Thursday, December 11, 2014

Coming Home

It has been a long time since I have ventured to this space.  It sits atop my search engine - and each time i have tried to click on it, I just can't seem to do it.  I want to write, but I have nothing to write.  That is how it has felt for a long time.

And then today I finally found the space within my soul to click...and here I am.

Anne Lamott's words on writers block have been true for me.  She says when we find ourselves in a place without words we are not so much blocked as empty:

“The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given…you free yourself to begin filling up again.” Bird by Bird

This past year the word God has been speaking into my life is margin.  He has brought to my attention how I live with a lack of margin, and what it produces in my life.  While I am highly productive, and even some would argue quite successful...I had reached a point where it was no longer fruitful.

I have had a hard time accepting the limitations that come with the current season of life I am in...and the unique circumstances to my life.  Mostly, this season of having a small child has wrecked me.  I know, we're not supposed to talk like that as least not publicly.  But I am someone who tries to live as honestly as possible...and this season has been tough.

Part of what makes having a small child so hard is that you learn how little you can control another person.  I am not in control of when she sleeps, IF she sleeps, how long she sleeps, how well she sleeps...yet it impacts my sleep.  And that is one factor of parenthood.  The truth is, for the first 10 years of my marriage I was able to be flexible, available, spontaneous...I could hang out, and had emotional space to care for others, and was able to host parties and other gatherings...I had margin.

Then, Imogen turned 2...and that margin faded away.  And while I didn't have much choice in the matter, I also didn't take seriously the season of life in which I was in.  I continued to hold myself to the expectations [social, emotional, physical, spiritual] that I had in the prior season...and yet I could never meet them, so I felt continually discouraged.  It seemed I was failing at life.

But what really needed to happen was a change in acceptance of a reality that a wise woman once told me:

"You can have it just can't have it all at once."

I, my friends, was trying to have it all at once.  And it burned me out.  I spend a great deal of my ministry helping others live an intentional and fruitful life...yet I had been burning the candle on both ends in my own life.  So, for the last few months I have been saying no to a lot of things.  I have been asking myself "Is this essential? Do I really have space for this? Is this going to increase or deplete my energy?"  I have found my impulse to say YES is more often than not driven by the fear of being left out, left behind, left unseen.

So, today I see some fruit from this season of saying no, of cutting back, of accepting my limitations...because here I am, writing.  Nothing profound, nothing soul deep...not yet.  More of a report, less of a reflection.  But my soul wants to reflect again...and that is new.

It is probably no small coincidence that here I am the day before Imogen turns 4.  She is a delight and a blessing...and she is also coming into a season that is a little easier for me.  Less physically demanding, a little more rational, much more independent...her new season of life frees up some margin in my own life.  And I am excited about that.

I feel myself coming back to myself...I know that may sound strange to those of you who never feel like you lost yourself...but I have felt a little lost these past two years.  Toddlerhood blindsided me in many ways...revealing weaknesses and limitations I didn't know I had...and also bringing about values, understanding, and skills that I wouldn't have without it.

Like all good reunions, I am excited to catch up with myself and hear what I have learned, how I have grown, what I hope for moving forward, and what gifts I received that I wasn't aware of.  I am excited to hear how life has been these last two years...and I am glad to have enough margin to have space for the conversation.

I feel like I am ready to be filled again after a season of emptying out...and I am looking forward to seeing what I discover in this next homecoming.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Dying to Live

Today I once again had the privilege to administer ashes at our Ash Wednesday service.  It is honestly one of my favorite things that I get to do as a pastor.  To have people walk up before me, kneel, and allow me to speak the haunting and sobering words:
"Remember, from dust you came and to dust you shall return."

To remind people that they will die is a holy thing indeed.  A holy privilege.

But this Ash Wednesday comes with some extra symbolism for me...for it marks the day before my birthday.  It is a strange thing to remember death the day before you celebrate your birth.  Yet this year it seems very appropriate.

See, tomorrow I embark on a year-long journey/experiment.  I'm not physically going anywhere [at least not anywhere planned] but emotionally and spiritually I am preparing myself for a bumpy ride.  This next year I am going to undertake what I am calling a Courage Project - 12 months of Living Courageously.

