Day 4: Leaning trees

Everything looks a little crooked around here post-Irma.

Mailboxes, fences, street signs, trees.

Yes, I’m writing about trees again already.

The sycamore across the street from my house is leaning toward us where it used to stand straight and tall, its roots beginning to pull up the sidewalk. I wouldn’t be surprised if by this time next month it’s a stump.

The thought hurts my heart a little; it’s one of the few trees around here that changes color with the seasons. Its leaves usually wind up strewn across our yard, to the girls’ delight (and mine—is there anything better than the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet?). Continue reading

Day 3: Preschool classrooms and little prayers

This morning I walked through the preschool courtyard with its colorful flags waving in the breeze outside classroom doors and smiled at the little ones still clinging to their parents while moms and dads attempt to gently pry chubby fingers from their legs. (Preschoolers are surprisingly strong.)

It almost feels like fall, windy and overcast, and I like it.

The last classroom I pass on my way to the parking lot happens to be the same one I dropped my now-4th-grader at on mornings just like this five short and long years ago. Her pre-k teacher, still occupying that same classroom, pokes her head out and waves at me. We have a bond, whether she knows it or not.  Continue reading

Day 2: Crying over nothing, and something

I watched a police officer stop his vehicle in the middle of an intersection near my house this morning, flip his lights on, and jump out of his SUV. My heart caught for a moment—what’s going on? But then I noticed the huge branch that had been lying in the road (Irma cleanup will be an ongoing process around here for a while). The officer grabbed it and tossed it out of the way of passing cars. He ran back to his vehicle, hopped in, and pulled out of the intersection. The light turned green, and traffic resumed.

It’s insignificant—it’s barely even a story. But I drove the rest of the way home wiping tears from my eyes.

Continue reading

Introduction: 31 days of paying attention

After Irma churned through Central Florida in the middle of the night nearly a month ago, the first thing I noticed about my backyard—aside from the fence, which was mostly on the ground—was that my beloved crepe myrtle had been stripped bare. The crepe is my favorite thing in our yard, because it’s huge—around 20 feet high and just as wide—and in the summer it explodes with magenta blooms.

When the storm came in September, the last of the season’s papery-thin flowers were just hanging on. It was a lost cause, I knew, with 80mph gusts on the way, but I didn’t expect to feel so glum at how pitiful my tree looked afterward, naked branches whipping around in the lingering winds.

Continue reading

After the storm

What a strange week it’s been.

The scramble and stress of preparing for a hurricane of unprecedented size and strength to make landfall; the waiting (and waiting and waiting) for it to arrive where you live; the terror of sitting in complete darkness through the night listening to howling winds, cracking trees, and thumps on the roof; the feeling of relief washing over as we woke Monday morning to discover daylight had come, we were all ok, and so were our friends and family members.

We stepped outside cautiously that morning to assess damages and marveled with our neighbors at what had fallen where, confirming everyone had fared all right and asking who needed what. Then we all picked up our rakes and chainsaws and got to work, on our own yards and each other’s.

Fallen trees can be cleaned up, busted fences can be replaced, wet stuff will dry, broken things can be fixed. Electricity will be restored… eventually.

IMG_3552

IMG_0409.JPG

IMG_3564

IMG_3567

IMG_3570

IMG_3579

IMG_3545

Continue reading

See ya, summer (and a back-to-school prayer)

Last year as summer came to a close, I wrote a bit about my struggles with long breaks from school, those wretched summer bucket lists (if you do them, high five!), and my mixed feelings about sending two little girls off to school.

This year I was a tad more settled and at home in my own summer mom skin. That meant fewer planned activities and more flying by the seat of our pants, and it suited them and me just fine. Our weeks peeled off the calendar so quickly I’m having trouble remembering exactly how we filled the days. There was potty training. (Truly, I counted the summer a smashing success once that week was over. Done! I’m out! To-do list complete!) There were day camps and a handful of playdates. Lots of painting and coloring. TV- and movie-watching (this is real life). A sleepover. Swimming at grandparents’ houses and the community pool, and attempting to swim in the inflatable thing we picked up from Target. One—one!—trip to the beach. A birthday trip to the American Girl store.

IMG_3309

But for the last week or so, fourth grade and preschool have been calling these girls’ names. New lunchboxes have been selected. Class lists have been posted. Both are thrilled that the start of school is now just a few short days away.

So am I. I am excited for them, and frankly, I am excited for me.

Is that okay to publicly acknowledge? I hope so.

But before I shuffle them out the door next week and maybe do a little dance, I want to pray them off. Continue reading

Eggs in a Basket: About Secondary Infertility

“For the next four years I hovered in a confusing place of wondering whether I was even capable of conceiving another child. If it was medically impossible, I didn’t want to know. When you start marking years off the calendar, you begin to assume the worst.

