Friday, Friday…

I mentioned sometime last week that Gen and I had gone on an excursion to IKEA so that she could work on a photography assignment, for school. The assignment was to take photos of things at interesting angles/perspectives. She decided IKEA would be a great format to play around with that, so off we went.

It took her this long to email me the photos she submitted, but since I promised you guys I’d show you, here they are. :)

Considering it was her first ever photo assignment and her only real past experience would be the insane amounts of snapchats and selfies that an average teenage girl sends, I think she did fantastic! I am so proud. Today we will be venturing out for her next assignment (contrast of color in a unique way).

On the agenda for this weekend we also have brunch with the boyfriend, family anniversary time and a little Senior Picture shoot. What’s the plan for your weekend?

I’m ok, you’re ok…

photo-1438979315413-de5df30042a1There is a virus, or exhaustion, (or perhaps a virus by exhaustion) making its way through our house, this week. We’ve each got a touch of it, somehow. These are the sort of things which don’t seem to fit into the to-do lists and planners, thus leading to frustration. Yesterday, (which I’ll get more to in a bit) found me waking with a massive headache, 2 hours AFTER I wanted to wake. Sleep had been rocky up until about 3 hours before I actually got up, so that was pretty awesome. I had half an hour to dress and head to a class I am taking, led in video sessions, by Shauna Niequist. Also factor in the emotional and defiant teen, who has been a bit of a struggle this week, and it made for not the best half hour. I showed up, to the class, barely dressed, without make up and crowned with crazy, curly hair. Who knew it would be a class filled with gorgeous, fit, SAHM’s, all so put together I double checked to see if I had walked into a magazine spread shoot.

I made it through the class and breakout session somewhat managed. Yay me. On my way home I had to stop by the supermarket for a cake. See, yesterday was our Family Anniversary with Gen. For those of you not familiar with adoption stuff, it would mark the day (13 years ago) that Gen came into our family. We do something special to mark the occasion every year, usually on the weekend. Even so, Gen and I had decided we would have a little cake or something to mark the day of. So, off I went to buy a tiny cake. And crusty bread, to go with dinner. And bananas, because the other day they were all not the best looking. And Ice Cream, to go with the cake of course. And $70 later, my quick trip for a cake added to my frustration.

Upon getting home, the awesome dynamics of the day, the hormones, the defiance and my headache all meshed together quite lovely, leading me to abandon everything on my agenda and crawl into bed. (Now, the night before I had another class, with my husband. And I was making a delicious dinner for him and his coworker before hand. And that all went downhill rather quickly causing me to melt down into fits of sobs and why me’s… It was incredibly attractive, I’m sure. Yesterday honestly felt more like a continuation of Tuesday and the same sorts of things.) I made a new recipe last night, which the family loved but I just couldn’t stand the taste. When the cake, later, also sat on my palette flavorless I had to admit I’m headed towards needing to take sick leave, only- PLOT TWIST- no sick leave here! So, I kept trucking. I cleaned the kitchen while the family vegged. I woke up early to take care of other sickies, make tea and distribute meds. Nothing major, except that after three days of what feels like minimal rest, I’m feeling achy and done.

This morning I sit in bed, cup of tea (Wonder Woman cup, no less) with my laptop, two classes of homework and my planner all spread out before me. Laundry will not be put away today. I will only get dressed, in yoga pants, when it is time to go take Gen to work and pick up last-minute ingredients for homemade chicken noodle soup. Here’s the thing though, guilt is weighing on me worse than any 3-4 day headache, back pain or muscle ache. Why haven’t I done this or that, which has been shuffled on my to-do list daily. Why is this basket of unfolded laundry sitting here? What is wrong with me, I never had unfolded laundry! Why can’t I simply take care of these things, there isn’t that much! Why have I managed to watch a collective two hours of The Mindy Project on Hulu?  I have friends who work real, actual paycheck jobs and take care of the house and parent the kids and make it work. What is my issue this week?  Truth? There will always be someone who seems to have their stuff together, someone who manages to juggle it all flawless without a strand of hair out-of-place. I think that up until everything fell apart last fall, I seemed to be that person to a few. It’s not that they were wrong, and it isn’t that I was wrong. It is simply that we can’t compare because we all have different shoes, with different tread and walk on different surfaces of life. Who cares if this girl seems to have it all together, and who cares if that girl clearly doesn’t. Let’s not compare and not compete. Let’s acknowledge that in our genuine authenticness we are women and we are beautiful. What makes us beautiful is not our perfect hair, or flawless skin or our airbrushed appearance makeup application. Each of those things can be nice, but none of them equal beauty. When we are stressed, or tired, or alone- there is no amount of product or shopping which will make us look stunning. We wear this in our posture, in our face and in our reactions toward others. Womanhood is beauty. Period. Womanhood is also meant to be sisterhood, which means we are a community of women knit together to help one another, share burdens and love and make it work because one woman’s success truly is another’s.

