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7 Things That Happened In Nashville

I went to Nashville this week and this is what happened:

1.  I ate a lot of things.  Maybe all the things.  I ate barbecue.  I ate pancakes.  I ate burgers.  I ate ALL THE SWEET POTATO FRIES.  Things my editors know about:

    • Books
    • Places to eat in Nashville.

2. I slept in a hotel.  On sheets I did not have to wash.  I spent 10 whole hours in a silent room, with no one touching me.  It was the new heavens and the new earth.

3. I did a little interview that will become book trailers for Enough and 10 Things for Teen Girls.   When I told my daughter that this was what I was traveling for, her exact words were, “If they put it on Youtube, I’ll be so impressed with you.  Because if they put it on Youtube, that means they want to share it with a lot of people.”  She thinks very highly of Youtube, bless it.  Nobody tell her.

4. I SAW KELLY CLARKSON AT AN ICE CREAM SHOP.  THE REAL KELLY CLARKSON.  SHE IS VERY PREGNANT AND HAS A TATTOO ON THE BACK OF HER NECK AND ON HER SHOULDER AND IS ADORABLE AND I WAS STANDING EXACTLY THREE FEET AWAY FROM HER GETTING ICE CREAM.  I was really chill and cool.  Then she left and I texted everyone I knew.

5.  I missed Kristen Bell and the CMA fest by a day.  But whatever because I saw Kelly Clarkson.  Nashville experience, complete.

6. I sat in an airport terminal, sipping Starbucks coffee, and unashamedly reading Harry Potter (because Harry Potter is like comfort food.  He is sick-in-bed reading.  He is beach-reading.  He is what I read to congratulate or console myself).  So I sat there, reading HP and sipping coffee and no one was touching me, or talking to me, or telling me about their bodily functions, or asking me to open things, and I thought, “Why do people hate waiting in airports?” 

And thus was born my new business endeavor.  If you are a business traveler who is SO OVER being a business traveler, 3 days before your next trip I will rent you my three children.  Madeline is drama and words.  Sam is two…and potty-training.  Henry requires constant, vigilant supervision.  They cannot eat, sleep, pee, or experience happiness by themselves.  After caring for them for 72 hours, you simply drop them by my home on your way to the airport.  I guarantee the most sacred, holy, Zen airport experience of your entire life.  I guarantee that no airport drink will ever have tasted so indulgent, no seat will ever have felt more luxurious, and that no gate attendant’s voice will never have sounded so PLEASANT, and GENTLE, and MATURE.  I personally guarantee 100% satisfaction or your money back.  Creeps need not apply.

7.  I am back with my babies now, and I am so, so happy.  I squished all their squishy arms, I kissed all the places on all their faces, and I plan to spend the rest of the day making sure they don’t drown each other in the baby pool outside.

Selah.

Forcing My Own Hand

I am really great at doing the right thing when the right thing is my only available option.

Example:  

I am awesome at not buying brownie mix.  I can’t remember the last time I purchased the stuff.

I am less awesome at not eating brownies.  I CAN remember the last time I ate brownies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it was the last time I bought brownie mix.

In sum, I am THE BOMB at not eating brownies…as long as there are no brownies around.

The times that I’ve been the most disciplined and put together in my life were not thanks to me – they were thanks to a total lack of options.

I don’t think of myself as a very disciplined person.  Homework was never really my jam.  Neither was balancing my checkbook.  I could take it or leave it, and by that, I obviously mean that I left it.  Disciplined people are the kind of people who can see brownies and think, “I am only going to eat one of those.”  Disciplined people can mind-over-matter stuff.  They can, say, just GET UP when the alarm goes off.  They can stick to the plan.  ANY PLAN.

I am the pits at that breed of self-discipline.  What I am is a pretty decent self-scheduler.

I am learning to organize my life in such a way that makes the right things easier and the wrong things tougher.

