trick.

Tonight after we’ve trolled the neighborhood for candy with our trailer full of kids and pups, Abe and I get to head down to the Children’s Hospital for our sleep over.  It’s been so long since I’ve had a get-away, I can hardly breathe for the excitement.  I’ve requested a single smoking room and will ask the nurse to take Abe to the nursery for the night.  I’ve not slept well lately, so I’m looking forward to drifting off amidst the downy softness of hospital linens, Outlander and Tylenol PM my beautiful bedfellows.  Please God, let there be chocolates on the pillow. Tomorrow, when Abe is in the cath lab, I’ll pull out the spa menu.  I’ve never had a facial before and I hear they do an amazing chemical peel.  Also, I really need a brow and lip wax.  Abe has to lay totally flat for 6-7 hours after his cath.  I’m bringing my softest blanket and pillow so I can model this for him.  Thank goodness for room service and housekeeping.  After we order in dinner and catch up on social media, slippered feet resting on beds we didn’t make and won’t have to change, we will head home where all the Halloween craziness will be put away.  Costumes in wash on a cold cycle and candy in buckets lined up on the dining room bench.  The babies will all be sleeping the sleep of the satiated and Dan will be filling the dishwasher and folding laundry, his evening having been full and relaxing.  The pups will be laying in front of a roaring fire.  They will lift their heads in a lazy hello and then let themselves out.  And I will drift off to sleep, refreshed and renewed.  This is going to be so great.

And well deserved.  Because first comes halloween.  I’ve sweat through my bra three times already this morning and it’s barely nine.  Abe’s oxygen tank for his scuba costume fell off as he headed out the door and Tess forgot her faux cupcakes.  The parade starts at 2:45, followed by parties for four Smalls in three wings of the school.  I’m wearing my running shoes and will just jog a loop, waving as I go by.  I must put in an appearance at each or I won’t get credit and for the rest of my life I will be reminded by accusatory voices about that one year I missed so and so’s party.  The therapist will call it mindful neglect and will prescribe an activity involving lap sits and rocking.  And I will have to pay for it.  So I’ll be there, sweat in bra and hair in a million directions.  Being extra thankful for our room moms since I ticked them all off a few weeks ago.  And since I realized this morning I signed up for 4 things for Tessas party and 4 things for Lulu’s party and no things for Abe or Maggie’s parties.  This is just not their year.  But I won’t eat guilt because they will be in elementary school for decades yet and so I will make up for it, I promise.  By dinner time we will all be exhausted and ready to nail the coffin shut on this holiday.  Which I why I’m so thrilled about a sleep over at the Children’s hospital tonight.  I’ll be sure to Instagram my time there and get brochures so the next time you just really need to get away, you can book your stay.  Happy Halloween, dear ones.

this is me being real.

winter.

Softest flannel in piles, matched with pillowcases.  Snow bunnies and horses for girls, skiers and Stewart plaid for boys.  Wind howling outside while rain pelts windows in a staccato of cozy as I go from bed to bed, stripping away summer’s percale and smoothing on winter’s flannel.  Some people go kicking and screaming into this season of cold and blustery, but I love ushering in a new season and especially this one, with it’s fires and long johns.  I used to hate winter; it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder and dreary, grey days dragging me down.  I remember still those long ago months of darkest anxiety when I lacked the imagination of an ending.  Survived through prayer and journaling and subliminal tapes of peaceful music I played on loop all night, headphones wearing tracks in my hair as I listened to husband sleep the sleep of the peaceful beside me.  That winter taught me hard lessons about seasons.

Mamas, maybe you are in a hard one, husband wandering, child rebelling, self unraveling.  Maybe it’s so dark you can’t see your way out and you’re sure you will die of it.  But here is truth you can take to the bank: this will not last.  That’s a great good thing about seasons: their temporal nature.  No matter how dark this time is for you, it will give way to a spring time of new growth and light.  It will.  Father never promised you a rose garden.  Just the opposite. But he did promise grace sufficient for every hurt, even the seemingly endless ones that leave you gasping, body curled in a question mark on floor, self poured out and empty.  He warns you there will be seasons that wreck you, but he vows that if you’ll only hang on and surrender, they will give over to seasons of such beauty it will make you weep with wonder.  That one day, you will find yourself standing up off your floor and able to take a deep breath and he will be there too, to watch this wonderment of unfolding.

