Writing scared

I’ve been afraid.

And tired.

And tired of being afraid.

I used to spend my weekday mornings, when the girls are both at school, writing—often with a sense of urgency. If I don’t get these words out of my head, where will they go? When there’s a story tickling my brain and I choose to ignore it, I become a highly irritable, overly sensitive person. So typically, for the sake of my emotional health (and that of everyone around me), I am obedient to the nudge: Write it down. Somewhere. Anywhere!

But with the exception of one essay for The Drafting Desk and a handful of random sentences scribbled on scraps of paper, I have written nothing down since December. Not the blog post I’d had swirling in my mind about the books I read last year, not the thoughts I was doing battle with about choosing a word of the year, not the advent insights that are no longer timely.

None of it.

You know what I’ve been doing instead? Here’s the gist. I’ve spent my time:

Repainting various rooms of our home
Organizing my desk and shelves
Planting seeds in pots in my backyard
Rearranging furniture
Switching out random pieces of home décor—mirrors, prints, lamps, curtains, wreaths
Listening to podcasts
Watching [garbage] TV series on Netflix
Knitting squares for a someday-blanket

Mostly (sans Netflix), they’re innocent things. Not harmful. Good, even. And in all of those activities listed (again, sans Netflix), there are stories and eye-opening lessons that God has been teaching me. But instead of writing them, I’ve buried them. Continue reading

For the mothers

My minivan didn’t come with any techy stuff, because at the time we purchased it, we were simply grateful to be buying a second car. Bare bones was fine with us—no media jacks, no DVD player, no automatic doors. Wheels, a solid engine, and a/c was all we needed, thank you Mr. Salesman.

Unfortunately, that means when it comes to music, our options are the radio or whatever CDs we have that still play without skipping. So yesterday morning, I did like I always do when I get tired of the local stations and fished one of the two CDs I keep in the car (JJ Heller and Ellie Holcomb, my favorites) out from under a pile of board books and shoes and stale pretzels on the floor. I blew the crumbs off and slid it into the player.

It had been—it has been—a long, long week.

I just needed to quiet some of the voices. No more news alerts popping up on my phone today, please Jesus. No more horrifying headlines to scroll through. No more “We interrupt this program for the following breaking news.” No more live conferences. It’s just been too much. Too much.

The CD player whirred (I sighed with relief, it’s working today), and JJ’s clear, soothing voice surrounded me and my girls on our drive. The title track, “I Dream of You,” is a mother singing love and sweet dreams over her child as she drifts off to sleep. I play it for my girls often, and I play it when I hold little ones in the church nursery. It always has a quieting, calming effect—on them and on me:

When you fall asleep
What will you dream
Castles and kings

The story’s been read
And you rest your head
Warm in your bed

My love, may you dream
Of beautiful things
’Til the dawn of the day bright and new

Wherever you go
I want you to know
When I dream
I dream of you

Fly over the sea
Float on the breeze
Careless and free

When your journey ends
Wake up and then
Dream it again

My Love, may you dream
Of beautiful things
’Til the dawn of the day bright and new

Wherever you go
I want you to know
When I dream…

I dream of gentle wind blowing in
Time seems to slow
Away we go 

Moonlight fills up your room
Darling, you are my dream come true

(by JJ Heller and David Heller)

The evidence of that morning’s round of crying had barely vanished from my face—I am a splotchy crier—and there I was, driving through suburbia in my minivan, kids in the backseat, just a routine morning, tears rolling down my face.

Because of the mothers.

I sing songs over my children, I do it all the time. I sing in the car and while I change diapers. I pray for them as they drift off to sleep, that they won’t be afraid and that their dreams will be happy. Those mothers, the ones who lost their children this week—at a concert venue, at a nightclub, during a family vacation—I’m sure they sang songs of love over their babies, too.

I cry for the mothers.

I ache for them. They are living through the unimaginable. Your babies are your babies, no matter their age.

And yet, I know that there is hope and the promise of peace. That those lullabies we sing to comfort our babies aren’t only for their little hearts. They’re for the mothers’ hearts, too.


Our Father is singing over us, over all of this fallen world. He knows His children by name, and He weeps with us. He knows we might be afraid to close our eyes at night, that we don’t want to see what our dreams are bound to drag to the surface from the depths of our minds. He knows that the darkness feels scary and lonely and that right now, the daylight doesn’t feel much better.

He is singing a sweet lullaby of peace, the kind of peace that is beyond what we can comprehend. The only kind of peace that can bind up a broken heart.

A song for the mothers.

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Lost and found

Well, I have now managed to lose both of my children in public places.

20 months or so seems to be the magical age when this happens. With my older daughter, we were in a Carter’s clothing store and while I rummaged in the diaper bag for my debit card at the checkout counter, she stealthily slipped off. When I couldn’t spot her, the employees closed the store entrance until she was found, sitting happily on the floor behind a shoe display, trying on shoes (why didn’t I think to look there first, knowing her fondness for dress-up?). She looked up with a smile and lifted her foot in the air in a proud display, oblivious to the tension of the moments leading up to her discovery. She was missing for less than a minute, but my fear in that minute was real. The front doors had been open thanks to an unusually cool spring day in Florida, and my heart plummeted imagining what could have happened if she’d been bound for the exit—straight into a busy parking lot—instead of to try on footwear.

