Sunday, December 1, 2013

Your Friendly Fairy Eavesdropper travels to Philadelphia.

My Top 10 Observations and Lessons learned in Philly:

#10 - More people wear grey to Philadelphia's Museum of Art than to any other place in the world. There was a guy actually doing his morning workout, in all grey, running up and down the steps. I personally had my red coat on, channeling my English heritage, and was a bit disappointed in myself for not wearing my grey outfit that day. Amateur mistake, and I will be better prepared next time.

 Unfortunately, after piddling and toiling around the infamous steps, pretending to be Rocky, watching clips from the movie, yelling a bit into the wind, and taking in the view and scenes and sounds of all things at the top of the Rocky steps, I finally walked ALL THE WAY around to the west side entrance, only to discover the museum is closed on Mondays! WHAT?!?! I'm quite certain I googled that, but somewhere, somehow, that one fell through the cracks.

#9 - There are conspiracy theorists who tour on segways proclaiming that Sylvester Stallone did not really write Rocky. Their proof? The compilation of the  remainder of his produced work. "How can a man who wrote all of those, have truly written the little gem known as Rocky?.?. Impossible. I'm convinced he bought it from someone." And then they and their fanny packs took their pictures by the MOST PHOTOGRAPHED artwork in Philly, "Rocky", and zoomed on their segway way. I would have fairyeavesdropped on more of their tour, but those things are quite speedy.

#8 - According to my friend Philly's streets are laid out like the streets of Paris. When I first heard this, I had idyllic thoughts of magical city streets with glimmering lights, love, music, and Frenchmen awaiting to buy me cappuccinos and feed me cheese. But then, as I walked down the boulevards and sidewalks, all I learned was that because these streets are so jacked up, it just provided me with 7 different ways to get hit by 17 different cars coming from 9 different directions! WHAT?!?!

Which leads to the 2nd tidbit this friend shared with me, that Philly is the place where certain "colorful" words are used most. After I was led down yet another dead end path to a place blocked once more by some new street springing forth from some other roundabout and missing a crosswalk, I about yelled one of those colorful words...I may or may not have yelled one of its colorful cousins...the goodie two shoes cousin, but a colorful cousin nonetheless.

#7 - Newsmen like to photobomb "I am Rocky, hear me roar!" pictures taken atop the steps. Thankfully my very handsome, broken English speaking stranger who I nabbed to take my picture waited for the "strange man" to pass by, so my picture would be sans a photobomber. But these same newsmen who have "tipline" plastered on their TV vehicles are hesitant to receive tips of what I would deem a worthwhile nature. Which brings me to #6...

#6 - Philly is massively deficient in its Starbucks availability. When I travel, I must have spots I can walk in that contain something familiar. Starbucks is of course the dominant of all things familiar in my life. I can count on getting the same drink, that TASTES the same in whatever location I walk into. I can also chat and get some friendly travel advice from the baristas. It's quite helpful and safe for the lonely traveler. So, when the so called tip-line guy yelled how he had tried to photobomb my pic, I yelled back, "Hey, I see you are the tipline guy. I have a tip for you...Philly needs more Starbucks. It's 15 degrees out here, I've been up and out for nearly 3 hours and there's no Starbucks in sight."

"Starbucks?" he yelled. "There's one right down there by that Whole Foods."

Um, ya, that's 6 blocks, 14 roundabouts, and 87 possible "get hit by cars" moments away. You just proved my point Mr. Tipline.

Thankfully, that Starbucks was in the direction I was walking next.

#5 - Foundations that build museums are VERY pretentious and all "secret society" when it comes to their art. That same friend from before also told me about the Barnes Foundation art gallery. And since my friends are all cultured and artsy and high class and all, I always have to play along and enter at least one art museum when I travel, so I have some credibility left with them, and we can all pretend I am a mature adult. If they knew I mainly walk in for the gift shops, because museum gift shops are the VERY best, they'd be quite disappointed in me, but I keep that to myself.

I always buy my ticket, swing through Wing C and D, pop in on Mr. Art Guy's conversation about how Matisse's art really doesn't look like a 4 year old did it, and then mosey over and watch the take down of how "You and your children need to quiet down" and then the reaction of highly offended mom who says "MY CHILDREN ARE JUST TRYING TO COMPLETE THE MUSEUM SCAVENGER HUNT," I then call it a day, go through the gift shop, buy some "highly inappropriate" postcards, mail them to my friends and tell them I was inspired by the museum experience, and this post card proves it.

But, actually finding the museum is always the first task, and with the Barnes Foundation, it was proved to be a task. Mr. "I'm hanging the lights for our big holiday reveal on the boulevard" told me the Barnes Foundation was just up the way next to the Rodin Museum. I had seen the large sign for that and knew just where I was going.
Can you see the TINY writing on the building??

I proceed to cross and dodge and do all things "real life frogger" requires of you, make it to the correct sidewalk and go passed the Rodin, take my pic for my artsy friends, tell them I made note of it, knew Rodin was an artist, but kept on walking.

I came to the building next door, but it was just a rectangle with no signage, not really any windows, and screamed, "I'm a government building trying to camo myself on this block". I knew the guy had said the Barnes was next to Rodin, and this building was next to Rodin, so I walked to the left side, and nothing...but I did get a glimpse down a little alley way and saw the potential for being in the right spot, so I walked all the way to the right side, and AROUND to the BACK. I walked through a courtyard, back INTO the building to find a door. There, on the left of that door, was etched into the building in letters approximately 2 inches tall, "The Barnes Foundation".

I pull open the door to only read something in small print about having to buy tickets back at the ticket building.

 What ticket building?

A "colorful cousin" slipped at this point...but the tornado-ish, 15 degree winds covered it up I am certain.

I walked back around the building and saw a wall and another wall. There's no ticket building. But, then, I caught a glimpse between those walls, and I saw an "S".

I moved closer and around the wall, and there it was, a tiny little sign saying, "TICKETS".

Needless to say, I'm annoyed by this whole ordeal, so I walked in, and immediately said to the ticket guys, "Are you trying to NOT let people in this place?!?! There is no signage anywhere. Is this a secret art gallery?"