You might be in a season that is a beast, claws seconds from ripping you asunder and breath hot on your neck as you run away from it.  You might be sure you are about to be consumed and so you cry out to the only one who can save you from the terrible beast.  And Father walks into that terror and smiles and says, oh child, that?  that is a puppy.  We tolerate winter because it is the gateway to spring.  We learn to love winter when we recognize that the snow falling softly covers the yuck outside while the same is happening in our souls on the other side of the frosty window panes. Winter teaches us that the only safe place is in the hands of the creator of all things. And so we batten the hatches and lay in supplies and make up the beds in softest flannel because little comforts count double in winter.  We resolve to not wish it away but to suck the marrow out of it like we do summer with it’s long days and smell of sunscreen on baby skin.  To learn it’s lessons until we can teach them to others. Listen, either you own winter or it owns you.

Commit to doing some things, tangible and otherwise, this week that welcome winter.  Quiet moments with pen and journal, flannels on bed and tartan plaid on couch, plans for a cuppa in a pretty mug with someone you love. Show winter you can play it’s game. That the monster you think you’re up against is really just a pup because Father says so, so there.  Winter is so many good things, even when it hurts deep and leaves you aching.  Spring will come.  But first, winter.

this is me being real.

past.

This post brought to you by the gut punch of a week that has left me gasping for air.  And even after I took the pups for a long walk this afternoon in the gloriousness that is Michigan in October, I was too weary to write something new.  But I did figure out how to import all my old blog posts.  Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.  So instead of one post today, you get about 4 years worth of them.  In this week that has been spent caring for sick kids and hearing that Abe needs open heart surgery in the next 6 months, this is as good as it gets.  So if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, grab a cuppa and have a look see.  I spent far too long this afternoon reliving the days when Lulu’s hair was a curly halo around her head and everyone had speech impediments and it was a land I wanted to stay in forever.  Which is why I’m still up baking banana bars with browned butter frosting for our company halloween lunch tomorrow and hot gluing Abe’s scuba costume together for the same.  Something’s gotta give, right?  Happiest weekend, dear ones.

this is me being real.

congrats.

Neighbors stopped by this weekend with family who were eager to meet Baxter.  They came in the midst of sweat in my bra as we wrangled all the pool and porch furniture into storage for the winter.  It was our Vos Family Work Weekend.  We called it that because naming something that sucks makes it suck less.  I know this to be true because it’s been tested on such things as Vaccinations for China Day! and Exams at School Day! and Sheet Changing Day! Bad news disguised as good news is fodder for fools and my kids bite every time.

Which is why I smiled last week when I got an email from Abe’s teacher, who we adore, saying the following, “You will be thrilled to learn that Abe has been chosen to participate in our S.T.A.R.S. program here at school.  Congratulations!”  A first time parent would celebrate with a special dinner and extra hugs and wonder how they’ve been so lucky to have a child chosen for a program named for greatness and destined for the same.  They would do this because they wouldn’t know that S.T.A.R.S. stands for Strategic Testing to Accelerate Reading Success and involves extra homework every night.  It is not an honor; it’s a remedial program for kids who need a little extra help in reading comprehension.  Congratulations! You will now spend your evenings shaking words cut from construction paper onto your counter.  They will stick inside the bag because of static.  Your child will need to glue them onto a piece of paper in the correct order and illustrate the sentence below it.  They will think this is fun for approximately one week, which is terrible because they will need to do this every. night. for. months.  The other thirty eight weeks will involve bribes and silent swearing.  By November, you will be telling them it’s ok to just use a few colors for the picture and every corner doesn’t have to be glued.  By January, you will tell them to skip the picture and focus on just gluing the bloody words and being done with it.  By April you will tell the school you’ve lost the binder and for the love of all things holy do not want it replaced.  You will recognize that being in a school district that offers help in this crucial area is such a gift, even while you consider moving to a district that doesn’t offer it.  This is not your first rodeo.  In fact, three of your children have paved the way with their own participation and you cannot for the life of you figure out how a bibliophile can produce 6, count em: 6, offspring who hate reading and need remediation.  This is cruel.

