Category Archives: Life

Prayers and Pregnancy

I believe I have a special gift of encouragement when it comes to praying about pregnancies. I don’t know what it is, but God will give me supernatural faith that certain babies will be born. Now I don’t put God in a box about how He is going to define our natural understanding of words like ‘birth’ and ‘baby’, but He gives me the faith that something will come out of nothing.

So He uses me to encourage. He tells me to text people to remind them of His limitless authority over every single atom in the universe. He gives me dreams of friends and family (and myself) usually with huge smiles plastered on their faces telling me that they’re pregnant. He tells me to send Mother’s Day cards in anticipation of His promise. He tells me when to quit praying followed quickly with texts letting me know “Hey, so… we’re pregnant.”

I do believe that prayer requires belief. I think that’s why we have to pray for help with our unbelief. And there are tons of things I pray for that I simply don’t believe will ever happen, but pregnancies and babies? My belief is growing to where it knows no bounds. He has authority over everything pregnancy related.

I trust His authority in pretty much every way when it comes to babies, but other things? Not so much. I want to believe He has authority over everything, but I don’t. I see my circumstances, and I pray, “I know You’re God. And You made me out of nothing. You make babies in wombs that shouldn’t have babies. But this? These finances? This dream? This obstacle? This is too big. You can’t fix this.”

Recently the Holy Spirit started whispering, “How have I taught you to pray about babies? Pray in the same way about other things. About everything.”

Write thank you cards
Our Father gives good gifts. And what do (most) people do when they get a good gift? They write a thank you card. This is especially true if the gift giver wasn’t there to see you receive the gift. You let them know, “I got it! It’s lovely/perfect/exactly what I wanted!” Once I have prayed about a baby and my bones know that this baby is happening I start saying thank you. Over and over and over. Because saying thank you says you’ve received the gift and you can’t receive something that doesn’t exist, right?

I’m doing the same with my non-baby prayers. Thank you, Lord, for giving me what I have asked for.

Let go
I say thank you for the answered prayer, but I also release any control over what my ideas are about what His answer is going to look like. When I dreamed about Wren I knew it meant that my family was growing, that my heart was going to be filled in new way. But I didn’t tell God what that meant or how it would look. Because if I’m telling God how it’s going to be then I’m asking Him to submit to me, and no. That’s not a good look. I was totally open to it being that we adopted or that cousins would be coming soon. Most of all, I was letting go and trusting that however it unfolded (pregnancy, cousins, a neighbor kid that we unofficially adopted) it was good and from God.

And the best way for me to release my desire to control all the things? Focus on the face of Jesus. I always imagine Peter walking on water and then getting distracted by the wind. My flesh wants to control and tell God how it should be. I know this is happening because my body gets tense and my vision narrows and my mind races. But then I whisper His mighty and powerful name. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And in doing that, my spirit returns to submission to Him and His ways, not mine.

Heartbeats, ultrasounds, and encouragement
Before you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time pregnancy doesn’t feel real. You don’t look pregnant. Most of what you’re feeling you’ve felt before during a bad episode of PMS. But then you hear the heartbeat, and now you know. Something new is here. Something is alive.

And I’ll never run a marathon, but I imagine it’s how runners feel when they get a cup of water or see the cheering spectators during the race. Your spirit perks up, you know you’re no where near the end, but right now you have enough strength to go forward just a little bit.

Heartbeats and ultrasounds are that during pregnancy. A peek at the finish line. A peek at how all of this is going to be rewarded.

I’m not going to lie, I think I have a gift. I think God has given me a supernatural sensitivity to some people’s pregnancy journeys. And I think He has done that so that I can be an encouragement to my friends and family. The texts and prayers and dreams are supernatural ultrasounds to remind you that He sees and knows.

There’s a thing in marriage therapy where you tell couples that you’ll hold the hope for them. Hope is so heavy when it looks like everything is crumbling down around you. While I’m no longer a marriage therapist, I do think that God gives me this sensitivity, not that I can brag about it, but so that it can minister to others. I pray it shows them that God sees and hears. And that when it hurts to hope, as I imagine it does when you want a child desperately, that others can help you hold that hope.

I know that I’ve encouraged others and that gives me the confidence to ask God to encourage me in the other things I’m praying for. So I regularly pray to hear the heartbeat of things He’s bringing to life, but that I can’t see quite yet.

Perspective
Like any red blooded American, I want my prayers answered and I want them answered now. First, that posture is so wrong. So very wrong. There’s something interesting about pregnancy in that you absolutely can’t rush it. The baby is done when it’s done. You can’t take more vitamins to make it cook faster. You can’t eat the right potion of peppers and eggplant to make it come out quicker. You can try to make it hurry up, but at the end of the day you’re not in control and you’re just along for the ride. The quicker you get that in your heart and submit to that truth the easier pregnancy is.

