The Power of Story

This weekend, we attended an adoption celebration.

Not just any adoption – an adoption that catapulted our friends from a family of 6 to a family of 9.

They didn’t adopt triplets; no, they adopted 3 kids almost the exact ages of their other kids.

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7 kids, ages 4 to 10.

S-E-V-E-N kids.

Ages F-O-U-R to T-E-N.

Let’s pause for dramatic effect.

* * * * *

(I don’t actually know how to pause a blog post. I’m trusting you’ll do it on your own.)

* * * * *

What seems like insanity to the general population, is one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever heard, let alone had the honor of cheering on from the sideline.

Their story has been written (and edited and re-written) over several years. Over many tears, over many fights, over many victories, over many set backs.

3 kids dropped into an already full house; into a family that said “yes”. They fought for hope, fought for unity, fought for new life in tiny hearts that had been shredded by drug addiction.

They will continue those fights, but now they fight as a legal, bona-fide family team.

And on Sunday, we celebrated.

While this story is uniquely theirs, their journey has impacted an entire community.

* * *

r  e  w  i  n  d .

8 years ago, I married my love and moved to Dallas/Fort Worth to start adult life after graduating college.

We started looking for a church to visit (because when a pastor’s kid marries an elder’s kid, that’s just what you do).

I was adamant that we would NOT join the church Taylor grew up in; we were starting fresh (and so clean clean) somewhere else.

The problem is, every time we visited the aforementioned establishment, I loved it a little bit.

And then a little bit more.

And then a lot of bit.

First I loved the teaching, then the people, and eventually – through the teaching and the people – Jesus.

“Wait, but haven’t you been a Christian since, like, conception?”

Basically.

But there’s a big difference in head knowledge and heart knowledge.

There is an enormous difference in possessing the ability to recite the books of the Bible in one breath and experiencing a relationship with Jesus. (Even though the former is still pretty dang impressive, ifImaysayso.)

It was in this place, at this church, that I met Jesus – in a lot of ways – for the first time.

knew him, but I didn’t really know him. Know what I mean?

No, it wasn’t until I saw people whose knowledge of Jesus affected their lives and decisions in a deeply profound – yet totally natural – way that my own heart started to shift.

It was through people like the family we celebrated this weekend.

People living real, hard life in a different way – and inviting us to journey alongside.

People who invested in Taylor and I, newlywed babies.

People who did weird Christian stuff (that was actually super awesome) like coming over to the house we just bought and praying over our floor plan, asking God to bless each room. (???)

People who took me to lunch, asked intentional questions about my marriage, and made me fall infinitely more in love with my husband over 30 minutes of encouragement and a Chick-fil-A sandwich.

People who sat in the children’s hospital waiting room with us even though we told them not to come.

People who don’t take “I’m fine!” as a valid answer.

People who stood together on a sidewalk and prayed over a friend backing out of her driveway to drive to the hospital where she would deliver her stillborn son.

These are our people.

But not just our people – Jesus’ people.

And it’s not what they did for us that is noteworthy, it is how they lived their lives differently because of Jesus.

I saw this at our church. Over and over and over.

I still see it.

I saw it this weekend as I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a few hundred people and watched as our kids raised their hands to praise a God who is displaying his mighty, healing, redemptive power in a newly-permanent family of 9.

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A God who took 3 precious, wounded hearts and gave them an entire room full of people standing in solidarity to say, “You are cherished and you are loved. Welcome to our family.”

A God who took that family of 6-turned-9 and gave them an entire room full of people standing in solidarity to say, “We’re in this with you. We are in your corner.”

And as I looked around at the people standing to our right and left, I was overcome with the beauty of it all.

Because each person there also has a story of their own.

In the room that night – hands raised – was a man with a brain tumor. And a family with a sassy foster child. And a teen with bipolar disorder. And a recovering alcoholic. And a single mom.

A hundred different, unique stories coming together for one purpose – to remind each other of one God’s faithfulness.

Any one of those stories could have been the focal point of the evening, because each story is important. And each story should have an army of cheerleaders behind it.

Each story points the skeptics, the weary, the broken-hearted to Jesus. Each story reminds the faithful and revives the wounded.

When we share life, our stories swirl together to create a beautiful picture of God’s grace.

When you see that…like really experience that, Jesus becomes a lot more real than just a hipster flannel graph character.

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If you, like me, default to being skeptical of religion…

if you think “having a relationship” and “falling in love” with an invisible celestial being sounds creepy…

if you think church is just a feel-good place full of perfect people and perfect lattes and perfectly executed worship fog…

or even if you just don’t see the need for it…

Come sit by me on Sunday. I’ll introduce you to stories and faces that look a heck-of-a-lot like the real Jesus.

And when you meet the real, unfiltered, gracious Him, life begins.