I am tired. My head hurts. I don’t feel well at all. My back is killing me and I just feel worn out. There is nothing wrong with me, as woman/wife/mother/writer authentically stating this. We think there is, because it has been heavily implied that we need to appear as though our crap is together 24/7. If we don’t, (and even when we do) we run the great big risk of internet trolls trashing on our photos/posts/tweets. Let the haters hate, it very well may be the only skill they have. This applies to the ones hiding on the internet as well as the snooty women we cross paths with out in the world. I am a woman, with this one shot at life, I think I’ve decided to do it authentically. Behind on laundry, to-do list ignored, fifty loads of dishes per day and my house looking lived in while I plant myself in bed for an hour to watch Catfish– this is authentically me, from time to time. And that is ok…

Sea glass…

photo-1433162653888-a571db5ccccfI have something that has been weighing heavy in my thoughts, which I fully intended to write about this morning. After the unfolding of this weekend though, I find myself unable to go there quite yet… It isn’t that it was a bad weekend. It was a full weekend. A busy weekend. A surprising weekend.

My beautiful seventeen year old began her weekend single, with not only no prospects, but learning to accept herself in that place. Said seventeen year old ended her weekend snuggling on my couch with her boyfriend, whom she met 2 days before in totally cute and bookish/classic movie sort of way. I will not share the story here as it is not mine to share. The part I want to talk about is related, but more so mine.

Friday was kind of a huge day for that part of me which connects my brain and my heart. I’m sure you know the part in which I speak of… Gen and I, (in case you’re new here, I’ll take a second to point out that Gen is, in fact, said seventeen year old.) went to see the Hillsong movie on Friday afternoon. (on the chance that you are not new here, I know that this part in my chain of events will be of no surprise to you.) (sidenote: it’s incredible and you really should go see it.) There were a few things mentioned in the film which really stuck in my brain. The longer those things stayed planted in my thoughts, the more they grew and the more I simply felt WOWED by life, by divine intervention, by…

One of these thoughts was a reassurance that things are not up to us and we can’t control them. To degrees we can, sure. But there are so many things that we can’t, bigger things… Sometimes really beautiful things, like the unexpected pregnancies during the difficult and tumultuous times. Though this is not a place which I have lived in, I have seen this very thing play out in the lives of my sister, my older daughter and many, many friends. It is the sea of big scary unknowns whose waves crash into something amazingly beautiful and life affirming. These out-of-our-hands miracles which we may not have wanted, expected or believed we needed are the bits of life which reflect the brightest.

A darker reality of this same idea comes in the form of child abuse. Child abuse of any nature is unacceptable and never justifiable. Anyone who has been present in our world knows, however, that it is an epidemic reality. Child abuse victims, as they grow, become one of two people. Have you ever really noticed this? Having worked in the industry of broken children (which is, sadly, an industry here in America) for the better part of a decade and a half, I saw it unfold and cycle over and over again. Option one is the bitter, self-centered eternal victim who will always wear the blue-colored glasses aiding them to see themselves as the one wronged eternally. By friends, family, lovers, cable men, creditors, land lords, employers, their own children, etc. We all know these people, the ones with the lifetime of themes of being wronged somehow. The ones who talk on and on about it. Psychologically speaking, this is a pretty interesting way to live. Though we often get frustrated with these sorts, and due to that, they may wind up alone- they are not entirely wrong. Often they either keep themselves so down that they attract users and manipulators. In the times when they haven’t, however, I personally believe they are simply stuck in a rut. Whenever their childhood wounds happened, no one likely advocated for them. Isn’t that all they are doing those 10/20/30 years later- advocating for themselves, in their own minds anyway? The second option, however, comes less naturally. It is the option of bettering yourself, and going on to impact the world for the better, in some way, because your childhood wounds made you stronger. The two options truly are choices… And though the first part is beyond our control (and I do not believe EVER destined to happen) we can decide how we handle it, and who we choose to become.