I don’t imagine any other prayer request is much different, especially when it’s a gift coming from God. I am learning to patiently submit to His timing in all things.

These thoughts have been swirling in my head for the last year, and this is me getting them out and sharing them with you.

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I learned it watching you

 

The minute I heard about unschooling it made sense. Learn what you want, when you want, and how you want. The first time I heard about it was in this Nashville mommy blogger’s post where she bashes the idea. I read that post and it all clicked. All of my future children would be unschooled. Case closed. I never read or thought another thing about it.

Today I know a lot of families that allow their children to practice self-directed education (aka unschooling). And I have yet to meet someone that became a believer quite as quickly as I did (my Simply Sudbury friend, Catherine, excluded). Most of my friends found it to be a journey. The ideas made sense in some ways, but many wanted more research or literature. How do unschooled kids end up? Do they get jobs? Do they survive in the ‘real world’?

I’ve been marinating on this. Why, God, did it click so quickly and easily for me? Especially when you consider I was freaking amazing at school. If anyone was going to think school is awesome, shouldn’t it be me?

Then I read this blog post, Ours First, from ASDE by Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor Henderson.

Marginalized groups have been learning the world for a long time, and without school. Before and throughout this colonialist era, it is the way we learned to manage our food systems and organize communities. It is the way we learned to predict weather and navigate seas. It is the way we learned transportation routes and our stories. It is the way we learned ourselves and others. It is the way we learned who the oppressors really were, despite what they told us about themselves in their schools.

It is the way we learned to survive under Western colonialism and imperialism. And it is the way we will thrive beyond it.

And…

Your people have been doing this – existing and resisting, learning the world and their freedom – for years and years. They’ve been doing it for themselves and with each other, and without school as we know it. Despite how the narrative is compiled around you, then, and despite whoever tries to sell you whatever is already inside of you, remember:

Ours. First.

Self-directed education, the idea that you can trust that you’ll learn what you need, when you need, and how you need, made immediate sense to me because it’s what I grew up seeing.

My mom and grandmother are two of the smartest, most capable women I know. I look back at my childhood and I knew that my mom didn’t have an education in the formal sense, but she is smart. Yes, she has her ditzy moments, but even that I saw as a sign of her emotional intelligence and playing to the reality that acting like you’re dumb can buy you social goodwill. I think about how she got on a plane in her early 20s and moved to another country to marry a man she knew, but not really. I think back to my childhood and how she always made the world feel safe for us, how it always felt like she knew what she was doing. And she did this without google, yall! She figured stuff out because that’s what you do.

Then there is my grandma. She came to live with us when I was in 2nd grade. She worked all over Nashville, and would get all over town on the city bus. This alone makes me open my mouth in awe because public transportation can confuse the best of us. And even though she also doesn’t have a formal education, she’s so smart. She knows how to cure things, how to farm, how to engineer. I remember being in labor with Otis, hooked up to all kinds of machines monitoring this and that, and my grandmother squinting and looking at my fingernails to see how my blood pressure was doing. This world was never scary to her because she is a fearless problem solver.

So I guess these women, and really all of the amazing Filipinas I am blessed to know and love, were always a testimony to me. I watched them build entire, productive, full, blessed lives without ever getting a stamp-of-approval from a school. I watched them trust their instincts, abilities, and eventually God to navigate this world.

I ‘got’ unschooling so quickly because I already knew that unschoolers turned out just fine because, in a lot of ways, unschoolers raised me.

Seek and Find

Every parent wants to give their kid a ‘Wow’ present. I remember that feeling of waking up on Christmas morning and all the magic and joy of seeing The Gift under the tree. I want, more than anything, to give my kids that same feeling of joy.

The problem is that the older your kid gets the harder it is to capture that joy in a toy. Otis is especially hard because from what we can tell his joy comes from just being around his family. He is full Elf when he hears that I’m not going to work and we get to spend time with Bobbby, Lindsey, Meesa, Shawn, and Tater.

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Unfortunately, he also really loves opening presents and wrapping up his aunts and uncles would be… difficult.

But, yall. I found The Gift.

Meet The Sharers. YouTubers that are just super sweet, happy guys and Otis loves them. They do that little hand signal thing and Otis throws it up regularly and will say, “Mom, stay awesome and share the love” (which is what they say when they begin and end videos).

Image result for youtube sharer

It clicked a week before Christmas that Otis would lose his mind over a red Sharer shirt. He’d never take it off. It would fill him with joy that he’d never experienced before. I’m not being hyperbolic. He would love The Gift.

I order the shirt and it’s scheduled to get here on time. Phew.