Their reply while laughing, "That's what the architect was trying to do...have this place be something you stumble upon...that you find your way in to."

WHAT?!?! Colorful cousin...

My dad is an architect, and I have to say, your architect was an idiot. (but I kept that to myself.)

"Well, ma'am (Don't call me ma'am) you have now found it and let me call up your reservation."

Reservation? Are you kidding me?!?! Is this a secret portal to Disney World where there are lines a mile long, because, let's be honest boys, I see no one around here.

"Ma'am, our galleries are small and we limit the number of people who can walk through at a time to a select group."

Like 10 people? ...I silently thought...

"Our next availability is 12:30."

As in 5 minutes from now?...that's called a ticket, not a reservation...but I kept that to myself as well.

I'll take one please!

"Only one?"

Just give me a dang ticket.

I paid my $22 and strolled through the courtyard and "happened" upon the door, feeling calm and peaceful and certainly not saying any colorful cousins or giggling at the absurdity of this place.

I walked in. Security checked the contents of my purse, looked at me funny due to its collection of gum wrappers, wadded up receipts, half-eaten Zone perfect bars, raisins and cashews sprinkled throughout due to an unfortunate spillage of enormous bag of trail mix during one of my Frogger leaps trying to get here, and a few hotel mini lotions.

Don't judge me Mr. Security.

He told me that no coats were allowed in the galleries, so I needed to proceed to the coat check on the floor below.

Excuse me?

"Ma'am, (don't call me ma'am) each gallery is small and we don't like the viewers to bump into each other."

What?.?. I stared at him blankly.

Down those stairs ma'am. (Don't call me ma'am.)

As I turned to head to coat check, it became quite clear I was out of my league. Everything screamed, "we are in from the Hamptons and this scarf I'm wearing cost more than your college education."

I checked my $59 wool coat from Dillard's, and it hung next to the furs and Burberry, and out of protest, I told Mr. Coatchecker he could keep my hat, my scarf and my one glove from WalMart too. (I had lost my other one)

Certainly ma'am. (Don't call me ma'am)

I gracefully walked upstairs to the galleries, feeling out of place and unworthy. I tried to keep my hands from fidgeting, I tried to recall some large vocabulary words Cade has used saying "That's an SAT word mom." but I couldn't. My mind was blank. I'm pretty sure I spit when I said "yes, yes I would like headphones for the tour." My hands were so fidgety I nearly dropped the fancy audible tour ipod contraption.

I carefully "remained behind the black line" in every gallery. I tried to not bump into any other art connoisseur since that's why I had to check my coat in the first place. I didn't want to seem like I still had too much padding on that caused me to overstep my space allowance.

I admired the many Renoirs, Picassos, and Monets. I even found the gallery with the African and Asian billion dollar tchotchkes quite kitschy.

I was very respectful as I walked through the gallery that I knew should have been titled, "This is what my 6 year old did in art class but was signed Matisse."  ;) I shook my head, quietly saying, "Uh, huh." stood and stared, tilted my head and admired. I listened to my headphones and saw many paintings I recognized, and I tried my best to appreciate what billions of dollars of artwork looks like contained in an unmarked building, where you must walk through sans coat and not have a camera or cell phone on said persons unless you want Mr. Security guy to confiscate it.

It was quite remarkable. It was very impressive and worth the visit. In actuality, I highly recommend it. I purchased my postcards, grabbed my coat, hat, scarf and glove, and headed back onto the streets and grabbed my long awaited Starbucks.

#5 - Incredible events took place Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, namely Gettysburg. Besides the fictional character of Rocky running through its streets and fighting in its arena, great men with great vision and purpose gathered in these streets and halls and argued, debated, and persuaded one another to sign two history changing documents: The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. To walk down cobble stone streets and under archways and into rooms that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Adams, Hancock, and Franklin stood is always remarkable. There's something about being there, listening to the stories one more time, and touching the wood and hearing the creaks of the floor boards that makes history come to life. I love picturing them standing there, listening to the piercing silence on the battlefields, reflecting on what I enjoy today, due to the sacrifice and fight they put forth. All of these places are worth driving to, walking through, and attempting to soak in the history of our country.

#4 - Traveling, even when kicked off by an anxiety attack, is always worth it. The landscape, the
people, the sights, sounds, air and skies does something remarkable to my heart, my soul, and my mind. It awakens pieces inside of me that get stuffed down and covered up by Hallmark Christmas movies and grading papers. And traveling alone, though lonely, takes me to the edge of my box, my comfort zone, and that's when growth occurs, epiphanies take place, and an adjustments on perspective and dreams are made.

#3 - I have people, and because of modern technology, my people go with me. The holidays make me miss my mom terribly. I miss her so much it hurts. And traveling alone always brings her to mind, so mixing those two this past week was hard. I'm thankful I did it, but it was difficult. BUT, in God's goodness and mercy, He reminded me that I have people. I can text my people, and they respond. They ask and walk and see with me. They laugh and pray and remind me that though I am far, and though I seem to be alone, I really am not. They care about me, my life, my adventures, just as I care about theirs. It's always a beautiful reminder, and another reason to be grateful for modern technology. Where I am, they can be too.

#2 - God is good and personal and with you in the big, and, even sweeter, He's with you in the small.
So often I feel like my problems are petty, pitiful and small. I think I whine more than pray. I wonder more than trust. I forget more than I remember.
But, somehow, someway, God weaves in and through all of that. And as I continue to whine, wonder, and forget, He walks with me, and nudges me to listen, urges me to be patient and keep walking, and then reminds me He is faithful by being faithful yet one more time in some extraordinary way in my seemingly simple and small life.

#1 - I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to travel! After hearing about my panic attack, someone said, "I can't believe you still travel amidst that." Which, I completely understand that sentiment and often wonder myself and get fearful of it if I dwell on it for too long. But, I am determined to not let that fear steal something that brings such adventure, joy, challenge, meaning, education, and purpose to my life. If I stop traveling, then it wins...the fear wins and takes something from me. I just have to tell myself, Look, I'm going again. Fear can make this difficult, but we're going to face it again. We're going to plan again, book another, and board that plane once more and find us the adventure that awaits on the flip side.

