Faith & Devotionals

In 14 days, I will be 40. That’s half way to 80 in case you didn’t know.

When I turned 30 I was thrilled. I am petite and I have always looked a little young for my age. I was determined to be taken “seriously” and I felt that with “30” on my side, I could finally stand up for myself, say no when I felt like it, and not even have to make up an excuse. I felt grown.

The last 10 years have gone by so slowly yet so quickly. I have been divorced, hit the dating scene again, got engaged, got un-engaged, dated some more, found the love of my life, remarried, and have seen my two sons turn into young men.

I have found Jesus in the darkest moments. I centered my marriage on God. I have found a church home, became a Christian blogger, gone to seminary and have begun my Christian counseling internship.

I have lost weight, I have gained weight, I have joined and quit four gyms, eaten gluten-free, clean, dairy free and taste free. I currently favor the cupcake diet, but am certain that my budget can’t handle many more trips to buy new jeans in the next size up, so I am focusing on my health once more. My waist is expanding, my breasts are softening, my eyebrows are thinning, and for the love of Pete, I still have acne (how is this possible??)

I have lived in about seven different homes from a small 2-bedroom apartment that promised a pool (that was open about 11 days that summer) to my ranch on 17 acres that begs for a chicken coup but will have to settle for puppies and my dying aloe plants under the florescent lights in my guest bathroom.

I have had several different jobs, many out of necessity because I was a single mom. I was a makeup artist, a lingerie store manager, a housekeeper, a real estate agent and now a business owner/writer/teacher/student/intern. Yes, I have done it all and that’s okay. Not all of us settle in easily. I like to take the long way “home.”

In the last 10 years, I have read over 300 books, owned 8-10 cars, written hundreds of blogs, had several surgeries, had 6 very brief pregnancies, cried thousands of tears, laughed, danced, partied, napped and traveled. I have lived a lifetime in these 10 years.

With only 14 days left in my 30s, I am beginning to mourn this decade. No, I am not mourning my youth, my once firm tush or my laugh-line-free-face. I am beginning to say goodbye to the decade that I learned the most in life.

In my 30s, I learned how to be a good girlfriend, how to be honest, to stop competing, to truly love my friends the way they deserved to be loved.

I learned to stop telling people what to do with their lives (as much). I am a better listener, less bossy, and better at allowing people (and the Holy Spirit) the space to figure things out for themselves.

I have learned to follow, to give up (some) control and to not always get my way (every time.) I have learned to let my husband lead (that was HUGE!), and I am learning to not always be the alpha in my friendships.

I have learned to be okay and even excited about high-waist jeans, comfortable shoes, stretchy sports bras and a really good eye cream. I still love fashion and I enjoy trends, but I am happily making decisions about what to wear that would have made me cringe a few years ago. I dress “my age”, and I am proud of that.

I have learned to forgive myself when I disappoint myself as a mother, to apologize, and give myself the grace I give my children (and those around me). I have stopped wondering if my parenting would put them in therapy, started stashing money away for the therapy that will come, and am already planning ways to spoil my grandchildren (in 20 years.) I don’t even care what the grandkids call me, as long as they do.

I have become less beautiful yet less vain. I have become more confident, yet less prideful. I have become a better leader, and a better follower. I have learned I am not always right (although I have not learned to like it). I have learned to say I am sorry quickly and often. I have given up on ever becoming a good singer but I have become quite comfortable with raising my hand to worship my Maker.

My heart has softened, my silver tongue has lost some of its sting, and I am in general kinder. I am still short, bossy, quirky and fickle at times. I can still be a little mean, moderately impatient, and quite demanding.

As I bid farewell to my 30s; I want to say thank you to this incredible, broken, humbling, yet victorious decade. Thank you for making me stronger, gentler, kinder, more forgiving, less selfish, while still imperfect. Thank you for showing me what really matters like good girlfriends to split a bottle of wine with, kids to chase down for a hug and a husband to hold hands with and to tell me I am pretty when I am in my high-waist jeans and sensible shoes. Thank you for dragging me out of the darkness and into the light, for making me an advocate instead of a victim, a problem solver instead of a whiner, and a woman instead of child. It was time to grow up.

As I face my 40s, I think of all the things I still want to do, and all the places I would like to visit. But I always want to pay homage to the life I have already lived, the love I have already felt and the God I have already met. If today were my last day on earth, I have already lived a good life.