Our stories are powerful.

Let’s share them well.

ps if you want to laugh and smile and ugly cry from now until next Tuesday, start at the beginning of this blog and read the entire adoption journey for yourself: Deep Rolling Right Field.
warning: your heart will be permanently altered in the best possible way.

Nifty {Slightly Traumatic} Sixty

If there is one thing our family does not excel at, it is vacationing.

Like the time my 13 month old got strep and a double ear infection on our beach vacation. (The same one where we hit a deer…possibly the only deer in the state of Florida.)

Or the time – on our first solo vacation since our honeymoon – my husband contracted Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease and my 8 month old broke his collarbone at home.

We do not travel well.

Which is why when my brother, my boys, and I decided to drive up to Kansas to surprise my mom for her 60th birthday last week, I should’ve expected more of the unexpected.

Most of the week was great. Truly. It hovered around a degree outside (one single degree), so we spent most of our time inside playing board games and carrying around personal heaters.

The *one* day we decided to venture into the arctic to do something fun, we headed to a science exhibit at Union Station in downtown Kansas City.

It looked awesome. Had great reviews. Sounded like a little boy’s dream.

I’ll never know, because we didn’t even make it past the front doors before Hutton got his finger smashed in the giant, metal, railroad-stationy door.

He immediately let out a blood-curdling scream. (And I immediately had a mild-to-moderate heart attack because REMEMBER THAT TIME I CUT MY DOG’S TAIL OFF? Doors make me anxious.)

I bent down and started consoling him. “Oh, buddy…I’m sorry. Did you get your finger stuck? It’ll be oka—” and then I saw his finger. And I realized it probably actually wasn’t okay. (Door anxiety now in FULL FORCE.)

I scooped him up, divvied the other boys up with my mom and brother, and headed across the lobby to the bathroom. Along the way, his finger started bleeding profusely. Like, leaving a bright, red trail across the beautifully tiled floor.

One of the hardest parts of parenting is assessing a wound. Either this is totally fine and just needs to be cleaned up a bit or you need emergency reconstructive surgery and/or amputation. The line seems oddly blurred between the two.

Hutton’s finger fell somewhere in the middle, but definitely on the needs-fairly-immediate-medical-attention end.

I wrapped his hand up and headed back to the lobby where my mom was asking a security guard for first aid assistance. When I walked up, he held out the world’s smallest bandaid and said, “Do you need this?”

I looked from him to the 14 blood-saturated paper towels on the end of my kid’s hand, back to the security guard, back to the seeping blood.

“Uhhhh nah, bruh. I think we’re past a bandaid at this point.

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But could you be a dear and point us in the direction of the closest emergency room?”

45 minutes and a set of x-rays later, a 12 year old walks into our ER room.

12yo: Hello, I’m the doctor who will be working with Hudson today.

*takes one look at the finger*

I’m trying to decide what to do. Let’s see…we could… *mumbles a few things to herself*….we’ll probably just try to clean it up a bit and he’ll be good to go.

me: Great! So it’s not broken?

12yo: Yes, it is broken.

me: Oh. Huh. ….feels like that should’ve been the opening line….Is it bad?

12yo: No. And I’ve never actually seen a fracture in this bone, so we probably won’t even splint it.

me: ….ok….

*older doctor strolls in*

doc: Hi! I’m the supervising doctor. So what we have is a fracture that is very common in kids whose fingers get shut in doors. I see it all the time. We’ll splint it.

me: *looks from 12 year old to real doctor and back* hmm. So will he need stitches? Or glue?

12yo: no.

real doc: yes.

And on it went. Turns out this hospital is a “teaching hospital” which makes sense because there was a whole lot of teaching going on in that room. It might have been that 12 year old’s very first day on the job ever.

Also, as an aside, we were in the hospital’s system already from previous “vacations”. So. That’s appropriate yet depressing.

Couple things:

  1. This “mitt” is adorable and lasted all of 12 seconds before we started buddy taping instead.

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2. My brother is the actual best person to have in this situation.

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3. No broken bone could stop us from sledding the very next day.

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It was great fun.

Until it wasn’t.

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That’s life with little people.

From great fun to snotty hysterics in .2 seconds.

The rest of the week wasn’t *as* eventful, but by the end of the week, we did have, at last count:

  • 1 broken Kindle
  • 1 broken iPhone (complements of a toddler and a toy hammer)

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  • 1 broken finger

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  • 1 broken eyeball (complements of different toddler, a really intense goodbye hug, and a pair of glasses stabbing the birthday girl in the eye, bursting a few blood vessels)

We life hard.

We also travel hard.

I’d do it all again, though, because this lovely lady is 60. And what helps someone ring in a new decade better than great, slightly traumatic memories?

We’d argue nothing.