May we all look fear in the face this week, brave our way through it, and most importantly, listen to God's voice, be patient, keep walking, and KNOW that He is faithful.

In Him,

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When the beast of anxiety rears its ugly head at 30,000 feet.

I just returned from Philadelphia. I'd been wanting to go there for nearly 4 years now. Part of what we study in 5th grade includes the origins of Philadelphia. I had gone when I was 7 or 8, but had very few memories, so me and my traveling heart wanted to go see it again.

Due to a gift I'd been given, I was able to purchase the airfare, and you know me and, we (as in me and my computer) got the hotels at GREAT DEALS!

So, Friday after school, I headed to the airport and was ready to jet off on another adventure. This one had many purposes. One, was the one I just stated above, but another was that Cade is away this Thanksgiving, so it's perfect timing to go off and find some fun instead of sitting at home for 9 days. Another is I'm hoping to do some more summer trips with students, and besides Boston, Philadelphia seemed like a viable option.

What's funny about me and traveling is that I get anxiety when I travel. Many of you know that I experienced major anxiety years ago. I lived in it, with it, was treated for it, and then, after my divorce, what had remained, left. I rarely experience it anymore, but when I fly, it comes back.

I have to carry medicine when I travel. Sometimes I take it, sometimes I don't. Typically on the flights out, I get more anxious, so I'm usually better prepared for those. I make sure I've exercised, I have movies, I take a pill, I pray, and I get on, we take off, we land, and I'm fine.

I'm not afraid to fly. I'm afraid of having an anxiety attack while we are flying, and there's no "escape route" at 30,000 feet.

I'm afraid of the fear, of the anxiety.

Why is that?

Because I know how powerful it is. I've tangled with it before, and beating it is hard. It makes you want to throw up, it convinces you that you are dying, it tells you that if you don't get out, you're going to go crazy.

If and when that happens to me on the ground, it's fine...because one can get out. The monster is irritating, aggravating, discouraging, and disheartening, but it is manageable. It is beatable...on the ground.

But, at 30,000 feet, it's like fighting a monster with a Popsicle stick; and it feels like you are drowning in an ocean amidst a hurricane.

I've had some rough flights before. But my medicine takes care of it, I may not enjoy the flight, but I make it, it works, and I head out on adventure.

This flight...ya, this flight I was ill prepared.

Or, I guess I was, because this one was different.

I hadn't packed a single movie...which is a rookie mistake.

I had too much to take care of and I didn't make going to the gym before my flight a priority, so I was short on my natural brain fighters.

I hadn't drank much water that day, and I scoffed at the prospect of anxiety when someone mentioned it earlier in the day.

Thankfully, I did have my medicine.

Because the moment those cabin doors closed, the monster reared its ugly head.

The first wave came, and I took a pill. I talked to myself, closed my eyes, and began everything I knew to do. I started telling myself truths, reminding myself of reality, I asked the flight attendant for ice, I turned on my Ipod, I prayed...I took another pill.

I knew my limit on medicine, so I paced myself trying to see when it would kick in.

It didn't.

It wasn't.

My mind was panicking. I had 2 hours to go, and I couldn't get a handle on the monster.

My book made me want to vomit.

My mind was picturing me telling the flight attendant that we were going to have to land on that patchy grass below, or I don't know what would happen, but something would happen.

The beast grew; the waves kept crashing, and I couldn't catch my breath.

I took one more pill.

I knew my max was 4, and I still had one more leg to reach Philly.

I prayed. I begged.

I sucked down ice, the ice was dripping off my neck and I'm quite certain the man next to me was sitting half in the aisle and his head was beneath his coat.

He didn't know what was wrong with me, but he knew that crazy was next to him.

The flight attendant was so nice and brought me more ice sans a linking bag.

I never muttered the words anxiety. I knew the moment they came out, it would be all over for me. I knew the moment I stood to go to the bathroom, it would be all over.

My defense was my seat, my prayers, my medicine, and not muttering the words of fear.

Just keep my eyes closed.

then open.

speak truth and only truth.

beg God.

pray the medicine would take over.

pray that God would supernaturally take over my mind because the monster had it and nothing I did seemed to be working.

I kept thinking, if only a doctor would come sit next to me. Maybe I could ask the flight attendant for a doctor instead of landing the plane in the grass of Missouri below us. That would be better. That would seem less crazy. ;)

I kept playing that scenario over and over...if only a doctor were here with me, telling my brain that it was fine.

That all this, was just a mirage. It was fear of a fear, and it would end.

But I had reached my end, so I took my final pill.

Only once before had I taken all 4, and it had been years ago.

I couldn't remember the last time I needed that much to calm me.

That alone, caused me angst.

That alone took me to a place that I hadn't traveled to in a while.

That lonely place that makes you feel helpless, hopeless, never getting better, failure, ridiculous, vulnerable, and humiliated, and alone...

But then, I opened my eyes, reminded myself of reality one more time, turned my head to my neighbor and asked the woman if she was from St. Louis. (our connection)

I asked because I wanted to know how far of a drive it was to Philly. I knew I had maxed my medicine and there was no way on earth I could go through this again. I was in a nightmare and I couldn't escape it.

I certainly wasn't going to walk onto another one.

The lady turned to me sweetly, told me no, and asked how I was feeling.

I told her not good. I hadn't felt great for a couple days (which was honest) and I thought it was just the business of teaching before a holiday, getting ready for a trip, and getting prepared to be away from Cade for 9 days. All of that is heavy, and I assumed it was that. But, apparently, there is something more.

She asked what I taught and we spoke for a bit.

I asked what she did.

Her response, "I'm a nurse."

I could feel the monster slither back a bit.

My brain immediately thanked God and thought, "this whole time Lord, this whole time I was begging in my mind for a doctor, and you had seated a sweet nurse next to me. I was fighting the monster alone, with my eyes closed, within my head, and I hadn't even looked to the person next to me."