You, after all, have done everything right. You took your kids to Story Time at the library every week so Miss Jackie, who wore themed sweaters and earrings and read with all the voices, could delight them with her stories.  You gave them books for Christmas, Valentines and Birthdays.  You still do. You read to them constantly when they were little.   You read Ten, Nine, Eight every single night for years.  Read it so many times, you can still remember every word.  The experts implored you to create a “literacy rich environment” and yours was so rich it made your teeth hurt.  Is still so rich and no one wants anything to do with it.  This is not your failure.  You will not eat that bitter pill. Your children are remedial in this area and it. is. not. your. fault. And so when you get the congratulations! your child gets to be a S.T.A.R., you will sigh and wonder again how this happened.  Then you will set that boy up with his glue stick and a Hershey’s Kiss and you will exclaim over the amazing job he does gluing 5 words in order and making stick figures to go with.  You will do this because you know that mothers the world over would kill to be in your shoes, with your safe schools and teachers who really care.  And you will do this because you know reading is the gateway to so many many good things.  And you will do this because, despite the hard sell, it really is an honor to have this resource at your kitchen island; you don’t even have to leave your house for it and this is worth of celebrating just by itself.  You will write about this so that in January, when you want to rip your shirt and shave your head in protest you will remember.

this is me being real.

teen.

This day started out like any other.  I woke up.  That’s where the similarities end.  After that it was all downhill and man, I should have just crawled back in bed.  Our morning was so epically bad that after that sweet yellow savior, carrying the last of the Smalls, pulled away, I took the pups on a walk and cried for nearly a mile and a half.  The last half mile was just those awful hiccups that feel like your diaphragm is going to eject itself.  Can we talk about teenagers for a sec?

If you’re the mama of littles, just skip this post.  No, seriously. The phase you’re in is hard enough and you’ll not want to eat this bitter pill.  If toddlers are like bipolar, drunken trolls, then teenagers are like someone coming off meth.  Euphoric one moment, devastated the next; teens speak in all caps and interjections.  Their passionate words are either directed down their shirt (and they HATE being admonished not to mumble) or right down your throat.  They can reduce grown parents to self-doubting, angst ridden middle schoolers. I’ve never been so unsure of myself and my old yearbooks pay testimony to some rocky phases of development.  I think I’m being so kind and understanding.  I use phrases like,

how can I help you?

and remember how I said no one ever wishes to redo middle school?, well, the same can be said of high school.  

and I’m here for you.

and You’ll be ok, son.  We will all be ok.

Honestly, the last one is mostly just for me.  Prolly 45% of the time they are delightful and witty and it’s like hanging out with a friend.  They get your jokes and if you slip and swear, they won’t repeat it to their kindergarten teacher at share time the next day.  Sometimes teenagers are the best sort of people.  But other times, they can take any confidence you’ve gained in your years of parenting and crush it beneath their man sized shoes.  Which you paid for even though you think they look like grandpa shoes and they are white, which is all kinds of stupid. Teenagers think they own the world and should run it too.  They have an advanced degree in everything and you barely have your GED. Raising teenagers is like being a remedial student at Harvard.  You barely dare speak. They live to tell you what you are doing wrong, which is everything.  They want to bring their friends over, but they only want you to buy wings and root beer, not tell the Hey Steve joke that you know to be fun-nay.  You will scour the mall for the right pants that are the perfect sort of cool.  They will stare at it like it’s a box of Kotex.  They will spend hours in the bathroom in the morning.  They will use every towel, leaving them to dry in a crusty mess on the floor, amidst empty rolls of toilet paper that never make it into the trash. You will offer suggestions on how to do their hair so that it doesn’t look like someone has used BrylCreem on it.  This will not go over well.  Never mess with a teenager’s hair.  Even if you nail it, you will fail.  You will be convinced that it makes perfect sense to spend $21 on a teeny bottle of hair gel at the salon because getting between a teen and their hair dresser’s advice is like stepping in front of a bull dotted with a matador’s spears.  Wearing red and holding a cape. You will insist on tucking them at bedtime, saying the Aaronic blessing over them like you’ve done every night since they were born. Some nights they will turn to the wall and say, “Can you just leave me alone? I’m so tired.”