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Happy birthday, Mom. (Sorry again about your eye. I hope it stops bleeding soon.) XOXO

Attempting Advent

Growing up in a church that didn’t participate directly in Advent, I have come to adore this tradition as an adult. (I think everyone has, actually. It seems like Advent has made a splash in evangelical churches in recent years. It must have a great PR team.)

And as a parent? Oh, man. It’s the best.

Each year we attempt an Advent calendar with daily activities.

“Attempt” because I try really, super hard not to set unreasonable expectations. For instance, our activities are things like “read a Christmas book” and “make an ornament for a friend”.

I try to scale my real desires of “create a 6′ ice-sculpture” or “feed every homeless person in Texas” back a little. Keep it realistic, you know.

We aim for easy activities with a simple purpose:

look for Jesus, love people.

Sometimes we love elderly friends at the nursing home. Sometimes we love our neighbors. Sometimes we love police officers. Sometimes we love families who can’t afford presents.

We’re always looking for people to love. And, when loving people, we always see Jesus.

Funny how that works.

I think sometimes love doesn’t turn into action because there are too many expectations put on it.

I don’t know what to do.
I don’t want to do it wrong.
I don’t think it’ll make a difference.
I don’t have time.
I don’t have kids the right ages.
I don’t have the money.

I think we underestimate how far a little bit of love can go. Even when it feels awkward or messy or impractical.

I think we also underestimate how much our kids learn when we try.

So, today, the boys and I shared a little bit of love with kids who are sick and in the hospital.

Or, rather, *tried* to love kids who are sick and in the hospital.

Tried, because

a) HIPAA makes it hard to actually love them in person. [shoutout to our friends who work at the hospital and offered to deliver the packages for us.]

b) this:

me: Alright, guys! Ready to make cards? Remember…these are for kids just like you who are sick and away from home. What do you think we should say? How about “Get well soon.”?

son: Nah. I’m going to make my own card. It’ll be super sweet.

me: Perfect. Go for it.

son: *draws a Christmas tree*

me: Yes! Good start.

son: *writes “God loves you!”*

me: Oh, my word. That is awesome. I love it, buddy.

son: I’m not done yet. *draws one angry red stick figure and one happy green stick figure*

me: Who are they?

son: Satan. And God. I’m going to cross out the devil and put a check mark next to God.

me: Oh wow. That…escalated quickly. Great! Do you want me to tell you how to spell “Merry Christmas?”

son: No, thanks. But can you spell “THE DEVIL”? I need to label my picture.

me: Uhhh….I think the kids can just figure it out, you know? Mad guy…happy guy…….

son: No I need to tell them. So they’ll know never to choose the devil. How do you spell it?

me: Um. d-e-v—oh hey look at that….Davis is eating his marker. Quick! Let’s put your card down and help him finish his!

son: No, thanks. *sounds out “devil* How do you spell “author”?

me: You could probably just sign your name.

son: No I need them to know the author.

meOk, it’s….a-u-t-h-o-r.

son: ….and how do you spell “illustrator”? They need to know I’m both the author AND the illustrator.

me: aaaaand time’s up. Put the markers down, everyone.

And that, you guys, is how you attempt Advent.

A little bit of intentionality,

a well-annotated greeting card,

god-loves-you-card

and a brief pamphlet on the reality of spiritual warfare.

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“this is God, this is the devil”

This is how you love people fabulously.

(And awkwardly. But mostly fabulously.)

 

Dear sweet, hospitalized child,

We’re so sorry about your chronic illness. We hope you like the toy and that you feel loved.

Most of all, we hope you don’t choose Satan.

much love,

the Brooks family

Joy to the Mess

I see you, moms who send your kids to preschool in matching monogrammed festive wear. You look totes adorbs walking in to drop off all calm and collected.

I see you, and I raise you a toddler with no shoes and a single sock halfway on. We’ll hold the door – you go on ahead. I’ve got to finish brushing the McDonald’s biscuit crumbs off my kids’ pants before we go inside.

This is life.

Sometimes we all match. Most times I can’t tell you where their footwear went.

I don’t know if it’s because they are boys, or if it’s because they’re still little, or if it’s because they’re so close together, or if it’s simply because I just can’t function in a world of organization, but this stage of life is completely chaotic.

For instance, I found my youngest two inside the dryer yesterday. Door closed, yelling for the older one to come spin them.


That’s what we call a “Wednesday”.

Over Thanksgiving, we spent the week at my parents’.

One morning as I was getting ready in the bathroom, my mom looked over my shoulder and said, “Uhh…Davis is combing his hair with your dad’s razor.” I thanked her, grabbed the razor, and checked the blades for long baby hairs mixed in with adult beard ones.