(Oh, and don’t tell me that 40 is the new 30…I am proud of every hour on this Earth!)

I know that I am a good mom. I adore my boys. I enjoy taking care of them, teaching them, and spending time with them.

But I am drowning in mom guilt.

I tell myself it’s because of my 50/50 parenting plan. I only have them half of the time, and the other half I think of them a lot of the time (much of my waking hours, and a good chunk of my slumber.) I work part time and try to do as much of that while they are at school. I plan most of my life around them, and there is nothing wrong with that, unless it’s never enough.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s enough for them (at least they don’t complain). They seem secure in my love for them. They know (I feel as certain as one can be) that they know how important they are to me. Yet, when I choose to be away from them I feel like a terrible mom. And when I don’t choose to be away, I feel almost as bad.

This is my confession.

But I am not okay with feeling this way. My husband and I are taking a cruise soon, without the boys. I get a little anxious thinking about being away from them. No, this isn’t my first vacay without them; I’ve had several (a big one last summer for my anniversary.) I had a friend ask me if they were coming with us, and when I said no, she said, “I could never leave my daughter behind. We always take her with us.” And while I know her husband probably wishes he could have some alone time with his wife, I couldn’t help but feel like an inferior mom for being okay with “leaving my kids behind.”

I have been thinking through this problem (yes, it’s a problem, not a mom-badge to be proudly displayed) since I learned about the cruise, as I am determined to enjoy my husband and myself. And here are some of my realizations:

  • You cannot be in two places at once–No matter how much guilt you wad up and stuff in your luggage, your work bag, or in your gut, you cannot teleport yourself to your kids so they will forgive you for having a life (or responsibilities) outside of them. So you might as well kick some butt and take some names wherever you are, so you can go home and tell them what you accomplished!
  • Feeling guilt doesn’t change a thing–Great, you feel guilty. You can’t trade all that guilt in for time with your children or for feelings of succeeding as a mom.
  • They need a life outside of you–Whether you are working, jogging, having a girls night out, or just hiding in your bathrobe around the corner for a few seconds of “me” time, these are chances for your kids to become little more of themselves. I am not saying to leave your kids to their own devices, but if they spend time with a daycare provider, your ex, a family member or a trusted friend, they get to do things and learn things that are beyond you.
  • Comparison sucks–The reality is, I don’t organize my life the same way you do, and I don’t value what you do exactly. Just because you do things differently at your house (like grow organic okra, hand sew their underpants, breastfeed until they’re 9, or Pinterest everything that you could potentially get at Target or Etsy) doesn’t mean I have to feel obliged to do it too. There are excellent moms who work 60 hours a week, moms who work from home, moms who travel, and moms who never leave. Who cares how other moms do it. My kids sure don’t. Do yours?
  • Guilt and love are not the same thing–No matter how much guilt I feel, manufacture or deliberate upon, I will never be able to convert guilt to love. I will never be able to kiss away tears, brighten a day, or bring upon a smile with guilt.

Guilt is binding and painful. Love is open and healing. Guilt is a thief. Love is a gift. Never get them confused.

What I really want my kids to feel is loved. But I am not the only one qualified to give it to them. Moreover, I am not responsible for every feeling they have, every time they have them. Yes, it stinks when my kid asks why he can’t go on the cruise with us (we took 3 great vacations with them last year, so they are not being kicked to the curb.) But moping at a Captain’s Dinner or drooping across a zip line like an emo sack of potatoes when I should be making memories isn’t going to accomplish a thing…

…except maybe wife guilt. Yikes.

Guilt is not pure. Guilt is not productive. Guilt cannot be converted to love.

Therefore it is my pleasure to announce that I will be attempting my first guilt-free vacation in 14 years.

I will think of my kids, I will pray for them, and I will call them a bit too. I will even send postcards from our ports, and I will buy them overpriced souvenirs. But I will not ruin quality time with my husband to prove to myself that I am a good mom; because it never has and it never will.

Do you have mom guilt? When does it hit you the hardest? How do you fight back?

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We opened our business in the fall of 2008, during the heart of a recession and the peak of gas prices. We had a handful of bikes, no business ownership experience, and a whole lot of hope.