But some nights they will melt into you and you will scratch their back and tell them how proud you are to be their mama.  You will tell them that if you could line up every teenager in the world, you would walk that line until you found them and you would take them home, no matter how long it took or if your shoes were killing you. You will peek in on them while they sleep and pray over their adultish bodies and you will remember when they were a nearly naked little bean, tucked inside your robe, teeny self satiated on your milk and making kitten sounds.  You will remember when they first said words and how they insisted on going everywhere with their yellow blanket.  These memories will make your eyes water and your heart melt.  You will almost not be able to stand it. Every snarky, jackass thing they said that day will fall away like scales and you would, in that moment and every moment, give your very life to spare them pain.

These days I’m certain of very little, but I’m sure of this, mamas, raising a teenager is like sailing a dingy through the Bermuda Triangle.  The survival rate is low and you will feel sick sometimes.  But at the end, there will be land and I will be on it welcoming you to the other side.  I will have drinks with little umbrellas and a lounge chair with a pile of must-reads next to it.  And we will have adult conversation and I will tell you how smart and wonderful you are and you will reciprocate.  And when we have been restored and can once again make intelligent and witty conversation, we will invite our families to join us.  They haven’t been as wrecked by teens maybe, so they won’t need all the pampering.  Families can just come for the swimming and the company. And they can fly there because it’s faster and easier.  Siblings don’t always have as much skin in the game but they are deserving of the party just the same.  You’ll meet me there, won’t you?  Only give me about 15 years.  I have 6 teenagers to raise.

this is me being real.

ee.

She and I were trying to kill the time waiting for x-rays for what turned out to be growing pains.  The only thing I had in the car was a Kids Baking Magazine that belonged to her sister.  So we looked at that sucker like it was Canadian House and Home.  And it was full of quizzes.  I love me a good magazine quiz.

Hey Lulu, want to find out which cupcake you are most like by taking this fun quiz? I’ll ask you a question and then you’ll pick choice a, b, c, or d. 

Bring it.

Ok, first question: Your friend breaks her leg.  To cheer her up, you

     a. Bring her a cake you made yourself.

     b. Call her and chat.

     c. Stop over for a visit.

   d. Send her a funny card.  

None.  I would break my own leg so I knew how she felt and then I’d spend the next few weeks laying on the couch with her, watching movies and playing games.  And you would buy me a new Beanie Boo (one of the big ones) because you’d feel so sorry for me.

Um, that’s not one of the options.

It is for me.

Fair enough.  Ok, next one. Question 2.

Your favorite cupcake topping is:

     a. chocolate sprinkles

     b. rainbow sugar dust

     c. non-pareils 

     d. extra frosting

None.  Mini marshmallows and a big letter L.

So, E again?

Yup,

There were 15 questions on the quiz.  She chose E for 12 of them.  You don’t put baby in a box.  The cupcake that matched her personality could not possibly be made or seen without wearing sunglasses. She will spend her adult life writing in candidates on the ballot, herself most likely.  Standardized testing will not be her strong suit, but will provide much entertainment for whoever proctors it.  No one tells her how to answer.  And while most days finds me wanting to pull my hair out, trying to work her into some semblance of order, today I find myself enchanted by a girl who believes in option e.  God, let me walk that fine line between discipline and curbing her spirit.  She is messy to my neat, wild to my calm.  Let me spend more time celebrating that and less time wishing she came with her own maid.  God, let nothing, save you, change her.

this is me being real.

women.

