Raising Magnolias

Because it's never too late for happily ever after…

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Such a Christian Folk

This morning I woke up early and was torn between the calling of more sleep and the calling of a quiet hour.

Quiet before the giggles of grand babies. Quiet before the weird and disturbing sounds of Coulter talking to himself playing night fort . Quiet before you-tube.

Jesus, take the slime.

Quiet before dogs and arguments and hurts and joys.

And garage sales. I’m on a super-secret (not that secret) mission that involves garage sales.

I chose quiet.

I opened my Bible to Isaiah. I love Isaiah because God goes to battle for us. Isaiah reminds us that God goes before us and he’s also our rear God.

Right? He’s got our back.

And I will readily admit, since the hurts of my marriage and divorce, I too often find myself ready for battle.

The verse that jumped off the page (primarily because I’ve underlined it) is “For I will contend with those who contend with you.”

Uhm, yes please.

You know Coulter as my son’s name. It’s also our family name. I come from a long line of strong-willed, well-spoken, intelligent Coulter women.

Combine that with what we call the “Hale temper” and well—

I have trouble remembering that the Lord will contend with those who contend with me.

Blaming my hot temper on my family may seem unfair and perhaps like I’m not taking responsibility for my own actions, but, ya know, I’m OK with that.

 

Yesterday, someone that I once considered a friend posted something I deemed as tasteless and rude and hurtful on Facebook. So, whatever,  I did the only thing a respectable Hale-Coulter woman could do.

I commented.

Simply and sarcastically, I wrote.

“Classy.”

I also cancelled the business we have with them.

And I may have a hot temper, but I’m no hypocrite. When I called to cancel, I gave my name and said,  quite professionally,

“If you’re going to be so ugly to me on Facebook, I’m taking my water business elsewhere.”

Jesus, help me.

It turned into the whole thing and I let other people steal my joy for a whole day.

Ready for a Facebook feud, someone jumped on the feed and posted the definition of the word classy, as if I were somehow unaware of what classy meant.

I knew.

She also referred to me as someone claiming to be “such Christian folk.”

So folksy we are here in Nebraska.

And this is where we miss it.

Being a Christian means I have a savior.

I have a savior because I NEED a savior.

We make mistakes. We over react. We lose our temper. We are too sensitive. We doubt. We believe.

We say, “Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.”

I don’t claim to be Christian folk because I don’t use the word folk.

The 27:17 of our training studio  comes from Proverbs 27:17. “Just as iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens man.”

Iron is not soft. And this sharpening and this transforming and this being made new is not easy work and I get it wrong.

Day.

After

Day.

But Christian, yes. Lover of Jesus, yes.

Every morning I walk into my kitchen with a beautiful reminder on my counter that “His mercies are new every morning.”

This is such good news for Christian folk like me.

Dear Amanda, Christian folks get it wrong all the time. The beauty of our faith, though; the miracle of our faith is that we have a mighty Savior to run to.

He holds. He catches. He forgives. He offers new morning mercies for today and for tomorrow and yes, if I will just remember and let him—

He will contend with those that contend with me.

 

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An Open Letter…

To servicemen. To veterans. To heroes. To NRA supporters. To Walk-Out Critics. To Saturday’s March Critics. To policemen. To teachers. To pastors.

To anyone.

There’s this blog that I sometimes see on Facebook called a view from home or her view from home or the view from home.  Something about a view.

I love that word.

View. Her view. My view. Your view.

We all have our world view and our point of view and and what if we took a moment to see life from a different view.

I spent Saturday driving to Arkansas. Listening to Coulter’s sound track that included “Ice, Ice Baby”, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and Michael Jackson’s “Beat it”.

I sat there wondering where he learned this music.

And how he learned to download stuff.

He’ll be 13 in May, which is to say he’ll be, ya know—six. Maybe 7.

My point is this. I wasn’t marching.

I don’t do marches. I did stand in a receiving line for President Clinton once, just after he was elected. Or maybe he was governor. I don’t remember. My Aunt Ida reached across the ropes, grabbed President or Gov. Clinton by both shoulders and hugged him. He was thrilled to see my Aunt Ida and I don’t mean fake, politician thrilled, I mean thrilled.

“Ida Margaret!” He beamed in that perfect drawl.

She said, “Bill! You remember Myra Katherine, Larry and Cindy’s daughter.”

And I thought, “Lord have mercy she just called him Bill.”

For the record, we visited President Clinton in the Oval office some years later and she did it again. She called him Bill.

In the Oval.

Dang. I loved that woman.

I forgot what I was talking about.

Oh. Marches. I don’t do them. Or Big events. Or any event where I have to stand in line. Or any event in which my celebrity status as Larry and Cindy’s daughter isn’t known. Walk-outs. Rope-lines. I’d rather stay home.

Staying home is the new going out, in case you didn’t know.

Kind of like kick-ass strong is the new skinny.

But Praise our sweet Jesus that our veterans did not stay home. 

The marched. They fought. The sacrificed.

Ok so here’s my question. And not a sarcastic question like when I’m being snarky and opinionated. A personal trainer recently bragged that she owned the studio where she trained out of, as if renting a space somehow makes you less of a trainer and I wanted to say, “How wonderful! Congratulations! When did you buy the building from your parents?”

But I didn’t. Because I love Jesus.

And I only mention now,  as an example that I can be quite snarky.

But this. This question comes from a place of humility and sincerity.

Did you fight simply for the right to bear arms or did you bear arms to fight for the freedom to stage a peaceful protest.

Did you fight simply for the NRA or did you fight for Americans.