That first year, my husband worked 12-hour days, for about 363 days (give or take a minute or two.) We were open seven days a week, and he knows what some people don’t: if you want it to succeed, you have to be willing to work your tail off for it!

As time went on (and coincidentally, as our faith grew) we began to toy with closing on Sundays. We read the Bible and prayed on it. While we don’t necessarily feel that being closed is required of us (feel free to disagree), we realized that in order to have a true day of rest (for us and our staff), we needed to be closed one day a week. We chose to be closed on Sunday as of 2014, and we do not regret it.

See, family time is very important to us: time with each other just watching a show or taking a walk, time with the boys riding side-by-sides or making waffles. And we needed to give the gift of time to our staff. No, they never complained, but they deserved that day free from obligation, or even just the text, email or phone call on their day off about something that “just couldn’t wait.”

I am not patting us on the back, quite the contrary. It took us about five years to really get it together and make a commitment to putting family first for ourselves and for our staff. That was five years of Sundays we cannot get back. Five years of family meals, cuddling, meaningful conversations, trips to the movies or just sitting on the porch just being.

Last year, we added more time off to the mix. We began closing over Christmas for about a week. This allows our staff time to travel or hang out with family visiting from out of town. No rush, no worries, just relaxation. Thank goodness we are so small, and that we don’t make much money over the holidays, because I would hate to be tempted to put business before family again. I am thankful we can make decisions like this and feel good about it.

Not everyone has a choice on whether to work over the holidays. If you are in retail or hospitality, you are bound to be working and we thank you for that. If you are emergency, medical or military personnel, you have probably worked more holidays than you care to think of, some of them very far away from home and in dangerous situations and for that we salute you.

But when we have a choice, and we often do, we can’t use the excuse that the “world” has commercialized Christmas, or that someone needs to “save Christmas.” If you want to save Christmas, slow down, focus on what matters, and do your part.

Amen?

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I loathe trends.

I can also be a bit of a Scrooge at times. My heart, I am convinced, is part stone.

I always hear of people getting in line at Starbucks, or another drive through, and being pleasantly surprised that the person in front of them had paid for their order. I have a couple of friends that seem to always rack up on the free goodies.

I always wondered why no one had done that for me? Sounds super selfish right? It is I suppose. But I guess I wondered why some people seem to attract kindness. Are they kinder than me? Do they deserve it more? Or are they just in the drive through more often?

I paid for someone’s order once. It felt pretty good. I am not sure what I hoped to achieve. I guess I just wanted to jump in with this trend. I gave myself permission to be a “sheep” that day.

Then yesterday changed my perspective. I woke up at 6am, prodded the kids out of bed, retreated to my inner sanctum to doll myself up, then entered the kitchen to collect my offspring, and found one child half-clothed and eating a granola bar 75 seconds before we need to be crushing gravel down our driveway.

I lost my cool. I started barking orders. I began piling on some guilt (you are making your brother late, he is going to get a tardy slip, he is going to get a write up, he will have detention, he will become a convict, the Earth will split wide open and the creatures of the underworld will come crawling out…you know the drill).

The not-late-son and I got in the car and started the process of fake driving away. The late granola eating youngling came hobbling out, no coat, massive backpack, shoes and mismatched socks in hand, with a look of “holy cow she is leaving me” on his face. We slowed to 1.5 miles and hour and let him jump in.

We dropped off the not-late son (who was late, and did get a tardy slip, but the rest of the consequences have yet to come to fruition, i.e. the Earth is still in tact.) Then I remembered that forgot to get my secret Santa person a gift (p.s. I am actually a secret Scrooge who thinks secret Santa is lame but doesn’t want to look like a giant turd so I play along.) So we went to Starbucks so I could purchase a gift card. I ordered $50 in gift cards and a small pumpkin spice latte.

Then it happened. It finally happened.

Someone paid for my coffee.

And then something weird happened. I began crying.

And I couldn’t stop. I tried to stifle a sob, tried to protect my eye makeup, tried to prevent the ugly crying face in case cars driving by were looking at me. Without a single fast food napkin in the car, my tears just flowed.

One free coffee softened my stony heart. Without knowing the person who purchased my coffee, without knowing why they did it, or what their story is, I cried because their kindness was completely unexpected. All of the anger and frustration of my morning came poring down my cheeks.

Boy did I need that.

