Monday, August 6, 2012


So I’m sitting here watching the Olympics and thinking, “I should be writing”. I haven’t written anything in, well, forever. I have to be honest, in so many ways my spirit has been broken, and my honesty is part of how all of that came to be.

I went from being a pretty open person with dreams of being a writer, a speaker, a teacher – to whatever it is I am right now. A quiet, yet dangerously opinionated, envelope-stuffer. That’s what I do. I don’t write. I don’t speak. I hardly teach. I stuff envelopes. And my feelings. Except, of course, the feelings I should stuff the most – those I seem to wear on my sleeve. Champion formula for a pastor’s wife, by the way.

How did I get here? I don’t know. I do know it has a lot to do with fear. Fear that just that one person might be right and I might not be good enough. Fear that I have squandered my blessings and have received all I’m ever going to receive from the Lord (and fear that I actually believe something as stupid as that). Fear that this depression that has settled in my soul like a dense, suffocating fog is never going to lift.

There has been so much change in our lives in the past two or three years, and I saw a great deal of it coming. I’ve been accused of being dramatic and pessimistic. I’ve been told that I over-think things and that I give up too easily. But you know what? There is such a gift as discernment, and that doesn’t always mean that you can see the rainbow before anyone else. Sometimes, instead, it means you know the storm is coming before the sunshine fades away. That’s my gift – the blessing and curse of it – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That is the way the Lord chooses to share His heart with me at times. By warning me. By bracing me. And I’m finally learning to just keep it to myself.

So how could I blog in the past couple of years when I didn’t even tell my husband that I knew we would be leaving the place we thought we’d call home for the rest of our lives a full 6 months before he did? How could I write about what was on my heart when it just looked like I was being a Debby Downer? I knew I was headed to this season of my life, and I knew it would be difficult. But who wants to hear that the sky is falling, especially when it’s only really falling on one person?

And here I am. In this season of great personal struggle (that’s totally about me and not about where we are serving) – pushing against feelings and thoughts and fears I will stuff in my heart with the skill I’ve gained from the work my hands have found. I must decide if I have it in me to fight for the dreams I once had – to write, to speak, to teach – or give in to the convenient plan so many have apparently agreed to for my life. Fight or fit in? Hope or settle? I can’t even see myself to the answer – can’t even crawl to the Throne with my question.

In an effort to grasp something – anything – in a forward direction that will let me know I haven’t given up on my life, I’ve decided to make a goal. A ridiculous goal for me, actually: I am going to become a runner. For those of you who know me, you know just how asinine that proposal is. Even in my best shape I wasn’t fit for mall walking. But I, a 34 year old couch potato in desperate need of a hysterectomy, will become a runner, because I need to see that through Christ I can still accomplish the seemingly impossible. Because I need to give myself to something that can go somewhere. Because I need to be physically brought to my knees before my God, literally begging for strength, air and life. And maybe a little because I’ve been brainwashed by the commercials during the Olympics that promise that greatness isn’t unachievable for a fat kid like me (and yes folks, that statement applies to me – depression comes at a price, and so do endometriosis treatments).

So me and my Smurf-blue shoes are hitting the pavement here in Tiny Town, and there’s a great chance the rest of my body will be hitting the pavement at some point too. Good thing I live across the tracks from the rescue squad. I just might have to download that song “Home” they keep playing every time they show the girls’ gymnastics team, and maybe a few sound bytes of those commercials to make me feel like I’m amazing, but whatever.

Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. I got bored. I’ve already read all of today’s status updates on facebook. It’s not time for Gabby to fly on uneven bars yet. There’s no real good reason – I’m just telling you. I’m trying to get a grip here, and maybe this adds some reality to it.

I guess this is what you do when you lose sight of yourself and your dreams – you start over a little bit. You find some ways to take baby steps and rebuild faith in yourself while you re-invest faith in God. But just in case Buddy is reading this (or it gets back to him), I’m being careful to make sure that when I feel like running, I’m not running away from something. Hopefully, instead, I’ll find that I’m running back to where I need to be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You Wanna Talk About What?

So we sat down for dinner the other night, and this is how my almost-8-year-old decided to start the table time discussion: “Ok Dad – what’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?”

