Photo1Maybe, it’s because I love writing. Maybe, it’s just because I’m weird. But, I think margins are a beautiful thing.

Margins are the matte for word art. Margins are the space that makes words legible. (Along with those magical spaces between words that I’ve never quite gotten the hang of. I can still hear Mrs. Keith: “Leave a pinky space between your words, Tracey…..” ) Margins are the place where doodles become ideas, and ideas-become art.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lack of margins….. not on my pages (I have auto-formatting for that. And Pinky spaces are pretty inconvenient when writing on a laptop..trust me- I’ve tried.) My pages are fine margin wise… my life? Not so much.

My life is crammed:

Speaking engagements, parenting, marriage, volunteer work, healing, my netflix cue, doctors appointments, travel, laundry, cooking, bible studies, baby showers…. I should probably schedule toilet cleaning just to make sure it gets done. There isn’t much margin on my calendar. It makes me: cranky, stressed and controlled by a to-do list. When a friend needs or wants to talk- I feel like I need a 2 week lead-time and a calendar invite.

I’m not the only one. My friends are busy too. My family is busy. My neighbors are busy. (Or dead. I rarely see them….I’m going with busy though…sounds better.)

We’re ALL BUSY.

Too busy, if you ask me.

So I’ve been doing an experiment in margins. I’ve been leaving some on my calendar. (FYI: saying “No,” won’t make you popular.  But, it WILL give you the time to spend with the people who are most important to you and to them.)

It’s given me some wiggle room. If something comes up… I can be flexible. If my kid or spouse needs (or wants) to talk… I can be there.

If I meet someone at Target who needs a little encouragement… I can take time to give it. Without missing the carpool. (well, Except for that one time…..)

Margins. I’m starting to enjoy having margins in my life.

I hope you’ll give it a try.

It’s okay to say “NO.” To good things. So you have time for the best. It’s Okay to say “No” to things… just because you COULD do it doesn’t mean you SHOULD….

Children don’t need to be in so many activities that they forget they are in a family. They will still be able to go to college if they aren’t in AP art in Preschool.

They can: take turns with activities. (One night a week is about all I can handle…you don’t have to have each kid in an activity at the same time….)

Having margins means you have time to eat together. Talk together. Be together.

Calendar margins are the empty time where relationships can doodle, without plan or focus…and the doodle time sparks love- the art of life.

 

Ephesians 5:15-17

New International Version (NIV)

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

 

Lord- help me to keep margins in my day…. help me to focus on the moments you bring me into- and make the most of every opportunity… I love you lord- amen.

Tomorrow?

We’ll talk about the Marginal…….the things that need to stay out of the center of the pages of our lives…. the things to say “No” to… and the things to let go of….

 

 

Grace and MercyLimits.  I’m not a fan. I like to problem solve. Tell me I can’t, and I’ll figure out how I CAN.  I could easily be confused, with a 3 year old. I say: “I’ll do it myself.”  Or “I can do it myself.” about as often.

The problem is- I can’t. Not always. Especially not now. Maybe not ever. But in truth? I never could. I just always try to. I try to be a jill of all trades- I have been known to: wallpaper and by myself. (One time standing on a kitchen chair in our slippery bathtub. Putting up  ceiling border. Think about it…. holding up a border until it sticks- applying pressure as the chair you’re standing on slowly pushes back and away from the surface you’re trying to stick it to….good times.) I’ve been known to Google “How to fix the pipes under your kitchen sink when they fall apart from the garbage disposal’s vibration.”  And then: fix it. (At least for a while. Newsflash: I’m not a plumber.) I prefer to offer my doctor a diagnosis consult  and suggested treatment plan when I go in for an appointment.

I’m not a doctor- nor did I sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Yet… somehow– I feel like I can.. or that I should be able to do and figure everything out. IN truth-The list of examples could go on forever.

One of the limits I’m currently struggling with- is my neck. Either again- or still. Whatever. (I think I had 3 weeks after my last surgery where it had started to feel better…. then the slow creeping decline began- again.) Another failed surgery. I followed all the rules this time. I took my calcium and D 3.  I TRIED really HARD to tell my body to grow bone. It just: didn’t. In short- my neck… (Forgive the vernacular) Sucks. It hurts. My neck limits what I can and cannot do.

It’s been depressing me. Frustrating me. Upsetting me. I feel dis-abled. In the most literal sense. I feel… hobbled.… (I never should have watched the Movie “Misery.” Justsayin. I feel like James Cann in that flick-every time there is enough healing to get better and start to do more…- something whacks me again- and I’m hobbled, afresh.) I feel like I have less to give. I feel like I have less to help with. I hate it.

I’ve rebelled against it. (Scroll down to the snow shoveling incident.. not good.) Only to end up hobbling myself, even more. I’ve been angry at myself and looking for something- someone to blame. Usually there’s just: me. So I talk to myself. Blame myself. Manipulate myself.