This is a thank you to all the “sheep”, to all the people who aren’t afraid to follow trends, who don’t care if they look cool, or care if they get to keep their anti-establishment patch on their sleeve. This is a thank you to all of you who put kindness at the top of your list and who wake up with the mission to change someone’s day.

I decided that there is nothing wrong with being a sheep if you choose the right flock. Maybe even better than being a rebel without a cause.

So I paid for the coffee for the car behind me.

Baa.

 

 

This isn’t a political post. I am not a political person. This is about me and my personal experiences as an American worker nearing the age of 40.

 

I keep reading about those who want minimum wage to go up to $15. Sounds pretty sweet doesn’t it? I am not opposed to allowing people to earn a good living, but this doesn’t seem logical at all.

I will start with a confession, my husband and I own a business. We don’t have a lot of employees. Everyone here makes more than minimum wage, but they all work very hard to earn their living, as do we. This may color my view of minimum wage, and for that I am sorry. But I have another side to this story.

I come from a working class family, and I am very proud of it. My grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins have worked in convenience stores, factories and other “labor jobs.” We also are a proud military family. My mom was Air Force, my dad was Army, and my cousins and uncles hit all the other branches at least once. I have seen my family live quite modestly. I have eaten government cheese (and enjoyed it.) My youngest son was on WIC. I have eaten the food from a welfare check, a factory check, a minimum wage check, and from the fruits of owning a business. Yet Ramen is still, and always will be an option.

My first job was very glamorous. I sold corn dogs. For minimum wage, I swished my arms up to my elbows in hot dog infused oily water, deep fried giant blocks of cheese, hand-scraped burnt chili out of warming pans, and lugged mops that weighed more than I did (I am convinced that I am not exaggerating on that either.) I was also yelled at by my manager and by my customers, learned to count change, discovered the value to slip proof shoes, and went home crying more than once. It was a very hard job, I hated it at least 50% of the time, and I was very happy with my paychecks. But I was only 17.

I eventually switched to hostessing at a Ruby Tuesday and then to waiting tables when I turned 18. I began earning $2.13 an hour (plus tips) and if I were still waiting tables, I would still make $2.13 an hour because this “minimum wage” hasn’t changed since 1991! I sweated for my tips! I needed them to pay the electric bill and to buy school books. I tried my best for every customer to maximize every tip, trying to remember every detail of what they wanted and hustling around to get it to them in lightning speed. I often woke up in a panic at 2 am because I realized I had forgotten the side of sour cream for table 203 or the wet naps for table 512. I still occasionally have dreams that I am lost in “dry storage”, or that I can’t find my Squirrel card (swipey thing to ring up food.) I got cursed at sometimes, stiffed occasionally, made some really good friends and began the ruining of a rotator cuff (for life.) And I was only 22 when I left the restaurant industry.

I eventually did about a million jobs from cosmetics to social work. I waited on over-privileged women and served under-privileged children. I waltzed through the mall in my pristine white Clinique lab coat and through the projects in my maternity pants. In each job, I learned about myself and about the world. I have never earned more than $40,000 and I have averaged less than that in my adulthood and that is with 24 years of work experience, a Bachelor’s degree, and 3/4 of my Master’s degree. For at least 2/3 of my working life, I have had two or more jobs, and if I were single, I always had a roommate so I could afford my rent. Currently I help run a business, teach school part time, attend school and take care of my family. Sometimes I even get to sit down in the evenings. I make well under $15 per hour. And I am still paying off those student loans from 1997. Life goes on.

So do I get angry when someone at McDonald’s wants to make $15 per hour? Absolutely not! Do I think they should get paid that? Um, sure, if the company they want to work for wants to offer them that kind of money then that is great! Or they could work their way up the ladder and become a shift leader, eventually a manager and perhaps even a share holder and make more money the old fashioned way. Or they could wait tables and make $2.13 an hour plus tips (when they get them). Or they could go to college for 4 years and become a social worker and make even less than teachers. Or they could go to a trade school and probably make $11-15 upon graduation (if they are lucky). Or they could go to medical school, make over $100,000 per year and pay off their student loans in their 80’s. Or they could get their master’s degree and stay home to raise children. Or they could run a business and sometimes not get paid, even when you still have employees to pay. The options are endless.