I never fought for our country. But when I stand for the flag and when I sing of this “land of sweet liberty” and when I try to imagine from the soldiers’ point of view, I can hardly imagine what it was like to see that “the flag was still there.”

Our flag.

Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that “patriotism means to stand by your country. It does not mean to stand by your President.”

Patriotism means to stand by your country. And just like Churches are not the buildings but the people. Our country is not simply borders and land.

It is the people.

I’m raising my children in small-town, Nebraska where people watch the Cornhuskers on Saturday, go to church on Sundays, and conceal and carry on Monday.

But that’s my view from home. What about theirs?

The kids who spoke on Saturday have their own view. And they’re looking through very dark and tear-stained lenses.

Is it un-patriotic to share their stories? Is it unpatriotic to ask for better? Is it unpatriotic to want to be heard?

Summer vacations for the Hale family always meant reading or learning or memorizing or something educational. A hazard of being the daughter and granddaughter of teachers.

We were driving to my sister to baton-twirling’s camp.

Is that even a thing? Maybe it was band camp.

Anyway. That was our vacation.

She had to memorize the preamble to the Constitution.

Which meant we all had to memorize the preamble to the Constitution.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice. Insure Domestic Tranquility….”

Are we doing that? Are we doing our best to insure domestic tranquility?

Do we still “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I absolutely support the second amendment and I’d carry a gun myself if I wasn’t afraid that I’d accidentally shoot off my toe.

Or my ex-husband. Accidentally.

Y’all. That was a joke.

Seriously, when are people going to figure out that I’m actually quite funny.

I don’t understand why Hollywood isn’t calling.

Anyway, I’ve spent all afternoon on all these history sights trying to educate myself so that I could better articulate, but y’all know what keeps coming to my mind?

An American President.

President Shepherd.

The fictional president that I wish was the real president because seriously.

He’s cute.

Anyway, unable to find all the words I’m looking for today, I’ll steal a few from Michael Douglas.

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

Try looking through a different pair lens this week. Try their view from home.

And Veterans. Thank you for the sacrifices you made to give us “the land of the free and home of the brave.”

 

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a roundtable discussion on originalism.  I had no idea what this meant and it was hard to concentrate because this one man was chomping his ice.

I do not have the emotional capacity for this. Praise Jesus I don’t “conceal and carry” because while I’m confident I wouldn’t have shot him, I might have been tempted to hit him over the head just to shush the chomping.

It’s empty. For the love, man, just order another iced tea.

Anyway.

If I’m running for president I should surely understand this big word, so I read several articles online.

One.

I read one article.

Most of it.

It quickly occurred to me that no-one truly knows, but the idea is that it would cause judges to better separate law from their own personal beliefs.

But it sounds more like a way to “politicize” judicial races in favor of conservatives.

But I’m not a lawyer so I can’t say for sure.

Anyway. The Constitution.

I can’t help but think that in our forefathers’ wildest and most horrific nightmares, they could never have foreseen how we would interpret our right to bear arms.

Back in the day, people had duels.  Best I can figure, we don’t do that anymore.

Yesterday on Facebook, a high school classmate wrote, and I quote, “you can keep your Q*eers and we’ll keep our guns and flag and churches.”

What the What?

First of all, totally watering down his argument since I’m pretty sure we can all agree that homosexuals have nothing to do with the right to bear arms. Second of all, he used hate speech (freedom of speech, also a constitutional issue. I’m so smart to remember that) that is so horrific, he wouldn’t even spell it out.

Seriously. If you are going to call someone that you disagree with a queer, man-up dude and at least spell it out.

And then re-read your sentence. You’re going to keep your flags and churches? Uhm, Ok. Also, not a gun issue.

One argument that makes sense to me is that criminals are going to find a way around the law and get their hands on guns anyway.

My Grandmother Pearl used to say that “you can’t legislate morality”.

Which I believe to be true.

So let’s use that same argument for the Pro-life movement. If we reverse Roe v. Wade (i’m starting to feel like I actually went to law school) doesn’t the same hold true?

Women who want an abortion will find a way?

But couldn’t we make it harder?

Couldn’t we make it harder to shoot up a classroom of children?

With the brilliant minds that penned (fancy-word alert) our constitution, and the brilliant minds that exist today, couldn’t we find a way?

To make it harder.

I don’t know. I’m not one of the brilliant minds of today, so I’m only asking questions. I just find it weird (and maybe a little bit lazy) how we shape the argument to fit our opinions.

What if we shaped the argument to fit our faith.

What if we re-shaped the argument into a conversation.

Into an opportunity. To be heard.

When we were growing up, my family of five had a square table. My brother and I had to share one side. I’ll never forget when we got a round table. We all fit. Such a little thing but I remember being so excited.

What if, instead of sitting on opposite sides of a square table, we joined together.

In a circle.

There’s this wonderful book about written by Mark Batterson called “The Circle Maker”. The story goes that this man drew a circle in the sand during a drought and cried out to the Lord for rain. The man refused to leave the circle until God sent rain.

What if we refused to leave the circle. Until —

Until we find a way to shape the next generation of youth by sharing the Gospel of Jesus and offering them hope instead of guns.

Criminals will get guns and frightened young women will get back-alley abortions? Really?  And what if we don’t settle.

For that.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face..”

God, teach me how to humble myself and pray and seek your face.

I don’t have the answer. But since I’m running for President, I think I better start looking for one.