“Get a grip. people live with worse. Be happy with what you can do. It’s just pain. Pain is part of life, accept it and move on. Don’t let it stop you. Stop being a hypochondriac. Suck it up buttercup. Don’t be a drama queen. Why do you keep doing stupid things?”

I’m not very nice. To myself.

Which is a problem. A big problem.

Because…..I’m usurping God’s expectations for me.

No, really. I am. I expect (desire, want)  my broken, weak, pain filled and needing to heal body- to perform like a healthy one. I want to be perfect. I want to be able to do it all. Somewhere in my twisted brain.. I think I should…..

I can’t find any scriptures to support this.

Instead, I find:

Hebrews 4:16

16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Matthew 22:36-40 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 1 John 4:16

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

Psalm 145:8

” The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”

Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
There is nothing that calls me to do it all. No verse that tells me to be perfect. Not one verse tells me to fix my own brokenness.
I keep forgetting that.
Especially when I want to do.. one more load of laundry. Vacuum one more room. Clean one more closet. Help with one more cause. Join one more study….volunteer for one more thing…Or just plain have an hour without pain. The things that set  off the internal tirade of frustration, anger and guilt I wrote above…
When I do that…. I set those expectations on and take those frustrations out on someone handcrafted by God – his workmanship created for a purpose……..
His daughter.
Me.
I wonder how he feels about that?
As a mom, I’m pretty sure he’s not a fan of that, either.
I hate to see my children tear themselves up. I love them. I want them to be kind and loving to themselves and to others…. Which, as I look at the verses above.. especially in light of Easter week- when he put that love and mercy and grace into the ultimate action….. on the cross-convinces me I need to show my back (and self) some mercy. I also need God’s grace to heal me from the heart out. More important than my neck- I need to get over my perfectionistic drive.
So yesterday, being the visual learner that I am.. I put a reminder of that- right where I need it. On my back. In the form of a tattoo. 3 hours of pain- for a lifetime of remembering….”Be Gracious Tracey, Be merciful, Tracey. To yourself and to others. You are precious to the one who formed you. Treat yourself as such.”
I can’t do it all. I’m not perfect. I’m broken. I have limits. It’s okay.  I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to do it all. The truth is…We’re all broken. (in some way.) And we’re all beautiful- created by God for a divine purpose.
I hope- Dear Reader…. that you will do the same.
You are loved. You are broken. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do it all. Show yourself some grace and mercy… you need it. so do I.
“Dear Lord- You know I hate my limits. Help me to accept them and respect them. Help me to love my life and not to waste it longing for a perfect, healthy pain free one. Help me to be gracious and merciful, help me to accept your mercy and grace- I love you Lord…. so very much. Help this ink be a reminder of all these things…. In Jesus name-amen
Kudo’s to Cee Jay at Suicide Kings Tattoo’s who worked with me to create the perfect reminder- ;)

Some days, I feel overwhelmed and embattled in, a war of causes. One i didn’t even enlist in. Heres- the thing- I hear and am moved by the impassioned pleas:

Justice! Child advocacy! Healthy families! Hunger! HIV! Cancer! Poverty! Clean water! Healthcare! Orphan care! Homelessness! Mental illness! Literacy! Refugees! Chronic illness! Foster Care! Adoption! Human Trafficking! Substance Abuse! Sex Trade! Food Contamination! Child Abuse! …. The list is endless. And heartbreaking.

I care. I do. And- I can say without guilt- that I do what I can when I can, to make a difference in the lives of others. I take seriously the call to comfort others with the comfort I’ve been given, and to love  one another. Whom ever “another” happens to be.

But, I have a problem. I’m tired of people sharing their passion and at the same time…demeaning the passions and callings of others.

It makes no sense to me when compassionate people battle to claim their cause as: THE MOST IMPORTANT. THE MOST GODLY.  THE most gospel driven….The most…. whatever.

The truth is:  ALL these things matter. ALL these things (and so many others) break the heart of, and matter to God. All these things- need impassioned voices to express their value, need and to inspire others to help.

I wonder what would happen if- we stopped wasting time arguing about what the most important causes are… and started being thankful that God touches each of us with unique areas of compassion. What if we championed the causes of others instead of judging them?  (As less important that OUR cause- of course.)

I’m not sure why we do it. Maybe we feel the need to justify the things we advocate for. Maybe we think that be telling people our cause should be their priority is how we communicate our causes value. Maybe it’s because of darker reasons… maybe we want to be on the “best cause” team. Maybe it’s more about US than our cause. I honestly don’t know.

But, I know this- We are all together supposed to carry out the work of the gospel. Each one our own unique part. And I refuse to (more…)

A blue backpack has taunted me all weekend. “How are you going to send him out into this kind of world? What IF….”  The backpack stops from this:short.  Even an inanimate object doesn’t want to voice the fear we all feel.