Maureen and I continued to chat, my heart began to slow, my mind began to quiet.

God had reminded me that He was there...right next to me.

The waves would still come, but they were easier, would pass quicker, and Maureen was so sweet to let me stop mid sentence and then finish whatever it was I was saying after the wave went by. She never flinched.

The time began to pass, and St. Louis was soon below the airplane's tires.

As soon as I could turn my phone on, I texted about 9 friends and my dad. I told them what I had just experienced: the worst anxiety attack in recent memory, and I didn't know what to do.

I did know my medicine was finally kicking in: everything was slower and I was sleepy. Thankfully it was getting late, and so I was naturally tired as well. I asked one of my doctor friends if Tylenol would be okay to take as well, and she said yes.

So I begged them all to pray for me: for calm, for sleep, because I had 2 more hours to make it to Philly.

The gate people were so sweet, because after they informed me the flight wasn't full, they let me pre- board so I could sit in the back by myself.

If I was going to freak out, I wanted it to be alone, where I could curl up and ride it out.

I bought me one of those plane pillows, handed my boarding pass to the ticket taker, walked down the gateway, found the furthest back aisle, thanked God when no one sat with me, let the prayers of my friends wash over me, and the next thing I knew, I was almost to Philadelphia.

I didn't even remember taking off. Sleep had come before we left ground.

You can't imagine how thankful I was to have made it, for that to be over.

It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life. I couldn't even think about it. I just wanted to pretend it had never happened.

But it had.

All 3 days as I toured, I tried my best to soak in all of Philadelphia, Lancaster and Gettysburg, but I couldn't get in my groove.

What had happened haunted me.

That monster, the one that came on November 22nd, had messed with me, had taken something from me, was threatening to take something that brings so much joy to my life - traveling.

As I travel alone, I am always texting my friends, my brother, my dad, and sharing things I'm seeing, pithy stories, or funny observations, but it wasn't until day 3 that I could really get into it.

And by day 3, my evening flight was looming. I had asked for prayer all day, and I knew they were all praying.

I could feel it.

I was relaxed enough to have some fun, joke around, run up the Rocky steps, tell the local news tipline guy that Philly had a severe deficiency in the number of Starbucks.

But, 6:00 eventually came, and I waited for the monster.

I wondered what I would face.

But this time, I came better armed.

For one, I had stopped at a Walmart and bought 3 movies...action packed movies.

Two, I walked tons that day and drank lots of water.

Three, I prayed, and kept telling myself that at the end of this flight was my bed, was home.

Four, I had confessed to my friends that I needed them, that I couldn't do this without them, without their prayers.

Five, I remembered something Jon Acuff had said at Love Does, "Bravery is in the moments that make you want to throw up. It isn't easy, and it is not fun as it is occurring."

It seems stupid that getting on a flight was a moment of bravery in my life. Pitiful really, but for me, traveling is a passion, a desire; adventure is something that feeds me in ways I can't explain. The time I get with God, the air I breathe, and the world I see opens up, and having something stand in front of that is disheartening.

The idea that fear could close that world down for me is maddening.

So, at 6:00 Monday night, I walked down the terminal, awaiting the beast.

I stepped onto the plane, reading the many text messages of prayers, and reminders, and Bible verses my friends and family had sent and were sending.

One, stood out.

It said, "May you know that Jesus is sitting right next to you and that He is mighty."

As I buckled, I looked up to see a man coming down the aisle and stop next to me. He pointed to the window seat (only 2 seats on our side), and said, I believe that seat is mine.

I smiled, and no kidding, I almost said OUT LOUD, so you are my Jesus tonight.

I knew it was Jesus.

Calm washed over me, because only Jesus would show up in the form of a 430 pound NFL player.

No kidding.

Any ounce of anxiety I'd had, was now gone.

God knew I needed a physical reminder of His presence, of His might, and by His grace, He gave me one.

We sat, we chatted, and he apologized for being so big and being in half my seat. I told him that I was grateful for him. I never felt small, and he made me feel small, and I loved it.

This man had no idea how God was using him.

As we talked he told me about his injury and upcoming surgery, and so I told him I'd be praying for him and be looking for him on the Packers.

I asked him if he believed in God, and he said he certainly did.

So I was about to go into what Jesus had done for me that night, but the flight attendant walked up just then and told him that there was a spot in business class for him to have some more room.

He looked at me and said, well, we were having a great conversation.

I laughed and said, I'm just grateful I had these few minutes, go enjoy the room.

He got up, the plane took off, and I eventually walked off, back in SA knowing that Jesus loved me enough to sit with me as I traveled through my own personal fire.

He sent a mighty man to remind me that He's bigger than anything I face.

He reminded me that bravery comes in all forms and for all sorts of reasons.

Saw this @ Franklin Inst. & thought Perfect pic of  friendship
He reminded me that fear is powerful, but His love has no match. That friends are the ones who know no bounds or distance, who walk with you when you feel ridiculous, humiliated, foolish, and scared beyond your imagination.

He reminded me that prayer is powerful, that it works, that even though some bridges can be scary to cross, the fear of fear is no reason to stop you from crossing them.

On my flight home, I listened to David Crowder's new song, I Am. I love David Crowder, and this song...this song, is one of the best.

There's no space that His love can't reach,
There's no place where we can't find peace,
There's no end to amazing grace.

Take me in with your arms spread wide,
Take me in like an orphaned child,
Never let go never leave my side.

I am... holding onto you
I am... holding onto you

In the middle of the storm I am holding on. I am.

Love like this,
Oh my God to find,
I am overwhelmed with the joy divine.
Love like this sets our hearts on fire.

I am... holding onto You.
I am... holding on to You.

In the middle of the storm, I am holding onto You.

This is my resurrection song, this is my hallelujah come, this is why it's to You I run.
This is my resurrection song, this is my hallelujah come, this is why it's to You I run.

There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place where we can't find peace.
There's no end to amazing grace.

I am
holding onto You.
I am
holding onto You.

In the middle of the storm I am holding on.

I am
holding onto You.
I am
holding onto You.

