Star of Wonder

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Despite what a strange year it’s been, Christmas always makes me feel hopeful. It’s the promise of something that has been, something that is,  and something that is yet to come.

I always think of the Christmas story. That one bright, shining star. That star was hope.

Do you know what stars are made of?

Hydrogen and helium. The two lightest elements.

Do you know what stars do? They burn. Stars shine because they burn.

I’m not one to think God and science are at odds. That star, “thy perfect light,” isn’t a coincidence, and that star wasn’t just meant to be a pretty light or the cherry on top of a tree.

Hope is sometimes levity. It lifts us up when gravity is a lot. It cups our chin in its hand and tilts our faces towards the sky, pointing us back to wonder; bringing us home.

Hope sometimes burns. It creates an ache, a longing for things to be set right, and those feeling reminds us, despite our protests to the contrary, that we haven’t given up after all. Not even a little.

A star wouldn’t be its brilliant self if it weren’t burning. Hope wouldn’t be hope without that slight ache, the breathlessness of running towards something still out ahead of us.

Something, no- someone, that was, and is, and is still to come.

Over the past few years, my lofty ideals about peace, love, and hope have been turned on their heads. Peace can be disruptive, love hurts sometimes, and hope, for all its lifting, can burn. Jesus knew. He knew all of it, and he came for us anyway. For peace, for love, for hope. For us and our messy lives.

 

Merry Christmas, friends. Whatever feels hollow, whatever seems too cold and too gray this season, may it be filled with the brightest light, and white-hot hope.

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When life hands you a lemon tree

E has inherited his mama’s memory. Months ago, I mentioned in passing that I’d love to grow our own lemons. That sweet thing remembered and for my birthday, there was no other present: Mommy had to have lemons. It’s cold outside, so I have a tiny citrus grow operation in my dining room, where our homeschool box used to sit, which is fitting. This year, my 32, took and it gave. Continue reading

Clean.

The drought was the very worst….

I had heard some things that alarmed me, but I guess I counted them as flukes. Privilege lets you do that, I’ve learned. When I found them more frequent, impossible to ignore, I traveled to Oz and I asked for the Wizard. I received a pat on the head, a gentle slap on the wrist. I was told to run along, leave the big thinking to the big people. Nothing sat right after that.

It was months and months of back and forth…

I knew we needed to leave, but it was so hard. So many good people, so much love. Sometimes good fruit can still happen around questionable cores- such is one of the mysteries of the body of Christ, I suppose.

You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore. 

We were told in earnest that we wouldn’t be able to move forward; who would love us any better? Turns out plenty of people would, but their love hurt in the way that salve applied to wide open wounds can still hurt. The sting of former words spoken “in truth and in love” made me flinch with each attempt to help us heal. They created a ball of heat and sickness in my stomach every time someone was kind to us or anyone else- was this real, and freely given? If that’s possible, then why was it ever withheld? HOW could it be withheld?

Hung my head as I lost the war…

I sat at a table in a cold room across from a cold person. I was told my baby was broken, but fixable of course (praise be!) and that the message was being sent on behalf of all of Oz. I heard the kind man who had cried with me in the next room over, rustling some papers. He had no idea what was being said, I remembered in that moment that she didn’t speak for everyone, and yet…there I sat. My hurt was met with disbelief and an insistence that there was no good reason for me to leave. I needed to stay put in the mud, created by other humans as flawed as myself, and call it Holy ground. Except Jesus was in the business of shaking the dust off your heels. He was in the business of washing feet.

The rain came pouring down…

We left a place and people we loved. We left our home, well-stocked with good friends and sweet kiddos, held up by a good pastor and good people who had no choice but to answer to those who didn’t know us but wouldn’t accept us.  They would have risked everything for us; we knew that. We didn’t want them to have to…it was a time bomb. So we walked away; once wild eyed and sobbing, and the next time quietly with smiles plastered on.

When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe.

It’s often called The Wilderness out here, so far from Oz. I don’t really know what to call it. I know it was one of the most painful, eye-opening, liberating things I’ve ever gone through. It was death and it was birth. It changed the way I see the body, the way I see myself and the way I see all others; turns out we are all broken but fixable. Of course. Praise be.