My brain battles back… “What are the chances? Our school is safe. I have to trust God….”  But, still. tonight, I’ll pick up that backpack and do what moms all over America are doing. I’ll check homework. I’ll pack a lunch. I’ll sign notes and layout tomorrow’s clothes. Only, tonight, instead of a soundtrack of mental to do list review and complaints about smelly lunch leftovers in a lunch box, there will be a cacophony of fear:

  • “Maybe I should homeschool.” (Again. I’ve already been there.) 
  • “Are there flak jackets that fit under uniform shirts?” (I’m afraid to google this. If child sized flak jackets exist… well.. it just makes me sad.- Sadder. Which is hard to imagine.)
  • “Can a backpack be retro-fit with kevlar? Are there bulletproof backpacks? Should I talk to my kid about what to do…. IF?”

If I were a bazillionaire- I’d be tempted to buy an island and build a compound where my family and loved ones would be safe from sick or evil people. I’d put a bubble over it to protect us from chemical and biological warfare. I’d filter our air- and be sure to have a sustainable agriculture model that would feed us healthy, chemical free foods. I’d make sure we are UV protected. I’d have internet filters that would keep inappropriate content from ever being visible. (I can’t imagine surviving without the internet at this point…) I’d stockpile:  food, medicine, books and yarn. (We all have our vices.Oh and probably have weapons.. but as you can tell, i’m more about comfort than weaponry.) We could probably survive a zombie apocalypse, but, I’m not sure we could survive each other. I’ve been with these people on car trips.

We’d probably die of suffocation. Emotional or otherwise. Which- would make me a mass murderer, wouldn’t it?

It’s probably good that I’m not a bazillionaire.

Since I’m not, and honestly- even if I  were- I’m not sure I want to be locked away on a secluded island with even just my own brand of crazy….What DO I do next? What do I do Monday morning? After 20 children and their teachers were killed…. in their classroom? And a mother was killed in her home. And a broken, sick, messed up 20 year old killed himself?

Parent’s everywhere have experienced yet another paradigm shift. What once felt safe…. feels unsafe. What once was unthinkable, is more than real. I’ve spent the weekend trying not to think about it. I turn off the news after brief updates. My husband put up the Christmas lights. I did laundry and knit gifts and ordered other gifts.

But now- it’s Sunday, and the blue backpack beckons. The clock is ticking. Monday is coming. So is: carpool and pickup and leaving my child all day in the care of others….

Out of my control. (As if I have control here… but that’s another article, altogether…)

What next?

There’s only one answer….. I will pack the lunch. I will check the homework. I will pack the taunting bag and make sure he doesn’t forget it. I will layout the school clothes. I will wave goodbye as he carpools. I will be there to pick him up. I will do the next thing. Because that’s what moms do. To do anything else would be to let sickness and evil win.

I will be nervous. You may be too. I will have fleeting thoughts of island oasis’ and stockpiles that would make a “prepper” look like a sadly outfitted overnight camper.

I will pray. I will trust.

I will pray that God will protect…… I know He does… but I will also pray that God will be present – even here. Regardless of the circumstance. As he was- in Sandy Hook. In the heroic acts of teachers- and first responders, and the invisible loving arms that welcomed little ones too soon, into eternity. After a year of facing several surgeries, and cancer and financial struggles and all the rest of life we’ve experienced…- I know this for sure: Awful things happen- But- he is near. Even here.

Friday- I chose love. Today? I choose trust. In my fear. Trust that no matter what happens Monday- God will get us through- as he will those so hurt on Friday and everyday.  To choose to withdraw and to try and seclude ourselves into safety… would only be letting evil win.

Which is all grand to say… but that backpack. It still taunts. I am still afraid. The world is not safe. I want to choose trust… but how do I manage the emotion?

What works for me:

  • Honesty. I will talk about how I feel. Even though I’d rather avoid it.
  • Connection. I will listen to the fears of others. I will find solace in not being alone.
  • Compassionate Action. I will do something to help others. I need to remember that this isn’t about ME. Nor, is life.
  • Prayer for me. I can’t change my emotions…. but God can, and He can help us get through anything- even a normal Monday shadowed by fear- which is what most of us will experience tomorrow.
  • Prayer for the grieving. I don’t have words- but I can weep with those who weep- and pray that God will be present in their pain.

So- let’s start now…. together. Pray with me?

Dear Jesus-  I come to you with a weary, fear  and grief burdened heart. I come to you with a backpack taunting me…. how can I send my child out into a world that is so dangerous? A world so full of all the things that cause tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting? How can I trust …  when I know that death, murder, sickness, abuse  and accidents all happen? I trust by remembering your presence in other pain. I remember your tender care at the cancer center. In hospital rooms. In funeral parlors. I remember your love in the darkest pains of my life and how you [eventually] bring light into the darkness. remembering helps me trust. I love you Lord- and ask you to be near the broken hearted. I ask you to be with every parent fearful as they pack backpacks for Monday. I ask you to be present as we face fear and choose trust. Lord- I know that in the end- sickness and evil will not win….let the defeat begin in me. In Jesus name- amen.