Should the minimum pay go up? Probably. I have seen a lot of stats on the internet. After fact checking them, some of them appear to be bunk. For example:
This kitten is adorable. But he appears to be wrong. According to http://www.bls.gov /data/inflation_calculator.htm, $1.60 in 1968 would be worth $10.92 now. That is about 37% difference according to my handy calculator. Kittens are better at science than math though.

Jobs have a hierarchy and they all serve a purpose. Each job has taught me a lot about myself and about life. I have learned how to work hard; I have learned how to save for a washer and dryer, a car and even for a down payment on a house. I have set up payment plans for medical bills. Gone into debt, gotten out of debt and back into debt again. I have two degrees, two kids, a business, a job and an internship, and I am still trucking. No one owes me $15 an hour anymore than they owe me $100 per hour. After all I have experienced in life, the thing that I have learned the most is that whatever I have, and whatever I am, is completely up to me.

You want a raise? Earn it. That’s my plan.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 3.25.45 PMWhen I started blogging about my life and “spiritual journey” a few years ago, writing came easily for me. I had just come through a huge awakening and period of major change in my life. I had come a long way in my attitudes and behavior in a short period of time, and I needed an outlet to share my recovery and new-found happiness.

 

As the years have gone on, I have noticed 2 things: the first is that my writing, and the topics of my blogs have matured quite a bit. The second thing I have noticed is that I write less often and struggle to refine my thoughts more.

 

So what happened?

 

Last night, after a conversation with my husband, in which he shared quite honestly about his spiritual “walk”, I realized that the more “Christian” that I become, the harder it is to shake my sin.

 

I know this is converse to what we normally believe about Christianity, but I will explain.

 

When I first became enamored with my church, and when I first began taking steps to become more Christ like, I had some obvious sins that I could, and did, put behind me. In other words, I was a bit of a hot mess. So trying to figure out where to make some cuts in my life didn’t take a lot of thought. I could wield a sword and a large hunk of sin was eradicated.

 

But the pruning process gets harder with time.

 

I have cleared away large sections of disease and death (metaphorically speaking) from my life. I had loads of rubbish to discard and it was easy to find and invigorating to cart off, even for a new Christian like I was at the time.

 

I am thankful for what I gave up. Looking back, it wasn’t that much of a sacrifice. I still enjoy life, laugh a lot, and am “myself” in all the best ways, but I am able to love and respect myself more because of the choices I make.

 

The problem remains: I still sin. And my sin is harder to find, and so much harder to cut away. It is the sin that hides itself in our core, as deep as our bowels. I can feel my sin tucked away, and I daily suffer from the consequences of it. But I am incapable of removing it, no matter now hard I try.

 

And the reality is if I could do it by myself, I would’ve done it already. If I could do it by promising myself that I would do better next time, it would be a done deal. If I had the power to remove my sin, especially sin that hurts others, I would have cut it all away by now, and burned it to ashes. But that hasn’t happened.

 

The sin that hides inside of us is the worst kind. While some people seem to run a muck as a billboard for a sinful life (I might have had a billboard or two of my own), those of us who have given up the obvious “bad behaviors” are still struggling with our own hidden diseases. And the worst part is this: now that we have “conquered” our old bad behaviors, we might be convinced that we can conquer the deeply rooted secret sin too. I mean, after all, we are Christians now, and our lives look so much cleaner and healthier, so doesn’t that make us capable surgeons of sin?

 

As Christians we have a testimony to share with those who want more out of life. And we often show them how to have “more” by showing them how to live with less: less substance abuse, less sexual sin, fewer money problems, fewer curse words or words of anger. But for some of us, this process of attaining “less” is not the most difficult pruning away that we will encounter or endure.

 

For many of us, when it’s all cleaned up and the bulk of our outward sin has been removed, there is an aching and a toxicity that still must be cured. I for one am powerless to do it.

 

So I am going to do better next time. I am going to start letting God know that I am powerless to do better at all. I am telling Him the truth He already knows. I have tried. I have tried thousands of times to do better, to be better, and thousands of times I have failed. And even though I have prayed to God and said, “Lord help me be better at…or God, please help me stop doing this…,” I am still sinning in the same painful ways, and others suffer because of it.