A few minutes later, as I was loading the boys into the car, I heard my aunt say to the older two, “Let’s not do that!”

I looked up in time to see both of their faces in the exhaust pipe, sniffing furiously.

It’s life, man.

Tiny humans always on the move. Tiny hands always touching, tiny mouths always tasting, tiny feet always exploring.

The other day my friend told me she wanted to hide cameras in our house to see our daily happenings.

I told her she’d see a lot of white-person dancing she’d never be able unsee….but she’d also see a whole lot of fires being put out.

Not literal fires (although that’ll probably happen sooner than later).

Figurative ones.

“Fires” where at least one of my boys are doing something wildly destructive or highly dangerous behind my back.

Like trying to open a Go-GURT with a 6″ knife.

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Or like the runt of the litter covering himself head to toe in sausage grease at breakfast.

(Bad news: I didn’t realize it wasn’t water until we had already left the house for the day.

Good news: sausage grease makes an incredible hair gel.)

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Our home is always full of surprises.

Our days are full of energy.

We rarely – if ever – make it all the way through a store without someone stopping us and saying either,

“Oh, my! You sure have your hands full!”

or

“I bet they keep you busy!”

or

“Do these pants belong to one of your children?”

(Just kidding about the last one. Maybe.)

The comments are usually said with an air of condolence. Or even slight relief. Thank goodness it isn’t their life.

I see fellow shoppers try to mask their shock as 6 hands and 6 feet go in 6 different directions at 600mph.

I watch other people’s energy drain from being around our crew.

I hear well-meaning friends ask, “Are they always this loud?”

Uhhhyep.

And, you know…it is crazy. They are crazy. Our home is crazy.

But holy wow is it a blast.

I think the parenting culture these days leads us into one of two categories: we pretend life isn’t messy (wrong) or we make victims out of our circumstances (also wrong).

Either, “Look at us, so prim and proper. No one ever poops and paints their crib with it during nap time.”

Or, “Woe is me…my kids make it really hard for me to do what I want when I want. They’re the worst. Isn’t this meme of needing an entire bottle of wine after a single day with my children hilarious?”

Like…can we meet somewhere in the middle?

Somewhere where we laugh at how chaotic life can be, but recognize the joy in the mess?

Somewhere where someone says, “You sure have your hands full!” and we reply with, “And you know what? It is crazy fun.”

It’s imperfectly, unPinteresty, wheels-off-ly wonderful.

Sometimes my kids smell exhaust pipes. Sometimes they roar in people’s faces. Sometimes they play with a blender blade that got misplaced in the tupperware drawer.

And it’s all good.

Or it’s not. But then it will be after a few bandaids.

The point is: there is such joy to be found in the mess.

Kids make messes, they are not the mess. They are our life. The greatest gifts we could ever be given. They should never doubt that.

In a culture of entitlement and self-interest, a social media world of filtered perfection, and a holiday season of matching family pajamas and immaculately decorated cookies, I don’t want to bemoan the mess. I want to celebrate the joy and laughter it brings. The belly-laughing, ear-splitting, heart-bursting joy they bring.

They’re doing this kid thing well.

….

I want to celebrate the joy…and the mess…and also the 2016 Brooks’ family Christmas tree. You know, the one where I put the inserts in the wrong order and I refuse to fix it because it makes us smile 14 times a day.

Love handles look good on you, Balsam Fir sir.

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Bring it, Advent season.

May this be the messiest, loudest, glitteriest, shoeless, most meaningful one yet.

Sassy Meatball

It’s funny that no matter how many kids you have or how close together they are, you forget certain things about certain ages.

When I was a new mom with my first punkinangel, I was constantly asking my mom when babies were supposed to do things. Crawl, talk, eat with a spoon, walk, etc.

Her answer was nearly always the same: “I don’t remember.”

What do you mean you don’t remember?!” I’d think, as I carefully glued the 524th identical picture of my firstborn taking a bath into his overflowing baby book. “I’ll always remember.”

Spoiler: I already don’t. I didn’t have to wait long for that inflated confidence to be laughable.

For a while now, our resident 2 year old has excelled at being a toddler. He is fantastic at being 2. [as chronicled here and here, and here.]

But now he’s nearing 3.

And I totally didn’t remember that sometimes 3 year olds are worse than 2 year olds, in the best, sassiest kind of way.

“Threenager” is a term for a reason.

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For one, he says, “actually” a lot. As in, “Ashually, mama, I’m not going to pick dat up.”

Also, the “…but why?” As in,

“Let’s not pour that orange juice on your brother’s head.” or “Please don’t try to change your own diaper”
“….why?”

3 year olds, man. They’re…passionate.

How. Ever.

They are also hilarious.

The way they describe the world around them is gold.

Like last week when Hutt felt a gust of wind, clutched his lovey to his chest, and cried, “the ‘ky is trying to take Raff!”