 

 

 

 

Action > Opinions

Last week a very dear friend of a very dear friend, went into acute liver failure and almost died. Doctors discovered a brain tumor. Friends gathered around her bedside praying for a miracle, but preparing for a funeral.

Doctors acted immediately. And the Lord was gracious in delivering a miracle.

After successfully removing the tumor, my friend’s friend is home.

I followed this story closely. So encouraged by the outpouring of faith. Hands up, hands-on praying over and around and through and believing that there is healing in the name of Jesus.

Also last week, I saw a Facebook post following the Florida shooting, that said, “Now is not the time for this discussion. People are mourning.”

And I thought about my friend’s friend. And I thought, what if the doctors had said,

“She’s very ill. Now is not the time for this discussion. The time for surgery. The time for healing.”

If you don’t talk about healing during the sickness, then when?

This morning, I read a rambling, random post about loving and not hating and can’t we all just get along and I thought, well.

Duh.

But what about actions over opinions?

If you don’t want to limit access to assault weapons, then what are you doing to care for the mentally ill?

If you are in favor of  gun-control, then what are you doing to make that happen? Are you calling your representatives? Or shouting on Facebook?

We have a right to bear arms, yes-and-but, God gave us dominion over animals.

Not people.

Recently I joked about the empty chairs at my empty table during my book signing in Omaha. A lady walked by and said that she was opposite of me.

I knew exactly what she meant, but it’s way more fun to pretend that I didn’t.

To pretend that she was Mrs. Nebraska instead of Miss or that she never honks in the carpool line (liar!) or that she never forgets to pick up her children from school.

“Pearl” has been out for almost 6 months and for the first time, a friend asked me what I meant by being “politically liberal, socially conservative” as my subtitle reads.

I suspect the reason I wasn’t asked sooner, is a) my friends already understand or b) my friends think that I don’t really understand.

What that means.

But I do.

Mostly.

It means that I’m pro-life.

For all of one’s life.

For every life.

For the entirety of life.

From womb to grave. For. Life.

Neither party, if you align yourself fully supports this idea.

So I don’t.

Is pro-life just about having a baby or caring for all babies.

Is pro-life just anti-abortion or is it ensuring that hate-filled, mentally-ill people don’t have access to assault weapons created for military combat?

Is life only valuable at the point of conception or is being pro-life supporting programs that offer assistance to the under-resourced, supporting single-mothers and inviting them to sit next to us at church.

Valuing their life.

For all of their life.

God’s Word says that we were knit together in the womb, created in His likeness.

I took fertility drugs to conceive Coulter and we had an ultra-sound at 8 weeks.

I heard his heartbeat.

Of all the music, and theatre and laughter and stories and all the beautiful sounds that my ears have known, nothing.

Nothing.

Compares.

To the sound of life.

But being a one-issue voter will never work unless the candidate is pro-life for all lives, for all of their lives.

I fall into the socially conservative because I believe that pregnancies are not about a women’s body, but rather about a Mother’s baby. And I fall in the politically liberal because I believe gun-control is not about a hunter’s right to hunt or a man’s right to protect himself, rather it’s about a Mother’s baby. It’s about her right to send her baby to school without fear of being hunted.

Like an animal.

Conception is life. Babies have a right to be born. That is pro-life. So don’t those same babies have the right to feel safe at school? Isn’t that, too, pro-life?

So see, I don’t fit.

And I’m tired of trying.

And I’m tired of explaining hate to my children.

I’m running for President on the pro-life-for-all-of-their-life-for-every-life-because-we-are-all-created-in-the-image-of-the-most-high-God platform.

For what does the Lord require of us, but to do justly, and love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

 

Rest. It’s Part of the Program.

I love naps.

All kinds of naps.

I don’t mean to boast, but I’m actually quite gifted at napping.

Short, power naps.

Long, hibernating-like-a-bear naps.

Those sleepy hours just after lunch.

Or, 10:30 a.m.

What? Sometimes I eat lunch early.

At night, conditions for sleep must be perfect. Sound machine. Total Darkness. Temp at 68 degrees, exactly.

During the day, the dogs can be barking, children bickering and I can have a spotlight aimed right at my face and if it’s 2:00, I can nap.

Strangely neither of my kids liked to nap.

As some kind of not-even-funny joke from the Lord, Coulter quit napping at 2.

I still have nightmares of Barney singing in my dreams because a 30 minute DVD was my only hope for a nap.

He also didn’t sleep through the night until he was 2.

This, obviously, not my fault. Some mothers are just more prone to camping out in a crib, curled up in a pretzel from which my back has never recovered, than others.

In our culture of go-ness, naps are considered lazy.

But I have one word for you.

Italy.

Siesta.

Ok that’s two words.

Is siesta Italian?

One of our trainers used to say, “Rest. It’s part of the program.”

And it is.IMG_3518

God, in his infinite wisdom created a 6-1 pattern of rest when he created us.

Rest. It’s part of the program.

We’re all wired differently. I get that. There’s the “I will rest in the nursing home” group and the “I will rest at 2” group.

For the record, I’m in good company. Margaret Thatcher (although apparently she only slept 4 hours each night so maybe not a good example), Eleanor Roosevelt, President Bush (the first one), Albert Einstein, J.F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton.

Hmm. Seems my fellow nappers are mostly in politics.

Maybe I really should run for president.

My campaign slogan:

“Get over yourselves and just be nice already.”

Kinda catchy, don’t you think?

As a mom, I’m already very good at saying it. I’ve nailed the tone and inflection and I’m sure that America would listen.

Speaking of bickering children have you seen that idea on Pinterest where you put two bickering kiddos in one t-shirt until they can get along.