 

And I am going to do one more thing: let it go. No this isn’t a Disney plug. I am going to stop holding myself to a standard of perfection, not so I can justify holding onto my sin, but so I can live in the peace that knows that God is taking care of it. I am inviting the Holy Spirit into my everything: into friendships, in my marriage, and into my motherhood.

 

I am not praying for God to fix the things I can’t. I am praying for God to take full charge of it all. I am praying that I will let Him lead me in every possible way in every possible situation. I am praying that when I am weak that I am faithful in knowing that He is strong. I might fail, but He never will.

 

Oddly, I am not even doing this so I can sin less. I am doing this so I can enjoy the fruits of my relationship with God more. Because when we aim for perfection, and fall short perpetually, we begin to doubt ourselves, and we may even begin to doubt God. But if we are leaning on our own understanding and our own power to be better, we will stay disappointed.

 

Sometimes it’s the “big” sin that we struggle the most to overcome; sometimes it’s the “small” sin, the one that hides so well that even a trained eye struggles to uncover it.

What sin is too small for you to tame alone?

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Be Still and Know That I am God.

For many months I have been full of questions. Questions about my career direction, the state of my womb, and my life’s purpose have whispered doubt, fear and confusion into my heart and mind.

When doubt has poked holes in my confidence and made me question everything, I close my eyes and whimper to God for his guidance. For months I have received the same message dozens of times…

Be still and know that I am God.

I have been still, and I have also rustled relentlessly. The devil has tried to push me off course. I have nearly fallen pray to his devices.

But I am still standing. With faith as tiny as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible. I have faith even bigger than that, and it grows each day as God keeps speaking to me. Yes, I struggle to be still, but I am am learning each day to know my God and what he is capable of, instead of proving what I am capable of.

A few days ago, I surrendered another piece of my life to God. As I have let my mind strain towards my desires and began to feel fear overshadow me, I have reminded myself of this:

I gave it to God, and I can’t take it back. He knows what he is doing. He wants what is best for me. He loves me. I am not in control. I am free.

Sometimes I’m on top of my game, full of wisdom and good advice.

Other times, like recently, I have nothing of merit to say. I see a lot of blah blah blah floating around. I attempt to not be a blah blah blaher for blah blah blah sake. It makes me feel…blah.

I’ve been reflecting on my mutishness lately and  I think it comes down to a few things:

I’m healing from this infertility junk. Technically I am still infertile (although we have made some “progress” in the arena), but I am healing my heart, which I have decided that now is as good a time as any.

I have felt a little alienesque lately. I have been a bundle of magnets, dropped in a 1984 filing cabinet with a key broken off in it. In other words, I have been a contradiction to myself at every turn, and feeling very heavy and trapped because of it.

Recently, I have reunited with old friends. One for coffee, another for yoga and even one for a long chatty Cathy session on Facebook.  It was good for me. I remembered who I am a little more clearly.

Why am I confused? I’ll explain the best I can. I was not a church girl. I was not a “good” girl and I discovered my faith very late in my life. Because of that, I am still very fond of the kind of girl I was (and still am deep down): the kind of girl who makes questionable decisions, falling for the wrong guy, struggling a little more than the other girls around me. And because I know what it is like to be that girl, I am always here to help bring girls like me into a little bit more light day by day.

But I get tired sometimes. And all of the leading by example I try to do, day by day, takes its toll on the little girl inside who use to think it was terribly cool to chew on candy cigarettes in the projects.

So last week was good for me. I had coffee with my high school BFF. The one I moved in with the day after graduation because we were both so ready to be on our own. Our friendship blew up that summer and not in the good way. She tried to apologize but I didn’t accept it. She knew me when my pride was more important than a good friendship.

Also last week, I did a bunch of awkward yoga stretches with the beautiful girl from my pledge class that looked so much like Uma Thurman when I met her in 1994 that I wasn’t sure we could be friends. She knew me when I tended bar, went to fraternity parties, and later, when my marriage fell apart.

I know I am a “better” person now. I am more forgiving, more generous, and sometimes, even more patient. But it was nice, and even grounding, like putting my feet in the sand after a long sentence away from the shore, to spend time with those who knew me before I had the right words. But even better than knowing me, they loved me. Like really loved me, and not because I was good or because I deserved it, but because there was something about me that mattered to the little girl inside of each of them.