~ Crowder

My prayer for you, and for me, is that whatever beast we face, whether one that seems ridiculous or not, that we will see God with us, we will see His hand, His love and His grace. And that if we need to see it more, that we will beg Him to make it even more real...because only God could have known, that what would bring calm to my night, was a 430 pound football player.

I would have never thought, or dreamed, or imagined that as I showed up with Popsicle sticks and trembling knees, God was willing to show up with the physical picture of might and even a sense of humor.

To the One who does far more than we could ever ask or imagine, to Him I give the glory.

In Him,

Next post, I'll actually tell you about Philly.  :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Epiphanies via Jon Acuff, Repealing the 'Shutdown of Blockbuster' and how my "Jewish Mother" is a 10 year old boy- Ruth had Naomi helping her date, I've got Cade.

I'll never forget the day Cade became my "Jewish mother". Frankly, I need one in my life: one who keeps me on the straight and narrow, paying attention to all sorts of details I like to think don't really matter. But I never thought it would come in the form of a super cute 10 year old boy.

As we were driving one day, Cade turned to me and said, "I wish you would get married again. I want a step dad."

Me, "You do?!" amongst my laughter.

C, "Mom, are you trying? I mean, are you REALLY trying?"

Me - "I LOVE YOU!" as I was thinking "When did you become my Jewish mother?"

Being single, and being one who always at times whines complains mentions dissatisfaction about being single, I can receive all sorts of questions, suggestions, and advice in this area.

And, honestly, I don't mind it. I like that people think I should/could get married again...that it isn't a far fetched dream that I really am "just a girl...standing in front of a boy...asking him to love her." (Gosh, I need to rent that movie tonight. Oh wait, I CAN'T! Seriously, what can we do about this situation? Protest? hit the streets with picket signs? get Sen. Ted Cruz to add 'the shutting down Blockbuster' to his list of things to repeal?!?!)

For me, loneliness is like grief: it comes in waves.

Some days you are kicking butt, taking names, and loving everything about that, and then the next, you are in the fetal position, eating ice cream from the carton, wishing the couple next to you would share their $10 popcorn because this movie is just. so. sad.

Loneliness truly is a funny thing...and by funny I mean that monster that makes you want to scream and vomit at the same time.

But, I think it follows all of us.

Whether we are married or not, have children or not, whether we are old and grey or young and wrinkle and bone creaking free.

Loneliness, like grief, is part of life.

Why? one of sane emotional status might ask.

I'm not sure.

Honestly, I'm not sure of the point.

I don't like problems that can't be solved. I mean, what's the point of a problem, if it can't be solved!!

That's why life, relationships, love, family, poetry, riddles, etc... are complicated, irritating, and hard for me to grasp.

That's also how I know marriage won't solve my loneliness. For one, I've been married, and I was lonelier then than I am now. A healthy one can/will fill a hole that only a good marriage can fill, but there's other holes present, and even a healthy marriage can create a few more, so I'm not looking to get married to solve anything.

So, when my "jewish mother" says, "Mom, why don't you do that "Christian Meet" thing, my answer is always, "Um, you mean Christian Mingle...ya, that's not for me."

After I giggle and hug him and tell him I'm so glad he's looking out for me, I go into my 30 minute monologue on how I'm not looking to solve my lack of marriage and I'm certainly not looking for crazies and I seem to believe out of 20 people on those sites, you might have 1 normal, and if I'm going to get married again, I'm looking for normal.

So, until there's a site called, www.PleaseGod,I'mjustlookingforanormalguywholovesJesus,life,is6fttall, - I'm just not interested in turning to the interwebs to find my dude.

If I were younger, braver, and without child, I might do it as an experiment on all things quirky about humanity, but since I'm none of those things, I'm sticking with natural protocol.

Girl marries, gets heartbroken, then divorced, Begs God for another chance at love, waits umpteen billion years, and then waits some more, goes to Starbucks, eavesdrops on a boatload of conversations, lives her life, goes on one adventure after another, reaches a mountaintop, walks through a valley, and then looks up one day, God steps in and says, "Shelly, meet Tall, Dark and Handsome. Tall, Dark and Handsome, meet Shelly."

And, I'm not sure when that day will occur.

It might not ever.

And, honestly, as much as I'm not okay with that, I am okay with that.

Because my "way" would be one of looking for something to fix or solve this problem, and that's not what I need, that's not what life or love is about.

Loneliness, just like grief, can't be fixed. Not being married or finding love isn't a problem to solve.

Love is like a cool breeze found on a vista created not by human hands, it is the poetry created from the depths of a heart willing to walk through the fire on behalf of another.

Sitting at the LoveDoes conference, I had many Epiphanies...MANY moments with God speaking into my heart.

One was while Jon Acuff was speaking. I don't remember what he said exactly, but what I wrote was:

I often try to redeem something instead of letting and allowing God to do it.

I try and redeem instead of acknowledging that God is the Redeemer.

I can try all I want to redeem love in my redeem redeem time, my mistakes, my flippancy, my regret, my choices, my sin, my messed up plans

but it won't work.

I'm on a hamster wheel when I try and redeem any of that.

I don't have the power, the wisdom, the know how, nor the capacity to redeem.

I wasn't made to redeem my mistakes. See, my mode of redemption is to fix something, but our lives aren't meant to be fixed.

They were meant to be redeemed.

And I was made to turn and acknowledge THE REDEEMER and bask in the grace of being one He sees worthy of redemption...not fixed, not solved, but redeemed.

I love the story of Ruth, and you know what, God used her "Jewish mother" to bring about her Tall, Dark and Handsome as part of her redemption story.

"My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?"

She too spurred Ruth on to REALLY try:

"Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor."

My 10 year old version is spurring me on to 'go down to the Christian Mingle', which I am not saying to him, "All that you say I will do."

but, I am trying to live life, let go of thinking that anything in this life will solve a "problem" I may or may not have, and trust in my Redeemer, who orchestrates and moves in His time, in His ways, and remember that all things work out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

And even though a Tall, Dark and Handsome was part of Ruth's redemption story, more importantly, God was out to redeem her and her family.