Both my husband and I were at that crossroads, in our youth. We had to decide which route to take and upon our early days of meeting and getting to know one another, we both spoke the words aloud about how we wanted to provide a home to kids who needed it because that had been done for us. Over the 23 years which have followed, we have been foster parents, been a shelter home, housed teenage runaways, and become the parents of three of the most awesome, not-from-our-womb kids we could have imagined. Our home has also been the temporary home of quite a few young adults who became a part of our little rag-tag family. There is no way we ever could have orchestrated any of that, but we would not change a thing. The absolute ugly of our young lives was turned into the most amazing things in our grown ones. The stormy waves crash, again and again, making something beautiful. It is like the origin of sea glass, or the unearthing of shipwrecked treasures…

Sometimes we simply go to work a little lonely, on a friday night and then wrap up the weekend holding hands with a cute boy on the couch whose path yours likely crossed with many, many times before…

Touch the sky…

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I am going to talk a little bit about worship, but first-  I am pretty in touch with my readers and I am aware that this may turn a few of you off. I hope not. I hope that, in the way you have all been so amazing over the most tumultuous year of my life, you will stick this post out with an open mind. Even if it’s not your thing, please try to understand that I am sharing something personal and not (in any way) trying to preach to you…

Before November 23, of last year, I’d had a lifetime of loving God. That had always been something present and life defining in my adult life. I went through various stages of Christianity. Some of the earlier days looked a lot like the stereotypically shallow version, which seems far more judgmental than loving. I have always (and will continue to be) a work in progress.  I caught on, in my early twenties, to stepping out and thinking for myself rather than following the church current. Due to my history of infertility and sexual abuse, there were a lot of ideas and Christianese sentiments which did not nestle well with the heart I had developed for God. I am not saying a lot of these things don’t work well for others, but in a moment of unabashed frankness I will say that many of those I knew early on who did walk that line are pretty cold people now. It is my personal opinion that being cold and judgmental is not the plan.

Up until the summer of 2015 I really believed I had the God thing figured out. Adoptive parenting, maybe not so much. Being a writer professionally, definitely not. The two things that I was most confident in were my marriage and my faith. If you have been reading here for any amount of time at all, you are well aware that my marriage started to rapidly crumble last fall and fell apart in November.

Rock bottom is sometimes where we need to hit, to grow and be. When I say rock bottom, I want to clarify: when you slam unexpectedly, and life shatteringly hard against the hardest ground imaginable and know in the depths of your being that you cannot pick yourself up. This, for me, was November 23rd. And it looked ugly, and it felt worse. Indescribably worse.

I have, as a Believer in God, never been a fan of Christian music or films. Call me cynical, because that’s really what it was. Prior to my fall, I believed worship music was meant for Sunday service. In that “appropriate” place, I loved me some good worship music. I loved the feeling of getting caught up in praising God. And, at various times in the week, like the good girl I was, I was known to play a worship playlist and spend time with God. Worship music had a time and a place. And then, after months of contemplating suicide, I found myself at my splattered-rock-bottom place and everything I knew and believed was shaken. How does a Godly marriage fall apart? How does a woman who loves Jesus and tries to love others selflessly end up broken and alone? How could I end up in such a place at my age (39)? What could I have done differently? Layers and layers of film were removed from the eyes of my heart. I began to see things as I had never seen them before. Myself. My preconceived notions of what a woman, a wife and a mother should be like. I began to see my motivations in all of their earnestness. It was rough. I did not know how to exist outside of my wifehood and my motherhood, because in those moments I had neither. I had to admit, for the first time, that I was completely incapable of being anything for anyone. This was a hard, hard thing when I had spent my life being that rock for everyone I loved. My rock quality had become slime and I could not allow that mess to stick to others.

Worship is NOT standing in church with others and singing songs. Authentic worship was, I am not kidding, one of the biggest lessons I learned in my climb from my rock bottom hell. It can fit in church singing, at times. It can also be found in the shower, sitting in traffic, shopping, sitting on the beach, listening to music. Worship is NOT singing. Sure, it can be. It can be singing a Christian song, a non-Christian song, your own in-the-moment string of words. It can also come about in meditation, in conversationally talking to God, in writing, in working out, in washing dishes… Worship is stepping outside of self, in gratitude and love (and sometimes various other things) to focus on God. Worship is easily the most personal thing we can do, and debatably one of the most vulnerable. In that way, as a parent, where you can choose whether to think of your huge to-do list while your kids ramble on, or to tune out everything and listen to them. Tuning out everything and focussing on God- THIS is worship. And it took laying there in my metaphorical chalk outline to realize I had never really planted myself in that place. Sure, I’d had snapshots of moments like that. The worship service, Bible study or personal devotion time moments… But to LIVE that way? At the supermarket, at the gym, folding the laundry… This I had never done. Suddenly though, as I processed through these realizations, I knew that I ached to.