I don’t think I will ever be as polished as I once thought I should be. I think it’s because there is a piece of me that is still in Cleveland, Ohio in the 70’s watching my teenage aunt move the needle on the record 46 times in a row so she could write down song lyrics to Comfortably Numb, and a bit of me who was left in each state that we moved to because of my mom’s Air Force career. There is a shadow of me that remembers what it is like to lose a marriage, and there is residue remaining from looking for love again, and too often playing the fool.

But I don’t want to be that polished. And I don’t want to forget where I came from or what I walked through. I’m still a smart ass. I am still a little rude, although now I actually try to think before I speak (in case I might hurt someone). God had softened me, but I am remembering to love the grit and grime from my life; I like remembering where I have been.

I don’t have to get all dolled up to walk with God. He’s always loved me too.

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I am 3.5 years into trying to have a baby with my husband. Here are the “facts” of our circumstances:

 

  • I have 2 children from my first marriage with no previous history of miscarriage.
  • I had my tubes tied after my 2nd child was born.
  • I had my tubes “reconnected” in Sept of 2010. They are open like the 7-11.
  • I have been pregnant 5 times since then, with all pregnancies ending before 6 weeks.
  • I have had 3 unsuccessful IUI’s (all of my pregnancies were the old-fashioned way).
  • I have tried a variety of diets including gluten-free; I lost a ton of weight but experienced my longest time period without a pregnancy while eating gluten free. I eat gluten now, but not in a gluttonous way.
  • I have had a ton of tests performed and re-performed; I am normal and my husband has an amazing sperm count.
  • I have been on the basic fertility meds including Prometrium and Chlomid.
  • We are not interested in IVF because we CAN get pregnant. It’s the staying pregnant that we stink at. I know myself well and feel that the stress of IVF would be too much for me personally. I have absolutely nothing against it.

 

Now that you are up to date, let me tell you what we should’ve done a long time ago. The doctor told us about genetic testing. We elected not to do it. It sounded expensive and we weren’t particularly concerned about finding out the possible genetic disorders of our kids, so we opted out. Big mistake.

 

What we didn’t understand is that some genetic problems can affect your ability to get pregnant or stay pregnant. We learned that by having conversations with other (previously) infertile couples. After having 2 miscarriages in March and May of this year (whirlwind), I knew I had to go back and see the doctor. I have settled into the possibility that we may not have a baby, but by golly if we are going to get pregnant without trying, we need to learn how to keep the pregnancy going.

 

My doctor ran some genetic tests that we had previously refused (due to our lack of understanding) and we learned that we share the same genetic mutation for blood clotting. If only one of us had this genetic mutation, it would likely not have caused problems. But we both have it, and therefore it can cause recurring pregnancy loss.

 

While we don’t know quite yet the extent of the “disease” that we both have, we have a direction that we didn’t have until now. We have more blood work to get completed before the doctor will create a plan of action. She has already added a daily aspirin to my regimen and I may also need blood thinners during my pregnancy.

 

My goal is not to give you false hope of a similar prognosis. The details are neither here nor there (unless you want to hear them). My point is simple: if you try to deal with fertility issues quietly, you may miss out on valuable information and support. While infertility is painful and embarrassing for many people, we are not required to suffer it in seclusion. We are so open about adoption as a society, but the precursor to it is infertility (at least for some of those who choose to adopt) and we often hold these cards way too close.

 

It’s okay to admit, “I need help,” “I don’t have all the answers,” or “I can’t do this alone, in the dark, with only my husband to lean on.” I read once that the experience of infertility is as stressful as a terminal illness. While I don’t know this to be true, I do know the toll it has taken on my family, my marriage, and at times, my self-worth. We simply need a support system to lean on and to consult with.

 

Perhaps had we been more open with our process years ago, we would already have a baby (or a happy toddler by now.) But I also know that timing is everything. I have had more time to spend with my husband and to strengthen our marriage. We are stronger than ever because we have endured so much loss together (sometimes yelling, sometimes sobbing, sometimes making love in our shared brokenness). I have had the opportunity to be there for my struggling tween and help him find a private school that met his unique needs, surrounded by people who champion his amazing personality. I have been there to lift my brilliant teen son out of a tumultuous start to his teen years and keep leading him back to God, and have been able to enjoy his head in my lap or on my shoulder at the end of a day that shook the core of both of us.