And so to begin this journey with the reminder that life is temporary, I am mortal, and in the end I will return to the ground from which I makes Jesus' words stand out to me in a whole new way:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" [Mark 8v34-36]

To find my life, my truest deepest richest life, means I have to let go of all the ways I choose to live out of safety and comfort.  To really live means that I have to die first.  So it seems fitting that before I step into this new endeavor of living with courage instead of fear I should be reminded that this life comes to an end, our days are numbered, and if I want to live there is no time like the present to jump into what that means.

On the eve of my 34th birthday I am grateful for the reminder that I will die...hopefully not soon, but eventually.  And too often I am so afraid of looking foolish, being humiliated, experiencing rejection, being excluded that instead of choosing to live I simply choose to get by unscathed.  But this is not living my friends - to live means to risk.  To live we must first embrace death - because it is only knowing that this adventure of life will come to an end that we can risk trying to get as much out of it as possible before we we return to the dust from which we came.

Tomorrow I begin a journey of losing my life so that I might find what true life is.  Today I reflect that life is a precious gift that is fragile, temporary, and passing.  

Today I remember that from dust I came, and to dust I will I better get on with the practice of living while I still can.

Monday, January 27, 2014


This week I have had the privilege of being at The Sundance Film Festival with Into The Noise and it has been quite an experience. Spending five days immersed in a cultural conversation exploring our world and what it means to exist in it has been life-giving.

A major theme I saw the films and directors exploring throughout the week was what it means to be in relationship with others.  Whether it was around issues of race, gender, friendship, marriage, parenthood, seasons of life...the question that seemed to be central was what does it mean to connect with others in meaningful and significant ways?

One film in particular stands out to me.  It was called The One I Love and the premise was that a married couple who are experiencing major problems in their relationship are sent on a trip by their therapist.  At the property they are staying at they find a guest house, and soon realize that for each of them an idealized version of their spouse resides in the guest house.  They are essentially posed with the question: would they rather have the 'perfect' version of their spouse or the 'real' version of their spouse.  I won't give anything else away in the film - it is worth seeing if you get a chance.

But I think this same question is posed to us on a regular basis.  This brings me to the 80/20 rule.  I once heard that in a marriage your spouse is [at best] able to fulfill 80% of your needs.  The problem comes when someone else comes along and offers to fill that last 20%.  Very often this is when affairs take place - you jump at the 20%, and then realize that you gave up the 80%.

Whether you are married or not, I think the 80/20 rule is something we all need to think about when it comes to relationships.  Because the truth is relationships are hard.  And at best our spouses, friends, family, small groups...they fulfill about 80% of our needs.  Which is great, except that pesky 20% keeps us wondering if there might not be something better out there.

And so we find idealized versions of relationships and we begin to fantasize about what we're missing.  And then we get tempted to pull up roots and start something new - because it is exciting, and fulfilling, and least at first.  But chasing after the ideal leaves us lonely and empty.  The fantasy that someone out there can meet 100% of our needs can prevent us from ever fully investing in the real people around us.

Maybe you don't suffer from this at all - but I think more of us can relate than we may care to admit.  We can relate to falling in love with an idealized version of our spouse, our friends, our neighborhoods, our jobs...that last 20 nags at us and we can get lost in the 'what if...'

What if my husband wore his hair just a little trendier.
What if my wife cooked me cheeseburgers every night.
What if my kids liked all the things I wanted them to like.
What if my friends wanted to hang out more.
What if my job didn't require me to do so much email.
What if that school let me take the classes I want.
What if that house had more space for my craft room.

What if...I could just have that 20?  Then would I be happy?

So what do we do with the 20?  Is it that we are just supposed to settle for less, lower our expectations, and resign ourselves to our unmet needs?  Perhaps.  But I think there is a different answer.

I think the 20% is the invitation for vulnerability.  What tempts us is the possibility to have our needs met without having to risk anything.  Someone comes along and offers us the thing we think we want most...for nothing.

That one person makes you feel attractive and desired.
That one person laughs at all your jokes.
That one person likes all the same books you like.
That one person cooks you meals.
That one person buys you nice things.

And they do it without us having to ask for it.  It is so tempting, because we genuinely want [and need] that 20.  Yet leaving the 80 for the 20 is a formula for perpetual dissatisfaction.  We all wish we could get the 20 without requiring anything of us...but then we miss the point of the 20.

What if, instead of fantasizing about the ideal, we risk with the real.  I think the invitation of the 20 is that we have to show up and ask for it.  But in doing so we expose ourselves - we risk not only having a need go unmet, but we risk having our need rejected.  To ask for it is scary - to ask for it and be openly denied is terrifying.  And so while many of us do not rush out an have affairs with another person, we secretly fall in love with idealized versions of the real thing.  We fantasize about the 'what if...'