(Actually, I believe it’s nearly impossible to make a wrong thing “tough.”  Our natural bent towards selfishness and pride, coupled with rationalization and THE INTERNET mean wrong things are only ever just a few side-steps away.  Perhaps a more accurate statement would be:  I am learning to organize my life in such a way that makes the right things more convenient, so I have less excuses not to do them.) 

I learned this about myself my junior year of college.

I had one weird, terrible hour between classes, with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  (This was before the time of the iPhone – I call it the Scholastic Period.  Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Scholastic.  During the Scholastic period, I did not have cat videos, Twitter, or Pinterest at my fingertips.  Dark days, indeed.)

One day, I thought, “Hey, all those things I wish I had mental space to pray about?  Maybe I’ll go do that for a minute.”

And I did.
And I did it the next day, and the next day, and the next day.

For ten years I’d been trying to bully myself into spending time in prayer and meditation.

I tried guilt (which sounds a lot like, “He died for me, I’ll live for Him!” or “He gave everything, I can at least give 15 minutes in the morning!”)

I tried mountain-top camp experiences.

I tried coffee.

I tried Bible study books.

Nothing ever stuck for long.  I understood the value, I wanted to be the kind of person to JUST GET UP.  Or JUST DIG IN.   But it wasn’t working for me, and not for lack of trying.

The same could be said for my (lack of) exercise routine.  It’s not that I didn’t see the value.  It’s not that I didn’t WANT IT.  It’s just that whatever thing is inside of self-starters and internally-motivated go-getters – I do not have that thing.

I tried running.

I tried videos at home.

I tried 5 am bootcamp with friends.

No dice.

But in 2005, that one wonky hour became sacred time in my day.  I read my Bible EVERY. DANG. DAY.  I prayed for my friends, for myself, for my future, for the world.   That hour changed my life.  The next semester I intentionally scheduled an empty hour into my day.  Turns out, I CAN have a consistent quiet time – as long as I have literally nothing better to do.

This year I GOT A CLUE from my sacred hour, and applied it to my exercise routine.  I sat down and brainstormed how I could possibly make it work with 2 young boys at home all day, and not a dime to spare on a gym membership or childcare.

I’ve Instagrammed about our morning walks, and lest anyone think for a second that I have my !@#$ together, allow me to illuminate:

Maybe the mom exercising at the park at 8:30 in the morning is not actually put together. Maybe she was forced by the inconsiderate thugs running the public school system to be out the door with three kids by 8:00 am.  Maybe she rolled out of bed and fed them granola bars in the car.  Maybe she can only leave the house once a day without having a nuclear meltdown, and THIS IS IT.  Maybe the only way she could ever reliably get her unmotivated butt outdoors with her kids is just to do it ON THE WAY HOME. At the park ACROSS THE STREET.  Load them up, walk a few miles, go home, commence day of surviving in the house.  In other words, maybe she’s me.

What I’ve learned about myself is that my best shot at not going completely off the rails is to intentionally structure my life so that the right things are easier and the wrong things are harder.

It’s like pushing a chair in front of the stairs to keep babies away from the edge: if they really have a mind to get down there, they will – but it might just slow ‘em down long enough for you to save the day.

I’m not great at self-discipline, but I’m learning to save my own days.  I’m getting better about self-scheduling; that’s where it starts for me.

I can’t tackle things when they’re big; I get panicky and I tap out.  But I can manage them when they’re small, when they’re on the way home and everyone is already wearing pants.

Maybe this has been the real secret to self-discipline all along.

Maybe not.  But either way, it’s working for me.  I don’t buy brownie mix.  I walk in the morning.  I read and pray in the carpool line.

Still trying to find a good slot in the day for laundry-folding.  If I find it I’ll let you know.  Not looking good.

How do you pursue self-discipline?  Do incentives and motivations work for you?  Or are you more of a self-scheduler?  

Wherein I, the Flee-er, Fought

I am having a time-stands-still, remember-it-forever, validating parenting moment.

Just now, when given the option to write or braille her homework, Madeline chose braille.

That means that right this second, I get to acknowledge that I chose right for my child.  Too often parents don’t.  In fact, we almost never do.  We don’t know what would have happened had we chosen, taught, or encouraged differently.  We just know that we’re doing the best we can, and somehow, against all odds, kids mostly turn out okay.

