Demolition Day

This morning I told my nine-year-old son that Trump won the presidential race last night. His response broke my heart. He said, "but Momma, he's gonna build a wall."

I tried to reassure him that it takes a long time to build a wall and that Trump can't do it all by himself, that the rest of the government would have to say it's ok, and I didn't think they would do that. Then I told Ben that we trust in God more than we trust in the president. "After all, God's in charge of who the president is," I said. "And God's kingdom is going to outlive America."

But the whole time I was feeling just as worried as my son; I wanted a parent to reassure me, too. I had a hard time believing my own words because, in many ways, it feels like Trump has already built that wall.

Then I got home and thought about all the walls I've built this last year.

It seems I'm always in self-protection mode. I don't like the thought of everyone who walks by my house being able to see the inside. It's so scary to think about sharing my life with people I don't know and don't trust. I'm so worried about everyone else's judgements regarding my decisions.

But man, all of that worry is killing me. It is not the way I want to live.

I want to be free to tell you that I DO NOT have my shit together. I am only doing the best I can, and so much of the time, I get fooled into thinking that my best should look like an instagram photo. But it hardly ever does. I am a mess. My kids are a mess. My house is a mess. My husband might have it together emotionally, but his car is always full of trash. We don't have just one junk drawer in the kitchen, we have twelve. There's dust and mold and cobwebs in every corner of our house--and I'm not being metaphorical.

I get the dishes and laundry done most of the time. I manage to keep all five of us fed. I hate grocery shopping, so most of our meals are very simple. Spaghetti, tacos, take home and bake pizza. Nutritious and organic are not my top priorities, convenience is. I'm in charge of paying the bills, and we do alright there. Our mortgage is paid on time, we get by month after month, but we don't always tithe.

I know I've taught my children the importance of bathing on a regular basis, but so far I've only convinced two of them. We're t-shirts and blue jeans kind of people. We don't use a great deal of hair products, and I'm the only one who wears a significant amount of make-up. (On the days I decide to actually leave the house.) There's not a whole lot of ironing or primping or great fashion advice exchanged in my house, but we all manage to get hugged everyday--some of us whether we want to or not.

There's only a handful of days on which I haven't cried this year. I know that sounds depressing, like I need to up my medication, but hey, I have two teenagers! And one of them will be graduating next year, and I'm also turning 40 in twenty-one days.

2016 has been tough on me, it's true. I feel like I've aged five years instead of one. But I've also done more writing than ever. More and more people are reading my words. I've loved my husband way better than any other year, and I'm finally beginning to understand just how short this life is. I have railed at God, and the world, more than ever before, but I still feel hopeful every time I look up at the sky, or an old tree, or into the eyes of another human being.

In spite of all our messes, we still make time to hold hands around here, and walk the dogs, and go out for ice cream. We fight with each other, we're selfish and lazy, and we spend way too much time staring at screens for entertainment. We spill milkshakes in the car, and we don't always come to a complete stop at the four way, but we have such potential for good. We're so very lucky in so many different ways.

I'm sad for my country today, because I think the rest of the world will see us differently now. It feels like they're all thinking, "We knew that America was just too good to last. All that hope and freedom was phoney from the get go." And there's a decent sized part of my heart that thinks the same thing. I wonder if I'm going to be able to sing the national anthem now. I can't imagine myself listening to our new leader with any sort of respect. I wish I had a new symbol to pledge allegiance to. One that says all of us are valuable, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, or even how badly we behave. One that inspires hope and bravery, instead of fear and dread. One that promotes unity instead of division.

But then I remember--I've already pledged my allegiance to that symbol. The cross of Jesus Christ proclaims that forgiveness is the way ahead. Mercy is the bandage for our wounds, love is the balm for our misdeeds, and grace is the power we need in order to heal. So even though this president is not the one I chose, my job as a citizen is still the same: to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God.

Not everyone I come in contact with has chosen the same God as me, but I can't do anything about what anyone else chooses. I can only control myself. I'm in charge of how I treat the people whose values do not line up with my own. I'm responsible for my words and actions toward my fellow humans, regardless of what they believe. I can not and will not force anyone to believe what I want them to. That's how freedom works. It's a gift God gave to mankind, and it's a gift I hope our country will continue to share with the world. It won't be a perfect gift because we're not perfect people, but I think things can still be pretty good, as long as we keep doing the best we can.


Grace for Another Year

My oldest son turns 17 today. I've never been one of those blogger moms who has a post ready to go on each child's birthday every year, but I've managed to write a couple here and there. Also, I'm more inclined to protect their privacy these days, so I try to write more about myself than about them.

I was 22 when Sam was born. That's only five years older than he is now. This blows my mind. Who decided that was a good idea? John and I certainly didn't plan on having a baby when we were so young, but I guess Sam's maker had a plan for when he first entered the scene.

When you're a kid you have this idea that all the grownups in your life know exactly what they're doing. Like when they turned 18, someone gave them a certificate and a manual and they were all set. Like there's a grand list in their pockets that tells them everything that's expected of them from the younger people in their lives. Like there's some magic diary with the answer to all of life's mysteries, and all the adults in the world have a key.