I do find it interesting how Naomi's closest relative was willing to redeem the land and even Naomi, but once Ruth entered the picture, the deal was off.

Elimelech could have fixed the problem Naomi had, but it took Boaz to redeem truly redeem it in ways only God had planned, that only His story could include.

God's redemptive plan restored life, blessed all, sustained and provided the Saving grace.

I have to say, THAT'S worth waiting for...that's worth LIVING in...that's worth acknowledging and letting happen.

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep... John 10:7-11

Have a great Saturday!


Disclaimers: I know several people who have met their Tall, Dark and Handsome via the interwebs. They are happily married and none are crazier than the rest of us. I mean no offense to any of have more courage than this girl who, in all honesty, just doesn't want to be rejected by more men on more mediums.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Standing in line for a Hug

On Thursday and Friday, I attended the Love Does conference in Austin. Yes, I went to the one in Washington back in May, but when Bob Goff gathers a group of folks just an hour away, I'm going to do my best to get there.

The golden nuggets of wisdom were incredible and endless. Jon Acuff and John Richmond were two of my favorites, but every single speaker was excellent. Rebecca Lyons, Don Miller, Mike Foster, and Veronica Tutaj had powerful stuff to share. Then, of course, there's Bob, which just oozes love and Jesus and all things WHAT?! and WOW!!!

I went to Austin on Thursday, on my own, and when I travel alone, day one is always the same.

I wonder what on earth I'm doing there.

I question taking off work, being alone, my decision making skills, and how I didn't lose 10 pounds before I came.

Then I get mad at myself for feeling this way and have arguments with myself about being normal as I'm talking out loud in the parking lot with a few people around...solidifying some of my, "ya, you're not normal" arguments...but whatev's.

I'll tell you what's not normal - sidebar - a man just walked into Starbucks telling his friend, "This place is weird! I've never been here before."

Um, ya, I choose to compare my normal status to him.

I may talk to myself, but at least I don't live under a rock where people don't pay $4.49 for their coffee.

Come On people!

(Sidebar over.)

After a few hours, I settle in and remind myself that this is why I travel gets me in that highly uncomfortable state where I must face some fears, talk to God, and hear the deep down hurts inside my heart that I can ignore when lots of noise is around.

You pair all of that internal chatter with speakers talking about love, shame, calling, Jesus, second chances, redemption, community, and living and doing, then you got yourself two days of awesome.

The Love Does conference really is incredible, and I might have to be a conference groupie...because that's normal, right?

But, then, there's always the closing of it. The walking to the car, alone, and all that quiet comes rushing back in.

I coached volleyball for years.  I hated the ride home after a big game or after a long day of a tournament. If Cade wasn't with me, I'd get in my car with the emotion of coaching this incredible game and then have no one to download any of what just happened to.

To this day, I can remember how empty those nights would be. It physically hurt to have ridden that emotional train and not have a soul to tell about it.

Those moments would be this huge reminder that I had no spouse and my mom was gone.

Often times, I'd cry the entire way home. The pit would be so deep, I'd feel like throwing up.

Don't get me wrong, I had friends, good friends, but calling them for a volleyball run down of girls they didn't even know just didn't make any sense. I couldn't ever make that call.

I would just tell God how much that moment sucked. I loved coaching, loved winning, loved the fire that sports brings, but those car rides home would just about do me in.

Friday, after Love Does, I felt that same pit.

For 2 days I was forced to face dreams, heart ache, fears, wisdom, pain, and hope. But then, I walked to my car. alone. With only the ringing silence inside my head and that pain within my gut.

I tried to shake it. I got mad at it. I asked God why I couldn't leave there feeling like taking on the world and not like I walked it alone.

Once again, I was disappointed with myself and mad I felt so alone.

Thankfully, 2 friends of mine had come up for Friday and even though they rode together in another car, I called them, we put ourselves on speaker, and as they drove a few miles behind me, we chatted.

(Thank you iPhone.)

I could navigate the backroads of Austin and listen to the voices of my friends and they could listen to mine as we drove home.

I was no longer alone.

Community matters.

I never knew just how vital it was until I was single.

My marriage was lonely and so jacked up that I avoided community...not knowing really why, but that was my was part of the unhealthiness of it all.

Part of being emotionally healthy is being part of community. When we begin to withdraw from it, I truly believe it is a sign that something isn't quite right.

For me, hermit is my default. Being on the fringe, staying back, and being invisible is my comfort zone. But when I choose hermit for too long, I begin thinking my friends are Tony and Ziva, I hold conversations with myself as I get dressed, and I wear the same yoga pants for 3 days.

It ain't pretty.

I convince myself that watching a marathon of What Not to Wear is better than going to church and protein bars can be a person's sole source of nutrition.

Red flags start flying, and I know it's because I pulled back from people. It's time to text some girlfriends, make some coffee dates, and get out of the yoga pants and GO TO CHURCH!

Community makes us better. 

My friends and I talked for the entire drive home. We each shared, questioned, challenged, and listened. That conversation made me process way more than I ever would have alone.

It made me see them, and it made me see me.

Even though traveling alone can be really hard, it makes me remember that God is always with me.

Being alone, in a place that forces me to rely on Him, makes me SEE HIM, and it reminds me that He sees me.

But, I also really love how God gave us people. He made us with this innate need to see others and to have them see us. In fact, we start going a little bonkers when we don't.

He knew that we were not to walk alone.

He walks in us and for us, but He sends others to walk with us and us with them.

I'm thankful for the pain of loneliness, because it reminds me that I matter. It reminds me that He made me to feel the pain of being alone, because He firmly believes that it isn't good for man to be alone.

I'm thankful my mind, body and heart agree with God on this: It stinks to be alone.

My prayer is that I see the lonely. I pray my heart is burdened for people who feel alone and need someone to call after a long day of excitement or a hard day at work. I pray I sit, and I listen, and that I remind them, they are not alone.

One of my favorite things about Bob Goff is that he hugs you when he meets you. I had no book for him to sign, I'd met him a couple times before, I had pics of us, but I still got in line...I got in line for the hug.