Moms, dad’s how are you feeling? How are your kids feeling? What works for you?

And… if you happen to be a bazillionaire… do you have any room for a nice family of five in your compound? (Just saying…… still feels like an option….) If you’re new to my site- and are wondering why the nest pic? Enter  “Even here” into my search bar…. you’ll find the stories of how God has shown himself  in nests….

**note: I use the term evil — not as a moral judgment- but to represent all that can break people and create fear and acts like SandyHook… – abuse, mental illness, sin, evil…

My brain just won’t let go. What if that was my child? I keep imagining what it would be like. To get a text. To see a local news show and know: My kid. My kid’s school. My neighbor’s kid. My friend’s kids school….I feel the nauseas knot of terror form instantaneously. I think of the trauma of the children in nearby classes. The children. The parents. The teachers. The janitors. The first responders and people who will clean up the school. I think of the families. The cousins, the aunts, the grandparents. The presents under Christmas trees that will remain unwrapped. I think of the pillows that will stay cold tonight- not warmed by the cheek of a child. I know it’s stupid. I’m obsessing. But my brain thinks the thoughts anyway.

Questions crash in my head like the waves of a tsunami: “Why would anyone do such a thing? How could anyone look at an innocent child and do that? What would make someone do such a thing? Who could cause such heartbreak? “ Darker questions seep into my head like a backed up drain… questions that make me feel guilty– and human: “Why would God allow such a thing? Where was God when this happened? Why didn’t God stop this? How could God allow such a thing?” 

I don’t have answers. Just. Questions. I did pray. I prayed anguished prayers- I railed at God. I whispered prayers begging for mercy and protection and comfort for all those involved. I prayed fervent prayers for my kids. For yours. I prayed for the shooter. His family. What if that was my child? I prayed more. I cried.

The truth is- there is no answer that will make sense of this pain and tragedy. I don’t really want answers. I want: control. I want  the answers, so I can make sure this doesn’t happen here. So I can keep my kids safe. My neighbor’s kids. Your kids.

However-  every time something like this happens- people ask the same questions….  the answers sometimes [eventually] come out… But- they don’t protect. They don’t stop the next tragedy.

Last weeks answers didn’t stop today’s tragedies. Columbine’s didn’t stop Virginia Tech’s. Virginia Tech’s didn’t stop the Theater shooting- or Mall shooting…

Which means….Questions and control won’t fix this.

Which makes me angry. At the shooter. At the world that does things like this. At violence in the media. At news reports that exploit tragedy. At people who politicize tragedy.

In an instant- the hurt and grief and terror of today turned into… hatred. Which- I suspect is the root of this kind of evil. Which scared me. because… if hate causes this kind of evil- and I feel hate… I don’t even want to finish the thought.

Which is when I realized- Maybe- I do have control. Not over shooters or situations or circumstances…

But- over me. Over my choices.

So do you.

Today- as I grieve and empathize-with parents all over the world- I also choose: to love. I refuse to hate. I choose to love my kids. I choose to remember that hate breeds evil. I choose to love those I come into contact with. I choose to love the stranger and the strange. I choose to love and trust God even though I don’t understand Him. Especially today. When I have questions and want control.

Tonight- as I tuck my youngest into bed and feel the warmth of his cheek- I pray for those who can’t tuck their child in. I pray for those with questions like mine. I pray for those with pain and hate…..like mine. Like the shooter’s.  I pray for Grace and love to cover it all.

Maybe- if we all did…. if we all found love to share- and refused to hate- the world would be a different place.

I’ll be honest-and my response today proves it-  I don’t have enough love in me. I am quick to anger. I am quick to judge. I need help.

So I’m asking for that- instead of answers.

Dear Lord Jesus- My heart breaks for the loss and tragedy that happened in Connecticut, today. I pray that you will be close to those who mourn. I pray that you will heal hearts and minds of the trauma. I pray that you would fill us with your love- and that it would overflow and stamp out the hate that creates so much evil in the world. I pray that you would be close. I love you Lord- even here- when I don’t understand. Amen

I gathered some resources to help us all with our questions and the questions of our kids.

Talking to our kids

PBS on Talking to kids

Focus on the Family 

And A Christmas Prayer we can all pray- about today….By Max Lucado—-

Talk, pray, grieve. consider. Then: love. it’s the best we can do.

 

Christmas is a miraculous and joyful season..  It’s the season when I surrendered my way for His, some 25 years ago.  It’s the season my best friend became my fiance. (Kyle- my amazing husband- gave me my “real” engagement ring at the place we had our first date. Which happened to have been turned from Putt-putt to Christmas tree lot.) It’s the season in which we brought home our first born and (after literally fighting the instinct to run from the hospital in fear they would figure out I wasn’t fit and take him back) placed him immediately under the tree. (Even post-partum I’d never miss a photo-op.)