Well. Here’s what I’m thinking. The next time our elected officials act like children and threaten to shut down the government, I say let’s put ’em in a t-shirt.

Opposing sides must wear a single shirt until they can come to a compromise.

Seriously. My platform is getting stronger every day.

Maybe they’re all just tired. And cranky. They need naps.

And Jesus.

Maybe you’re not a napper. Maybe a cup of tea and a good book. Whatever it is, remember that even our Almighty Father rested.

Are you tired?

Rest. It’s part of the program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaker.

My ex-husband used to think it was weird for people to call themselves comedians. He believed that it was up to the audience to decide if they were funny. Basically, if you were a bank teller, you could call yourself as such, but if you make people laugh for a living, you need to let other people decided if you are, in fact, a comedian.

I am a writer. I’ve always been a writer but it’s more official now that I’m on Amazon.

BTW, my book is on sale for $13 right now. I’m not exactly sure why. These things just happen.

I’m also a speaker. But much like the comedian it’s complicated.

Women are invited to speak all the time. They are speakers.

Inspirational speakers. Motivational speakers. Christian Speakers.

But if you just up and decide one day that you’re going to become a speaker, people respond kinda funny.

Like, what are you gonna say?

The first time I knew I was good at public speaking was a last-minute emcee gig for a local pageant. I was in college.

My sorority sister, Courtney looked at me. Stared me straight in the eyes and said, “What ever you do, don’t try to be funny. That’s the absolute worst.”

So when people started laughing I knew I was in trouble.

But I wasn’t trying. And I’ll never know for sure if they were laughing with me or at me.

At my book signing over Christmas, my High School creative writing teacher was referring to my book and said, in passing,  she didn’t realize I had ADD.

I only mention this because I didn’t either and yet it explains so.

Very.

Much.

I’ve scheduled three speaking engagements.

The first, at my own church. I presented a proposal and they said yes.

There was controversy over my use of the phrase “what the hell?” but I can be very controversial like that.

The second engagement was my Sioux Falls church. We laughed. We cried. We worshiped.

The third engagement was supposed to be Sunday. Yesterday. When I was driving back from our family vacation.

Did I mention the undiagnosed ADD?

For the record, I let them know the second I realized my mistake and also for the record,  it wasn’t really my fault.

As you know, nothing rarely is.

It goes like this:

We take a family vacation in January. The kids are with their dad all summer and family vacations are difficult.

Ya know, since it would be awkward to bring their dad along.

My step-son, in his wisdom and maturity suggested that we should take it over Christmas when everyone is already on vacation and out-of-school and while this is a very good idea, it will never happen.

I’m allergic to going places on holidays where it’s very people-y.

 

Usually it’s the last weekend in January but apparently the last year in January is also Lutheran school’s week and there was considerable drama over a missed spelling bee.

She will never again have the opportunity to be the 2nd grade spelling bee champion.

So when I agreed to the speaking gig, my head was remembering a vacation a week later.

Because, duh! We moved it up a week. No missed opportunities this year!

And then, because this is my life, it got moved to February.

The spelling bee.

Any who.

Speaking engagements.

A.D.D.

After the event in Sioux Falls, several women came up to me and said the exact same four words.

“That was my story.”

“That was my life.”

I sat down with one woman. She was crying. I invented the ugly cry, so I can just go ahead and tell you.

It was ugly.

On her beautiful face.

I listened. I prayed. I ached.

As I was leaving, a dear friend said, “You’ve found what you’re supposed to do.”

Yes! I totally have. Like, for real.

Totally.

My story. I didn’t live it to just bury it. Bottle it. Store it away. What a horrific waste! I lived it to share it.

I know there are women who need to hear it.

Who want to hear it.

Who want to hear that they are not alone.

I can’t call myself a comedian because I was married to my ex-husband for fifteen years and it just feels wrong. But I can tell you that I’ll have you laughing.

And I can’t call myself a speaker because apparently it takes more that 2 actual speaking engagements and one failed speaking engagement to make that true, but I can tell you that I’m a good story teller and bless my heart, has our dear Lord ever given me some stories to tell.

And so I will bless your heart and you will bless my heart and we’ll tell our stories and we’ll tell our truth and we won’t be quiet or proper or precious.

Well, maybe a little bit precious.

Originally, I thought I’d schedule a speaking tour to promote Pearl. What I know now is that I’m scheduling a speaking tour to promote

Him.

Here are the details:

1. I’m funny.

It’s rarely on purpose.

2. I have undiagnosed ADD so I will occasionally lose my train of thought, and that’s when you’ll get a very special, and unplanned pearl.

The kind that if my Mother were there, she’d be like “dear baby Jesus, I cannot believe she just said that.”

Like when I accidentally shared in my book that I don’t wear panties.

3. My filter is broken and I have no desire to fix it. You’ll get the truth.

4. I love Jesus.

5. I love Bill Clinton. There are people in this world that love Jesus and Bill Clinton. You need to know that.

6. I’m considering running for president. Mainly, because. Well. Why not?

7. I’m free. As in there is not cost. Which sadly reminds me of the southern term, “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” which I’m fairly certain was the south-of-the-dixon-line-way of telling us not to give away.

Ya know—our milk.

And for the record, I didn’t. 🙂

Anyway, I will not be charging for my events. At least for now. At least until other people start calling me a speaker.

Until Jen Hatmaker calls and asks me to go on tour.

8. I will travel. I will travel to different states. To tiny towns. To your town. To all the towns sharing my love of Jesus and wearing my Bill Clinton for governor t-shirt. My husband will be wearing his “my wife rocks” t-shirt because.