Or when he ran into my bathroom with a panicked look on his face and yelled,

“MAMA MY MOUF ISN’T WORKING.
*hiccups loudly*
SEE, MAMA?! YOU HEAR DAT?? ISS BWOKEN.”

Or how excited he gets every time we drive at night because, “Da moon is following us home, Mama!!!”

Or any time it’s bright enough to make him squint and he yells, “ISS TOO WINKY OUT HERE.”

Or when this happens every single time:

him: I want a snack.
me: Can you ask nicely?
him: Nicely. Get me a snack.

The dude excelled at being 2.

My expectations are even higher for 3.

Bring it on, you deliciously sassy meatball, you.

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Remembering our Ebenezers

All throughout the Old Testament, God’s people are always piling up rocks. Sometimes altars, sometimes landscape formations…I don’t really know.

But these stones are always directly tied to an encounter with God. A moment in time when heaven meets earth in a tangible experience.

They see God perform a miracle, they set up stones of remembrance. They witness God’s protection, they build an altar. They experience God’s deliverance from their enemies, they build a memorial.

I adore this imagery.

Because several of these stones were raised during a nomadic time.

A time when the entire nation of Israel is displaced. When all of God’s people are exiled. When they’re wandering around in a desert, waiting for directions to the Promised Land. When they’re moving from place to place with everything they own and everyone they know.

Sometimes walking. Sometimes trudging. Sometimes limping.

But they keep moving.

And all along their journey, God is there. He is with them. He is moving within them.

They see His miracles and they praise Him. They set up a visual reminder. “Oh the Lord is good! He met us here. Praise the Lord.” 

Then they keep moving.

And the road is long. And it’s hot. And it’s hard. And there is pain and uncertainty. And they are overwhelmed by the unknown. And they forget God’s promises.

“Where is God? Why does this hurt? When will we get there? Is this worth it?”

Then they see His miracles and they praise Him. They set up a visual reminder. “Oh the Lord is good! He met us here. Praise the Lord.”

…can you imagine this?

When things get hard, when they don’t understand, when they lose momentum, when doubts creep in, when they’re trudging along wondering if the up-ahead is going to be all it’s cracked up to be…it is in these moments that they look behind at where they’ve been.

And sprinkled along the path as far back as they can see, they see stones. Visual, tangible, rock-commemorated moments where they experienced God.

And they elbow each other and point.

They lean in and whisper,

“Oh yeah. Ohhh yeahhh. Remember that time? Remember what He did there?

He is good. He is faithful. He’s in control.”

At a time when it was easy to forget, they found real, intentional ways to remember the Lord. To remind themselves and others of His presence and faithfulness.

That was then.

We’re in the now.

But whoa-my-goodness we’re in another season of forgetfulness. We’ve forgotten who God is.

I mean, we remember….sort of.

We remember – briefly – but then we turn on the news. And see the latest ISIS reports. And we fear.

We remember briefly, but then politics. The election. And we dread.

We remember briefly, but then blatant, rampant racism. And we divide.

We remember briefly, but then parenting is hard. And we worry.

Remembering Well

My favorite stone story is in 1 Samuel 7. Long story super short, God delivers His people from their enemies. They respond by setting up a memorial.

Samuel names the stone “Ebenezer” and says, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

(Think Come Thou Fount lyrics: “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come.”)

A few years ago, I started compiling my own Ebenezers. I call it my “Oh Yeahhh” list.

It looks a little less like a primitive rock formation and more like a Moleskin notebook and some colored post-its:

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My Ebenezers are times in my life when heaven met earth. When I experienced God tangibly.

Some are small and superficial. Like the time my kid had a seizure in an urgent care waiting room. (I mean, if you’re going to seize, that is certainly the place to do it.)

Some are big and foundational. Like the time I watched the Lord change a life with a pair of Nike Shox. Or like the time one of my children was conceived despite 2 forms of birth control.

Some are fun (and borderline stupid). Like a free trampoline from our neighbors after deciding we couldn’t afford one.

Some are painful yet powerful. Like crying out to the Lord during a run, asking why He didn’t heal my friend’s newborn of his heart condition, and immediately looking up to see heart-shaped leaves surrounding me with the whispered promise, “He’s with me now and he is whole. I’m still here.”

These are my Ebenezers.

My moments I want to remember. Moments of God’s faithfulness.

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I add to my Ebenezer list when times are good so that it will be handy when times are bad. In the seasons I don’t hear Him. On the days I can’t really feel Him. On the days I doubt.

And on those hard days, I pull out my list and say, “Oh. yeah. Oh yeahhh!”

Our Ebenezer moments are different. Our journeys are unique. But we all have them.

And God’s presence in our past gives us hope for tomorrow.