I almost choked. Seriously? You’re only seven! Do you really want to go there already? I thought, wide-eyed. I mean, in the Christian household, this conversation can rank right up there with the sex talk. Ironically the sex talk doesn’t scare me that much because I’ve had the, um, pleasure (?) of giving that talk to other people’s kids a hundred times. For some of them it came much, much too late, so now I fear I’ve fallen into the embarrassingly-open-about-that-subject category to my kids. Oh, they will have the sex talk. But the dumbest thing ever talk? I’m not prepared for that one yet.

Thankfully the fact that his age still registers in the single digit side of the scale clicked in our heads before there was any major omission of guilt on either of our parts. Dad did mention something about a 50 foot bridge that I’m hoping went right over his laughing little head, but it didn’t take us too long after that to realize that in his mind “dumbest thing ever” equated with “goofiest thing to make your friends laugh”, and not some giant gateway into the moral philosophy behind how a life should be lived. Whew. Crisis averted. For the moment.

The thing is, one day I will have to tell my kids the some of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. It’s not that I haven’t shared these things with anyone before, or even that I haven’t confessed them in front of a room full of teenagers – because I have. It’s not that I’m ashamed of anything in my past or that I hold a secret criminal record or anything, it’s just that this time it’s going to be my kids learning about my flaws and not someone else’s. My kids finding out that mom has broken the rules before. My kids discovering that their very own “Smother” who is too afraid to let them have fun sometimes has herself flirted with mortal danger a time or two in the name of fun. And the fact behind it all is that I don’t want to be that exposed in front of them.

I mean, I know my kids are well aware that I am not by any stretch of anyone’s Disney-sized imagination perfect. They’ve seen me at my weakest and worst. Just ask my five year old, who, during prayer requests the other day asked his church class to please pray for “the dragon that drove me here”. Um, that would be me. The dragon. You get my point.

They know I’m not perfect, but I’m realizing that they need to know something else about me – they need to know I’m real. This has always been an important part of ministry to me, and I’ve gone to great lengths to let other people’s teenagers know that I am approachable and real in every way I know how to be. They can ask me any question and will get as honest an answer as I know to give. It’s just hitting me, though, that I need to be just as transparent with my own kids as they get older. There will be certain boundaries, yes, but they need to see that I’ve messed up before in some pretty big ways, and it all turned out ok because of Jesus. They need to know that we all do dumb things and God loves us anyway (but, of course, that life is so much better when we try to avoid certain dumb things all together… I am still their mom…).

So tonight I’ll probably do what I do most nights while they’re in the shower. I’ll straighten the sheets and blankets on their bed, essentially making it up before they get in it. There’s something about a made-up bed that seems like a fresh start to me – a chance to crawl into a smooth space, close our eyes and let God wipe our slate clean before we wake up and start to scribble on it all over again. So I’ll make up the bed to a prayer for their salvation, and I’ll turn down the sheets to the words, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy” as I’ve done so many times before. Later I’ll tuck them in and together we’ll say our prayers, only tonight I might add a request for the Lord to help me be real with them in a way that will help them see who He has been in my life and who He will always be in theirs. Perhaps tomorrow He’ll show me how to do just that…

…hopefully without having to confess any of my truly dumbest moments, but we’ll see.

Until then,


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Getting Over It

Ok, so I’m a pouter. And from what I’ve observed in my own children, that probably means I’m spoiled too. I can’t say that I can always remember being a pouter, but I guess that matters little much now.

So what am I pouting about? See, there’s the thing about it: I can’t tell you. If I told you what I was pouting about, then it would be complaining. At that point I would at best be a complainer, but most likely I would be a complainer and a pouter, which is totally worse than just the pouting itself. So I’ll just keep my mouth shut and preserve the one label, if you don’t mind.

But I will say I’m working on it. It may not seem like it if you live with me or spend much time around me, but I am trying my best to “get over it” as I’ve been advised to do so many times in so many ways lately.

“Getting over it” is a funny thing for a pouter like me. The people who say it – and genuinely mean it without ill intent – seem to think that there’s a switch you can flip that makes all the hurt and confusion that are fueling your attitude just *POOF* disappear. Well, if you happen to be a pouter too and you’ve actually found the location of said switch, please, please, PLEASE send me a detailed diagram mapping out its location, would ya? ‘Cause I’ve been looking and I can’t for the life of me find it.