A few days later a manila envelope is in the mailbox. I open it and a quick peek says it’s The Gift. Yay! He’s gonna flip, yall. I toss it in the closet that is holding all of our Amazon boxes, and go about life.

Christmas Eve and the kids are in bed. We start wrapping the presents. We don’t leave presents under the tree because I’m not in the mood to be asked about opening gifts for weeks on end. Everything goes out on Christmas Eve after the kids go to sleep.

“Where is the manila envelope from the closet?” I ask.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

Hmmm….

I tear the house apart. I start looking in the weird places like the freezer, my underwear drawer, and behind the lawn mower. I stand in the middle of rooms just staring hoping it will jump out and yell surprise.

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I did this until almost 2 in the morning. My heart was feeling so broken and hopeless. I had to find The Gift. I just had to.

Obviously, I was praying the whole time, but finally I had to sit down and get serious.

“Lord, please! I need to find The Gift. Where is it?!? If he doesn’t get The Gift he won’t have The Joy.”

And then I heard the Holy Spirit gently convict me…

Guide him to find the The Joy in The Gift of Me.

I was/am dangerously close to training my child to find Joy in the things of this world which would be fine if it was possible. We all know that by dinner the joy of most Christmas gifts has worn off. We know that the high of the perfect present is fleeting, but we keep chasing it down. And no matter how perfect that Share the Love shirt is (and I cannot fully explain how. perfect. this. gift. is.) it isn’t anything compared to being in relationship with Jesus. So instead of stressing and using my energy to find a shirt, I thanked God that He made this relationship possible and prayed for wisdom about how to guide Otis best towards Him and His joy.

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Sssss is for Snake

The kids and I recently watched a video of a snake eating a chicken. I don’t know why. Stop trying to understand my ways.

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Wren loved it. Whenever she gets my phone she’ll ask for ‘snake’ followed by the most adorable hiss you’ve ever heard. And then she squeals when I react because she is delighted by the ‘fear’ she has created in me. The picture above is one of the best smiles I’ve ever captured, and it’s actually her in the middle of one of her hisses. My sister and cousin have both pointed out that she’s a Slytherin in the making… and that’s a good thing?

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In other hiss related news, my baby boy has learned about the letter S. He is in love with the S sound, and loves pointing out every letter S he can find while we read their* Daniel Tiger book. Which can we talk about how he wants to listen to me read a book? Yes, it’s a pre-k book. Yes, he’s seven. Yes, he’s never been into a book before now. But he is getting excited about this and I’m just like…

adrienne banfield-jones praise GIF by Red Table Talk

You guys. I cannot love these babies any more than I do. It’s impossible.

Colors of the Wind

I’ve started describing myself as a weird Christian. Because if I just say I’m a Christian then you’re going to think I’m like the Christians you hear about on MSNBC or Fox, and I’m not like those.

I can’t express how seriously I take God. I believe the things most Christian professing people believe (He made everything in the universe, there’s a spiritual battle going on, Jesus is God and died on the cross for my sins, the Holy Spirit is real), but then I believe other things.

Like that He speaks to me. Regularly. And my job is to listen. Is it very Pocahontas/Colors of The Wind? Yes. Yes, it is.

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If you follow me on Instagram you may remember when I was doing those Jesus work outs with Megan and Rev Wellness. What’s a Jesus workout? Basically, Megan would have scripture and questions for me to consider and meditate on while also telling me to do 10 squats. These were some of the most intense, life changing workout sessions in my life. One session in particular stuck with me…

I was on my back doing some exercise and the whole session had been about being able to hand everything over to God and trust Him with every dream in me. To love the Giver more than the gift. So I’m on my back doing this exercise and Megan says something about being like Moses and being ok with not seeing the promised land.

Immediately I knew what the promised land was. Nashville Sudbury School. If you aren’t following me on Facebook then quick recap: me and 7 other families started a school so that kids could practice self-directed education in a democratically run community. Our first meeting was in the fall of 2015. We’ve been at it for a minute.

Getting this school up and running was my everything from March 2017 to June 2018. MY EVERYTHING. I spent lunch breaks running all around Nashville touring any place that might be even a little appropriate for a school.  I USED A PHONE AND TALKED TO STRANGERS in order to find out what paperwork needed to be turned in and when to start a private school in Tennessee. The other day I got a catalog of courses a fire protection professional could take to stay up to date on fire codes in my mailbox because that’s how often I was googling the codes manual for educational institutions. I CALLED AN IRS AGENT.

And I was doing all of this for my kids. My little boy isn’t designed for school. And my little girl might burn it down (fire codes be damned!). All of this work was because I wanted to give my kids a place to be free.