I fought for braille.  And I’m not a born fighter.  When it comes to fight or flight, I’m a flee-er.

So many special needs moms are bulldogs.  They call, and fight, and advocate.  They march into offices and make fusses.  They say, “This is not acceptable.  You must do better for my child.  My child is a hero and an overcomer and he can do one hundred times more than you are presently imagining.  He deserves more and better from this system.”

As much as these moms are my friends and my sisters, I often feel less-than when I’m around them.  I find myself thinking, “I am not a bulldog.  I am not a fighter.  I don’t have what it takes.”

But I fought for braille.

I fought the system.
When they said, “Maybe she would do better in a special needs classroom,”  I said, “That is not even close to her least restrictive environment, so absolutely no.”

I fought the odds.
When they said, “We can’t give her that many hours/that summer instruction/that specialist,” I said, “That is unacceptable.  I will do it myself.”

I fought really well-meaning friends and family.
They said, “You know, she can SEE the page.  She doesn’t need braille.  Technology!  iPads!  Magnifiers!”  And I said, “Braille = literacy.  She can choose when she’s 18.  Until then, I choose.”

I took classes.
We brailled grocery lists, and Christmas cards.
In every school, at every meeting, at every pass I said, “More hours.  More braille.  Equal time, equal exposure.”
I blindfolded her when she practiced.
People wondered if I was forcing it.

People said, “She can read the words.”
And I said, “But she won’t be able to read them in 2nd grade.  And H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS if I’m going to wait until she’s 3 years behind to start teaching her the alphabet.

I fought for braille.

And tonight, when given the choice between print and braille, Madeline chose braille.

She chose it because it is easier for her to form letters with her fingers than it is for her to form them with a pen.

She chose it because she could.  And she could because she learned.  And she learned because I fought.

This is what she wrote:

I cannot even.

And listen, I may have fought, but I only fought because of the amazing, passionate, dedicated educators that fought alongside of me for the good of my child.  Educators that pulled me aside and said, “I can’t say this as a teacher, but as a parent…”  And, “You didn’t hear this from me, but…”

If I fought, it’s because they equipped me to fight.  They gave me the buzzwords, the loopholes.  They gave me the courage; they EN-COURAGED, truly.  They texted and called and emailed.  They said, “Fight for Madeline.  Keep fighting.”

Our teachers and vision teachers and braillists and specialists are our heroes, and this success is theirs, too.

I cried tonight.  I cried because I got to see the  fight pay off.  It’s not theoretical anymore.  It’s tonight, right now.  My baby knows braille, and she likes it, and she chooses it, and I did a good thing.

As the great philosophers of The Fray said, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

Honesty

Illustration by Lisa Congdon
I think that honesty is the door through which lies every good thing.

Health, help, connection, intimacy.

Honesty is the door through which lies every real thing.

If you want something true, you’re going to have to walk through that door.  The door of telling the whole truth.

It’s terrible that honesty is also the hardest, scariest, most painful thing.  I hate it.  I did not sign up for this.  I hate that honesty leaves me exposed and raw and gritting my teeth, bracing for the fallout.  I hate how it opens me up to judgment and ridicule and hurt.

But I love how it opens me up to mercy.  And connection.  And sleeping at night.

We tend to believe honesty will isolate us – that if we tell the real, honest truth everyone will jump ship, lest they be marred by association with our dirty selves.  But that’s the fear talking.  Honesty never isolates as much as lies do.

It’s the lies that build the wall.  It’s the omissions that lay the bricks.  It’s the giving up’s and the rationalizations and the self-preservation that walls us into solitary confinement.  It’s the hiding and the masks that chain us there, in the dank loneliness.  We are like Poe’s poor Fortunato, thinking we’ve found a cask of fine amontillado, but instead we’ve found our tombs.

I hate this, but I believe it.