But how about this - what if we asked for the 20 from the 80?  Not demand it, but to keep inviting that person who has already committed to us to know us even more?  To show up asking for more.  To help them to know this 20% that perhaps doesn't come naturally to them.  I think the 20 invites a conversation.  I think the 20 keeps our relationships growing, and keep us growing as individuals.

I know that for myself it is much easier to live with the fantasy that I can have my needs met without having to ask for them - but the longer I am in relationship the more I realize that the ideal is just a fantasy.  And I can keep leaving the real in pursuit of the ideal, but I never seem to arrive anywhere.  Because my true desires can't be met without some degree of risk on my part.  And staying and doing the hard work with the 80 is much riskier than dashing off in pursuit of the 20.

The way I see it is that we can spend our whole lives longing for a fantasy - and in doing so we become ungrounded and unrooted.  We chase the 20, and we slowly lose our own solidity.  Or we can stick it out with the 80 and allow the remaining 20 to make us more real, more solid, more honest, more present.  We realize that to be in a real relationship means that the other [be it a spouse, friend, child, job, house etc] can always be seen as lacking...or it can be seen as potential to keep growing.

We let go of the pursuit ideal, the constant temptation of the 20 without risk.  We settle for the 80, the real [yet imperfect] version we already have, and in doing so become more real ourselves.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Broken Hallelujah

"Heart of my own heart, 
whatever befall,
still be my vision, 
O Ruler of all."

2013 has been a hard year.  It has been a year of disappointment and suffering.  It has been a year of unmet hope and desire.  It has been a year of struggling to surrender.  It has been a hell of a year - and I mean that.

But let me back up, and catch you up a bit.  See, Steve and I have been trying to have a second child for over two years now.  We struggled with infertility for three years before we had Imogen, but as soon as we sought treatment we were immediately successful.  And so we expected much the same result this go around...

However, things did not turn out that way.  Throughout these two years we have tried a number of measures to help us have another child - and none of them were successful.  With each attempt our hopes were renewed, doctors reassured us that we were healthy and should have no trouble conceiving.  In fact, there was nothing specifically wrong with either of us - no reason why we were having such a hard time.

And then, we reached the end.  The end of what we could afford financially.  And the end of what we could afford emotionally.  We just couldn't go any further.

But the end didn't look how I expected it to look.  I'll be honest, the end sucked.  Really, really sucked. because in the end, we didn't get what we hoped for.  This was not a story of triumph or perseverance.  This was a story of disappointment, heartache, and sorrow.

Yet as I tried to come to terms with the reality that my life, my family, my home would not look how I desired for it to look - I found myself unable to fully access the deep, searing pain that took up residence in my soul.  It was there, and it would overwhelm me at times - and yet it felt trapped.  I needed to grieve, and yet the pain felt so deep that I couldn't reach it.  

That's when it came to me that I needed a symbol to help me process - something to begin to help me let go and come to terms with this loss.  Part of the challenge of infertility is that it is so isolating and lonely.  There are no physical signs that you are suffering - no one knows unless you tell them.  And it is so deeply personal and intimate that it feels especially vulnerable and exposing to talk about it with others.  So many people suffer alone, and no one knows they are grieving.  At least, this is how it felt for me.

And so one day it struck me to get a tattoo that would help me surrender.  It was one I had in mind for a while, and I didn't know it would be associated with this season - and yet it fits perfectly.  And for the first time I understood why a person would hurt themselves in order to express their pain [NOT that I condone this in any way - nor do I see tattoos as self-mutilation].  However, the emotional pain was so deep, so painful, so difficult to express I needed both the symbol and the pain of getting the symbol to begin to process just how heartbroken I was.

The tattoo is two intertwined hearts with fall leaves - symbolizing God's heart and my heart - intertwined even through seasons of death.   Because that is what this is - a season of death.  A dream, a hope dying.  

As I was nearing the end of my tattoo session a song came on the radio - one that has been covered more times that one can count.  Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.  And one line struck me and ushered me into a holy moment with God:

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
And as I laid there with the searing pain of the needle mixed with the searing pain of my soul I felt God's gentle Spirit whisper to me:

"I know that all you have right now is a broken hallelujah.  It is enough."