You know how I said Christian music hadn’t really been my thing? I LOVE music and have pretty vast taste. If it’s trendy, it’s not usually my taste. And I avoided most Christian music because honestly, the majority of it sounded the same. And then, one morning I am tearfully broken and utterly alone at church (also something new to me, as I had never done the alone-in-church thing*) and we sang this song . The lyrics of this song literally reached inside of my emotional gut and scraped it clean. It was agonizing and healing all rolled into one. Come to find out, it was by Hillsong. Sure, I knew Hillsong. They did Oceans and nearly every American Christian is overly familiar with Oceans and it’s dangerously alluring lyrics. I started listening, and listening, and listening. Praise and Worship music had never been on my music-of-choice radar and suddenly all I wanted, all of the time, was to have Hillsong in my ears. They were the balm my heart was needing as it began to heal. That original song which ripped me apart, to make me better, on that January Sunday morning is called Touch the Sky. It hit me right where I was and gave me the courage to rise and live. In that place I learned what worship would be, for me. I hit the ground, and I found a relationship with God I had never known possible. I am not perfect, I am no better than anyone else. What I am is honest and real. There is no pretense, there is no “putting on a good front” so others remain comfortable and there is no condemnation towards another soul. I’ve had a few Christians whom I respected criticize me for such transparency. I have had more people open up to me, however, (especially through this blog) because I’ve been real.

I know that I’ve talked a fair amount about Hillsong here. I was fortunate to see them twice, this year, and it was life affirming both times. I am now convinced that, if I could have a Hillsong concert, an afternoon on the pacific coast, a girl’s weekend and a night in the city every year, I would be the most well-rounded and peaceful person alive. Since that is not likely to happen, however, I can admit that I am beyond excited for the  film HILLSONG- LET HOPE RISE, releasing this Thursday! Though it wouldn’t be the same, when it’s out on DVD I will be able to watch it every time I need that boost. Also,  I really love this video where Hillsong’s Taya Smith talks about worship… (Also, I TOTALLY dig her retro jacket. #80’s!) Here’s the other reason I really love them… They are authentic. Their lyrics are raw and honest, and their persons are too. Christian or not, that deserves respect in this world.

My Hillsong projects and giveaways have been really personal to me, for the story I’ve shared above. It is on that note that I want to share another! I will be giving away two separate items. One is the soundtrack, and other is a pair of tickets to see HILLSONG- LET HOPE RISE in the theater. To enter to win, simply leave a comment in response to this post OR what worship means to you. (Comments on the Facebook post will also count, alternating in number, with one being here, two there, three here, etc…)

(*during my journey I had a single girlfriend tell me that she was so used to going to church alone that when someone went with her it bothered her. This seemed INSANE to me. I ached for my family and felt their absence screamed loudly at church. Then, the first few Sundays when I went back to church with them beside me I realized I was so distracted. Moral of that story, I guess is, every situation is only ever what we choose to make of it.)

My September Pocketful of Sunshine…

This weekend, as I mentioned yesterday, Gen and I had the opportunity to do a few cool things. Girl’s weekends are kind of great, from time to time. She’s taking a pretty cool photography class and so, on assignment, we ventured off to IKEA so she could get some shots. The photographer in me bloomed with pride when I watched this girl insecurely talk about how she couldn’t find any angles, and she simply can’t do it, when I knew she could. I helped her find her vision for a while and then she was off. She was so into shooting pretty much everything, that she ran her camera battery completely dead and then took over with her phone. Can we say Potential Family Business? *grin*

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After a while, armed only with my phone, I found myself staring at my feet a lot, not knowing what to do.

Complete with ice cream and great Autumn classics like Practical Magic and You’ve Got Mail, our weekend continued in a much-needed cathartic fashion. Honestly I was just grateful for the time with her, and the fluke fact that Gen had the entire weekend off. (this NEVER happens!)

On Sunday, (9/11) we were invited to attend a Tiger’s game. This was a majorly awesome thing for me. I grew up going to local softball and baseball games religiously, and attended a minor league game whenever I had the chance. I’ve kept attending an MLB game at the top of my wish list since I was 16 and all I have to say is, it was worth every ounce of anticipation. I’m not a fan of televised sports. They lack the energy that a live game has, and Sunday did not disappoint. Despite living in Detroit, I have to say the Tiger’s aren’t my favorite, but I could really start to love them. It was so amazing, so thanks to my friend who generously shared her tickets!

The fact that it was 9/11 and they did a beautiful tribute to our local first responders was easily the highlight. Those things always choke me up, and to be there for that and honoring those men & women was a privilege, to say the least.

Top of my Christmas list, this year, will be Mariner’s season tickets for sure. (oh yeah, and I guess a swanky Seattle loft to go along with it.)

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