If you want to be healthy, tell the whole truth.
If you want help, tell the whole truth.
If you want camaraderie, tell the whole truth.
If you want intimacy, tell the whole truth.

Anything less might work okay, but it isn’t real.  If you have to hide things to be loved, YOU aren’t loved, your image is loved.  If YOU want love – to be seen and known and loved for WHO YOU ARE – you’re going to have to tell the truth.  You’re going to have to let someone see you.

Donald Miller said it this way, “Telling the truth is the slow, mundane, difficult route to a meaningful life.  Anything less is cheating.”

I’m trying to tell more truth to the tribe of people that I do life with.  To have the courage to start conversations that matter.  To, as Teddy Roosevelt said, tell the truth, even if my voice shakes.  To be vulnerable, which, as Jon Acuff noted, gives other people the beautiful gift of going second.

I want to be full of grace – yes – but also full of TRUTH.  What a sloppy, messy collision – grace and truth.

Jesus was full of grace and truth.  And of every other good, real thing that I need.  He’s what I’m after.  And the real, applied, lived-out Christ-life lies through the door of humble, radical honesty.  Just like every other good thing.

Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.

Bubble Violence and Sunday Morning Demons

The 3 Irrefutable Laws of Motherhood are:

1. It is harder and better than you think.

2. People only stop by unannounced when your house is STRAIGHT NASTY and you are bra-less at 3:00 in the afternoon.

3. The entire universe conspires to keep you out of church on Sunday mornings.  Sunday mornings are, ironically, the sixth circle of hell.

However much hitting, punching, glass-shattering, appliance-breaking, things exploding, tantrum-throwing, food-spilling, and violent diarrhea you think is inherent in parenthood, triple it.  And on Sunday mornings, triple it again.

My children are overachievers.  They adopt their Sunday morning alter-egos on Saturday night, like overly ambitious Black Friday shoppers.  They want to make sure they have time to fit in ALL THEIR CRAZY.

A few weeks ago, Henry went to church with a large Band-aid straight across his forehead, connecting his eyebrows.  It was covering up the fresh gash that maybe could have used a stitch, but we judgment called it and figured he’d be fine (third kid).

Tonight, we were blowing bubbles when things got violent.  If you don’t understand how bubbles can turn violent you have less than or equal to one child.

So my kids are inching closer and closer – in order to be the first in line cluster to pop all the bubbles before his/her siblings – until they are all standing there with their fingers shoved INSIDE the bubble wand, and soapy syrup is running down their arms and all over my legs, and they are giggling like scary little Christopher Nolan versions of The Joker.

So I said, “EVERY ONE BACK. UP.”

And they did.

Until I blew the next wand-ful of bubbles and they stampeded towards me, shrieking and waving their hands in the air like they just didn’t care.  And Henry, Henry is one year old by the skin of his teeth.  I saw it happen in slow motion, like watching Mufasa get sucked under the hooves of crazed wildebeests.  They knocked him over forwards, then straight trampled him as they leapt around in their unbreakable bubble-trance, COMPLETELY UNAWARE that a LITTLE PERSON was underfoot.

That was the end of bubbles, and now Henry has a cut on his eyelid.   His left eye is all puffed up and pink, and he’s going to church AGAIN looking like Rocky Balboa.

You should also know that Madeline had to give herself a schizophrenic pep-talk to pipe down during story time tonight.  I am not making this up.  After the fifth interjection on the FIRST PAGE, I snapped, “MADELINE.  STOP TALKING.”

And she said,

“Okay, I can do this.

No, I can’t.

Yes, yes I can.   I can do hard things.

No, I can’t do this.

Yes, I can be quiet.”

I stared at her, unable to make sense of what was happening in front of me.   She has to have a conversation WITH HERSELF to mentally prepare herself to stop saying every single thing that pops into her brain.  You don’t even know.

The moral of this story is that I need something warm and chocolatey in the most serious way.   And that moms with herds of offspring should get preferential parking at church.  Because we have done mighty battle.  We have exorcised the Sunday morning demons.  We SHOWED UP.

