is this right?”

During a recent bedtime, our daughter told us that she believed God had told her that the house (over whose lease I was now laboring) was perfect for us. Honestly, we all thought so and had prayed and hoped deeply that our application might be approved. Then it was and now there I sat, suddenly questioning the last two weeks of my life and every decision made therein. It has been twelve years since we rented a home; was this lease fair? Where would the extra money come from for all this if something went wrong? What if no schools accepted my job applications? Was this indeed the next right thing, the right choice for our family? Now, we do believe that our little girl did indeed hear God’s voice in her heart, that she did hear Him answer her silent question of a new home.  Yet, here I was: feeling sick to my stomach with uncertainty.

Needing a minute to clear my head, I sat down with a box of encouragement cards that a friend had given me, and this is the one I pulled out of the stack:

I had made an old choice, and I had chosen wrongly. I had chosen an old frenemy: fear. It has stood between me and the new many times before, and I have missed much through its uncertainty. And, though I believe in this next chapter for our family, I had chosen fear again and it had made itself uncomfortable in my belly.

I need to choose again.

I want to choose again.

I will choose again.

This time, I choose love.

When I say that, I do not necessarily mean that I am choosing love for others, though that is always a good (and a God) thing. What I mean by choosing love is that I am choosing God’s love for me. His love which means He has a plan for me, a plan for my good and to prosper my future. I do not want to choose fear and let it paralyze me again. I want to choose and believe in God’s love for me, no matter how nervous I may feel about the big changes coming our way. I want to continually choose God’s love for me and have faith that He will open the necessary doors and that all will work out. 

One thing is for absolutely certain: God has never failed me yet. I choose to believe that He will not start now.

Momentary Miracles


Yesterday, my little girl and I took advantange of the beautiful day and took a nice, long walk. We have been cooped up in the house by the weather and the last week of school, and we needed some fresh air desperately. So we pulled on our sneakers, got out her bike, and my little girl and I took 35 minutes to walk/bike almost the entire length of the main road through our little town.

My daughter and I are very different personalities, you may have noticed if you have been reading here for a while, but that walk and then sitting down together with ice cream afterward were very nice. For a little while, our personalities didn’t rub each other wrongly. I was patient and she was attentive. We left our house in one direction and returned from the other direction. She paid close attention to stopping at each road or sidestreet to look and listen before crossed. I called out encouragement and helped her walk through a newly-formed anxiety of the train crossing through town. At one point while sitting on our front steps, my girl scooted close to me so her shoulder touched my arm, and I leaned back into her, a silent reminder each to each that we love each other. It has been a rough two months, cooped up together, constantly in each other’s bubbles, an introvert and extreme extrovert. That quiet moment shared between us was honestly a little miracle moment in the midst of the past few weeks, and I am so thankful for it.

This time of separation and isolation has been difficult for us all. It has often rubbed our personalities and feelings the wrong way. Introverts have been surrounded by their people on a constant basis with no way to escape the chaos of family. Extroverts have been prevented from surrounding themselves by their friends and new people with whom they can make friends. Parents suddenly had to take on the role of teacher, conductor, coach, etc. Children have had to take greater the initiative of learning. We have ALL become counselors to a greater degree as we try to meet our children’s hierarchy of needs in the midst of all this (which they often cannot even articulate), as well as our own. We are all starved for the companionship and affective of separate family and friends. This has been and is hard.

So that quiet moment when my girl leaned into me, or at night when she requests a lullaby and reaches to hold my hand while I sing, those momentary miracle mean even more. And I want to notice them before it is too late.

May we notice and cherish these momentary miracles as we walk through these days…separate but still together.

I See You, Moms.


I began this post three times over and, each time, it just wasn’t right. It wasn’t what I wanted to say. To be honest, I am not sure of just what I want to say. 

Mother’s Day is not usually a relaxed, pampered day but, rather, a day of busyness for me. It is a day spent making sure that all the moms in my life feel special, as that is very important to me. Special days usually fall under the purview of mothers.

Moms, Aunts, Grandmas: you have been called above and beyond during this crisis. Overhauling your lives and bidding goodbye to you and your families’ old normal to find a balance in the new, and you have absolutely smashed those challenges, if I do say so myself. You have rearranged houses and schedules, developed new abilities, reignited old ones, and extended present ones. You have enforced rules and comforted dear ones in the midst of all this hard and uncertainty. You have literally accomplished miracles.

Today, I celebrate you, Moms. I celebrate your gentleness and strength. I see your weariness, your overwhelm, stress, and tears. I honor your late nights, though the next day will undoubtedly be busy, because those late-night hours are the only ones you get to yourselves. I celebrate all that you are.