Well. He loves me.

I’m kidding about the Bill Clinton t-shirt, although I do still have it.

I’m not kidding about the “my wife rocks” t-shirt. We waited in line for like an hour after Kirk Cameron told me all I needed to save my (already failed) marriage was to quit watching porn.

Or maybe it was the man that was watching porn. And there was a love dare and I dare you to try it and not lose your mind.

9. I will talk about marriage and divorce in and outside of the church and I’ll get on my pulpit and make sure that our sisters feel loved and supported and that the womens’ hospitality committees far and wide add “bringing casseroles to women going through divorce” to their list.

Sally J. broke her ring finger on her non-dominate hand and we had email sign-ups for days. Who can cook for Sally, the committee pleaded?

For the love.  Can she not just stir with the other hand?

I am a terrible person.

10. I will tell of Him. I will sing his praises. Literally. I sing too. I know, right? This just gets better and better.

But I’m usually better if someone sings with me.

Divorce statistics are the same inside and outside the church.

We need to make marriage great again.

Sorry, that was me being terrible.

Again.

Dang it, I can’t stop.

We need to allow hurting women to tell the truth.

So. Ya know what?

That’s what I’m going to do.

To book this non-comedian, not-yet-speaker to your church, women’s event, community event, rodeo, pie-eating-contest, wait—

Please email myra.katherine@yahoo.com

Or shout-out on Facebook.

And I will make this promise.

God will be glorified. Fo great things he has done.

 

 

 

 

Season of Love.

When I was younger I loved December magazine issues.

People. Time. Cosmopolitan.

Yes, I read Time Magazine.

Well, I did.

And I loved going through the top-ten lists, remembering the big stories, the big movies, the big whigs and the big deals.

I loved reading about other people’s lives.

I don’t remember making a conscious choice to quit. Maybe it was becoming a mother and giving up small luxuries like reading and being informed.

Maybe it was becoming a single mother and giving up small luxuries like magazines.

Maybe it was simply becoming. My becoming.

My no longer needing to remember what other people had done. Had worn. Had said.

Maybe I started caring about my own life more than others.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe I was just tired.

But for whatever reason, I stopped.

I also stopped making resolutions.

And for a while I stopped hoping. For different. For better.

For anything.

In 2011 I heard a woman on the radio encouraging her listeners to ditch resolutions and, instead, choose a word.

One word. I can do one word, I thought. And immediately the most random of dancing words popped into my head.

Illumination.

What in the actual heck.

By the way, this was well before the one-word revolution. Before everyone was doing it.

Basically, I started this entire movement. Me and my illuminating.

It’s kind of like when Al Gore invented the internet.

Or not.

Anyway. Be careful with your word. I became far more illuminated then I ever cared to be. And once you’ve seen the light—

Well.

The problem is now it’s popular and I don’t want a word.

I want to go back to resolutions.

Being resolute.

Resolving not to be better, but to do better.

Not to become healthier but wealthier.

That was a joke. I like rhyming.

And money.

The challenge with resolutions is the hot pressure we put on ourselves to change.

Speaking of hot pressure. Insta-pot. Yes? No?

Yesterday I made a huge pot of soup. It’s soup weather. Cold.

Crazy cold.

The kind of cold that freezes your garage door shut, and results in completely un-helpful outbursts blaming your ex-husband for the weather.

I was so excited for our soup. Probably more excited than one should get about soup but whatever.

I lift the lid. No steam. And that’s when I see it.

Apparently, you must plug-in your slow cookers for them to work.

And that’s the thing with resolutions. I could make a resolution to plug things in.

To put my keys in the same place everyday.

To be less ditzy.

Less blonde.

What? It’s real.

Well, the woman who paints on the bleach is real and that’s practically the same thing.

But here’s the thing. In 2018 I’m not going to miraculously become less “me.” More, you. I’m not going to magically quit doing stupid things like simmering soup on “off” or forgetting to feed my children (seriously? Every day!) or getting my car stuck in the garage.

Y’all. It was stuck. I thought we were going to have to tear the garage down. I panicked. There was an emotional outburst and then there were tears and here’s a bit of advice.

Measure your garage before you buy a car.

Measuring ping-pong tables,  also helpful.

 

But measuring your life next to others.  We gotta stop that —insert bad word—!

Measuring your life against pages in a magazine, pictures on instagram, well again. We gotta stop that.

One of my favorite ever, ever, ever Broadway songs, cries, how do we measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.

In inches, in miles, in laughter and strife.

In truths that we learned. Bridges burned.

Hearts turned.

What if?

Today is our 3rd anniversary.  Blended family years are calculated differently so technically it’s more like 23.

Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.

Times Three. Times 23.

And as I reflect on the magazine that is our life here’s what I see.

Year one. I don’t measure up. This is the worst mistake in the history of the world and we are idiots.

Year two. I don’t measure up. But this probably isn’t the worst mistake in the history of the world and maybe we aren’t idiots.

Year three. Who I am trying to measure myself against? For whatever reason, I think this man loves me. In spite of, because of, and ya know, I think I’m the smartest person in the history of the world for saying yes.

My prayer for you in 2018 is that you stop measuring yourself against the world and start measuring in love instead.

And that you will pour a heaping measuring cup of some of that stuff on yourself as well!

Flannery O’Conner is quoted as saying she writes because she doesn’t know what she thinks until she reads what she writes.

Yes. I write because I don’t know what to think until I read what I’ve written.