And also, the childcare workers should just turn a blind eye (PUN INTENDED) to my little boxer tomorrow.  He’s fine.  He just had a nice Saturday evening blowing bubbles.

Are Sunday mornings your craziest mornings too?   Why do you think that is?    What keeps you showing up?  

Because He Lives (& Yoga Bird)

In light of Easter, I wanted to share with you a meditation I wrote for Yoga Bird last month.

The significance of the resurrection is so infinite – we can talk about the love of Jesus, the cost of sin, Jesus in our place, God’s power over death, the ultimate apologetic on which hinges the entirety of the Christian faith…

…but for me, this is where the rubber meets the road.  The resurrection doesn’t just matter because it was miraculous.  It matters because Jesus is alive.  A dead god can’t help you any more than a box of rocks can.   But a living God – a living God sees and loves and sustains.  Easter is the biggest deal because a living God is the biggest deal.

“The days are uncertain, to be sure.  When I think too long on Hollywood, or the beauty industry, or sex-trafficking, or congress, it is difficult to feel much of anything but despair.  I can’t imagine anything more daunting than being asked to raise a girl in our culture – until I think of raising boys.   And vice versa.

Then I realize that I believe Christ to be big enough for anybody, anywhere, no matter their plight or their hurt or their sin – but not big enough for me.

Not big enough for my parenting deficiency, not big enough for my immaturity, for my short-sightedness, for my brokenness and pride.

Of course he can redeem a life shattered by abuse.
Of course He can sustain through unimaginable loss.
Of course He can bring joy and peace to a life entrenched in the daily ache of poverty.
Of course He can lift the drug addict out of the pit, He can lift the alcoholic out of the mire, and set their feet on solid rock.

But me?  And my kids?  And my depressingly average, messed up life?  I don’t know if He is big enough for that.

This is, of course, insanity.  It is illogical and untrue, but I believe it – my worries betray me.  My despair tattles.

“In what way am I damaging my children?”  I wonder.  “What will they say about me in therapy?  Will they turn out okay, in these uncertain days?  Will I?”

There is a song – a hymn – that I sang in a little Baptist church in Alabama.  I sing it now, too.  On almost every single one of these uncertain days:

“How sweet to hold a newborn baby
To feel the pride and joy he gives
But sweeter still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
Life is worth the living just because He lives.”

Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”   The days are uncertain, but God -  God is certain.  He is the most certain thing there ever was.  He is the Rock of Ages.  Immutable and unchanging and certain.

And He is for me.

He is alive, full of power and grace.  His arm is not too short to save.  He is for me, and this child can face uncertain days because He lives.  Some days “this child” is my child, and some days it’s me.  But here’s what I know – we can face uncertain days.  Oh, what blessed power and hope!  We can face uncertain days!

We can face uncertain days because He lives.”

(You can listen to the meditation here.  My words have been put to original music, and every meditation includes a time of silence and reflection.)

//

Besides blog and books, I have a few other projects going, one of which is writing meditations like this one for Yoga Bird.  Yoga Bird is a wellness website that offers on-demand yoga classes with Christian meditation.  I first subscribed a few months ago and poked around the site for over an hour – there is a huge library of poses, beginner and advanced classes, quick office breaks, a blog, and a library full of meditations (which are nice for a quiet time too, if you want to switch things up).

If you want to go exploring, here is a coupon for 10 free days!

Other cool thing:  They beautiful heart behind Yoga Bird is my very dear aunt.  You will love her.

And for the curious, this welcome video explains what they’re about:

We can face uncertain days because He lives.  Happy Easter.
Kate

 

It Is Finished

It’s been a few a years since I said anything about Good Friday.  It’s been a few years since I’ve even said anything ON Good Friday.   I usually can’t because every thing I ever thought to say sounded vain or trite or both.  There’s nothing anybody can say that could add to the miracle of what happened on this day, and I always fear to cheapen it.  Or to make it about me or what I think.  Or to act as though I have some deep understanding, or that I am some very-enlightened, always-humble, spiritual soul.  Because I’m not.