I have been clinging to this for dear life - my broken hallelujah.  It's been months since I've made it through a single church service without weeping - and I don't mean just a few tears springing to me eyes...I mean all out sobbing.  Because this hurts like hell - and I mean that too.  To bear this disappointment feels like walking through hell - there are times it feels like it will kill me.

And yet I still offer up my broken hallelujah.

Because death is at the center of our faith.  We don't walk around it - we don't get to avoid it - we don't get to skip it.  We have to walk right into it.  And the challenge is, that's all we can do - walk towards it.  We surrender to it.  Because even though we do not serve the God of the dead, but the God of the living - we can't resurrect ourselves.  We can't conquer death on our own...we need God to do that for us.  He is the one who defeated the Grave - and continues to defeat our daily graves.

Maybe some of you find yourself in a similar place at the conclusion of this year.  Life just didn't go as you planned.  And you have reached the end.  And the end sucks.  It's not an end you would choose, and yet it is where you are.  You are standing at a grave.  And perhaps there are those around you who just want you to get over this death already so you can jump into the next chapter.  And maybe you are tempted to simply bypass the pain, skip the death part, and get onto feeling better.  But you know deep down that your hallelujah is broken - it's there, but it's broken.  And all you can do is wait for the God of the Living to resurrect this part of your life.

And here's the thing about resurrection that many of us miss - Jesus is alive again, but he still bears the wounds that killed him.  They don't magically fill up or disappear - he is scarred.  Yet the scars don't kill anymore.  They are not signs of defeat and death, they are signs of victory and life.  We don't get through this faith journey without scars - it just doesn't work that way.  And some years mark us up more than others.

And so as I end this hellish year - a year that I would never have chosen for myself - a year that concludes with death - a year that has scarred my heart and soul - I continue to trust the One whose heart is intertwined with my own - whatever befalls...

...and I continue to offer up my broken hallelujah...

...and I wait for resurrection...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why I Don't Want My Daughter on the Nice List

'Tis the season - where we deck the halls, trim the tree, and once again immerse ourselves in the magic that comes from the Christmas season.  This year is particularly fun for us, since my daughter Immy just turned three last week.  She is starting to absorb the Christmas narrative - both the miraculous birth of Jesus and also the magical tale of Santa.  We celebrate both in our home - so no Santa bashing here.

In fact, I am a big fan of Santa.  His bag, his sleigh, his reindeer.  I fully intend to leave out cookies and carrots to welcome him on Christmas eve.  I love the anticipation that comes with his arrival, the mystery of how he manages to make it around the world to all the houses, the joy of finding a surprise under the tree on Christmas morning.

But truth be told, what I'm not a fan of is his list.

"He's making a list, and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice..."

Honestly, I don't want Immy on the Nice list this year.  I am not interested in teaching my daughter to 'be nice.' Nice is not a goal in our home.  Not that I am promoting naughtiness - I am praying that as we leave the terrible twos [and terrible they have been] we are well on our way to the terrific's hoping.

You may be asking, what's so wrong with nice?  I mean we want to teach our children to say nice things, ask with please and thank you, not push other kids or steal their toys.  Agreed - I don't want my daughter to be a demanding hooligan who terrorizes other children.  And threatening her to 'be nice' or Santa won't give her presents seems an effective way to get her to stop any 'naughty' behavior in the moment.

He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!

To some it may seem a simple matter of semantics, but to me words and their connotations matter.  And 'nice' is a loaded term...especially with girls.

In my experience 'nice' is far more about performing in such a way as to earn the approval of others, Santa included.  Nice comes with an expectation that we say things others want to hear [whether we believe them or not], we behave in a way that makes others happy [whether we care about them or not], and we put on a face that others find acceptable so that we can get something we want [whether it is sincere and authentic or not].

The trouble with 'nice' is that the focus remains completely on me - on getting what I want, whether that is acceptance, approval, belonging, or presents.  Nice really doesn't teach us to care about others and our impact on them - nice is about getting on the right list.  And while this may seem like an overblown reaction to a simple children's narrative, anyone who has done any level of emotional work as an adult knows full well that childhood messages imbed themselves into our identity at a very deep level.

Nice is about earning approval, even if you have to be a bit dishonest to get it.  As long as you look acceptable on the outside, it doesn't matter if you care about anyone else on the inside.  I mean, we juxtapose nice with naughty - which is primarily a term used to describe disobedience.  Once again, it is totally self-focused.  Conforming or not conforming, and the consequences that come with it.