My stomach tightened at the idea of handing over NSS. I couldn’t possibly do all of this just to not be a part of it on the other side…could I? Would God seriously ask that? My brain really couldn’t imagine it. Honestly, it reminded me of when I broke up with my high school/college boyfriend, walking away from something you had worked really hard to build for no real reason?

The minute the lease was signed I knew something changed for me on a deep, cellular, spiritual level. This school needed to be built, but it wasn’t where we needed to be any longer. I heard God whispering that it wasn’t what was planned for us, but I fought the whispers back because what about my sweet boy? Where else could he go, I argued…

Two weeks later I met up with a friend I had made during the Sudbury stuff, Catherine. She went to Christ Lutheran, one of the churches we considered renting from, and was a passionate supporter of  self-directed education. We really only knew each other a little bit. She came to tour a space with us and came to a founders’ meeting. I liked her and felt a kindred spirit with her because the Venn diagram of Christians + Sudbury is pretty small, but that was pretty much it.

When we got together I immediately start blabbing about NSS updates because I assumed that was why she wanted to get together, to talk Sudbury. So we did that for a minute and then she was like, “I asked you to meet because I think you might be a weird Christian, too. And I wanted a friend to talk with about God stuff…”

unbreakable kimmy schmidt mindy lahiri GIF

We spent the rest of our time sharing how seriously we take God, His word, His salvation (big and small), and His unending ability to meet us wherever we are. This is semi-unrelated, but this summer was also the exodus of some of my fiercest prayer friends so the birth of this friendship was giving me all the “God takes care of all your needs” feels.

rickey smiley jesus GIF by TV One

I even asked if I could take a snapshot of where God suggested me as an answer to her Psalm 145:11 prayers.

“Can I take a pic of your journal?” I am so weird.

Fast forward to June. God quits whispering. He starts using His inside voice. We pray. A lot. Because this isn’t about starting a school for me. This has always been about my kids. And walking away from this wasn’t God asking me to walk away from something I could put on my resume (“Marie Starter of Schools!”). He was asking me to walk away from something I have a lot of faith and hope in to help my babies, specifically my little guy. To say this was gut wrenching doesn’t begin to cover it.

But here’s my clue to knowing a decision has God’s hand on it: Peace. My spirit is settled even if none of it ‘makes sense’ on paper. The minute my spirit settles and rests in the confidence of my Father in heaven, I usually don’t think twice. I start moving towards His leading.

So we did. We walked away. We went on vacation. We caught our breath just long enough to hear God invite us to something new with my weird friend Catherine and Christ Lutheran, Simply Sudbury.

Last week, NSS passed their fire marshal inspection. And I wasn’t there for it. I didn’t get the “Congratulations! We did it!” email because, well, I am not part of the we any longer. The reality of not being in the Promised Land despite having witnessed all of the burning bushes and Red Sea partings gave me some feels, but it didn’t put even a tiny dent in my peace or even my joy. As I watched Instastories of their fire marshal inspection I cried real tears of joy on my side of the Jordan River*. Because He’s good. So very, very good.

Do I think God is in this? Yes. It has all the Color of the Wind vibes for me.

Does that mean I have any idea how the rest of this will turn out? Nope. Not a damn clue.

*Is it the Jordan they crossed? I am totally relying on a Ginny Owens lyric so that could not be Biblically correct so…

Moms + Music #wearehadleypark

Mark and I are watching tv when this CMA awards commercial comes on (go ahead and watch it)…

Me: I’m not sure that’s a smart move on the CMA’s part.
Mark: What?
Me: Reminding us how good country music used to be…

I’m the last thing from a country music aficionado. I was not raised on Willie Nelson or Johnny and June you mean Joaquin and Reese?. But as someone who has lived in Nashville her entire life AND has the deepest respect for a well told story, I have always held a special place in my heart for country music that could make you feel a decades worth of feeling in 3 minutes. It’s an underappreciated art, y’all.

And, like lots of people, I’ve grown bored with most popular country music in a lot of ways because they quit telling those beautiful stories and started just describing things around them that sounded ‘country’  (“her cut off jeans” “climbed into his pickup truck” “drive down dirt roads” “please use this pitchfork to stab me in the eyeballs”).

Then last week I get an email from Morgan of Hadley Park. You’ve never heard of them? Of course you haven’t because it’s my job to introduce you.

I get a decent amount of email asking me to review things or share things with my readers (hi, Mom!), and that’s what Morgan was emailing me about. She wanted to know if I would tell you about their debut EP “Retrospect” (it will be released on Friday, November 11th, but you can pre-order it on iTunes here).

She sent me a link to the album so I could hear what they were doing. I’m a curious chick so I thought, “Sure, why not?”

I actually liked it. I forwarded a song to Mark. “Am I crazy or is this actually really good?”