The ME TOO status update on so many friends fb pages is wrecking me. Nearly every woman has a story of someone degrading her, forcing her against her will, making her feel unsafe.  As the mother of 3 boys, who will grow to be men, it’s challenging me and as the mother of 3 girls, who will grow up to be women, it’s pissing me off.  So much of what happens in adulthood begins in childhood, no matter which side of the nature vs nurture debate you fall on. Teaching our boys to respect women…does that maybe start with opening doors and not allowing them to speak coarsely around girls?  And does it extend to teaching them to shield their eyes when scantily clothed women come on the screen because there should only ever be one women they see naked and it should be their wife?  Can it reach to calling on their fathers to set the bar high?  These boys, they watch.  And if dad is doing it, good and bad, that’s a green light for them as well.  When our boys watch their dad refusing to watch a show with nudity or sexism, it will make it easier for them to do the same. When they see him protecting and serving the women in his life, they notice. Can we start with our men and pray it trickles down? Sexual harassment or assault  is not boys being boys behavior.  That’s the devil’s Kool-Aid-moms of boys, let’s start by refusing to drink that crap.

And for our girls.  They need to know that no touch they don’t approve of is ok. And that they can tell us when it happens and we will listen.  We will.  They have to know that we are watching and protecting and we will take action. But can we also be honest and say that so much of this trickles down from us women?  Women, could we do our part by not walking around in yoga tights with our bums uncovered?  To teach our daughters that it’s ok to cover up, even as every store that caters to them is trying to sell skin? Can we admit that maybe the skirts have gotten too short, the rips too near the crotch, the bra straps too visible?  There is nothing (NOTHING please hear me on this) a woman can do to deserve or invite a man to assault her, but I look at some of the girls my boys go to school with and it’s like a garage sale of sexuality.  The goods are on display and the boys are buying.

Let me say this again: nothing a girl wears/says/does is worthy of assault.  Nothing.  But let’s be careful to take some good, hard looks at how we are raising our girls too.  Let’s teach our daughters that we don’t post pics on social media in bathing suits (this will not be a problem for me).  Let’s teach them the language of refusal and practice it over and over until their voices are firm and loud.  We have allowed them to put their bodies on display, now lets take them back and teach our daughters that what is hidden is even more beautiful.  And you’d better believe that we are having conversations with our boys about how they speak of girls.  I don’t care how old they are, if they refer to a girl as hot, I will soap their mouths so fast it’ll make their heads spin. I check their Instagram feeds weekly.  Any girl posting suggestively or en dishabille will be unfollowed.  It’s not about you, it’s about knowing that a boy’s first sexual encounter will almost always be with his eyes. We are working on training our sons to start with the women in our own family.  When they can treat them with respect and honor, they might be ready to date. Solid might. Learn it in the home and then practice it in the world. We are trying.  And I know you are too, so let’s recognize that how my daughters behave will affect your sons and how my sons treat your daughters will speak to our parenting.  It starts with us.

Remember that spoiled brat kid who sexually assaulted a girl at Harvard and then got off because his father paid off the judge? For every public story of assault, there are thousands that are not being talked about.  For every woman who has used her voice to stand up against her attacker, there are thousands who have not said a word.  Lord, let our girls have a voice and let them use it for their own protection and safety. And let our boys also speak.  Against degradation, against locker room talk, against the millions of men who say she asked for it.  Just give them a voice.

this is me being real.

 

feel.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years taking the edge off my emotions through the frenzy of mothering, so busy most days I scarce could feel.  And when fear or anger or other ugly emotions honed in, they could easily be pushed to the periphery by immersing myself in laundry or dishes or kissing a hurt, real or imagined.  Motherhood is both a fantastic filterer of emotion and a main artery, carrying them straight to the heart and threatening almost to stop it sometimes.  And so, the last month of being mostly by myself has taught me this: man, I have so many feels.