That said, in the present absence of such an allusive instant cure to my bratty heartache, all I can offer is a plea for patience. I am working on it. And one day I’m sure I’ll look back and laugh at the fact that I had this emotional tantrum at all. Ok, well, maybe not laugh, but ….

Anyway, enough with all of it. Tonight is, after all, one of those healing kinds that make me not want to be a pouter anymore. We’re all sitting out on our new deck, surrounded by the golden fall sunlight and a hearty breeze. The kids are busy climbing the tree and throwing “dirt bombs” (you might not want to ask), and my husband is serenading me with the guitar. In a few short minutes we’ll retire inside to dinner and a movie because it’s Family Night, the one night when no one goes anywhere and we all do something together. Later I’ll tuck my beautiful boys into their warm, paid for beds, and my husband and I will snuggle on the couch while I make him watch a new episode of Grey’s. Honestly, who could really want more than this anyway?

I mean, after all, not every woman has a man who will watch Grey’s, right?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trying Something New

Just playing around with a new design. Change is good, right? Not sure I'll stay with this one, but it's a start!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Living Water Restoration

When we moved here more than four years ago, the Lord let me in on a little secret: This place is like living water for you – My Living Water. I was taking a walk the morning He spoke that truth to me, and I remember standing by a creek in the park and crying out of the sheer joy of knowing that restoration was coming.

I thought then that maybe I was getting a break of sorts. I had come from a very lonely and disconnected place in life, and I was hoping that this living water would mean I was getting plugged back in – that new growth was about to spring forth on the dry, brittle branches of my heart and I was going to be a part of the living, breathing, walking body of Christ once again.
And it did mean that. There was growth, and new things did spring up on my heart and in my life. But I had no way of knowing that morning in the park, standing by the creek, that the living water the Lord had so graciously given me was in my life more for the sake of things to come than to repair the things that had already been.

I’ve been through quite a bit in the past four years. Some of it I talk about, some of it I don’t. There are parts that have made me a better, stronger person, and other parts that have indelibly marked who I am in ways I can’t even comprehend yet – ways that have made me a stranger to myself. It sounds backwards to say, but in the midst of this swirling, vibrant living water, something inside of me has died.

I don’t come to that conclusion lightly – it’s an ugly reality that I struggle with recognizing, but it is real. Somewhere, at some point, I stuffed a dirty bandage of bitterness and indifference over an open wound on my heart, and it grew into an unhealthy, inappropriate callous. It felt good at the time to have some protection – to catch a break from things incessantly rubbing against the open, painful blister of fresh disappointments and traumas. But without proper care and the air it needed to heal, that nasty gash in my spirit was allowed to fester and become necrotic, and now I find myself with a numb spot where there used to be such great feeling.

I’m saddened that this has happened, but I know two things that keep me going: 1. Nothing (not even this) is permanent except God’s love, and 2. He allowed this to happen in the midst of living water so He could sustain the rest of me and nurse me back to health when I finally ask for help.

So yes, something has died in me. There is unmistakably a numb spot on my heart covered over by layers of filthy, reeking homemade patches that were never meant to heal – only suppress and protect. But it’s time to let the Maker of my heart – the One who raises the rotting from the dead – cut me open and excise this lesion from my soul. It’s time to let Him restore me through His Living Water and make me more the person He intended me to be than I ever was even before the wound occurred. Only He can do that, you know – “restore” something to a place that is far better than it’s original, mint condition could have ever been. It’s time to let Him do that. It’s past time.

So here I am. I’m trying to live my life on purpose for the next little while, and this is part of a
first step. I’m blogging AND I’m being vulnerable. To a degree I had quit both because I figured people were tired of listening to what I had to say in either arena. But I can’t just sit here all wrapped up in my numb spot any more – I’ve got to try and be real and alive for a moment so His healing doesn’t kill me. It’s kind of like spiritual chemo, I guess. I’ve got to decide to fight and live my life even if it hurts for a bit, so what He’s doing can take root and grow.

So here it is: step one. It sounds dark, but it’s really not a bad place to be, because I know He has great things coming. It’s because of that end that I’m almost looking forward to the hard times to come. The pain of tearing those wounds open – yet deeper this time – is worth letting His water flow over them to make them stronger. I am grateful for this place, and thankful that He has allowed me to be here for such a time as this.