If the Lord has been faithful up until now, why. in. the. world. would He not be in the future?

If He has been in control up until now, why. in. the. world. would He not be after November 8th?

I think it’s time we start remembering well, together. We have a chance to tell the world a better, more hopeful narrative.

Make your list. (Check it twice.)

Share it with people you love. Talk to your kids about it.

We tend to forget easily. Let’s start remembering well.

Attention Deficit Mom Disorder

Yesterday I did that thing where I put a kid in time out, forgot I put him in time out, and stumbled across him much, much later.

He was all, “Mommy, can I come out now?”

I replied with, “Have you had enough time to think about what you did?” (Also, could you be a dear and remind me what it was? Because it’s been long enough I forgot.)

My rememberer is bad these days. Actually, I don’t know if it’s my rememberer that’s bad or just my attention span.

I feel like I have Mom ADD.

With Davis walking, I have no idea where at least one of my children is at any given moment.

At a friend’s house the other day, we were joking about how much more laid back we are as 3rd time parents than 1st time parents.

“I mean, like, where even is Davis right now? I haven’t seen him in a while, yet I’m not concerned enough to search. If this were my 1st 1 year old…..” Ahhhahhahah we’re so funny. Look at us 3rd time moms. So seasoned and wise.

Except 5 minutes later when I still hadn’t seen Davis, I finally got up and started looking for him.

And I found him. Behind a closed bathroom door.

He had shut himself in their master bathroom, thrown the entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet bowl, and stirred the soupy mess with a plunger he found behind the tank.

And, honestly, there’s no telling how long he’d been doing that and how much toilet water he consumed in the process.

So, yeah. 3rd time moms are so laid back. And by so laid back I mean in desperate need of some middle ground. Preferably somewhere between using a shopping cart cover for a 4 year old and letting your infant child fondle other people’s plungers.

Yesterday was also a trip to Target. 4 steps into the store, Beckett informed me he had a booger. I told him to hold on a second until we came across the wipe aisle. (Because 3rd time moms are super laid back, remember? We don’t even carry wipes anymore. That’s so 1st time mom.)

Target – my Mecca – has so much cute stuff right now that I was on sensory overload. Fall stuff being clearanced, Christmas stuff debuting. YES PLEASE.

It wasn’t until 45 minutes later with a cart full of clearanced leaf decor that my sweet 5 year old opened the hand he’d been clenching throughout the entire store, showed me a smooshed up booger, and said, “Can we throw this away yet?”

I mean…on one hand, let’s celebrate the fact that we’re keeping track of boogers these days. This is a struggle we’ve been working through.

On the other hand, my bad, son.

Attention Deficit Mom Disorder. It’s a real thing.

But. In a new effort to celebrate our wins as much as we project our fails, let me just leave this nugget right here:

Luckily my ADMD doesn’t affect my ability to produce epic last minute Halloween costumes.

Like Blue Man Group & their PR team.

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Or a peanut, Superman, and a Strong Man going to visit our elderly lady and gent friends at the nursing home. (And showing off during physical therapy time.)

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My kids may not have a single wipe or kleenex to their name, but they will always be confident in their costumage.

We truly focus on what’s important in this home.

 

Kind is Cool…er than Bullhorns

Pulling into church last week, we heard a man’s voice carrying through the parking lot.

As we looked to where the sound was coming from, we saw a dad with his wife and daughter, megaphone in one hand, doomsday poster in the other.

“JUDGMENT DAY IS COMING. YOU’RE GOING TO LEAVE HERE AND GO DRINK YOUR BEER AND GORGE YOURSELVES ON SPORTS, BUT GOD IS GOING TO SEPARATE THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS. THIS CHURCH BUILDING STEALS MONEY FROM THE WIDOWS AND ORPHANS.” 

et cetera, et cetera.

Turns out our church isn’t special – we’re just one of several megachurches that is targeted by this group. It was our week for the…uh…Judgement Day public service announcement.

We got our boys inside and to their children’s worship. About 5 minutes into our own class, I leaned over to my sweet, non-confrontational husband and said, “I think I have to go out there and talk to those people.” To which he replied, “Please don’t.”

I laughed….on my way out the door.

I grabbed a few water bottles from the kitchen and headed outside.

Thankfully, there was a lull in church traffic, so the protestors were sitting down on the grass taking a break.

I squatted down next to them and asked, “So are you are guys from around here?”

The next several minutes were spent talking about living in Texas and being a parent. We didn’t venture much into what they were actually protesting; honestly, I didn’t care to hear. Rarely do productive conversations happen at the speaker end of a bullhorn.

One thing I did say was that our church – while not perfect – is made up of a whole lot of messed up people trying their best to follow a perfect Jesus. “It really is a pretty amazing place, full of lots of grace.”