I spent the first two weeks waking to an elephant on my chest.  He’s been there often, but I’d not call him friend.  Sort of a pain, actually.  He wakes me just before the alarm and lays there while my mind spins through the rolodex of my fears.  He lays there until I catch my breath and whisper, Jesus, and then he takes off.  He’ll be back.  This is when the frenzy of the morning rush takes over and hijacks my every thought and motion until the bus pulls away.  All summer I wondered what it would be like when the bus left and I couldn’t lose myself in the busyness. Turns out it’s ok.  But only after you get used to the sensation.  I spent September wearing all my feelings on the outside, nerves exposed and raw.  But here’s the deal: it’s ok to feel.  Distraction is a fantastic coping mechanism and the hallmark of motherhood, but take it away and you’ll still be ok.

Sisters, if you’re in the thick of it, toddlers hanging on your legs and more bites in your day than you can possibly chew, take heart.  The day is coming when there will be time to catch your breath and some days you’ll think it’s a breath of fresh air and on others it will leave you gasping as you adjust.  And if you are using this gift of motherhood and it’s accompanying craziness to dull your feelings, well, those too will feel both fresh and suffocating.  But you’ll be ok.  You’ll spend a time gasping at first and pacing your kitchen, throwing yourself at ridiculous tasks like alphabetizing your canned goods just so you don’t have to think.  And then you’ll go for a long walk with your pups and check in with yourself.  You’ll do it in small bits so you don’t drown and you’ll be ok.  And pretty soon you’ll find yourself having longs hours being alone and you. will. be. ok. Because you will realize the truth that you have purpose beyond your kids.  After all, you were many things before you were theirs and some of those will emerge from their hiding spot and new ones will buzz in and you’ll sort of remake yourself and it will be ok.

Mamas, you are being consumed by this work.  It’s the nature of this beautiful beast.  It consumes and consumes and somedays you think you will surely die of it, but most days you will happily be chewed up for a zillion hours straight because you know that this is the best work there is and you’ll gladly, joyfully surrender yourself to it.  There is a day coming, and for some of you it’s here already, when this work morphs into a new phase.  Maybe your baby going to Kindergarten like mine, darn her, or maybe your baby going to college or, God forbid, maybe your baby dying.  Your work will shape shift, but you will be ok.  Because you are a thousand things to a hundred people and the most important isn’t that you are a mama but that you are a Daughter and that work will never change, never stop.  That work is the most constant there is. So, feel all those feelings or lose them in the minutiae of your day if you must, but please remember to not forget that you have such beautiful purpose, no matter. And if you forget, and you will sometimes, come back here and let me remind you.

this is me being real.

roommom.

It is October 11th and half of my elementary age children are without room moms currently.  With exactly 21 days until Halloween parties, this is nothing short of disastrous.  Without the proper room mom and her bevy of games and activities, it will surely be the worst. year. ever. Can we talk about this for a sec? The bar, it is so high.  Damn Pinterest for making us so creative that classroom parties now involve cruditee trays and sweat in our bras.  Last year I got an email from one of my kid’s room moms explaining how she’d spent so much of her own money already and hadn’t even purchased the elf hats she was planning on personalizing with puffy paint for all the kids, so would I consider underwriting the holiday party?  One: my kids don’t wear hats passed out at school.  Lice, man.  Two: no.  There are bins of props and twenty eight goodies bags filled with non-gmo, organic, free-range, casein free, non-edible treats.  Mothers hoof it in bearing fruit kabobs and themed centerpieces.  Heaven help the poor gal who doesn’t get to the sign up genius’ quickly enough to get the miniature bottled waters (aren’t all students supposed to bring a reusable stainless steel, sustainably crafted in the USA bottle everyday already?) or the napkins.  She will be saddled with a decision chasm: bring nothing and be that mom or hand cut organic baby carrots to look like baby Jesus.