Aunts and Grandmas, I see your missing of your nieces and nephews, grown children and grandchildren. I feel your desire to hold them close and hug them tight. I see your conversations over the phone, from the ends of driveways and between cars and over Zoom and Facetime. I honor your desire to keep your dear ones safe.

Someday soon we will be together again. We will be able to share all the hugs, visits, lunches, play-dates, girls’ nights, and vacations again. We are separate but still together, and you are loved beyond measure. Thank you for everything that you do, all day and every day. I appreciate you, love you, and wish you a long, deep nap or, at least, a quiet hour all by yourself.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Still Here


Here we are, at the end of another month. My birthday (and maybe yours, too) has come and gone in this strange time of social distancing and sheltering-in-place. It was a lovely one despite the limitations on what actually could be done to celebrate. I received some beautiful phone calls and video chats from beloved friends and family, and one friend even sent me a Disney World firework show. It was a lovely birthday altogether. “Fancy” take-out dinner, cake, and a $0.99 movie with my little family.

Doesn’t it feel odd, what we have learned to live with over the past month or so? The adjustments and adaptations we have made in order to live life in this new normal? The very way we interact as human beings has changed, and we have come to cling to those changes as, in most cases, they are all that we can do.

Tuesday was THE day. Grocery Day! All three of us happened to be out that morning, a deviation from our normal routine as one of the cars has to be taken in for servicing. So, donned in our new sweetly-made masks, mine covered in its lovely book pattern (fitting, no?), we ventured into the grocery store, my husband and daughter heading off to the electronics and toy section while I scurried about the grocery and pharmacy aisles with my list. As I moved about, I found myself in an absolute fit of irritation that people were clustering close together and whatnot in the aisles and walkways when I was studiously trying to avoid it. Granted, as an introvert, I tend to studiously avoid people in the grocery store as a matter of practice, but this irritation felt far more urgent, more worrisome. It is this worrisome urgency that sent me scurrying off as though I were actively running away from people. However, at the same time, I have come to accept that worried irritation as a part of my mental process through all this. Especially when I see more and more people chaffing at the restrictions and states beginning to re-open and allow the distance between people to lessen or even close. I am not okay with this, and I am unsure as to how others can be.

Do I miss my students? Yes. Do I miss being able to go out when I feel the want or need? Yes. Do I wish my daughter could socialize and play with her friends and other children? Yes. But I am not prepared to believe that this is over yet. I am not prepared to put my family and those of others at risk by throwing our caution and adjustments away. I am not, and I am urgently irritated at people who are.

Where is your sense of community protection or (at least) self-preservation, people? Do I understand the need to work and for income? Absolutely. But I also acknowledge that we still do not know enough about this virus, its staying power, resurgence, etc. I am not prepared to take that chance, not yet.

Is it hard to be home all the time? Absolutely. Is my daughter driving me nuts? Undoubtedly. Do we struggle to find and share space in our little home? All the time (but especially when my daughter refuses to go upstairs to the two rooms that are all hers and leave me to the peace of the living room). But, above all other things, WE ARE STILL HERE. We are still together. We are still here. And so are you.

We are still here, Dear Ones. Doing what we can. Separate but together. Even as things might begin to change again, let’s continue to stay here and do what we can, for the good of ourselves and others.

Butter-Thin


It has felt good getting my body back into a habit of exercising each morning before beginning my day. I have now gotten back to the point where I feel off without it, which is a routine that I have honestly missed quite a bit. But my daily exercise and extra workouts are not the reason I am feeling thinner lately. No, the “thinner” I am feeling is an emotional and mental thinness.

         At the end of his time as a Ring-bearer, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins described himself as feeling “thin…like butter scraped over too much bread”. It was a feeling of not having enough of himself anymore for life, for…anything, really. It has been over a month at home, closeted with husband and daughter, and it feels as though it gets a bit harder with each week, in which I am sure I am not alone. Rest is, ironically, proving hard to come by, and I have felt my optimism flag. Anxiety is manifesting as weariness, irritability, and overwhelm; some days, it is hard for me to recognize myself as myself. I feel poured out…worn thin.

I miss me. This thought came as a shock even as I wrote the words. I do. I miss me. I miss believing the optimism and encouragement that I pour out for others. I know it is true, but I miss believing it as much for myself as I do for other people. The tap is always on, always running, always pouring out. And yet…it feels as though if I turn it off, the very foundations of my life will shudder.