“Yeah,” he messaged back. “They are really good. Why are they emailing you?”

Thanks, buddy.

Superstore eyeroll glenn mark mckinney over it

I fell in love, y’all. Country music that sounds like, well, country! They are it! And they were telling stories and making me feel feelings and I was seriously just swooning 1.5 minutes into listening to their album.

Then I went back and finished reading their email. And my girl crush? It grew three times.

Hadley Park is made up of Morgan and Courtney. Morgan and Courtney met on a songwriting blind date (you meet up with a stranger to sit down and write a song), and they hit it off so they kept writing together. Then they got pregnant (different dads… they write country songs, they don’t live them). They had their little girls within four days of each other and like every new modern mom they looked in the mirror and asked, “How do I meld the old me with this new mom version?”

Their answer? Let’s keep writing together! And every week after the babies were born they made time for their passion for music and storytelling. And the seeds from their songwriting kept growing until they created their newest baby: country music duo, Hadley Park  (fun fact: Hadley and Parker are their daughters’ names!).

Retrospect, Hadley Park

I genuinely love their album. I’m going to buy the hard copy because I drive a 2002 Honda Accord and have no clue how to listen to music with bluetooth or off of an iPod or however people born after 1998 consume music.  “I need a cd to put in the cd player,” said the old person. But I digress.

I love their music, and have listened to “My Love, My Friend” not enough times one too many times. “Things I’ve Learned” gets. me. in. the. gut. “More That That” makes my marriage coach heart soar. My only complaint? There aren’t more songs to fall in love with.

I also love that they’re catching fireflies and I cannot help but cheer on a couple of firefly catchers, especially two storytellers who chose to be inspired by their roles as mothers to chase down their dreams instead of packing them up and putting them away. I hope that they inspire more of us moms to do something similar and run towards those dreams, big and small, knowing that sometimes living out our callings is exactly what our kids need to see their mama bears do.

The Story of Our Rehoboth

I love reading Rabbi Sacks and I’m currently in the middle of reading (for the billionth time) the Genesis/Exodus section of the Bible (the billionth reading is what happens when you keep starting a “Read the Entire Bible in a Year” plan and don’t finish it and then start it again and don’t finish it and #rinserepeat). This means I’m currently flooded with Jewish stories about how God shows Himself to His people.

Rabbi Sacks recently wrote about how part of Judaism is remembering your history. God commanded that whenever they brought their first fruits they would make a declaration of, essentially, their history:

 “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great, powerful and populous nation.  The Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labour. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our suffering, our harsh labour and our distress. The Lord then brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with great fearsomeness and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. I am now bringing the first-fruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” (Deut. 26:5-10)

He didn’t want future generations to forget how He had worked on their behalf so He told them to keep telling His story.

Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I have felt really compelled to look around and really see the life that our faith in a loving God is building, and I keep getting drawn to how I literally cannot think about our home without praising Him. And I think about how if I don’t tell the story about how God moved so many pieces mountains on our behalf we will forget and Otis may never know and so…

I remember sitting in church and listening to an excellent sermon about Isaac and Rehoboth. Basically, Isaac kept trying to settle in places and built wells, but people were like, “Yeah, you can’t settle here. Move along.” He built 2 wells and, finally, with the third well he was left alone. He named it Rehoboth which  means “open space” and said, “”At last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

The sermon landed on my heart. I knew it would take a minute, but we would find a home. I had faith God would provide our Rehoboth.

I heard this sermon while pregnant and living with my in-laws. Mark’s biggest apprehension about moving out was that we couldn’t afford to buy a place which meant we’d have to rent which made his skin crawl because of ‘throwing away money’ and all of that. We decided to look for a house we could afford, and worked with the Mr. Magoo of realtors (meaning he had no clue what he was doing). Amazingly, we found a house! In our budget! Close to our families!

The house had plenty of work that needed to be done, but it really was perfect. Mark’s only big remodel dream was to tear out one of the walls in the upstairs bedroom so that it could look into the downstairs. Basically, make it a loft. True story? I thought it was a dumb idea and figured it could be one of those projects that hung out at the bottom of the to-do list. Forever.

Well, Mr. Magoo was an adorable cartoon, but a horrible realtor. The whole thing fell through and we were 1 month away from a baby. Time was running out.

Lots of arguments conversations later and Mark found us a decently sized apartment within our budget. We moved in and a week later my water broke. Otis was on his way.

We spent a lovely and hard year in that apartment. Mark did the stay-at-home-dad thing and, like most sahp, he felt lonely and an apartment that never felt homey didn’t help that feeling.

By December of 2011 I knew God was telling me that we were going to buy a home. It didn’t make any sense to me because I was making $13.28 an hour. Picture or it didn’t happen?