Good Friday takes my breath away every year because that’s what happens when you get the wind knocked out of you.  When you fall flat on your face and start feeling less “humbled” and more “humiliated.”  It takes your breath away.

This year I’m thinking a lot about what Jesus said on the cross.  He said, “It is finished.”

It:  The work of love. The work of salvation.  The sacrifice.  The ransoming of billions and billions of souls.  The thing that Jesus came to earth to do:  save us.

I’m listening to this song by Matt Papa this year.  I hope you will too.

YouTube Preview Image

“The earth shook and trembled
The sun bowed it’s head
The veil of the temple was opened for men
As Jesus went down in the cold of the grave,
Defeated the darkness when He overcame
The keys of the kingdom were placed into hands
Of children and priests and of fishers of men
Throughout generations his voice will be heard
Creation resounds the victorious words!

‘It is finished’
It is done
To the world salvation comes
Hallelujah
We’re alive!
Hell was silenced when you cried..
It is finished.”

(The official music video contains scenes from The Passion of the Christ.  If you think you might find this troubling or too difficult to watch, maybe just listen.)

 

10 Right Questions to Answer About the Person You’re Dating

A few weeks ago I received my favorite text message ever:

It was like a dream come true.  DO WE GET TO OVER-ANALYZE THIS FOR DAYS, GAILY BEATING THE DEAD HORSE INTO THE GROUND WHILST EATING ICE CREAM IN OUR PAJAMAS?

Since then, we’ve talked a lot about healthy relationships, pacing things, guarding hearts, et al.  The only real difference between college and now is that today I have the benefit of having been married for seven years.  So, GAME CHANGER.

One of the things I told my anonymous friend, and something I really believe, is that time and pace are just tools to make sure you get real answers to the right questions.

So – we’re having this conversation and I’m feeling maybe a little too enlightened when my friend says,

“So, what are the right questions?”

Yeah.  Here’s the thing about that.  NOBODY KNOWS.

But I spent a few days thinking about it, and I asked some married friends that are smarter than me, and so, together, we give you:

10 Right Questions to Answer About the Person You’re Dating

1. Listen to him eat a bowl of cereal.  Is that sound something you can tolerate for the rest of your life?  THIS IS NOT A DRILL.   Treat this issue with the respect it’s due.

2. Does he exhibit self-control?  You do not want to be married to someone with no self-control.  Think finances, think housework, think fidelity, think EVERY AREA OF LIFE.

Look for: Does he put off or blow off other responsibilities to spend time with you?  If so, it’s easy to feel “Yay!  Chemistry!  I’m a PRIORITY.”   But it can be a red flag.  Does he push boundaries physically?  If he does, don’t think, “Yay!  He can’t get enough of me!”  Instead, ask yourself, “Is he exhibiting self-control?”

Now substitute “self-control” with another character trait – maybe kindness, or patience, or courage, or honesty.  All the right questions will point you to character.  Chemistry and compatibility matter just as much, but they’re easy to see.  After just a few dates, you know.  The right questions don’t answer, “Do we fit?  Do we click?  Is there something special here?”  Because, duh.  The right questions answer “What kind of character does this man have?  What kind of habits?  What is he made of, on the inside, through and through?”

3.  Is he investment-minded?  Relationships die if they aren’t tended.  Committed to stay and committed to work are two totally different things.  It’s very 2014 to “chill” and “hang out” and “do something.”  But listen – if someone asks your guy “What are you going to do this weekend?”  and he says “I’m going to spend time with my girlfriend, because that’s important,”  MARRY THAT DUDE.

Look for:  Does he ask intentional questions?  When you’ve told each other all your stories, will you have made your own, together?  Is he relationally intelligent?  (When I asked my married friends what questions they would recommend asking/discovering/settling at least 85% of them said:  ”DOES HE SPEAK HER LOVE LANGUAGE?  DOES HE VALUE SPEAKING IT?  WILL HE TRY TO LEARN HER LOVE LANGUAGE?  IS HE EVEN PHYSICALLY CAPABLE?”  So, that’s kind of a huge deal.)