Earlier this week, my daughter’s teacher posted a very sweet permission for us parents not to be the perfect teachers to our children during this time. Encouraging us to tend to our little ones’ hearts and souls and to worry less about their academic achievements. As a teacher myself, I admit that I am having the hardest time managing my 1st grader’s Reading, Math, and Science lessons along with everything I am doing for my own 8th grade classes and students. And I have felt very much thinner and the less for that this week especially. 

I have felt less for sleeping in a bit in the mornings and then not being able to fit in my workout and all of kiddo’s schoolwork before my class, office hours, or a meeting start. Less for not managing my day down to the minute to accommodate everything and taking a luxury (rest) that I apparently cannot afford. Thinner.

I am not God. Allow me to say that again, for my own benefit. I am not God. And yet I am holding on to everything so very tightly, you’d believe that I must have some cosmic responsibility for everything that is happening. But I don’t, nor do I want to.

I know what I WANT

I WANT to spend meaningful time with my daughter that doesn’t involve some kind of fight or tantrum or fit.

I WANT to rest, to allow myself to take time for quiet, stillness. I WANT to tell my family to take care of themselves for a while and engage in some hygge without guilt.

I WANT to delve into my relationship with God, to grow and deepen in my faith during this time.

I WANT to read, to engage my imagination and intelligence, to tumble headlong into stories and wisdom and stimulating ideas.

What I AM is flustered, rushed, overworked. 

What I AM is irritable and overwhelmed almost from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning. 

What I AM is poured out and depleted but with no idea of just how to say that (though I guess I just did).

What I NEED is soothing for which I do not have to work. 

What I NEED is a break for which I do not feel guilty afterward. 

What I NEED is to be filled up.

What I NEED is to be poured into, but we are all perhaps a bit short on that, aren’t we?

We are all in the midst of something that we do not know how to do. We are all in the midst of stress, weariness, worry, and even fear. You may be right here, too, Dear Reader, in this place of thinness, of emotional/mental scarcity. You may not have much to pour out today or this week. That is okay. If permission is what you need, then here I am to give it to you. From one “thin” person to another, it is okay. You are allowed to do just what you can.

If all you can handle with the kids is one subject lesson, then this teacher is giving you permission to let that be enough.

If all you can handle this Sunday is personal devotions and not a full-fledged Sunday School lesson with the family, then you have this pastor’s wife’s encouragement to stay in your bedroom with the door closed.

If you are home and to the point of wanting to defenestrate your dear ones, then this mom and wife begs you to take a walk (carefully, of course), a bath, shut the kids in the backyard, do something for yourself even if it is a “corrected” coffee in your bathroom at 11am.

If you are leaving the house every day to walk into an uncertain world, you absolutely have this human’s blessing to cry in your car. 

We all need a place where our emotions are welcome, and yours are welcome here, Dear Readers. Always.

Rose Oracle Deck by Threads of Fate – http://www.threadsoffate.com

The Missing Matters


On Thursday, our state superintendent of education announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. There are other things that go along with that, of course, such as distance learning, plans, etc. But the big takeaway is that now students will not return to the school buildings OFFICIALLY. This is an abrupt and jarring ending for our kids. This is not the way the school year is supposed to go. Speaking as a parents and a teacher, while it is for the best and is the safest course of action, it feels like nothing less than the yanking away of hope.

Hope of being able to hug and play with their friends again.
Hope of being able to suit up for their favorite sport.
Hope of being able to sit in their favorite teacher’s classroom again.
Hope of gathering in their friend-groups and being able to hold hands through all of this.
Hope of preparing for their final dances, field trips, competitions, and performances and the year-long work that has led toward those ends.
Hope of birthdays, band practices, pool parties, movie nights.
Hope of being honored for their hard work at the end of the year, being able to stand up proudly and accept awards that they honestly worked their tails off for.

That hope is gone. There really is no other, nicer way to say it. That hope, in its original shape, is gone. And that is painful for our kids.

I was upset yesterday at the announcement, though the why is harder to articulate. I think part of it was the same upset that we all get when we have to deliver bad news, news that we know cannot be softened nor its truth mitigated. That feeling dragged on me and nagged at me all afternoon and evening. My anxiety was torn between curling up and crying the upset out and sitting down to work on ALL THE THINGS for distance learning, just so I had some modicum of control (I am a teacher after all). I felt like I had to do SOMETHING!

Finally, grabbing a quiet moment with both hands, I sat on the couch in my pjs and recorded a quick 1-min video on my phone before slapping it up on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and emailing it out to my students. I just needed to reassure them, needed to tell them that it’s going to be okay. But, even more than that, I needed to tell them that I am sorry.