Last Christmas,  we anxiously awaited my husband’s cancer surgery. Honestly? We feared it may be our last. At least our last together. I felt guilty for my lack of faith.

It wasn’t. Just a few weeks ago we were told he is currently- cancer free.

We rejoiced. We wept tears of gratitude and joy. We still do.

But- I’ll be honest-it’s been a very- long year. A hard year. A year of multiple surgeries, (2 for me- one for Hubby.) treatments and months without working. It was thousands of dollars in copays. (So thankful we have good insurance. It would have been hundreds of thousands.) Fortunately- we also went into that year with a safety net. Savings. (Thank you Dave Ramsey- even if I still think you’re annoying.) But every safety net has it’s limits. Bills do not go down just because someone has cancer.  Life continues to cost. As I type this- I’m wondering if you’re sick of hearing me complain. Lord knows- I am.

We’re fine. My hubby has a great job. Our bills are paid.

But to be honest- I come into this holiday season feeling as depleted as my bank account. As I looked at my Christmas list- (Okay- I have a spread sheet.) I feel overwhelmed. Even a bit depressed. Maybe it’s the stress of the year catching up with me. Or maybe I’m a terribly selfish- spoiled brat. Or maybe, (most likely) it’s a combination of the two. Either way-Instead of being thankful for all God has brought us through this year- and celebrating- I feel grief- because I can’t DO everything I’d like to this holiday season.

  • I can’d do everything.
  • I can’t send all the flowers I’d like.
  • I can’t  buy and send gifts to everyone I’d like.
  • I can’t give to all the good causes I’d like to in the way I’d like to.
  • I can’t just bless everyone I’d like to-with things I know they’d love. I can’t buy over the top gifts for everyone or decorate and entertain-Pinterest style this year. (Well- I can with what I have…. but it’s funny how pinterest makes you think that’s not good enough… IMO- Pinterest can become lifestyle -Porn- with similar effect.)

I wish it didn’t bother me. But, it does.  Isn’t Christmas supposed to be all happy- joy joy? I HAVE SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR. And I am.

I feel bad and feel bad for feeling bad.

I feel like I should be happy and content this Christmas because of my husband’s new prognosis- But- I’m also disappointed that we lost so much this year. That makes me feel guilty.

Wouldn’t a”Good Christian” would be content with God’s help in surviving a year like this- not pouty that it came with a cost?

Or maybe, a  “Good Christian” feels all of these things and is honest about it. Maybe a good Christian celebrates a Bi-polar Christmas. One with both grief and joy.

This morning- I’m struggling through my feelings. I’m struggling with guilt. I’m struggling with disappointment.

I’m also in wonder of all God has done this year. If you’d have told me 18 months ago all that we’d go through- I’d have thought there was NO WAY we could survive without at least some time spent inpatient in a psych ward.

But, here we are.

This weekend we’re putting up the tree. Instead of beating myself up for how I’m feeling- I’m choosing to be honest- and allow myself to celebrate a Bi-polar Christmas.

I’m reading an advent devotional- and been thinking about Mary…..I wonder if Mary felt the same…..

Not sure what kind of year you’ve had- not sure how you feel going into this season- but if you’re like me- and struggling with joy and disappointment….I hope you’ll join me in setting aside the guilt- and embrace the whole of the season-both the joy and the sorrow.

Merry Bi-Polar Christmas. You’re not alone.

Dear Lord- Help me not lose sight of who you are and what you’e done this season and in my life- help me also not to beat myself up with guilt over feelings that are normal and to be expected. It’s been a hard year. And you’ve been faithful- even here. And Even when I am not. I love you Lord- thank you for your presence in our life and world- help me to focus on your blessings-help me to grieve what is lost and rejoice over what’s gained- I love you lord- amen.  PS- Lord? Help me stop with the whole Good Christian thing…. it’s so stupid. amen.

***I used the term bi-polar christmas- to describe my mood-swings and struggle between extreme joy and disappointment-not as a diagnosis…. Please know- it’s not to minimize that diagnosis- but to relate to it. (and yes- it’s an archaic word.. I know. Give a girl some slack:P)

“Mom, why is?……”

It happens soon after children start talking. It’s an important part of their development. I call it: “The Question Phase.” (I’m extremely creative like that.  And , I am currently too lazy to Google the appropriate term and too addle brained to remember it. I’m lucky to remember my cell # at this point. ) Anyway- During this phase a child’s only known method of punctuation is: the question mark.

“Why is?  Why does?  What if? When will? Who is? What is? How does? ” The questions pour out with every breath.

Some of the questions are cute… some are awkward. (Noticing the differences between boys and girls often coincides with this phase, thus exponentially increasing parental fun.) Some are downright embarrassing. (Epic embarrasing question upon walking accidentally walking into my backside: ” Mom? Why is your butt so boinky?” )

Fortunately- most are questions parents can easily answer. (Even if Google-fu is involved. Confession: I’m a Google Ninja. The answer to the boinky-butt question? Cupcakes. The end.) And- while the constant drip of questions can be as annoying as a leaky faucet- it can also make a parent feel absolutely brilliant. I admit it: knowing the answers to my kid’s questions makes me feel like a Mommy-Einstein.