When it was my turn, he, of course, hugged me, told me his name was Bob and asked mine. He chatted with his animated face and eyes and when I told him I just really wanted a Bob hug, he took his hands, clasped my face between them, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I'm so glad you are here."

He sees people. He takes time and sees that people matter...they matter more than anything else.

Jesus came down to be with us, to save save people, because we matter to Him and to each other.

Jesus didn't come down to save a business or to show us how to make more money. He didn't come to save the whales or demonstrate the art of getting through Target without spending 100 bucks...cause that does take a miracle. He came down for you, for me, for us, because WE MATTER.

Praying I hug more people today, that I look in their eyes, truly seeing them, and tell them that I'm so glad they are here, and in turn tell them they matter.

In Him,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Whoops - Crazy 10 Days, but here is You MATTER! Part 3/3 - Short and Sweet

Finally, my mom showed me how to walk with God and how to have faith in Him in the darkest of days.

Five years ago, when I was facing the darkest days of my life, the death of my mom and the end of my marriage, I knew how to turn to God because I’d watched my parents do it throughout theirs.

They had been my example of how to walk during the toughest of times and because that’s how they lived, I knew what to do. 

I knew that even though my world was spinning out of control, God held all of me.
He held my son.
He held my situation.
And He held our futures.

God had given me Jeremiah 29:13-14 years before, and so that’s what I clung to. He declares “that if you search for Him with all of your heart, you will find Him. He will let you find Him!”

When so much was stripped from me, I decided to truly test this out.

I knew it was time to stop clinging to my parents’ faith and to fully grab a hold of my own.

I wondered if I really did search for Him with all I had, would I really find Him.

And you know what? do. 

I spent a year searching, reading through the entire Bible, blogging about it and really spending my days with Him.

It was the most amazing year of my life, because it was then that I knew that God wasn’t just real, but He was faithful. 

He truly cared about me and loved me. 

I’ve continued to search for Him through going on adventures, traveling alone, and completing half-marathons. All of these activities take me out of my comfort zone, quiet the usual noise of my life, and plunge me into time alone away from any fillers.

When I head out on any of those, my goal is to have an experience with God, to invite Him in and allow my heart to be open to see Him in a new way, and for Him to be my companion.

He always shows up, teaches me something new, and reveals His splendor and goodness each time.

The greatest gift in all of it is I’ve learned He truly is faithful...through all of it, in all of it.

What His word says is true.

You don't just have to read it and think it and hope it.

He PROVES it. He LIVES it. 

I honestly believe, I wouldn’t have ever made it through these tough times without the legacy my mom and dad left me.

They lived their faith, and it mattered.

It’s meant everything to me.

Though vulnerability seems to be something I fight, I’m here, speaking to you, because the prayers of a mom have caused me to not be able to run from a God that pursues me and a Jesus that loves me more than I can comprehend, and no matter how much I fight it, there's something greater than me not allowing me to run from it.

I don’t know much, but to steal from my favorite musician, David Crowder, “This I know”

You moms matter. Believe it, live it, take hold of it, and give that gift to your family, to your husband and to your children.

You matter!

Own it! Make memories with it, go on adventures because of it, and take the time you have and fill it with moments that will last a lifetime.

Because God made you and you matter to Him and to all He gave you to.

Tell your kids YOUR story! Tell them about your walk with the Lord. Tell them what He has done to save you, redeem you, and how His faithfulness has radically changed your view on life.

Live where you are at. I mean TRULY LIVE where you are at, because time will pass, it will fly, and all you can do is live the time you have. So make it count, soak in your moments, make memories, find your mountain tops and invite God into your life, your adventures, your decisions, your disappointments, and the holes inside your heart.

Yes, we are called to protect our children, but I think we are also called to prepare them. My mom didn’t do everything perfectly and there are conversations I wish we had more of, but the way she prayed, lived in community, and lived her faith, helped prepare (and in turn, protect) me for the difficulties life would bring. 

Talk to your kids. Be honest, be real, have fun, and take them on adventures.

Ask God to be there, to show you, and to do His thing that we can’t even think to do.

Because it matters. YOU MATTER!

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."
Deuteronomy 6:4-8

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Eph. 3:20-21

In Him, 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

You Matter! Part 2 of 3

I'm not one to think I have much wisdom when it comes to mothering. Being a divorced mom, I kind of feel like the tree in the forest that falls and isn't sure anyone is around to hear it.

Half of the time, my son is gone, so my mothering is curtailed 50% of the time, so I feel like I only get part time practice at it.

I've remained an amateur and never became pro like all my friends.

Or, so the voices inside my head want me to think.

But, that isn't really true...those voices are convincing me of a lie.

Being divorced and having to watch your child leave every other weekend creates an unhealthy world that you and your children have to learn to navigate.

On one hand, when Cade leaves for 4 days, I could worry and focus solely on him in his absence, but that would create a stalled world inside of that produces high anxiety and wants to become highly controlling. That mindset is riddled with pitfalls, bitterness and self-absorption.

But, if I lean too far the other direction of letting go, and creating an entirely separate life when he is not around, then that road is riddled with too many compartments and separations. I'd start pulling away from him and he'd be more of a visitor than a son.

God didn't intend on divorce for countless reasons, and one being that the effects have tentacles like jellyfish. They seem to be immeasurable and seemingly invisible to many, but sting like hell and leave one afraid of the waters they wade in.

It's a world that requires redemption on a daily basis.

And as I navigate my world of being a single mom to a son, not having a mom of my own to bounce much off of nor a spouse to lean on, I find myself so often, walking and leading blindly in a world I myself am trying to figure out.

And even though I hate being (what I feel like to be) alone in the boat, it's forced my hand to lean further into God than I ever would have before.

It keeps me recognizing daily the gift of grace, the power of redemption, and my desperate need for God.

Though this road I’ve walked from anywhere of 5-15 years now has been a source of heartache and confusion, it's also been what God has used to show Himself to be very real in my life.

Tonight, all you moms, I want you to know that you matter.

You matter mom!