13-28

And you don’t exactly have a down payment sized savings when you’re living on less than what Bernie thinks is acceptable.

But I emailed our amazing realtor, Tim, anyways because faith and that whole story about turning fish and loaves into plenty.

With our mortgage lady’s help we found a mortgage for poor people that was like, “If you have a great rental history then we can give you a mortgage with some insanely low amount as a down payment.” Ah! Look at that! We had great rental history BECAUSE WE LEFT MARK’S PARENTS’ HOUSE ONE YEAR AGO! I like to thank my stubborn nagging for that assist.

We were now given the fun assignment of finding a house that cost less than $115,000, was close to our parents, and wouldn’t need too many repairs because nobody wanted to lend us money for a fixer upper because they’d seen our finances… we had no money for a fixer upper.

We put an offer on a house that was beyond perfect. Huge with a fenced in yard and in my in-law’s neighborhood. I loved it so much. I still get sad thinking about it. It was a weird property with a weird bidding thing, and we didn’t get it.

We put another offer in a few weeks later. Another weird bank-owned property. It was a cute house in a cute neighborhood. I believed so much that this was our house that my mom, Otis, and I drove out there after we put the offer in so I could show her our new place. I drove there one morning before I went to work so that I could get an idea of what the commute would be like. The bank ended up not accepting the offer because it was tied to some other properties and they wanted to sell them all together or something like that. We didn’t get it.

Things were not looking good again. We would need to make decisions about re-signing leases soon or move back in with his parents because rent increases were probably going to bust our budget. But then God said, “Go back to that house.”

That house was one we had seen a month before. It was a bank owned property that was listed at $115,000. I had loved it (but let’s be real, at this point I kind of loved every house that seemed like it could be The One). I remember standing inside while Mark and Tim looked around outside. I was standing on the brick in front of the fireplace and looking out the big window into the front yard.

My heart whispered, “This is our home.

The fireplace where I knew God said this was our home.

And then Mark and Tim walked back in.

“Yeah, this has got all kinds of water damage in the siding. Not gonna happen.”

Oh. Ok.

But here I was, a month later, hearing God say to go back to that house. What was really weird was that it had been taken off the market since we’d seen it (I had every house listed under $115,000 in the Southeast Nashville area memorized) so I wasn’t really sure where this would lead.

We drove to that house and saw a man standing in the front yard writing on a clipboard. Mark parked and got out to talk to him. He came back to tell me about the conversation.

“So that’s the new realtor. It is about to be relisted for $105,000. He says that the siding isn’t that bad and that his only concern with a mortgage like ours would be some laminate coming up in the kitchen. I think we should call Tim.”

Tim got the ball rolling and we put in an offer for $95,000 because why not? To our surprise, they accepted!

We did appraisals and home inspections and no one ever talked about the siding which Mark and his dad ended up fixing the next summer. The closing took forever because banks are slow. We ended up spending a lovely 2 months with my in-laws while we waited to close on our new home.

My favorite part of the story is that the house we bought has the exact same layout as the one we wanted right before I had Otis, the one with the Mr. Magoo realtor. The exact same floor plan, except there’s one difference: The bedroom that Mark wanted to turn into a loft in the first house was already a loft in that house. In our house. I like to think of that loft room as a little wink from God.

So yes, Otis, the house you grew up in was given to us by God. He moved us to buy a house even though we were making $13/hour with no savings. And we built a lot of wells trying to find a place to call home, but then He called us back to that house at the exact same time that the new realtor was there so that we’d be the very first offer. And He’d guided us to rent even though it made no sense so that we could have a rental history to get the mortgage. And He gave us the house we had wanted from day one except better and completely perfect (at least in your dad’s eyes #ha). He gave us our Rehoboth, an open space for you and us to prosper.

Otis, when you wonder if you should follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings please remember where you grew up. Remember that God, not us, provided a home for you, and that He’s been your shelter from the very beginning. Please remember that when life is chaotic to get as quiet as you possibly can and listen for His still, small voice.

On Stay At Home Dads and Working Moms

Deciding to do the the stay-at-home-dad and sole-breadwinner-mom thing was hard. It is hard to not conform to society’s gender roles. It is hard to think you’re not being who you are ‘supposed’ to be. And, yes, gender roles exist. And I’d say Mark has suffered far more than I have.

Because no one straight up asks a sole-breadwinner-dad, “So… she’s just not going to work?” or “Yeah, but…what’s she going to do to make money?” or “You should tell him to get a job.”

Neighbors don’t openly laugh at a stay-at-home-mom and talk about how ‘lucky’ she is because wow, that’s the life, right?