Last week at an indoor theme park, my younger daughter pulled a disappearing act of her own, on a slightly larger scale. This one is fast and sneaky, and we’ve known that about her since she started walking. (A few months ago she ran away from me in Publix and hid in the frozen foods aisle behind a stock crate. I caught her when she peeked around it and giggled at the look of frustration on my face. Oh, the gray hairs!) But this time, in a large space thick with short people (aka kids), she really scared me. She was standing right next to me, I looked up from her to her sister, who was asking for help tying shoes, and then I looked back, and she was gone.

I whirled around in a circle, scanning the room, which suddenly felt way too big with way too many places for a tiny person to hide. My friend and I instructed our older kids not to move and quickly split into opposite directions to look, but my girl was nowhere to be seen. My friend grabbed an employee who began asking me to describe my daughter. What was she wearing? How tall is she? What’s her name? Is she walking? (Um, no, she crawled away at light speed.) I stumbled through my description of her (“She’s really small! She has short brown hair and big brown eyes… She’s just really small!”), my mind racing.

I’m not the mom who loses her kid at a place like this. I’m the mom who knows where my children are and what they’re doing at all times! … right?

She was gone for maybe five minutes, which doesn’t seem long but is way, way, way too long. And then there she was, tears rolling down her face, in the arms of a young employee who’d had her wits about her enough to think like a toddler and climb way up into the big kids’ gym. Of course that’s where she was. My monkey. I hugged that girl so tight and tried to fight the tears and reset my fried nerves.

I tell this story because

1) It embarrasses me, but I know I’m not alone. I know this because when I posted a photo later that day on Instagram and mentioned her brief disappearance, three or four friends chimed in to commiserate (one of them was my own mom). I want to be forthcoming about my parenting failures because maybe you need to know you’re not alone. Sometimes friends compliment my parenting and I laugh before I realize they’re being serious. I am not a perfect mom—far, far from it—and that’s ok. My kids will grow up knowing that their mom makes mistakes and isn’t afraid to own up to them. Believe me, they’re already quite aware.

And 2) In those brief minutes last Wednesday when my baby was nowhere to be seen, and even that day at Carter’s so many years ago with her big sis, I caught the tiniest glimpse of how our Father feels about us when we wander off.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. —Luke 15:4-7

He is the shepherd, searching relentlessly until the one sheep is found. 

He is the father of the Prodigal, waiting expectantly and scouring the horizon for the sight of his son returning. 

He is the woman who dropped one of her 10 coins—a day’s worth of income—holding a lantern in her dark home and sweeping the floor in search of it, calling friends and neighbors to celebrate when it is recovered. 

I wasn’t panicked. I knew that the one I loved was there somewhere. She wasn’t lost, not forever. But how I longed for her! I knew she was alone and afraid. I wanted more than anything to have her safely back in my arms, but the realization dawned on me that it was not for my own sake or my own comfort. It was for hers. Because I love her more than I love myself and could not bear to think of her suffering alone when I was right there with arms flung wide, ready to hold her and wipe her tears away.

Because despite my daughter’s moments of reckless bravery and independence, she needs me.

Call it a parenting fail, but I’m grateful to God for reminding me of His relentless love for us and the truth that no matter how confident and independent I might feel, I need Him. 

Now. Where does one buy a leash for a toddler?


Fighting fear in a fallen world

I should have known that after my previous post, the sleeping-in toddler would be replaced by the up-at-7 toddler. These things happen. I’m grateful though that I had those peaceful, reflective mornings that particular week. I needed them, and I love the sometimes simple ways God offers grace, like a baby sleeping an extra 45 minutes in the morning for a few days.

My heart has been heavy lately, and I’ve felt so distracted from my husband and children, spending my time and energy poring over news articles and blog posts and trying to discern truth from lies, postponing daily life requirements like putting laundry away and planning dinners (you’re welcome, Pizza Hut). I’m trying desperately to separate what I know in my heart to be true of our God from my earthly, human fears. I worry about the future, about my children’s lives in another 10 or 20 years. What will their world look like? Will they be safe in it? Are any of us ever really “safe” this side of heaven?

Do I really trust God with the future of this world and with my children’s lives?

Witnessing atrocities of the world via this beast called social media is enough to make me want to curl up under my covers and hide. I don’t want to go to the movies anymore, even if there’s a film I actually want to see (rare these days). Why go to the store when I can order online from the safety of my kitchen? I bought concert tickets yesterday, but my excitement was underscored by pangs of claustrophobia. What has happened to me?

Debate and politics make me feel anxious and confused, and on several occasions lately I’ve teased the “delete my Facebook” screen, heart beating wildly, because I just can’t take it anymore. (I haven’t done it, but the day might be coming.) There is so much garbage being circulated. It feeds our indignation. It angers us. It empowers us if it’s worded just right. We click and click and click, sorting through the thoughts and opinions of others, hoping to find someone — a politician, a blogger, a preacher, an activist, whoever — who gets it right so that we can hit that Share button and type, “This. Yes.”