Learning about secondary infertility from an article online was the catalyst for me to let go of my dreams. It was a self-diagnosis, but it was enough. We enrolled Evelyn in preschool; I went back to work. We dipped our toes into adoption research. Life just… moved on.” 

Today I have the honor of sharing a bit of my family’s story as a guest on the Kindred Mom blog. Please click here to read the rest!

 

Look back, remember, abide

Two years ago, after nearly a full year of juggling the idea in my mind and praying that if it was to be part of our story God would make a way, I quit my part-time church staff writer/editor job. The reasons my husband and I discussed were many, and they were complicated. But more than anything else, I missed my kids—one finishing up first grade and one having just turned a year old. Logic told us that I needed to keep working. (Our bank account agreed.) But there was no avoiding God’s persistent nudging on the subject: I needed to give up my job, which I had slowly allowed to invade my off-hours, stealing my joy and my ability to be emotionally and mentally present. And we needed to trust Him to meet our needs. Two years later, despite the curveballs that more than once or twice tempted us to doubt, I can say with gratitude that He has met our family’s every need, and then some.

When I look back over my writing from these couple of years—both what I’ve shared with the world and what I’ve saved for myself, sacred—and remember, all I can do is give honor and glory to God for His faithfulness. I read my own words and shake my head, realizing He loved me too much to let me remain unchanged as my life shifted from one season into the next.

I recently came across a draft I’d written one year after leaving my job. I felt like a mess and a failure at the time and was struggling with whether quitting had been the best decision after all. Today I feel like like someone else out there might need the words. For me they are evidence, a reminder of God’s goodness and the fact that even in times of transition and even with all of my shortcomings, He has never abandoned me. He won’t abandon you, either. Be encouraged.

Continue reading

Letting change change me

I wrote the essay below for the May 20, 2017 issue of The Drafting Desk, a monthly collaboration with my friend Lindsey. Click here to learn more!


It’s hot enough here in Central Florida that my kids have already been in their grandparents’ pool twice (though the water is still too cold for Mom).

In an effort to get a jump start on things this year, I went ahead and signed up my 3-year-old for refresher swim lessons. At 4pm every weekday for the last three weeks, I’ve sat next to the pool and observed as the skills came back to her—kicking, paddling, holding her breath, rolling onto her back to float—like riding a bike. She loves the water, and I love watching her and chatting with her swim instructor for those 10 minutes every afternoon.

But then, just like that, she was dubbed swim-ready and we were finished. On the last day, we said goodbye to the instructor and I choked back tears.

Tears. Over the end of swim lessons.

What is wrong with me?

We’re standing at the edge of a season when so many things wrap up—end-of-the-school-year concerts, dance recitals, class parties, thank-you notes, teacher gifts, goodbyes to friends and other parents and teachers I’ve come to adore. I dread all of it. It reminds me that my children are growing, moving up, moving on (and often that means I have to move on with them). At 8 and 3, at least they’re not moving out—but I know it’s only a matter of time before that happens, too.

Oh gosh. Hold on while I look for the Kleenex.

It would appear I don’t cope well with change—but then, I already knew that.

IMG_2612

Continue reading

Remembering hope when everything feels wrong

He called me out to the backyard. Chin in hand, sitting at the kitchen counter, hunched over my phone, I sighed and looked up. “What?”

“Just come.”

Usually I’m the one dragging my family out back to appreciate particularly good sunsets with me. But this time he led me out and faced me away from the sunset, where the light was hitting a band of white clouds over my neighbors’ roofs in such a way that the giant puffs—sure sign of a Florida thunderstorm developing in the distance—were glowing. I held my breath as they in slow motion grew larger and drew closer, turning from white to peach to pink against the deep blue sky. Some portion of the moon hung in the sky above us. I stood motionless and stared, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

I looked at Dan. He asked if I was okay. What is okay, really? I’d been fluctuating between ends of the spectrum—deep gratitude and joy swinging to sorrow and confusion, and back again. It was a wisely cautious question on his part. I shrugged, knowing tears were close to the surface. He stayed close for a couple of minutes, then turned to go back inside where the kids were playing, leaving me to my thoughts.

The wind was warm after a record high day for April, the air refreshing on my skin—that perfectly sweet and smooth kind of breeze that you want to relish a little longer. Warm. Comforting.

A 3-year-old boy from church left earth for heaven less than two weeks ago. He is safe, whole, and well there. He is good now, better than good, but I keep crying. I think of him when my own preschooler drives me crazy. When she whispers love in my ear with hot little breaths. When she squeezes her arms around my neck so tight and plants wet kisses all over my face. When she practices a song in her class, where he is missed: “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”

When I lock eyes with her, she says, “I love you too, Mommy,” even though I haven’t said anything.

The breeze feels like life, beautiful and soft. And at the same time I am weeping for the pain it brings as it moves over my skin. I feel alive, and it hurts, and so I stand in my backyard and stare at the sky and let the tears come.

Continue reading