It changed the way I saw Christ, too, in that he was all the more available, all the more present. The Wilderness, the woods, whatever you call it… it can feel lonely, but you’re never really alone.

Ten months sober, I must admit…just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it.

I do. I lost an enormous part of my identity when we left. I worried over friendships, I was abandoned in the realest sense by mentors. Life would have been simpler if we’d stayed. Simple and right are not one in the same.

Ten months older, I won’t give in. Now that I’m clean I’m never gonna risk it. 

Nope, never.

I think I’m finally clean.

The Last Mayday.

This time six years ago, we found ourselves in a bit of a situation. Long story short, Branden’s post boot camp timeline for school and a first station were indefinite. The only thing we knew for sure is that Baylor would be in three schools in one year, and that felt like too much. We mentioned homeschooling, and all that tension our 7 year old was feeling melted away.

So we homeschooled. And we kept homeschooling. And then it was Jolee’s turn and she homeschooled, too. Every May we look back on the year, and then forward to the next, and the kids and I decide: we doing this again?

For five years, the answer to that question was a yes. This year, for both bigs, that answer is a no. Both Bay and Jo have chosen to attend their local public schools in the fall. They took me up on the offer that was always on the table.

It was hard for a moment, because it felt a lot like letting go, and I suck at that. I guess in some ways, that’s what it is. I’m also wrestling with the feelings you inevitably feel when a chapter is over. I’m trying not to buy into the guilt trap of time past and whether I was enough. I’m also already nostalgic about the whole experience- it wasn’t perfect, but it was wonderful. It was ours. I feel like I got to hang on just a little longer than I would gave guessed, and I’m thankful for that.

This fall, it’ll just be me and E- an experience the other two had, and one I’m excited to share with him. He has big plans for his kindergarten debut, and so far the communication I’ve had with the school leads me to believe he’ll have a happy one.

We are heading into a new and exciting chapter; a different season for our family. Until then, I’m going to soak up the one before us: summer. I hope to make it a great one, I hope to finish well as I step back from mom/teacher to just mom again. I hope they know it’s with love that I held on, and with love that I watch them go.

That, and math. I hope they know some math.

To those of you who joined us on this journey, thank you so much. I remember the hesitation from some when we began, most of whom are sad to hear it’s over now…funny how that works. If you’re reading this and we’ve talked homeschool, I hope this in no way discourages you on your own journey- keep on, it’s all so worth it! I have no regrets. It’s been an incredible ride.

How to handle a trans child joining your son’s Boy Scout troop.

Being a parent is hard. There are so many conversations we have to have, so many things that it’s up to us to explain. Baylor asked me who made God at TWO YEARS OLD.

That was a fun car ride. 

Since there’s a lot of confusion and these are such tricky and treacherous waters, I just thought I’d try to offer a few steps to walk you through handling a transgender boy in your son’s troop, should that day come.

1. Find out that kid’s name. QUICKLY Y’ALL DO IT.

2. Take your child up to this child after learning his name and say, “(Your child’s name here), this is (other child’s name here). He’s in your troop now.”

3. Continue your regularly programmed scoutsing. 

4. No, really. That’s probably it. Kids are way cooler than adults, so if you’re cool, your kid will be extra cool. Cooler than cool*. If for some reason it becomes a true struggle, a super simple explanation (one that doesn’t in any way have to include the discussion of private parts) is usually enough to make most kids happy. Don’t worry about “making them think they can just change too”- trust me, it doesn’t work that way.

Bonus step: Smile and say hi to the person who brought the new kiddo because they are probably a bit on edge. It’s never fun being the new parent on the block.

And that’s it! You made it. Pick up your “decent human being” badge** on the way out!

*Ice cold.

**I lied about the badges. I’m sorry. It was creative license. Or something. If you’re really upset I’ll make you one. But it’ll be paper and you won’t love it. 

Honey & Vinegar

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Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Proverbs 16:24

A few posts back, I asked with sincerity if our country would be okay after an election season that was…stranger than fiction.

The story so far, not a great one. We are a severely divided, aggressively torn nation. It honestly feels like navigating an entirely new place some days.  Continue reading