“Well some of those ‘nice people’ have been very vindictive to us this morning.” the dad replied.

I resisted the urge to point out it was probably a direct response to his yelling unwarranted insults in their face. Instead I said, “Man, I’m sorry to hear that. You know, sometimes when we are met with aggression, we respond accordingly. But even if we disagree with each other, we can still do so in love. I hope you’ve seen more of that today than the other.”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries and ended our conversation shortly after.

As I was walking away I said, “Oh, by the way, I originally came out here to offer you guys water. It’s pretty hot today.”

The dad pointed to a pile of discarded water bottles on the ground and said, “Honestly, you’re about the 8th person to bring food or drinks out here. So.. thanks, but no thanks.”

I’ve never been prouder of our church as I was when I saw that pile of h2o.

When I got closer to the building, a few of our church security officers stopped me and asked if the family had been nice.

I told them yes, surprisingly.

“Oh, good,” they said. “You were the only person who wasn’t yelled away by a megaphone.”

It surprised me a little. Not that they yelled people away, but that I wasn’t one of those people.

Honestly, I think it helped that the family was sitting down relaxed when I approached. It probably also helped that they thought I was 16 years old.

Whatever it was (hello, divine intervention), I was so thankful for it.

Because as we drove up that morning and began unloading our kids, I watched as that teenage girl set up a video camera to record her dad yelling hateful, misguided statements at good, Jesus-loving people.

And as I watched her, I found myself hoping someone was responding graciously.

I hoped someone was responding differently.

I hoped someone was responding with kindness.

And then I felt God elbow me and whisper, “that someone could easily be you.”

Hope is great…but sometimes it needs flesh.

Because there will come a day when that girl begins to question the hate and the judgment her faith is based on. And when that day comes, I want her to be able to look back at her life and see real, actual faces of kindness in the midst of spitefulness. To see real, actual grace offered when it wasn’t deserved.

And you know what’s awesome? Whether she realized it or not…whether she’s even looking yet or not, she saw it on Sunday.

She saw 8 hands holding cold water bottles. 8 faces of grace. 8 examples of a better Jesus.

I think we buy into this idea that we have to have an opposing view. We always have to take a stand. And maybe sometimes we do.

But maybe sometimes we also just need to squat down and hand over some cold water. To be a kind face.

God can work with that. I’m praying he does.

In such a divided, polarized culture – from politics to religion to sleep-training methods – we can still choose kindness. Not a bull horn, not ambivalent silence, but kindness.

That’s my vote.

Kind 2016.

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America’s Funniest Home Fails

One of our favorite pastimes as a family is watching America’s Funniest Home Videos on Sunday nights.

(You know, the show that is currently in it’s TWENTY-SEVENTH season. Yes. 27.

Only 49 fewer seasons than Law & Order.)

About 6 months ago I decided to try submitting one of our own home videos to the show. Not because the video was *that* funny, not because I was trying to win $1,000,000; simply because the thought of surprising our boys with a cameo on their favorite show sounded magical.

I opened my laptop, went to their website, and grabbed the first video in my files.

Once I got into the upload process, however, I panicked at the legal jargon. Specifically, the part about their ownership of your video upon submission.

What if the quality control team from AFV comes and destroys all copies of the video from our home?

What if our kid ends up in a commercial for Preparation H?!

Valid enough concerns that I didn’t finish the upload process.

You know when you’re shopping online and you leave something unpaid in your virtual shopping cart, you get an email saying, “Hey, girl…you sure you don’t want to buy those shoes?”

AFV apparently does the same thing.

I got no less than 12 emails over the next several weeks asking if I wanted to complete the consent forms for my video.

I kept deleting them.

And then one day I got a phone call and voicemail from LA.

“Hey, Sarah. This is Shannon from America’s Funniest Home Videos. We are preparing for our next season and would love to include your video…”

I called the number back.

shannon: This is Shannon.

me: Oh, wow. Hi. Uh. This is Sarah…with the video of the…you know, the 15-second…

shannon: Yes, hi, Sarah! We’d love to finish your consent forms to include the video on our upcoming show.

me: But will my kid be the new face of hemorrhoid cream?

shannon: What? No.

me: Ok then, let’s do this.

A few months went by after our conversation and I kinda forgot this whole event.

And then one day I got a phone call and voicemail from LA:

“Hey, Sarah. It’s Shannon from AFV. Your video will be aired this coming Sunday…”

It was at this point in the 6 month America’s Home Funniest Videos video submission journey that I finally told Taylor what I’d done: my master plan to surprise the boys…my free AFV t-shirt coming in the mail…I told it all.

We both dissolved into giggles.

Mostly because we knew our kids would flip out when they saw Alfonso Ribeiro and their brother on the screen at the same time.