All I know is this: If you believe God’s Word is indeed His good and perfect truth, the answers are there.

Perhaps we don’t want to look there because we already know what we will find, and it scares us. But if you believe in Him, here’s the thing: The answers are in your heart as well. You know.

So, I will take a deep breath and draw myself away from the computer screen.

I will not withdraw into the black hole of social media, phone in hand.

I will go do the things that need to be done today.

I will show Christ’s love.

I will care for my family.

I will trust that God is bigger than my fears.

I will choose — year-by-year, hour-by-hour, probably some days, minute-by-minute — to fight my fears with Truth.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. —Psalm 91:4




Afraid of the dark

I’ve always been afraid of the dark.

When I was little, my greatest fear was that a burglar or kidnapper or general bad guy would climb into our house through my bedroom window. I don’t know what I thought this bad guy would do at that point, but the fear of someone sneaking, in the darkness of the middle of the night, into the room I shared with my little sister was enough. At this age, my solution was to set up our bedroom so that my twin bed was directly under the window. Then, if the bad guy did get in, he’d probably hop right over my bed and not even notice me. (Sorry, sis.) Problem solved!

When I was a little older, I moved into a room of my own. The window in that room was huge, covering almost all of one wall, and looked out into the front yard and the street. In that room, it was the shadows of the trees outside my window, magnified by the outside lights, that freaked me out. My bed wound up next to the wall closest to the window so that I could at least roll over onto my side and close my eyes to try to ignore the creepy shadows that moved when the wind blew. What I imagined those shadows to be ranged from bad guys to wild animals to dinosaurs (thanks, Michael Crichton).

For some reason, the college apartment I shared with three other girls didn’t frighten me as much. My room was on the second floor of our little townhouse-style place, or maybe it was just that naive college-student mentality that I was awesome and nothing would ever hurt me. (Oh, if I could go back in time and lecture myself…)

When I got my first real job out of college, I was excited and terrified to rent a tiny one-bedroom apartment and live alone for the first time. I wound up adopting a cat to keep me company, but that’s another story. (Did you know that cats live FOR-EV-ER?) My apartment was nestled into a corner of the complex, on the second floor. I often left the TV and lights on at night to make it look like more than one person lived there, and of course I had my vicious cat to protect me from bad guys and dinosaurs.

Jump ahead a couple of years, I’m one-year married, and my husband and I decide to move away (my first time leaving my hometown). We both accepted jobs in South Florida, but I had to move right away to start my new position. He was still finishing up a semester of school, so I lived in our new place alone for about a month. I don’t think I slept much of that time. Between the police sirens I heard at night and my creepy neighbors, I came to dread the evenings and the darkness of night. I never left our place after sunset, scenes from Law & Order: SVU flashing through my mind. I convinced myself that I could be kidnapped in the grocery store parking lot. I slept in our guest bedroom because it was closest to the front door, and You’ve Got Mail played on a loop all night long on a tiny TV/VCR combo until my hubby and the rest of our stuff finally joined me.

These days, I’m secretly relieved that our older daughter leaves a bathroom light on at night because it means I can see light from our room, too. There’s something about being in total darkness that makes me panic. And now that I have two kids, and the accompanying responsibilities, and a job, and life to lie in bed pondering, the darkness brings not only fear, but worry. And when I worry, I don’t sleep. And when I don’t sleep, I turn into a crazy person, and my fears and worries become more irrational… you see where this is going.

For Christmas, my husband gave me a CD (yes, we still buy CDs) of Ellie Holcomb’s album As Sure As The Sun. I listened to it on repeat for weeks. It hasn’t left my van. All of her lyrics—rooted in Truth—speak to my heart, but those from “Night Song” resonate with me most:

Morning feels so far away, questions keeping me awake
Will you sing, sing your night song?
All these lies that are owning me, all this fear makes it hard to breathe
Will you be, be my night song?

The truth that sings into my darkness
The melody of love that leads me on
The voice that comforts all my sadness
Oh, even when the suffering is long, be my night song

Unmet longings steal my mind, calm my heart with your lullaby
Will you sing, sing your night song?
The sound of love surrounding me, promise that you will never leave
How I need, I need your night song

The truth that sings into my darkness
The melody of love that leads me on
The voice that comforts all my sadness
Oh, even when the suffering is long, be my night song

How I need to hear God’s lullaby at night—truth singing into my darkness! I wept in the car when this track played for the first time, because yes. I don’t need to lie in bed in the middle of the night, wide awake, consumed with fear and worry. His voice comforts all of my sadness. His melody of love chases away my irrational fears and leads me into peaceful sleep. He promises that He will never leave. His song calms my heart.

Fear is all-consuming when it goes unchecked. But when I call out to God for peace and calm on those restless nights? It goes. And I sleep.


You can listen to “Night Song” here. Music and lyrics by Ellie Holcomb, Christa Wells, and Nicole Witt.