I think with a daughter this 'nice' business is particularly problematic, because there are enough messages that are thrown at our girls that tell them to be 'sugar, spice, and everything nice.'  To be demure, small, acceptable, palatable, unopinionated, unintimidating, and unobtrusive.  To not get in the way, not talk too loud, not want to much, not weigh too much.  Simply put, stay small and make other people happy.  Be nice.

So, I am not interested in teaching Immy to be nice.  'Nice' doesn't teach her to care about her impact on another for the other's sake.  It teaches het to care about how she impacts another for her own sake.  It teaches her to perform in such a way that others will reward her for it.  Nice is all about her.

Instead of 'nice' I want to teach Imogen to be kind.  Again, it may seem like semantics - but hear me out.  Nice is about getting others to give you what you want because they like you.  Kind is about caring for another...for their own sake.  It is about having concern, empathy, and compassion on how your actions impact the other person.  Kind doesn't seek a reward, it seeks to love another as you would want to be loved.  Kind isn't about putting on a face that others will approve, kind is about learning to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing.

Nice teaches us to seek out our own best interests - be nice and you'll get presents!
Kind teaches us to seek out the interests of another above our own - 'There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.' [John 15v13]

Kind isn't about saying what others want to hear, it is about considering how what you say will impact the other person.  It teaches us to put ourselves in the shoes of another.  It teaches us to be patient with those who would otherwise seem an inconvenience.  Kind teaches us to be expansive in our love, our praise, our comfort, our actions, our acceptance.  Kind teaches us to speak the truth in love, rather than cover the truth in syrupy sweetness.  Kind teaches us to look to others needs, rather than seeing how we can manipulate them to meet our own.

The truth is 'nice' feels fake to me.  It feel insincere and showy.  Just make sure you don't get caught being naughty - who cares how you really feel about another person.  Just act right on the outside.  It's easy to be dishonest and nice.  But kind requires honesty.  We cannot offer genuine kindness with masked disdain, annoyance, disgust, or contempt.  Kind begins with compassion.

And this is where I have to return to the narrative of Jesus.  Yes, I love the magic of Santa that comes with this season, but if we are not careful we can get caught up in a narrative that teaches us that we get what we deserve [nice = presents, naughty = coal].  But the story of Jesus, God come to earth, is exactly opposite of this.  We get something we don't deserve.  Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift says it like this:

"Jesus, the Gift, comes to give you freely through His passion what every other god forces you to get through your performance."

And there it is:
Nice is about getting.
Kind is about giving.

Nice keeps me focused on me - do things right and you'll get what you want.
Kind helps me to see others - "We love because [Jesus] first loved us." [1 John 4v19]

Kindness can care about the needs of another because it flows from knowing we are already accepted, loved, and approved by our Creator.  Kindness doesn't shrink our presence in the world, telling us the more palatable we are the more others will like us.  Kindness expands our presence in the world, helping us to reach out to others with courage, compassion, and curiosity.

So Santa doesn't have to check his list twice when it comes to our family, because our daughter's name is on a different Christmas list.  A list where she is found to be worthy of love and belonging because of who God is, and who God has made her to be.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pay Now or Pay Later

So I have been nursing a knee injury for the last three weeks.  At first I tried to work through the pain...yeah, you can imagine how well that went for me.  Then I figured if I took a couple days off I would be as good as new.  No such luck.  After a week of resting it I thought it would be healed...nope.  Now three weeks in I have not been able to work out much at all...which those who know me know that this is not such a great thing.  Working out keeps me sane, lets me get out my emotions, and steadies my energy.

The problem is, I did this to myself.  Not on purpose, but I alone am definitely to blame.

See, this is not the first time this knee has bothered me.  And normally I need to take some extra time to stretch the muscles around it so that it doesn't get injured.  But lately I have been rushing through my workouts and afterwards putting forth a pathetic stretching effort.  At first I justified this because it was a hectic season...and then I fell into the pattern.  I could feel my muscles getting tighter, but I figured it would be fine.

I was wrong.  And now I am paying for it.

And isn't this the way life goes.  You can pay now, or you can pay later...but either way you're going to pay.  And the problem is that when we consistently choose to pay later, we almost always end up paying more than we expect.  You better believe looking back I wish I had taken the extra 10 minutes that seemed impossible to spare to stretch out those muscles...but it felt too steep a price to pay in the moment...yet those 10 minutes have added up to one of the longest stretches where I haven't been able to exercise.