At least, it used to.

Until, I stopped being able to answer them.

No- I didn’t suffer a massive brain injury (unless brain farts count as massive brain injury. But, I doubt they do.If so- there would be a lot of middle aged people on disability. Justsayin.) Nor, am I suffering from early onset- well…anything. The truth is-as my kids have matured-(My oldest two are 20 and almost 23)  so have their questions. What used to be simply answered with a quick and sure reply- are now often answered with “I don’t know.” And: “What do you think?”

We now often share the same questions. Questions that can’t be answered easily.  BIG questions.  Questions about: pain, suffering, morality, politics, Old earth, Young Earth, (Middle Earth?) God, Grace,  whether Twinkies will cease to exist and how long the current supply will last-and whether the Mayan’s should have been able to predict their own demise if they knew the world was going to end in 2012.

The truth is: I miss being the go-to for info. I miss having all the answers. Instead of feeling like Mommy-Einstein I feel stupid. and, as my kids ask the same questions I do- I worry about the answers they come up with and the discomfort they will feel when there isn’t a clear answer. But- I’m learning to enjoy the adult- child intimacy and wonder of shared questions.

That is- I enjoy it when I don’t feel afraid. When I was the go-to person- I knew what kind of answers they’d receive. (The right ones- duh.Like every other mom- I’m always right. Of course.) But, now? The truth is- I have less control. I used to be a fact-checker for their lives… and now they do their own fact checking. What if they are: WRONG? (We shall refrain from thinking about all the times I was wrong in answering their questions…. sorry about that- guys.)

This morning, as I prayed about questions and answers and kids…… I found myself feeling sorry. Sorry that I don’t have all the answers. Sorry that I am so inept and limited. Basically- sorry that I don’t know everything.

Which is about the time I remembered- I’m not supposed to.

Every phase of parenting has it’s own challenges of trust- in this phase it’s trusting that God becomes the Go-to for their questions- as He is mine.

And- that where there are no answers found- faith will bridge the gap.

As it should.

Isaiah 55

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Dear Lord- I don’t have all the answers to my [adult] childrens’ questions- the truth is- i don’t have all the answers to my own questions. Help us to always turn to you for answers and help us to turn over to you the unanswered.. in faith and trust. Your ways are not ours- your thoughts are above ours- as it should be. I love you lord- thank you for the incredible children you’ve blessed us with- and thank you for the work you are and will continue to do in each of them- amen

Are you in the “Question phase?” Tell me the questions your kids are currently asking…. I love the way kids think! If you’re in the- sharing questions phase of mothering- how does it make you feel? What are you doing about it? I find myself praying more- this is a good thing;)

“If I see any more of _________’s chest (Okay, I may have said boobs) I’ll scream. When did hooch become prime-time appropriate?” Is what came out of my mouth.

However, I swear, that in my mind- it sounded a lot more like: “Modesty is a virtue that we value, even when others don’t. Please turn the channel.”

I don’t want to admit that in my twitter feed, I posted something even more obnoxious, but funny. Because- you know- funny makes the mean,  acceptable, right?

Maybe not. Unless you’re Simon Cowell. Which, at least at last check, I’m not. Although I do like black t-shirts. (Admittedly, Simon may be a sweetheart in real life- but his TV personna is known for his curtness and trademark-snark- so for the rest of this piece, I’ll knowingly be playing hypocrite by using him as an example of humorous-mean-ness. Which could be bullying. But I don’t think he minds. Hey- at least I’m honest.)

Anyway- I thought I was making a humorous point…..But later- I heard my child (10) refer to someone else as “looking like a hooch.” I didn’t have to ASK where he’d learned it-  I know where: from me.  Which  itself, is a parenting fail of epic proportions. (Way to teach your child to disrespect others, Tracey. You Go! Not.)

This morning the news is buzzing about a news anchor who confronts a bullying emailer who commented on her weight in a mean, critical, Simon-like way. A couple of weeks ago I heard about a girl who lives in my state who’d been elected to homecoming court as a prank– and has been a constant target of bullying.I immediately “liked” her facebook page and if it was’t creeper-like I’d have totally taken that kid out to lunch, because-

My heart goes out to them both. (It helps that the news anchor probably wears the same size as I.) I keep thinking: “What’s wrong with people? Why are people so mean? This bullying thing has got to stop.”

Yup. The very same heart that sits in my comfy spot on the couch, calling women hooches and tweeting about their cleavage like a 10th grade bully. The same momma heart that taught her son it’s okay to call women hooches- by doing it. Ouch. (more…)

“Mom, I just want you to know- the lecture today is stuff I already know- and I could miss class but I’m going.” 