Nope we don’t talk to breadwinning-dads and stay-at-home-moms this way because it’s incredibly rude to voice the idea that the person making sure the littlest person in your home is alive and taken care of is “doing nothing.” It’s ugly to hint at the idea that the SAHM is in some way ‘taking advantage’ of a working dad.

And the worst part? None of this came from conservative men who thought women needed to be barefoot and in the kitchen. They all came from women who love them some feminism…

It’s hard being a stay-at-home-dad. It’s hard not to ‘provide’ for your family the way a ‘real man’ should. It’s hard to have almost no one to relate to. It’s hard to wonder what everyone thinks about your role, to wonder if there is any way your dad and son could possibly be proud of the man you are.

It’s hard being a working mom. It’s hard wondering if every way your kid isn’t excelling is because you aren’t around enough, that you aren’t “mom” enough. It’s hard feeling guilty about all the things, all the time.

The thing is… Mark is my biggest cheerleader. I would have been happy to giggle away every insane idea I’ve ever had, but Mark has always been behind me whispering, “Take yourself seriously.” Every single time I wanted to make myself small and sneak away from the conversation, Mark said, “No. Take your seat at the table.”

It has been easy to become a working mom chasing down insane ideas because the man standing beside me refused to let me believe the lie that my voice didn’t deserve to be heard. He refused to believe that my calling wasn’t worth action. I would not be the woman I am today without him.

And in the same way he watched me chase dreams, I watched him protect and provide for us.

I watched him learn to use cloth diapers and figure out formula. I watched him pack diaper bags with detail. I watched him learn Otis so well that getting him ready for a day out almost always went smoothly (for him). I watched him make peanut butter and honey sandwiches so perfectly that I don’t even bother trying because they are sure to get sent back to the kitchen. I watched him make sure sunscreen and bug spray is always applied. I have absolutely no clue what it’s like to worry if Mark can handle being a parent to Otis. I watched him put me and our little bear first in every conceivable way over and over and over again.

The reason I went to work and he stayed home? Because it’s the kind of life we wanted for us and Otis, and I’m not sure I could have chased my dreams if I didn’t know that my little bear wasn’t completely loved and taken care of at home. Simple.

Mark apologizes to me often. Sorry that he gets to be home. Sorry that I have to work. Sorry that he doesn’t make money.

I won’t listen to any of it.

I have no illusions about who got the good end of the deal. I have a beautiful family and we have a beautiful home. We have food and bills get paid and I fill up my gas tank every time I need to. My husband loves me and my little boy makes me laugh. I have written books and created programs and built a neat little web presence in my “spare time.” I go to a job that I love, and am regularly told that I’m doing good work. My ideas are listened to and taken seriously by men that hired me to answer phones 10 years ago.

He’s the behind the scenes guy. The wind beneath my proverbial wings. He’s the one making sure all the bases are covered at home without little to any recognition for a good day’s work. He’s got the hard job, not me.

To say that we aren’t both holding our breath a little bit as we prepare for Margaret is a lie. Today our roles feel right and comfortable in a way they didn’t 5 years ago. Time does that. But that doesn’t mean we have forgotten how hard the whole role swap thing is. That doesn’t mean we aren’t a little bit terrified.

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Let me tell you a story

This is for my Never Trump peeps.

How much have you thought about Martin O’ Malley in the last year? You probably barely thought about him while he was running for the Democratic nomination, much less any thought to him since he dropped out.

I hope that brings some perspective to what Bernie Sanders and his revolution accomplished. Y’all, we weren’t supposed to even remember his name. He was supposed to be that Jewish guy that ran against Hillary.

I always think about this piece from a story about Jane Sanders getting on board with the idea for running for president:

When Bernie Sanders first broached the idea of running for president, Jane Sanders was not initially on board.

“First I said, ‘How can you win? We’re from a small state,’ ” she recalled. “I know the issues are important, but isn’t there another way for these issues to be discussed? I kept on saying, ‘Can’t you write a book? Can’t you start an organization? Can’t you do a speaking tour?’ And he kept on saying, ‘Yes, I can do all those things, and it’s not going to matter at all. It’s not going to change the conversation.’ 

Bernie didn’t get in this race to win (I mean, he did, but he knew what he was up against). He got in this race so that WE THE PEOPLE would start talking. And not talking about emails or who spent more money in which state or how many wives someone has, but talking about issues.

He wanted to get the country we love to talk about income inequality. To talk about the universal right to healthcare. To talk about trade that killed American incomes. To talk about how it’s not ok to let Wal-mart pay single moms $7 an hour and then shame them when they need food stamps to feed their babies. To talk about wars that we didn’t need to be in. To talk about corporatism. To talk about climate change solutions so our kids will have a planet to call home.

He changed the conversation. And if we play this right, the conversation stays here until it gets answers for all of the above.