4. Do you respect his decisions and his decision-making skills?  Not whether or not you can influence them, or whether he is willing to defer some things to you.  I mean, THAT, obviously, but don’t stop there.   Ask, as my very wise friend Sarah suggested, “Left to his own devices, does she trust him enough that she can respect and submit to the decisions that he makes?  If not, don’t marry him.”

Look for:  The things he values, the way he spends his time.  If you can’t get on board with his life decisions so far, do not pass go; do not collect bridal shower presents.

5.  Does he apologize?  This question is the one that garnered the most vociferous, vehement, visceral reaction amongst my married friends.  Does he apologize?  How?  It speaks to humility, respect, self-confidence, and a willingness to work at relationship.

Look for: Does he apologize to other people?  (I only recently learned that there is a “Languages of Apology” book/assessment, in the same vein as Love Languages.  Worth looking into.)  And listen:  apologies are sexy.

6. How does he fight?  Hot or cold?  Right away or the next day?  In straight-up specifics, or in softer generalities?  Does he call names?  Is he sarcastic?  Because IT’S GONNA HAPPEN, LOVE BIRDS.  And you need to know, is this the man I want to fight with for the rest of my life?

7.  ”It’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party” -Nick Hornby   If you had to listen to his music on a road trip, how soon into the drive would you try to throw yourself from the window of a moving vehicle?

8, 9, and 10. The three things that couples fight about the most (and the worst) are money, sex, and kids.  That’s it.  The trifecta.  Money, sex, and kids.  There are one million questions wrapped up in money, sex, and kids, and one million blog posts that explore them.  I’m not adding to that number today.  Google it, find a list, ask them all.

What you really need to know is, when you’re all twitterpated, and in love, and your hormones come out to play, you can’t think clearly anyway – so if you’re reading this you’re probably already screwed.  But it’s okay.  It can be pretty wonderful.  :)

 What would you add?  What do you think is the most helpful, absolutely-must-settle-before-progressing, dating question?  My anonymous friend and I want to know!

We Keep Our Children’s Secrets

 My middle child is my sensitive child.  Sam feels things first.  Changes in his environment, tweaks to his schedule, tensions in relationship – they’re all palpable to Sam.  He notices and responds.

Whenever I visit with someone I love, I think,

“I hope they get to see the real Sam.”

They usually don’t.  A new person in the vicinity is just enough change for Sam to holster his magic.  He keeps it close to the vest.

I used to feel sad, because I knew the world was missing out.  It was difficult to know that I had this treasure of a child and that even those closest to me would never really know him.  When you have great joy, you want to share it.  It’s why we photograph and Instagram, it’s why we call and text and “guess what!”  It’s why we shout love from the rooftops.  Sam is the greatest joy, and I so wanted the world to know him.

But these days, instead of feeling sad , I choose honored.  I’ve begun to understand that all mothers keep their children’s secrets.  I am the guardian of the great joy that is Sam at his most free, most comfortable, most true.  I have the blessed privilege of being the human with whom he feels at home.  It’s hard sometimes, to choose honored over sad, because the compulsion to shout him out and show him off is still so great.  So I think of Mary, the young mother of Jesus, who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2).

The shepherds were out shouting the glories of God and angels and the infant King Jesus, because great joy wants to be shared, but Mary treasured and pondered.  A young mother, just like me, keeping her baby’s secrets.

I suspect this secret-keeping, this guarding of beautiful little selves, is how the universe pays us back for stretch marks.  Oh, did we ever get the good end of that deal.

(all photos by Brooke Courtney Photography

Fake Butter, Fake Cheese, and Fake People

Here’s how things work around here.  After four days of eating virtuously, we make Alfredo sauce from scratch.

 Because life is too short for fake butter, fake cheese, or fake people.   AMIRIGHT?

Also, please forgive my fingernails, which, as my precious, hilarious sister-in-law says, “look like a cat’s been chewin’ on them.”  How’s THAT for a Southernism?

BON APPÉTIT, Y’ALL.