“Okay- I know it’s lame- but sometimes you gotta sit through stuff you already know- cause it’s the right thing.”

“Love you- drive careful.”

And he did. But you can only be so careful when someone stops in the middle of the freeway instead of merging. Which is when you get the call every mother of driving age kids dreads:

“Mom? I’m okay,everyone’s okay, but I had an accident.”

Your heart stops. (Not forever- it just feels like it.) “What about the other people?” (Yes he just told you everyone is okay- but you ask anyway. You have to. ) Then-you don’t believe that he’s actually: Okay. So you ask again: “Are you sure you’re okay?” “Where are you?”  Then you ask a string of stupid questions that you can’t remember later. (I could make some up, but whatever lame thing you’re thinking I may of asked? I did. Probably twice.)

“We’ll be right there.”

And you grab your jacket, purse and shoes. If you are as vain as I am you also grab a hat because these things never happen when you are appropriately dressed, made up and have your hair done. You don’t bother with things like: bras, socks or weather appropriate clothing. It’s a come as you are type thing. All you can think is: “Must see kid’s face: NOW.”  Because that, is of course-how mom’s know if a kid is really okay.

If your husband is home, you then pace, stomp your feet and call to him (may 14 times in 3 minutes) : “I’m leaving, are you coming or not?”

Apparently, Dad’s may want to change out of their star wars pajama pants in order to deal with things like accidents, police officers, tow trucks and collision shops. I don’t know why.

After maybe the 15th yell up the stairs and then going up to hurry the poor man along- you may realize that you are a bit of a basket case and that it may be better for the sane human wearing pants to go to the accident scene. Go with that gut instinct.

Of course- you will then text and call every 13.2 seconds because you will want to know all the details AS THEY HAPPEN. Things like: the overall attitude of the officer,  (doesn’t matter- you won’t like it regardless of the fault- or details.) the look on the face of the other driver and the names/ ages of their children- even if they aren’t in the car- and whether or not you know the other people involved. (You kind of hope you do and don’t at the same time. If you know them- they may handle it better- or worse. it’s a 50/50 shot.)  You will also want to know again: IS HE REALLY OKAY?

At some point you will remember that you have other children. They will probably have to be somewhere in 12 minutes. You get dressed in actual clothes- checking your phone for missed calls and texts between articles of clothing. This “child” will most likely need to drive, because of course- he’s taking his road test on Saturday.  You need to let him. You will not want to.

Then you will most likely have to drive by the accident scene. Which is when the tears well up in your eyes and you realize: how bad it could have been. This is a freeway. That is your kid. He could have…..yeh. you get the idea.

Blink. a lot. Don’t let the tears start. You have to function. Say something stupid. Keep going. (Told you the kid should drive.)

When you get to the ATM for cash for the scantron for college boy-do not be overly alarmed if you cannot remember your PIN number.

Actually- do not be overly concerned if you screw it up so many times that the bank locks you out of your account and your card is declined at the college bookstore. Use the other card. Laugh- because- really? it figures and you’re human. Buy the Chem book that costs more than your first 3 credit class in college. (Slight exaggeration- but only slight.) Also: considers stop using your debit card for everything and start carrying cash. You don’t need a PIN for cash. Justsayin.’

You will want to take care of this problem. You will want to fix it. You will want to make the calls, set up the appointments, explain to the officer, blame the other driver.

You can’t. Well, you could, but you’d be missing out on one of those stupid opportunities- you know- where you walk THROUGH something with your kid and show them how to handle it instead of handling it for them. Yeah- I hate those. It’s hard.

But it’s even harder to have never let them learn to walk on their own.

Look at my blog header- see the tree-trunk man legs all the way to the right? Picture me trying to carry around that college kid.  My neurologist would not approve.

Today was a lot like the day he learned to ride his bike….. we held onto the handle bars and seat just enough to keep him upright- then we let him go. And he did it. Even though this time- it’s not something either of us ever wanted him to have to do.

He can do this, So can I.

And- if someday you get “that” call- you will be able to- too.  And I pray that the oucome will be like ours- that everyone is really okay.

Cars can be replaced. Kids cannot. I am so thankful the irreplaceable one is fine. (And the the other is insured:)

It was a long day. For everyone.  But we made it.

Confession- I wasn’t “okay” until I actually saw his face. Not until I hugged his giant man-boy neck. It was hours after “the event’. LOOONG DAY.

But- we weren’t alone. My always traveling husband- was home. (Good thing.) My kid is okay. Insurance will cover the problem. And now I know what it feels like to get “that” call.

God was present- even here.

Good thing- too- because I was: a mess. I’m better now. (well- better- is relative- we’re talking ME here. so yeah. I’m just normal crazy today.)