Bernie won a lot of people’s hearts. And now he’s asking us to give those hearts to Hillary. Yes, I feel like a little kid getting dropped off at day care for the first time:

Do I trust Hillary? You want the truth? Nope. Not really. But I am the queen of a reframe, so let’s dive in…

What if Hillary looked a lot like Bernie on the day she became the First Lady? What if she believed in universal healthcare and being more than a FLOTUS that read books to kindergartners? What if she really wanted to shake the system up?

But then the Establishment happened. And healthcare for all was a failure. And maybe she didn’t quit believing in the progressive stuff, but she quit wearing her heart on her sleeve.

First things first. In my opinion, Bernie’s purity is a sign of his privilege. He’s a white man that can say a lot of crazy things (“Hey, Alan Greenspan, you’re destroying America”) and still get elected to office. I don’t believe women have that privilege. Even First Ladies turned Senators turned Secretaries of State. We don’t get to wear our hearts or our opinions so freely.

Hillary played the game. That’s why we are afraid of her. That’s why we hate her. She became one of Them.

Sharp left turn coming up.

I watched the Jaycee Dugard story a couple of nights ago on 20/20. That woman is amazing. She was held hostage for 18 years by an insane couple. She goes around telling professionals that they need to stop it with the Stockholm Syndrome thing. She argues that you aren’t “falling in love” with your captor, you’re doing what you have to do to survive. She referenced this YouTube video to show what it looks like to pretend to be dead in order to survive:

What if Hillary isn’t the Establishment? What if she has survived the Establishment? What if she’s been playing ‘dead’ and now that we’ve finally caught up as a country she can bounce back to life and be a true part of the progressive Dream Team WITH Warren and Sanders? What if they didn’t push her Left? What if she’s simply been waiting?

Maybe Hillary has been guarded for 30 years, believing that she couldn’t be progressive because that one time she tried it failed miserably. Maybe she’s scared to believe she can let her progressive freak flag wave. Maybe she can’t wait to be the nerdy, know-it-all, get-crap-done, Progressive Queen she has wanted to be since 1992.

Maybe.

I really don’t know.

But I do know that the current narrative that #BernieOrBust-ers are going to hand the election to Trump is wildly inaccurate. A lame campaign attempting to make everyone happy, coloring within the political lines of 1996, telling a story that’s simply “Vote for ‘Gina” because #woman, blaming an old man that was trying to decide between going on a book tour or run for president and accidentally started our generation’s political revolution because he can’t get his people ‘in line’, that is what will hand Donald Trump the White House.

The Clinton campaign has the perfect villain, now they just need to tell us the authentic & believable story of how the Secretary in Shining Armor saves the day.

*As a marriage therapist-type person, seeing a bunch of Democrats (not Progressives) tell emotional Bernie people to “quit being a baby” or “get over it and do what’s right” is the exact same thing as a husband saying, “Are you really crying over this?” when he forgets your birthday. Yes, it hurts. Yes, we need time. And if you condescend to me or tell me to “get over it” I will poison your dinner. Watch yourself before you wreck yourself.

To Fifty More

When you’re young and you hear a couple has been married for 50 years you think, “OMG! That is so adorable! Fifty years of hanging out with your best friend? Marriage and love are so cool!”

When you’re a little bit wiser older you and you hear a couple has been married for 50 years you think, “Wow. They didn’t kill each other. Bravo to everyone involved!”

My in-loves are celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss today. Bravo!

Aren’t they adorable?

These two are a lot like Mark and I. Very different.

One is the head, the other is the heart.

One says “Sure!”, the other says “Let’s think about it a little more.”

One says “Toss it, it’s junk,” the other says “But we might need it…”

Fifty years of this, y’all. Fifty. Years.

The remarkable thing isn’t that they had the differences, but that they didn’t let the differences tear them apart. That they didn’t give up.

And I’m so thankful that they didn’t give up.

Because not giving up taught my husband what real love looks like, day in and day out. They taught him commitment and loyalty. They taught him not to talk when you’re mad. They taught him how to serve someone even when you maybe don’t always like someone. They gave him an understanding of love and marriage that a romantic comedy could never touch (well, Up probably got close).

If they were writing this blog they would probably mention that they got here because of Him. They would tell you all the stories about how they almost screwed it all up, but God. They wouldn’t call theirs the greatest love story, they’d call it their greatest testimony.

A testimony to a God that redeems.

A testimony to a God that forgives.

A testimony to a God that provides.

A testimony to a God that showers blessings.

A testimony to a God that is good, even if nothing looks the way you thought it would 50 years ago.

The Lord is good. His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues through all generations.Psalm 100:5:

This family you two have built is beautiful. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us and taught us!

Love you both!