It leaves me wondering how many times I put off 'paying' for something simply because it seems too costly in the moment...not realizing the price I will incur later on.  The times when I choose to check my email instead of being present with my daughter.  The times I choose to stay at home rather than meet up with a friend.  The times I choose to watch a TV show rather than play a board game.  It all adds up - and soon I am paying the price of feeling lonely, isolated, and disconnected.

I think for most of us if we knew the price we would pay later we would probably be motivated to make the small effort it would take in the present moment.  But if we keep choosing to pay later, if we keep putting off the things we want to do, we find that life passes us by.  And this is part of grace - the other side of the coin.  God's love lets us choose whether we want life or not.  We choose if we want to invest our time, energy, emotions, talent, passion into what is before us...or we can simply tune out, glaze over, and wait for the next thing...the next time...the next person.

But there isn't always a next.  That's what we often fail to grasp.  I believe God's mercy and grace are infinite, but I also believe that our choices have consequences.  If we wait until we feel like stretching...well, that time may never come.

And so we have to ask ourselves, do I want to pay now, or do I want to pay later?  And if I choose later, just exactly what will it cost me?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Crocs in the Wash: The Price of Busy

This Sunday was a perfect storm.  And by perfect I mean a colossal disaster of epic proportions.

It all started with the crocs.  Immy has been down to one pair of shoes for weeks now.  As tends to happen with most kids, her feet grew.  And so she has been rocking her green crocs everyday for longer than I care to admit.  Cute dress, crocs.  85 degrees outside, crocs.  50 degrees outside, crocs with socks.  You get it.

Well, daycare involves lots of playing outside.  And with that comes lots and lots of dirt.  As the weeks went on with crocs being the only footwear of choice [read, only option available] each day they got dirtier and dirtier.  They were so dirty that there was a permanent caking of mud on both the outside and the inside.  Gross, I know.  Stop judging.

So, Steve had what seemed to be a great idea - "We should run her crocs through the dishwasher."  I thought - perfect, no more mud, weeks more wearing.  So Sunday morning before my workout I unloaded the dishes, put the shoes on the top rack, and let it run.  I was so excited for Steve to see Immy's shiny like-new crocs!  I felt like super-mom.

In the meantime as we are getting ready for church I realize with 20 minutes to spare that the snack we normally bring for Immy was out.  See, because of the candida predicament Immy can't eat the pretzels that all the other kids get.  So I make her these special crackers from almonds and egg whites - again, super mom!  But we were out, and they take about 20 minutes to bake.  And you can't send a two-year-old into a setting where everyone else has a snack and she doesn' let frantic baking begin!

And once Immy saw the crackers she begged and pleaded to have some...but she just doesn't seem to get the concept of not being able to eat raw eggs...patience is not a strongpoint of toddlers.  So she began her normal morning meltdown while we are now trying to pack up with just enough time to spare to still make it to church on-time.

As I pack up the not-quite-done crackers Steve picks up Immy's shiny new crocs and puts them on her feet.  At which point she starts crying and yelling "Too tight!  Too tight!"  It is then that we both realize that while the dishwasher got rid of the mud, it also shrunk her shoes down a size.  And now the real panic begins - because she has NO shoes...none.

So we pack up the half-baked crackers, praying against salmonella, and rush to a local "it has everything" store - you know the ones: groceries, sporting equipment, pet supplies, board games, and of course shoes!  I assume that it will be an in-and-out endeavor, it's right around the corner from church - easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Except they don't have shoes her size.  Well, let me amend that.  They do in fact have some shoes her size, but they are all $30 and they all light up - you know the ones, bright red lights all over the shoes.  In my desperation I was tempted to simply bite the bullet and get a pair of epilepsy inducing sneakers with pink princesses on the side, but then I realized these would be her ONLY shoes.  And I just couldn't do it.

On top of that Immy is freaking out because her crackers are undercooked, she has no shoes on so she can't walk around, and she is terrified of the process of trying on shoes.  Cue full on meltdown in the middle of the store.  Plus, there are fish in this "it has everything" store - and we committed the unforgivable parenting sin of leaving the store without walking the extra 10 minutes [maybe a slight exaggeration] to see the depressing florescent lit fish wall...since we were trying to contain our already screaming toddler.