Measure. That’s my word.

Love. That’s my verb.

This hard mess of a life?

Superb.

(Did you know that you can google words that rhyme with verb? I know!—

Absurd!)

Dang. So precious. And naive. And full-on crazy. But, oh! If you could’ve measured my heart that day—

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Strength. Beauty. Powerlifting.

I turned around to hear this sound.

“UUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHH”

Deep. Guttural.

Truth be told, I thought she’d placed an F before the UUUUU.

It was loud.

And strong.

And it startled me.

She was 14. There was no F.

She was not petite. She was not dainty. She was strong. And there was this sparkle in her eyes that seemed to say, “I’ve got this”

And she did.

In contrast.

There was me.

I peeked my head out from behind the curtain, every bit as nervous as any Miss America stage, wondering if it was time. If the judges were ready.

You have one minute to complete your lift from the time your name is called and I was unsure.

Was the bar loaded?

Was I ready?

As my friend Niki said, I don’t really remember saying yes to this.

I mean I remember talking everyone else into this—just not myself.

A flash of my parents crossed my mind. Good grief. I don’t think I told my parents. How do you forget to tell your parents.

Powerlifting.

What in the actual hale.

Coulter videotaped my squat. I giggled as I watched. You can take the girl out of pageants, but Lord-a-Mercy,  you cannot take the pageant out of the girl.

I  walked out on that platform as if getting ready to play a Chopin Waltz for my talent. I think I expected applause.

It was quiet.

I have never before walked onto a stage without applause.

This was unsettling.

Didn’t they see my cute pink belt?

Why was no-one clapping.

Nevertheless.

I glided up to that squat rack. Well, not glided.

More like prissed.

Which I don’t think is a word. But I did. Somehow I looked very prissy.

It wasn’t my finest moment.

Maybe I’ll post it.

Probably not.

My first attempt was good. Three white lights.

My second attempt was good. Three white lights.

My third attempt was no good. Two red lights and One white.

No lift.

But.

As I was coming up from the lift, coming up from the squat, the spotter on the left said to me, “Nice grind.”

He was impressed.

Y’all. This is when I knew, this was not the Miss America stage. There are no chopin waltzes on this platform and these judges are not impressed that my belt, shirt and socks all match.

Matching was thanks to my friend Nancy, who, for the record, lifted crazy amounts of weight wearing red lipstick.

She knows the important things.

She always has on lipstick and if I’m going anywhere important, rather, anywhere that I want to look prettier than the previous Mrs. Pruss, she reminds me to put on my lipstick.

But when I heard him say, “Nice Grind”, y’all! I wasn’t horrified.

Which was a little horrifying.

Who tells a 45-year-old-woman “Nice Grind?!”

Grinding is not ladylike. Grinding is not sweet. Southern Belles turned Midwest mommas do.

Not.

Grind.

And yet.

I did.

Evidently, nicely.

Because I can do hard things.

And  match pretty in pink while doing it.

 

Behind the curtain there were large television screens.

My name comes up first each time.

Because I’m awesome like that.

I’m not awesome like that.

I was lifting the least amount of weight. That’s who starts first.

There are so many rules. You have to wear socks. Your socks can’t go above your knees. You have to wear a crew neck t-shirt and it can’t be drifit or compression or slick in anyway.

However, if you’d like to take off your shirt before deadlifting. No problem.

What the what?

Also. You can’t move your feet after they say squat. After they say squat you can only squat.

And grind.

You have to wear a singlet. Which is the grown-up onesie.

These are not the kind currently for sale at Victoria Secret.

Jesus, forgive us.

Your hands can’t go beyond this little silver ring on the bench press bar. And you’re heels can’t come off the floor. Even a tiny portion.

You have to give your weights in kilograms. Since I went to fake medical school, you’d think I’d be good at converting pounds to kilograms but surprisingly, I’m not.

I gave them my opening bench number.

65.

Later I see my name way far down on the list. I should be first. Why am I so far down on the list.

That’s when I see it. 65 kilograms.

You do the math. And even if you know nothing about strength training you can figure out pretty quickly that anyone who plans to bench press 65 pounds can no where in the history of the world bench press 65 kilograms.

I had 3 minutes to change my number.

That’s the rule.

You have to lock your knees and present your shoulders and y’all.

With the rules.

But here’s the thing.

I love the rules.

The rules are freeing.

There are weight categories. And age categories and open and raw and I have like no idea in all of this sweet world, what all they mean or what they’re all for but I like them.

I like knowing what I have to do to get a white light.

I wish there were white lights in parenting.

Ya know, like when you nail it, Jesus just flashes three white lights in the corner! Way to go! Good parenting moment!

That would not at all be weird or creepy.

I love lights. I need lights.

Side note: The lights need to match. Like a theme….all white or all colored or all twinkle or something, but not all of everything.

Not all of the things.

Not all of the lights.

For the love.

Later we won trophies. And once again I felt like a princess. I love trophies.

I love winning.

I love seeing my girls winning with trophies.

They are gold and shiny and big.

I may have been obnoxious in my celebrations. Possibly.

I’m not sure.

I remember a very quiet auditorium and a very loud “Woo Hoo!”

I may have been happy about winning.

I won second place in my very first powerlifting competition.  Let’s forget—for just one moment—that there were only two of us in my weight category and focus on the trophy.

Whatevs.

My sisters and I.

We came.

We did hard things.

We went 500 flippin’ miles, and many tight singlets, beyond our comfort zone.

We left with shiny hardware.

(Granted, it’s not the Miss America crown and granted, I can’t wear it on my head.