So- have you been here? Do you have a driving kid? Any accidents? How was it? What did you do? What didn’t you do? What would you do differently next time?  Comment away……

PS- Mom? You know when you got “that” call? I’m still sorry about that. And I love you. – signed a mom- who was also a kid- (funny how that works)

PPS- The topper of the day? After everyone was home- youngest rode his bike to a friends….. and flipped it. Yes- he hit his head. No, he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Yes- there was a hospital visit and a slight concussion. No- mothering never stops.

Neither do moms- we just- keep swimming.

“After you.” 

I said that, in all it’s various forms-including: “No, go ahead.” and “No, Really. You first.” Approximately 6.3 million times during MOPS International Convention.  It wasn’t because I am nice. (I’m not. But, I try. Sometimes. And, it certainly wasn’t at the doors before general sessions. (I have been around long enough to know to duck and cover when those doors swing wide. Imagine a stampede of 2000 moms unencumbered by strollers or diaper bags… they. can. run. You over. No need to let them by- they pass you by. Those mommas are on a mission.)

Nope- mostly it was at the top and bottom of escalators, at the convention center.

My neck brace caused an inability to see both my feet and the escalator’s steps at the same time unless I leaned foreword  far enough for gravity to take over my body like an alien and propel me headfirst towards the escalator’s always moving, metallic, maw of death. Which sounds even less terrorizing than it was.

One.

Two.

Three (or more) steps would roll by. Shining and toothy as a shark’s teeth, as I tried to time my step. Just. Right.

One.

Two.

Three moms would go past, as I tried to play off my fear as politeness, maybe even humility. “You first.”

Which really meant:”I’m totally gonna try and to follow you so I don’t fall and  lose digits or end up with a shark-like escalator chomp out of my face. So go ahead… you first. I’m right behind you- possibly holding onto your tote bag”

Which was kind of a workable plan-except, it was still hard to go ahead and take that step. The one from the stable platform to the moving escalator. Even when I was following right behind a totally confident and capable escalator operator. (AKA: a mom- but “escalator operator” sounded considerably more official and sesame street like- so I’m leaving it’s irrelevant self right there.) Side note: Women don’t like you grabbing their tote bags and dragging them backwards on an escalator cause you’re rooted in fear…probably. I mean, I’m assuming.

The thing is- I could SEE where I was going- the top or bottom of the escalator was in my line of view, even with the neck brace of doom. I also knew I was right there on the edge- in the right place heading the right direction. I just couldn’t be sure I was taking the right step at the right time.

It paralyzed me.

I didn’t miss anything due to elevator angst. The paralysis only felt like it lasted forever. It actually just lasted until I’d built up a nice cushion of moms both before and aft- that I imagined would catch me if I fell, and lift me up over their heads to invent some cool new escalator crowd surfing thing that could either: A) Kill me or B) Make me internet famous. (Which would also probably kill me.  The internet has trolls, they  are killers and do not stay under bridges. You’ve been warned.)

What’s the point? (Other than I’m experiencing post- MOPS Convention exhaustion that could be affecting my writing today? (Shh I know what you’re thinking… what was last weeks excuse? Or next weeks? No worries, I’m working on a list …)

The point is- sometimes you have to take the next step. Even if you can’t see your feet and fear being eaten by an escalator. (Please note: the longer you entertain fear- the bigger it’s nightmare like story gets… we’ve moved from few of losing digits to internet trolls to being digested by machinery….)

Or, not.

You could stand there on the edge, watching the steps go by. Watching others pass, while you look very polite, but never get anywhere.

I vote you give it a try. Even in my broken, messed up  and neck braced condition- I managed to make it to my sessions- and meetings. Most of them even on time.

I’m pretty sure that as long as you’re going in the right direction and keep yourself surrounded by others moving in the right direction…….you’ll get where you’re headed. Either way- if you do take a tumble, you’ll  be caught by those who surround you. (The terms “Caught” and “land on,”  are pretty much synonymous here.)

But, I’ll warn you- it probably won’t be quite as cool as crowd surfing. Trust me. As a leader, wife, woman  and a mom, I’ve taken plenty of falls while heading in the right direction….the key is the cushion….and the fact that elevators have a tendency to keep moving even if you fall down on one. Once you land- you still be moving in the right direction.

Which I kind of think works the same in faith and life journeys…..God’s sovereignty keeps moving us forward even when we crash.

Psalm 37 (read the whole thing, it pretty much rocks- even if you don’t have anyone persecuting you.)

The Lord makes firm the steps 
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, 
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

So….what’s your next step? A spot in leadership that needs you to step in? A phone call you need to make? A question to ask?  A project to finish? A dream to follow?

Not sure?

What direction are you heading in? Is your phase of mothering changing? Are you starting to think it might be necessary to step into the workplace to make ends meet, fulfill a call, or meet some goals? Do you want to walk closer to/with God?

You don’t have to be like me standing at the top of the escalator paralyzed with fear of taking the wrong step…. the truth is…steps will keep rolling up and moving on…. God knows that we (I) often need time to catch (or hold) our breath before we can make the next move. I think He gives us plenty of opportunities. He’s awesome like that.