So as we exit she is screaming "I want to see the fish!  I want to see the fish!" In our wake we see a sea of people looking at us wondering why we are the worst parents in the world to deny our beautiful child the joy of seeing the fish...and wondering why she has no shoes on!

While we want to simply call a do-over and try again later, we remember that Immy has NO shoes...none.  Except the pair of clean but shrunken crocs...which are no longer an option.  So we head over to the next plaza because there is a Target there...and we figure Target MUST have something besides light-up princess shoes.  But as soon as we pull up Immy wants to run around and "touch the red balls" - but we have to get in the store and get she begins to yell "I want to touch the red balls!  I want to touch the red balls!"  To which we loudly reply: "We hear you!  You can touch the red balls once you have shoes.  Yes, you can touch the red balls later."  [go ahead, laugh.  I know, it makes me giggle a little too...done yet?  Under control?  Alright then, moving on]

So, we once again pile into the store and bee-line to the shoe section.  This time there are plenty of options - but there is no order whatsoever, so you have to dig and dig to find a pair of shoes and determine the size.  We decide we might as well get two pairs of shoes while we are here - just in case something crazy shrinking them in the dishwasher...I mean, you never know right.

So we find two pairs that might work.  Immy screams and screams as we put the first pair on - not because they don't fit but because she is scared of having new shoes on her her credit she has worn the same pair of shoes for months...seriously, it's been months.  Okay, so the first pair fits and she calms down and wants to run around the store in them.

At this point I realize there is absolutely no way I am going to be able to try on the second I scientifically hold them up to another pair of the same size Immy has on her feet and determine that they look close, so they're a go.

Now of course Immy will not take the new shoes off.  So we have to coax her to the register, which takes about 15 minutes of running down various aisles.  At the register we simply lift her up and tell the cashier she'll just need to scan the shoes on her feet - which of course results in one of those judgey looks that only those who have not have the privilege [challenge] of trying to keep a toddler alive recently.

With footwear secured we realize that we are now way late for 45 minutes late, and we're fast approaching the time where we either feed Immy or she proceeds to scream bloody murder until we put some food in front of her.

So, we drive home after just being in the general vicinity of church...exhausted, frustrated, embarrassed, and dejected.  I would like to say that Steve and I kept our cool throughout the whole ordeal, laughing at each wrong turn, offering encouraging or helpful comments as we went along...but truthfully, I can't. In the midst of the stress we lost our cool, came close panic, one of us nearly hyperventilated in the middle of a store [why are you looking at me?], and more than once threw out a snarky comment or sharp reply.

Overall, it was a complete and utter disaster.  With so much change over the last couple of weeks, it was as if all the streams collided and we were overrun.  And while I can look back now and laugh, a little, at least at the red balls the moment I felt so untethered.

I'm not sure what the moral to the story is...besides don't put the crocs in the wash.  But if I had to take a guess, I would say this is a picture of what busy does to a family.  It invites crisis because there is just too much to juggle.  And Steve and I have worked very hard over the years not to be hurried, busy, rushed people.  We try to give ourselves margin, space, and time.  We are planners.  We arrive early.  We think ahead.  But in this new season we just haven't found our new rhythms yet.  Everything is new - how we shop [hence the one pair of shoes], how we spend our free-time, bedtime routines, workout's all in a bit of chaos right now.

So, this day of continual fails at least helped me to see one thing...what we are currently doing is not working.  We need to be super intentional in this season, otherwise we will end up in the middle of Target with a screaming child and two parents huddled in the fetal position as people in red vests stand scratching their heads and giving us judgey looks.

It is moments like these where I am reminded that we need to continually choose how we want to be together as a family.  When we say yes to being over-scheduled we say no to having space and energy to be patient, kind, and thoughtful.  We just don't do life on the fly very well.  So, this is a little [okay, maybe mid-sized] reminder that intentional living doesn't just have to want it enough to choose it - to rearrange everything else around it.  It's not always possible - life isn't picture perfect - but it is possible more often than we want to admit.

So, at the end of the storm, as we rebuild for this week, we are mindful of what a lack of margin does to us...

And as a reminder to the impact of busy...remember that second pair of shoes?  The ones I so scientifically measured?  Well, when we went for a walk later than same day we put them on Immy to see if she'd like them...halfway through the walk we realize they are ridiculously too clown shoes too large.  So, I figure I have two options...we can double up on the socks while her feet continue to grow...

or I could always try the dishwasher.