You need a room mom?  I can room mom the heck out of this deal, but it’ll look like this: donuts and juice purchased by the PTO, a themed book read aloud using all the voices and lots of gesticulation and the corresponding Peanuts movie.  The budget will be $200, which includes a $190 gift card for the teacher.  I know the kids would be ok with this, but if you can tell me the other mothers won’t titter and draw comparisons, I’ll have this job locked up.  Because for every Pinterest mother, there is a mom who really desires to be in her kids classroom, contributing, but who knows there is no way she can carve out the time or budget to compete.  So, I’m proposing a Dumbing Down of our classroom parties.  It’s part of an entire Dumbing Down campaign I’ll be rolling out in pieces all year and includes plans for Teacher Appreciation, Conference Meals and Valentines.  When I was a kid… I mean, seriously.  The moms of yesterday would die over the expectations the moms of today saddle each other with.  And can we suppose that perhaps, just maybe, when we give the kids the moon they will expect it again and again?  It’s ok to be mediocre.  To have a party that isn’t the talk of the school.  To give the kids a donut and call it a day, especially knowing you’re going to be up half the night sewing sequins on the mermaid costume your kid pinned in July.  If we are good with that, then I’m all in.  Send me that sign up genius and order the donuts, we’re having a par-tay.

this is me being real.

rot.

I have two circuits I walk with the pups.  One is a leash off sort of walk which ends with burrs in fur and tongues lolling.  It’s the kind of walk we have to drive to.  It’s fantastic.  But on mornings like today when I only have time for a quick jaunt there is a circuit that begins and ends at my house, because that’s what circuits do.  You’re welcome.  We pass this non-descript ranch house on a road nearby.  It looks well kept, hedges trimmed and flower pots on the front porch.  There is a nicely maintained sidewalk to the front door, which is always bears a seasonal wreath.  But when I walk past this house, I can smell rot.  It smells like a Michigan basement, wet and moldy.  I’m sure someone lives there because of the flowers, but when I picture the interior, it’s all mold blossoms and dank carpet.  The house smells like it’s dying inside.

I know women like this.  They have the outside all pulled together because that’s our coping mechanism, but they are dying inside.  I have been a woman like this.  Pushing my cart through the grocery store and praying I don’t run into anyone I know because if someone showed me the teeniest bit of kindness or pity I would surely dissolve on the floor and never get up. Pushing my cart and thinking that no one knows I am dying inside.  Perhaps this experience has given me a keen sense of smell for it in others.  I hope so.  Hope that my people know they can come here and fall apart on my kitchen floor and I will pull the pieces of them into a pile and curl my body around them until they remember that Father’s hands were there already, it’s just that sometimes you need to feel an actual person and I am an actual person who will gladly proxy.  I have this great photo of Dan, when we brought our oldest home from the hospital.  I was almost prone with terror at the enormity of motherhood, so Dan unhooked him from his carseat prison and laid him on the floor and lay over him, cupping Grant’s teeny body with his hands and arms.  This picture stands on my heart when I feel untethered and rotty inside.  We are to be this to each other in the dark.  At least until the certainty of Christ being this all the time sinks in and allows the light to start filtering in, killing the mold and drying the place up.  We are to be this.

Somewhere in your life there is a Sister like this.  She is dying inside and no one knows it.  Be the one who figures it out and can cradle her while Jesus makes her whole.  Flood her home with scripture on little note cards so that Jesus’ words are dancing before her always.  Bring her a quart of her favorite ice cream and a couple of spoons and settle in for the story.  Have an arsenal of counselors you trust and offer to drive her there.  Tell her she needs a nice long nap but that you will anchor her couch down while she sleeps, praying against fear and sadness and being alone.  Be the skin for a savior who gave up his skin so we could live.  Here is my prayer for all of us; that we, each one, experiences a rotting time because the healing is so sweet and because then we KNOW.  Oh Sister, Jesus is so good at putting the pieces back together.  He made you, so how could he not be? And that it makes us savvy and keen to the smell so we can step into the hurt of others.  Lord, find us willing and eager to step in.

This is me being real.