Maybe. I suppose. If I…

No.)

I’ve already ordered pink knee sleeves for the April meet. I think that will help complete my ensemble.

 

No big life lessons today y’all.  It’s Wednesday. Feels like Monday. Emma Claire woke up sick, Coulter forgot his math homework. I helicoptered and took it to school because yes, that’s what moms do. My husband’s out of town and I stared at the celling fan from 1 a.m util 4 wondering why people cheat and leave and lie. I wondered weird things. And thought about hard things.

It’s Wednesday and it feels like Monday and it’s so peoplely out there and the hats that I wear, the mom and the wife and the trainer and the coach and the writer and the daughter and the stepmother and the boss, well the hats have fallen off.

They are in a heaping pile on the floor. I can’t remember which one to pick up.

So today I thought I’d write about winning.

And trophies.

And figuring out a way to wear my trophy on my head.

Like a crown.

It’s prettier than a hat, anyway.

 

 

 

The Most Wonderful Time? Really?

I love Christmas.

I love lights and decorations and red balls. I love fresh greenery and I love baby Jesus and grown-up Jesus and I love all things Christmas.

And I love singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

But no where in my home will you find those words because what I learned during my time in the fire—my time in the middle of the wilderness—is that this is not, in fact, always, for all people the most wonderful time.

Made all the worse by the idea that it should be wonderful.

The most wonderful.

But what if it’s not? And that’s OK.

What if empty chairs fill empty tables.

What if expectations of Santa’s sleigh bag don’t match expectations of this month’s paycheck.

What if it’s good and hard and festive and hard and merry and, yet.

Still hard.

What if it’s beautiful to celebrate the arrival of a Savior but that it’s not a wonderful time.

Here. Now.

For me, it is. Now. Today. But I can remember not so far off  and so I pass by these humans. Their eyes sparkly and sad and knowing and longing and I wonder for them—

Is this time wonderful?

Jesus is. But is this time?

Turn on the news.

I quit watching the news in the summer of 2008. Coulter had just been born.

Wait. That was 2005. Jingle Bells! I haven’t watched the news in over ten years.

I’m really OK with that. Coulter gets to watch CNN student news at school and is currently working on bettering his Donald Trump impersonation so we’re good.

What would happen if I did turn it on? Would our President be goading Russia (is that a word? ya know, like what Coulter does to Emma Claire to make her mad?) or tweeting about football players kneeling during the anthem.

I think the bigger issue is not that they stood or kneeled but that our President has time to tweet about it.

Football players. Hello, people. Not. The most wonderful time.

And for the record I stand. And I sing. Loudly. For all the world to hear.

Elf.

What would happen? If I turned on the news? Would I hear that a journalist I began almost every morning with, for 10 plus years, had dropped his pants for a colleague.

Men. Here’s a word. Gross. Take for just a second that this is not assault (which it is), and just hear this word.

We are not visual. And you are gross.

And I haven’t eaten for a week at the thought of Charlie Rose exposing himself to women expecting to interview with a revered journalist.

Shame on them for expecting that he’d have his pants on.

Men. Gross.

Not a wonderful time.

And it’s not really Charlie. I’m not currently eating because the singlet I purchased to wear in our super-strong-awesome power-lifting competition came out of the box looking like a singlet for an 18-month old. It might fit Emma Claire.

Apparently it stretches.

Anyway. I don’t watch the news.

And for the record, I’m not really on Facebook anymore. 😉

So I’m decorating with the red balls and fresh greenery and I’m celebrating but something is missing. I wanted a print with a cute little saying. I went to 5 different stores looking. Searching. I even went to the uber-uber-uber Donald Trump lover’s cute little boutique and was willing to give them my money if they only had that missing piece.

Nothing.

I go to my friend and ask her to create what’s missing. “I want it to read, ‘A savior is born.'”

“Ok,” she responds. “Becky wants something that says, ‘A weary world rejoices.'” And I stop in my tracks.

Yes. That’s it.

Becky will not at all be surprised that I’ve copied her. I’m fancy-fancy like that.

For the Love.

A weary world rejoices. Fall on our knees.

In humility.

In grief.

In confession.

In awe and praise.

And know that this is precisely why He came.

So that a weary world might rejoice.

It may not be the most wonderful time of your year. You may not even like red balls or fresh greenery or the movie Elf.

Bless your heart.

But for you, Jesus came. For our weary souls. He came.

Rejoicing is different than being happy.

Rejoicing is soul. Rejoicing is spirit.

Rejoicing says, my heart is weary but I celebrate anyway.

Yes. That’s it. Weary, weary friends. Rejoice. A savior is coming.

 

 

 

Expectations

Ann Voskamp says that “expectations kill relationships.”

The first time I read that I thought it was the stupidest thing ever.

Stupidest? Most stupid?

5 years later, not quite so stupid. I’ve seen the deaths.

I’ve felt them.

Just weeks ago, I saw a friend’s Facebook post that read, “unspoken expectations lead to resentment.”

Not so stupid after all.

I only mention it came from his Facebook feed, because unlike the rest of the world, apparently, I’m still “on Facebook”.

That’s my favorite thing these days. “Ya know, honestly, I’m just not on Facebook anymore.”

Honestly? Really? Then how did I know you’re dog’s been sick for the last two weeks and you have a new hamster named Rambo and that you had mac-n-cheese for dinner?

Evidently, not from Facebook.

I digress.

I see this. Unspoken expectations.

I have very high exceptions. For myself. For others.

For you.