We hosted a surprise AFV viewing party with our neighbors. We even had popcorn.

And when our 15-second home video was aired on national television in front of at least 36 grandmothers and 4 doctor’s office waiting rooms, this happened:

me, *pausing the show*: Boys!! Did you see that?! Who was that?!

beckett: Davis. ….I’ve seen that video before. Can you unpause it?

And that was that.

Turns out these youths don’t know the difference between screens. Like….between looking at the camera roll on your iPhone and being on a nationally televised show.

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Hil-arious.

Whatever, boys. We are one of only about 2.3 billion videos on this prestigious, exclusive show. I’m going to wear my AFV t-shirt with pride.

And congratulations, famous Davis. As soon as you can learn to write I’ll get your autograph.

Learning to Unplug as a Family

Junior high is a rough time. It’s awkward, it’s pimply…you’re trying to figure out who you are and where you belong. You’re trying not to panic about your body parts that are growing and doing weird, new things.

Junior high is a lot of social experimentation. Not necessarily experimenting with drugs and alcohol, more like experimenting with friendships.

Learning what is kind vs. what hurts people’s feelings. Learning what traits draw others in vs. alienate the general population. Learning the difference between high-energy and just plain obnoxious.

I wouldn’t wish my junior high self on my worst enemy.

But.

When I had a bad day in junior high – when I was super obnoxious and alienated everyone in the vicinity with my hyperactive energy – I got to go home, relax, maybe watch an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and start again the next day.

My social life took a break at 3pm and reconvened in the morning.

Now?

It. never. stops.

If social media is communication for teens….if social media is their social life, then as long as they have a phone in their possession, their social life never ends.

Their friends follow them home in their pocket. They sit with them on the couch. They hang out in their bedroom.

Their bad days don’t just last from 7:30am to 3pm, they last 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

They do a terrible job of unplugging.

Actually, let me rephrase that.

We do a terrible job of unplugging.

We can’t expect our kids to know how to unplug when we’re still replying to work emails at 10pm. We can’t expect them to turn it off when we spend every spare second mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.

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starting small

I don’t have teenagers. I have small kids. But all too soon those kids will grow into junior high kids. And then high school kids.

And I don’t want to wait until we have an issue before we start setting technology boundaries.

And, really, I don’t want to wait until I see a screen addiction in my children before I start addressing the addiction in myself.

So here are a few of our family rules. It isn’t exhaustive, just some ideas that are helping us pave the way now for better conversations later.

Not yet for teenagers, for ourselves. For our family.

1. Tech-Free Zones

When my oldest was 3, we went to the park. I let him run up ahead and start playing on the playground while I finished up an email. He ran to the top of the slide, looked down at me and said, “Mommy – will you come play with me? You can bring your phone!”

Oh, ok, daggers in my heart.

Here’s the thing: I was emailing a friend of mine about a fundraiser we were having to support orphans in Africa. I mean, couldn’t have been doing anything better with my phone. But did my son see it that way? No. He saw a mom with a screen in front of her face.

It’s not about never being on your phone.

It’s about finding good times and places to use technology.

It’s about asking your spouse and your kids, “Hey, when am I on my phone when you wish I weren’t?” Turns out there’s always an answer.

Here are a few of our tech-free zones:

  • dinner table (both at home and at restaurants)
  • riding in the car with spouse
  • playing at the park
  • anywhere we play with our friends

2. Limit Double-Screening

If you’re going to watch tv, watch tv. If you’re going to play on the iPad, play on the iPad. If you’re going to read on the Kindle, read on the Kindle.

It’s ridiculous to play Candy Crush while watching tv while texting while watching YouTube videos. That’s a straight up self-control issue.

Cut the double, triple, quadruple screen time.

Choose one and go with it.

3. Move the Phone from the nightstand

Can you imagine what would happen if we reached for something other than our phone first thing in the morning?

Can you imagine if we started our day with our spouse and with our family instead of with the world? Work? Instagram?

When our kids see us make this a priority, it sets the stage for the later rule of no phones in your room overnight. Period. (Like, really. See this post.)

4. Make people more important than technology

When Daddy comes home from work, we put down the Kindle and run to greet him. When grandparents FaceTime, we pause the tv and talk to them. When friends are over, screens get turned off and put away.

We’re not on our devices all the time. Not even a lot, really. But if there is ever a choice between greeting someone we love and continuing to watch Paw Patrol, the screen will never win.

And if my kids have a hard time turning it off or putting it away without whining, we lose the privilege for a while.

People are more important than technology. Always.

Unplugging is hard. But watching our kids learn their value and identity from an online world they don’t know how to turn off is harder.

We’ve got to figure out how to unplug well now.

What rules do you have for your family?

impart your wisdom, oh interwebs.