Come, Lord Jesus, and let the restoration begin!

Monday, May 3, 2010

About Last Night....

People ask me all the time if there is something I miss about my home state of Florida, and for the most part I’d have to say good thunderstorms. I know that sounds weird to some of you, but to me there is little better than just laying around listening to the rain and a good rumble from the sky. I love it, and I miss it here – our thunderstorms in East Tennessee are just, well, different. And they tend to enjoy showing up in the middle of the night. Take last night for example.

I knew the storms were coming before we went to bed, and that meant I also knew we could be in for a long night. You see, in my boys’ eyes thunderstorms are not peaceful or fun, but horrible moments of absolute panic-stricken terror. That is to say, they don’t like them. So I kind of slept with “one ear open”, listening for scared little voices calling my name in between heavenly drum rolls.

Somewhere around 2:30 I heard it. Muffled – as it would be – through two closed doors and over the sound of our “background noise” fan that runs all night – my oldest screaming at the top of his lungs: “Mama!!!! Moooooooom!!!!”

I bolted out of that bed faster than might be humanly possible, ripped open the bedroom door and ran across the hall perhaps without even touching the floor in an effort to reach my terrified child. What I saw next froze me in my steps.

Only an instant had passed since I had heard the scream that was so obviously the voice of this precious boy I have known for the past seven and a half years, and yet there he was: blissfully sound asleep, guarded by the steady, warm glow of his Knight light. It wasn’t him. Could I have mistaken Little Man’s voice for his brother’s? I had to check! As quickly and quietly as I could, I made my way to door number two, sure that I’d find a shaking, wide-eyed little boy.

And yet the scene was the same – no tears or pleas for help, only the sweet expression of a tired boy coupled with the soft sounds of slumber.

Confused, I crawled back in bed and tried to sort it out. If I hadn’t heard the boys, then what? Had I lost my mind?

Then it came again:

“Mom? Moooom!”

Now I was creeped out. Officially and totally creeped out. This wasn’t my kid! This child must be standing outside! Maybe even in my driveway! In the rain!

I sat up and strained to listen for more cries for help. My ears were tuned to someplace beyond my room – someplace outside and unimaginable, while a million different scenarios racing through my mind. Was he lost? He must be in just his pjs! How did he get outside?

I held my breath and listened intently. I could hear something, but I couldn’t make out quite what it was. Was it crying? Whining? What was that noise?

Suddenly a strange thought occurred to my rattled brain: maybe you’re listening too hard. Maybe it’s not where you think it is. So I reeled in my attention. I focused on the things right around me, the things that seemed too close to emanate a distant scream – the things that I had overlooked before in an effort to just skip to the point and meet the emergency at hand.

Things like my husband. My husband’s nose, to be exact.

It would seem that Mr. Roberts was a little congested last evening, which caused his nose to usher forth a whining, whistling sound when he exhaled. Once I tuned in to the sound of these “nose whistles”, I immediately noticed that about every third and fourth breath they sounded a lot like the muffled cries of a child. “Mom! Moooooom!!!”

Oh my word! You have no idea what a relief and simultaneous annoyance it was to discover this! The frightened, lost little boy standing in my driveway during a thunderstorm was safe at home, sleeping through the rumbles and rolls from the sky. My husband, on the other hand, was just about to wake up….

The night did go on to yield a very frightened extra roommate about half an hour after I had finally convinced myself that all was right with homeless children in my neighborhood, and that I could finally fall asleep. It was somewhere between getting kicked by little cold feet and trying not to fall off a bed that was obviously not made for three people that a strange realization washed over me: there was something to be learned from the night of the nose screams.

All at once I came to realize that I have been listening too hard for the voice of my Savior lately. I’ve been asking too many questions, analyzing too many things, worrying about way too much – all in the name of seeking “His will” for my life. But it suddenly occurred to me that in all that effort to search out something so far away – something so mysterious and scarily hidden – that I’ve completely missed the fact that the voice I want to hear is right here with me.