Even on the day you are no longer around, you will matter.

And even if your kids leave 50% of the time, like me, you matter.

When your kids are grown and gone, you will matter.

If you're tired and alone and not sure if you can change one more diaper or wake up at 2 am another time, YOU MATTER.

I know this because my mom died over 5 years ago, and there's not a day I don't reflect on something she did for me.

And even though she did so much, I know the most valuable and significant thing she did for me and my life, was pray.

My mom was a pray-er.

Which, looking at my life, one might say, "Um, Shelly, you aren't exactly the poster child for the 'prayers of a mom are powerful' speech because you didn't make the greatest of choices in your personal life, you're now divorced, still single, constantly confused and your heart is closed and numb."

And, you know, for a long time, I bought into that, wondered about that, yelled at God at how prayers obviously are a big fat waste of time.

But then, I can't deny the fact that the reason I'm sitting here, contemplating God is because my mom prayed.

I know I wrestle with God because my mom told me over and over again that Jesus loves me.

I know that no matter how lonely I am, there's a God my mom clung to in her darkest hours, and I watched Him work through her.

I know that no matter what I face, Jesus will walk me through it, because I watched her talk to Him as He walked with her even in her final hours.

You matter mom, because you are the one who introduces Jesus to your babies, to your daughters and sons, to your teenagers, and to your adult children who become your best friends.

They know Jesus because you interact with Him everyday.

With my parents, faith and God was just life. It wasn’t separate or something we did only on was just life. It intersected every area, it was who they were and are, and there was no separation. Jesus was part of our everyday.

So, tonight, I want to encourage you to make Jesus part of your everyday, and one of the best ways to do that is in prayer.

Pray with your child and for your child. I don’t always know how or what to pray, so I pray Bible verses over Cade or I will pray for what God knows he needs or just that God’s grace would overwhelm him and meet him right where he is.

We pray before baseball games, we pray at bedtime, before meals, when things are hard and when things are beautiful. We pray for others and we pray for ourselves.

And traveling through this road of divorce, Cade and I have had plenty of opportunities to pray. It's brought sweet conversations of God's love, His mercy, and provision that we would have never had without our circumstances, and I thank God that even through trial, He shows Himself incredibly faithful and real.

I've been able to see the fruit of prayer in my son's life. One day, last April, I had had a tough day at school. In fact, it was my mom's birthday. Usually that day is just fine, but for some reason this year, my heart hurt incredibly for her. All day I was moments from tears.

When I got in the car, Cade asked how my day was. I decided not to put on the tough mom act and was just honest. I started to tear up as I told him,  "honestly, I miss my mom today. Today it just hurts my heart that she isn't here."

Cade immediately reached his hand out to mine, bowed his head and began praying for me and over me.

It was one of the sweetest things I could have experienced.

I thanked God in that moment, for that moment, and it showed me that what I do as a mother matters to my son. God's goodness and faithfulness to both of us in that moment was amazing and I'll never forget that day. 

And though, as a divorced mom, Cade leaves me often, and I often feel like I am only a half mom, God has been showing me that’s the gift of prayer. I can lift my son up to the throne of God all the time.

There is no limit to my prayers, to God’s reach and His grace.

The greatest gift my mom gave me was her prayers, and that too will be my greatest gift I give to my child.

I can pray for him.

I can pray God’s grace would collide with his life, that he too will talk to God, walk with Him, wrestle through the hard stuff, and lay his life at the feet of Jesus.

My mom also taught me the significance of community and how to be a great friend.

I’m an introvert by nature. I have never been “the more the merrier” kind of girl. I’m a "small group of really good friends" kind of girl.

But my mom, she was a friend to countless. Her light shined and her smile brought joy to every room she entered. She never met a stranger and she became friends with all she encountered.

She was a good listener and spent time with people. She was willing to give hours to people. Time never seemed to be something she hoarded for herself. She gave it away, and at her funeral, when over 600 people gathered, I saw the impact of the time, the love, and the friendship she shared wherever she went.

And after my divorce, I knew there were many things I needed to change, and one was my approach to people and friendships. I had been living on the coattails of my parents’ community for my entire life. Because of who they were, I inherited a rich community full of people who loved me and who loved the Lord.

But, I couldn’t rely on that anymore. I needed to become my own. I had a son, and the gift they had given me, was the same gift I wanted to give to him. Their community had carried us through 2 bouts of cancer, years of sickness and moves and doctor visits and all things life brings your way. 

Their community had been the hands feet of Christ in my life and shown me Him in a very real way, and my parents had cultivated that because of who they were, and it was my turn to be that for Cade.

Community had sustained us when I was 9 when my mom got sick, to when at 31 we buried her, and I became single again.

Their prayers had covered me, their friendship had encouraged me, and their support had comforted me.

So, I became intentional about community. I changed churches. I had become anonymous in a such a large church, and I knew that anonymity isn’t healthy in too many areas of life, so I needed a new spot where people knew me, knew my son, and a place we became part of the fold.

I sought out friends...I mean really great, close friends that one can share details and worries, challenges and joys with.

I knew that my mom was surrounded by friends because she was a great one herself.

God laid a group of women on my heart and prompted me to invite them over.

So I did.

I invited them over, to my wee little house, and you know what...they all came. Each one. Not a single one left before midnight, and we all looked at each other amazed at how we felt like God had brought us together.

That was 2 years ago, and we still meet...only at my wee little house, around my table, and they are the ones who ask me when our next get together will be.

Those ladies have become my trusted friends...the ones I can text any time of day, when I'm crying, worried, had a rotten conversation, scared, feeling snarky, or have just seen a really cute man while roaming the museum in Chicago.

They encourage me, are an example to me, they pray for me, for Cade, and most importantly, we laugh. My therapy bills became non existent once I engaged and became honest and transparent with some godly women.

That’s God’s grace prompting the heart to step out; to believe that He’s with you, that He’s going to be faithful in your life.

Find a community, build a community, be a community.


I'll post the 3rd part Wednesday.

Praying this week is one fantastic week for all of you. May we love well and know that who we are and what we do matter!

In Him,