But when I turned 18, all I got was a cookie cake and a surprise party in my dorm room.

Three years and 27 days later, I walked down the aisle and promised to spend the rest of my life with just one man. Again, who dreams up these crazy plans? Who actually has the hope (or the idiocy) to believe that they will work?

Thankfully, in my case, it has. So far anyway. But that doesn't mean we haven't had some casualties along the way. Doesn't everyone?

When I got pregnant with Sam, there was only one book parents were talking about: What to Expect When You're Expecting. I guess I read about a chapter a month for nine months, paying special attention to the chapters on birth and delivery. When Sam was born, someone bought us the sequel: What to Expect the First Year. I treated it more like a guide book than a prescription. That's how things were before Social Media. There were not so many camps to choose from, and the members of those camps had a lot more grace for those outside their fences. I shudder at the idea of being a new mom in the digital age. Bless all of you who are doing it now.

When Sam was three, he taught himself to read. Yes, you read that right. He watched a lot of Sesame Street back then and one day he realized that all the letters he knew made sounds, so he started asking me what those sounds were. After a couple of weeks, he had all the letters and sounds memorized, and not long after that, he started putting the sounds together when he saw their corresponding letters on the page.

We'd known Sam was not your ordinary child before that, but this gave us something concrete. This kid was a genius. (Aha!) Just look what we created! (Wow-wee!) Isn't he so awesome? (Brag, brag) We must be pretty cool, too. (Let's pat ourselves on the back, shall we?)

Sam has continued to excel in intellectual and academic arenas ever since, but socially and emotionally, he's had some struggles. We took him to various experts when he was younger. We asked all the questions we knew to ask. They tested him in all the areas they knew to test, but the answers we got were inconclusive. We were about five years ahead of the non-textbook definition of Asperger's syndrome. People told us Sam was close, but not enough that we needed to label him.

Ten years later, we wish we would have known more. We wish we could have gotten more help. We wish we would have learned how to protect him, and how to educate all the people who would be in his life, so they couldn't hurt him in all the ways he's been hurt. So we wouldn't be responsible for hurting him as well.

But there's no way to change the past, and whenever I obsess about it, I stop moving forward. You do the best you can do. That's all anyone is able to do. Really. I promise. (I'm reminding myself here, too).

Sam passed his driver's test a few weeks ago, so I've been adjusting to watching him back out of the driveway all by himself. Then I go in the kitchen and stand by my phone until I get the "made it here safe" text. There's only one more year of high school left for this guy, and perhaps it will be his last year living at home as well. I hope he won't be driving away that soon, but I can't predict or control the future. None of us can; no matter how hard we try. Turns out bad habits are still hard to break, but this year I'd like to replace worry with prayer. Here's one for today:

Lord, please bless and keep my son, Sam. Be gracious to him. Jesus, turn your shining face toward Sam and give him peace. And maybe one day Sam will share some of that peace with me, too. That would be a special kind of grace, Father. You know how much we both need it. Thanks for all the grace you've given so far. May your precious love cover the many mistakes we've made along the way. 

We love you so much, Sam. Keep to the old roads. You'll find your way. 


Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

I haven't posted much lately because my writing efforts have been focused elsewhere. The good news is that this effort has paid off in other ways, the first of which is pretty exciting. A story that I wrote is now published in this book of essays. This is my first time to be published in print, like with ink, and real paper, so I'm kinda pumped. It's also a privilege to be part of a book with these writer friends that I've looked up to for so long. I haven't got my copy yet, but you can buy one here if you want. I'm in Volume Four.

The second thing I wanted to point your attention to is this little website. I've been editing it with a friend for a year now, and we've garnered a bit of a following. If you're interested in reading what I've posted there, you can follow this link. I'm proud of this site, and I think the work I've put in helping other writers has made me a better one myself.

The last bit of news is not so good. In January I applied for grad school at UT. The application process was no small task. I had to take the GRE, and submit two lengthy writing samples, one of which required me to do research. Ugh. It was difficult. I also had to get three friends to recommend me for the program. It was a two year degree, a Master in Fine Arts, but it looks like I won't be getting that after all. This morning I got an email saying my admission was denied. Rejection. It hurts, I won't lie. But hopefully this will motivate me to get back to work on my book.

The truth is I don't really need the degree. I wasn't looking to be a teacher or go on to get a PHD. I just wanted an academic setting that would force me to work on my writing. I was hoping that getting regular feedback from teachers would improve my writing as well. And I wanted the chance to do college again, without the distraction of looking for love and happily ever after. But no one needs any of that to write a book. I've already got everything I need to do that. I just have to make myself do it. I'm tempted to say it's no small task either, but when I think about it, that's exactly what it is. It's just a whole bunch of them, strung together, day after day, until the big job is done. 

I hope to tell you all about it when that happens, and I hope it happens soon. Thanks for cheering me on.