Jesus is closer to me than my own breath, and though His voice can be quieter even than the whistle of a nose, it’s right here within my reach. I’m the one who has made it out to be so far away, so unobtainable. All this time I’ve thought He was hiding – deliberately standing just around the next corner taunting me to find Him – but no. He’s right here with me, waiting for me to reel in the over-excited ears of my heart, to take a moment to calm down and really listen to the voice that has never stopped whispering my name during the storm.

I can’t wait to hear what He’s been trying to say.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Think I Bought A Lamborghini

A little over a week ago, we went shopping. Shopping for what I thought was supposed to be a new oven and range. We went to all the requisite stores and heard all the commissioned sales pitches about what we should buy, and what we shouldn’t, and wand we really want, and what we won’t be happy with (isn’t it funny how a potential sale somehow turns otherwise strangers into experts on the level of happiness and wellbeing in your home?). And then we made a decision. One based purely on research and fact. Well, research and fact that told us there was a massive sale and this place had free delivery and haul-away, anyway.

Now let me back up and say that a month ago we weren’t in the market for a new oven. In fact, a month ago I could have listed a hundred other things in our lives that would have received $400 worth of attention well before an oven was even brought up as a potential candidate (not excluding a slew of Star Wars Legos for my husband, of course). But this funny little thing called the Super Bowl happened, and we invited the youth over to watch and feast. The watching wasn’t the problem. It was the feasting. Our oven wasn’t up to feasting that night apparently. In fact, it only allowed us about an hour and a half of feast prep before there was a pop and a flash and everything went cold.

For those of you familiar with the oven world, you already know that the pop and flash syndrome is not good. Not good at all. For the rest of us, a simple Google search of error code F1 tells us all we need to know about a little part called the “electronic oven control”. A little part that just so happens to cost about as much as a new range – before­ what it would cost to pay someone armed with more knowledge than what you can gain through YouTube videos to fix it (no offense, honey – that really was an awesome resource idea, but the dryer you “fixed” now makes a really funny noise and I’m pretty sure that fire extinguisher has now found a permanent new home by its side. Just sayin’.). So, in the market we were.

We started out assuming that we would wind up with another coil range. Primitive by the standards of some, I understand, but much closer to our price range than them modern contraptions. Then, of course, came that massive sale (at the place with the free delivery and haul away, did I mention that?). So we wound up with a nice, black, smooth-top range with a ton of fancy-looking buttons up top. That has to make it worth every penny of that sale price, right? Fancy buttons? I mean, come on!

What pushed our decision over the edge to go smooth over same-priced coil (I’m telling you, big sale), was the promise from salesmen and mother-in-law alike that the smooth top was infinitely easier to clean. Easier and clean in the same sentence? Sold! Now I know better for next time: When being told by a salesman how easy something is to clean, you’d better stop and ask them what kind of car they drive and how clean it is. Because I’m thinking it’s directly related.

I spend more time polishing, buffing and wiping down that stove top than I do tending to my children some days. I’m serious – this thing requires more attention and maintenance than both of our fish aquariums and our cat combined. It’s ridiculous.

Ok, maybe it’s just because the guy who delivered it scared me within an inch of my retail life by telling me that the slightest movement of any pan would scratch the surface – and a scratched burner is “completely ruined and useless” (not so, says the manual, by the way). Or maybe it’s because within 5 days of having the stove, I committed said offense and left a half-inch skid mark because I mindlessly slid a pan away from the edge. Who knows. All I know is that I’m completely paranoid about this stove top. I cover it with silicone cookie mats when it’s not in use in case it is mistaken for a countertop, and I’m currently looking for a covered fry pan with a non-offending bottom surface to replace the old one which is now indefinitely in time-out. I clean it each time it’s used, and practice my “wax-on, wax-off” moves at least every other day (Karate Kid, here I come!). It’s wearing on me.

You know, it’s nice to have something new, with all kinds of fancy buttons to push, but I’m starting to understand that people who drive Lamborghinis are probably ridden with all kinds of stress and anxiety issues that the rest of us who drive 20 year old Chevys will never know. Because who cares if a minivan gets scratched?

So maybe I should have settled for a more practical model – the Ford of coil ranges or something. I’m really second guessing the decision to go for the flashier build. But be it Ford or Lamborghini, let’s just hope that the stove I purchased at least likes Super Bowl parties.

And – for right now, anyway – I might appreciate it if it at least didn’t turn out to be a Toyota.