I am sorry that we won’t get to finish that book together in person.
I am sorry that I won’t get to hear about how you’re moving to a new town over the summer, hug you goodbye, and tell you how proud I am of you and how much I enjoyed having you in my classroom.
I am sorry that you will not get to dress up for the final dance of the year.
I am sorry that we won’t get to do the Reading Counts party with games, the pool, and pizza.
I am sorry that we won’t get to gush over the new Marvel movies that were slated for early May.
I am sorry that I won’t be there to answer your knock and welcome you in to hide over lunch when you are having a bad day.
I am sorry that we cannot be together. I am sorry that you cannot be together.
I am sorry that you won’t get to play, perform, compete, and display your wonderful talents before everyone one more time this year.
I am sorry that you won’t get to do all those amazing things you had planned this spring.
I am sorry that this is how things have turned out.

It was only a minute or so but I wanted my students, my Heroes, to know that it matters. That their missing this portion of their lives right now matters. The missing matters! And that they are allowed to grieve it. It was important to them, important to their people, and losing those opportunities is significant. Even so, it will be okay.

And that is for you, too, Dear Ones. It will be okay. We will get through this. We will figure this out. And it is absolutely okay to feel disappointed, to grieve, and to cry through all of the getting through it, too. I am sorry, Dear ones. I am sorry for the disappointment, the distress, and the fracturing of hope. It will be okay, yes, but it is also hard. And it’s okay to feel that hard and hold on to hope at the same time. We are complex, we can do both things.

We are here. We are separated but still togther. We are still here. Hope is just taking on a new shape now, and we will learn to recognize it. We have not been deserted. We can still find hope, God, peace, and each other. It will be okay, Dear Ones. We will get there. Hold fast! Yibambe! It’s going to be okay.

Feeling the Hard of it All


It has been two weeks now. Two weeks of social distancing; two weeks of aloneness or very limited contact; two weeks of staying at least six feet away from anyone who does not currently occupy our homes with us. Two weeks and things are getting harder. Harder to deal with, harder to fathom, harder to grasp hold of in a way we can understand. I am hearing from friends who own small businesses and are having to let go of staff, people they care about very deeply. Friends who are considered essential workers are heading out every day and so are in a constant state of anxiety and worry about their health and the health of the loved ones they interact with. Friends whose jobs have been shut down or let go are struggling and in fear. Things are hard. As a dearest dear one put it, it feels like we have been running on adrenaline for the last two weeks and now reality is crashing in. I miss my people I am worrying about them, fearing for them in some cases. I miss my normal. I miss taking my daughter out for sushi. I miss going to the movies or walking the mall with my husband. I miss falling into the arms of my closest friends. This is hard.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to feel when things are hard. I am tempted to remind myself that I have it so much better than others perhaps do. This is not affecting my paycheck or my husband’s as we are able to work from home. We are healthy, have enough for our needs and then some, and are together. I have nothing to complain about, I am tempted to scold myself. But why? Why should I scold myself? Why should you shame yourself? What is our crime? Being human and grieving all this hard right now? Why are we tempted to compare our pain, our hard with someone else’s? Yes, there are people in worse situations than I am, and this is hard for them. However, that does not diminish the space I need to hold for myself and that you should hold for yourself, too. We need to feel and grieve this hard. I need to. I need to let myself admit that things are hard right now, because they are.

Let’s set down the shame, dear ones. Set down the expectation that we should be able to handle this. No one is handling this well, never mind handling at all. These are times for which no one was prepared; these are circumstances for which no one was ready—physically, mentally, financially, emotionally. We do not need to be the one with the answers, because we are not. We cannot expect ourselves to be the ones who fix this, because we are not. What we can do in this moment is admit that this is all incredibly, immensely hard. We can grieve the losses in our lives, whatever they may be. We can allow ourselves to be beautifully, brokenly human.

For me, the hardest thing right now is the unfathomableness of all this, the not knowing. I have no end to work towards or, at least, not an end that I can see. We canceled a spring break trip we had planned for our daughter. A concert Ben and I have been looking forward to for years is postponed with no idea of when it will be rescheduled. A belly dance workshop with a favorite dancer/teacher planned for my birthday weekend is postponed until next year. My mother cannot come to visit us for Easter. I cannot go visit a friend as I had planned. My weekly dinners with another cannot happen right now. My daughter cannot play with her best friend.

This. Is. Hard. It is, dear Readers, and we are allowed to feel and grieve that hard. Right now, we are in perhaps some of the softest spaces to emotionally land that we probably could ever be. We can be soft, too. I know it’s hard, believe me, fighting the shame. We are together in that, though we may be separated into our own spaces. Still, my little corner of the online world is a soft place for you to land. What is your hard today? What is your grief? You are safe and welcome to share those here. I see you. I hear you. There is space for you here.