But I’d like for you to figure them out on your own.

I don’t want to have to tell you.

Unspoken.

Thank you very much.

Sometimes these expectations are reasonable. I expect that if you have a driver’s license you know how to count the number of stops at a 4-way. Imagine my disappointment over this.

I expect that if you vow to forsake all others, that you will—well, again—you can imagine.

I expect my children to be respectful and kind and keep their rooms clean.

Well, at least the respectful and kind part.

I expect my husband to do all the hard stuff that I don’t want to do.

That’s the Biblical approach. 😉

This morning I was supposed to take Emma Claire’s red sweater to her dad’s so that he could he could make sure it was clean and ready for their family Thanksgiving.

Surprisingly, as I never forget anything, I forgot. Emma Claire walked out of her dad’s house, (which, of course is also their house, but I can’t bring myself to say that so I simply refer to it as “Teakwood” and our home, is ya know, home-home. ) This is not entirely a bad thing. Teakwood sounds very stately, kind of like Southfork Ranch on Dallas.

So, really, it’s a compliment. And a slight insecurity on my part.

Whatev-s.

(In case you were unaware, that’s what the kids are saying now. Apparently the “er” of whatever proves too difficult.)

Anywho—

I forgot the sweater. Emma Claire turned to her dad with this look that said, “Yup. Just as we expected.”

She got into the car and said, “Dad wasn’t really surprised.”

Just trying to meet expectations.

I said to Emma Claire, “as it turns out, your mom also knows how to do laundry.”

Mike smiled.

“OK, Mike knows how to do laundry. What-evs Regardless, the red sweater will be ready.”

Because, again, with the hard stuff.

Laundry. Men. Galatians. Look it up.

Last December I promoted a “night owls”  class at our training studio.  Four nights a week for 4 weeks to help stay on track during the holidays. I never expected for it to last past December.

Primarily because I’m not a night owl.

Or an early bird. I’m like a mid-morning Peacock.

I rock the mid-morning.

But the night owls persisted and what I learned is that when you commit in December, when your new year’s resolution starts in December, you are ready.

Ready to show up and do hard things.

Actually that’s redundant.

Or maybe an oxymoron. I can’t remember. But showing up is the hard thing.

Several weeks ago, I went to see Jen Hatmaker speak and she told this beautiful story about sister Elephants.

When a female elephant is alone in the wild, she is either injured or giving birth. Her sister elephants surround her and kick up dirt and protect her. If giving birth, afterward, the sisters turn to the wild and they trumpet her news. In part out of protection.

In whole, to celebrate.

This group of women showing up and doing hard things led to other groups of women showing up and doing hard things and even more other groups of women showing up and doing hard things, and I imagine their influence ripples far past our small little tribe and tonight this strong group of night owls, will be celebrating.

I asked them each to bring an elephant gift.

Not a white-elephant.

An actual elephant.

Because over the past year I’ve watched them circle and kick up dirt. Circle around a teacher who was being bullied by a parent, circle around a friend whose husband looked for meaningful work, circle around  a worried mom, a proud mom, a desperate mom. I’ve watched them show up and lift heavy weights and leave behind even heavier. I’ve watched them kick up dirt in protection of their tribe.

And I watched them trumpet. A half-marathon, a performing daughter, a new p.r., a new job, successes at work, triumps at home.

A new book. A new author.

And this group trumpeted. Assured. Affirmed. Protected.

And tonight we celebrate with elephants.

And sangria.

I’ve competed with women my whole life. Piano contests, beauty pageants, you name it and it was a competition.

I expected that you were out to beat me and I expected myself to win.

Lisa Burke in high school. Stella was her name in college.

Seriously. I can’t remember the red sweater, but I remember those names.

Paula. Debby. Shantel.

Debby is my friend and my sister in Christ and we taught Kindermusik together. We were colleagues, but bless my heart y’all, for me, it was a competition to see who had the most families in each class. The saddest part? Pretty sure no-one else knew it was a game.

Knew it was a competition. Which, looking back makes it a whole lot easier for me to win.

What in the actual hale?

This past year, I’ve begun to understand that not everyone’s against us.

Against me.

Not everything is a competition.

Not everyone is a competitor.

I’m learning this and how late I am to the party.

To the table.

I’ve begun to understand that we don’t need to fight other women for a seat at the table.

We need to build a bigger table.

A round table. With no hard edges and no beginnings and no endings and a round table that we can keep adding leafs to and keep adding sisters to and when we’re hurt and vulnerable we can sit in the middle and when our sisters give birth to children and projects and dreams then we can turn around from our table and trumpet the news.

I think I’ll always struggle with holding people (myself and others!) to unrealistic expectations but I’m growing in grace and I’ll work, first, to at least speak out loud these expectations.

I think I’ll always struggle with a competitive spirit, but I’m growing in grace and I’ll work, first, to at least compete with you and not against you.

And finally, I think as a loner (big ol introvert that I am), I’ll always struggle to lean in and draw close to other women. To other people. To my sisters and my brothers.

I’ll always struggle with cancelled plans. As in, not cancelling them.

I’ve found my seat at the table. And it’s lovely and open and round and you are welcome.

This past year, I’ve become less of a competitor and more of a welcomer. The Lord has blessed me with a colorful tribe of elephants and I’ll be sharing my experiences of sisterhood and friendship in a new, monthly Devotion Book, called Elephant Sisters.

But I’m going to need your help. Will you come round my table and share your stories of friendship. Let’s write this one together. The only expectation will be laughter.

#elephantsisters #comingfallof2018night owls collage

 

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