 

I don’t regret a single day of this life. I don’t regret any part of this heart wrenching process. I only regret the opportunities for community and friendship I have missed by shielding my vulnerability from the world like a child shying away from the solar eclipse. We are all so broken. We all feel ourselves falling short of our dreams. I am happy to say that out loud to you, so perhaps I can serve you in the midst of your suffering or confusion. And I thank those many women who have been a part of my prayer platoon (“team” doesn’t evoke the fierceness these women display); women who have checked on me when I thought my plight was forgotten by those around me.

 

Share your brokenness. It is by prayer, community, and the grace of God that we can be made whole again.

Women are crazy. At least that’s what I hear men say all the time.

 

Instead of getting offended, and acting “crazy” (aka, show some emotion…which would only prove their supposed point) I say, “All women are crazy, and all men are jerks, you just have to be okay with their brand of crazy (or jerkiness).”

 

Let me clarify. Not all women have a hard time controlling their emotions and not all men are jerks. And both men and women have the capacity to be loving and logical, as well as rude or irrational.

 

What I think men are really saying is (feel free to comment if you disagree),

“I don’t understand her emotional side, why she cries sometimes, or even what she is saying to me at times (or why she talks so much); and often, I don’t know what I am supposed to say or do in response to it.”

 

In fact, when I cry, my husband looks like he is ready to charter a flight to the moon because he has no idea what to do. At least once, I think he faked narcolepsy.

 

And what I hear women saying is,

“He isn’t in tune with my feelings, doesn’t say things as nicely to me as I would like sometimes, or can be difficult to talk to especially about the big stuff. Even though we are sitting right next to each other, he feels very far away from me.”

 

What I always tell these baffled men is this: Women feel deeply and communicate more by nature and they were created to be this way by God himself, in God’s image. Women cannot just be bottom line oriented all of the time. We like to take you on an emotional journey!

 

Conversely, it has taken me years to realize that talking is practically a sport for me, and I am an Olympian! My poor husband doesn’t stand a chance! Sometimes ladies, we just have to tell a man when to listen with purpose. Let him know when you need his full attention. I have learned to choose the proper time to talk about things that are important to me. I have also learned that for my marriage, the best conversations happen when we are out of town, even if it is just 30 minutes away for a nice meal. A break from reality allows for an attentive husband.

 

I make no apologies for being a woman, or for acting like one. Although the following behaviors may be confusing, frustrating or even annoying to men at times, it is perfectly normal behavior. Women I think it is high time you stop apologizing or feeling guilty for being a woman!

  • For crying–At a commercial, after a bad week, for not fitting in my jeans, or for world hunger. If I want to cry, I will do just that, and I’m not apologizing. (See Ecclesiastes 3:4)
  • For feeling–Women are wired to care deeply, especially when it comes to their loved ones. Expecting anything less of us could be selling yourself short of some really great love. (See Romans 12:15)

Like Dolly Parton said, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

  • For desiring–Every woman has a dream, a dream of a career, a dream of to find a great husband, a dream to become a mother, a dream to make a godly difference in the world; whatever the dream, the desire to have it can be deeply moving for us. Please pray for our desires to be godly, and for our hearts to be filled with the spirit, but please don’t pray for our desire to dream to leave us. Apathy is a desolate replacement. (See Proverbs 13:12)
  • For communicating–It’s no secret that some women have the gift of gab. Sometimes I truly do like to talk, just to talk, with no purpose except to just find (or create) intimacy with my husband. Words are very affirming for women, and make us feel important to you. Quality conversations, or just talking about our favorite movie or dream vacation can help us to feel more in touch with a friend or spouse. (See Proverbs 25:11)

 

Sometimes men and women seem like different species, but that doesn’t make women “crazy”, and it doesn’t make men “jerks.” In fact, we usually use these words when we feel frustrated or powerless to control their behavior that we don’t like or understand.

 

Our inability to attempt to understand their heart or their real intentions, or to appreciate how God designed them as individuals is not their problem; it is our problem. And it hurts our ability to have meaningful and lasting relationships.

 

This means that we have to make a real and genuine effort to try to understand where the other person is coming from and accept them for who they are, gender differences and all. Ultimately, it means that when we use the easy label of jerk, crazy, or whatever our go-to, get-out-of-jail line is, we may be the emotionally inept person that needs a little enlightening.