Fashion Blogger Strikes Again

Well, I had not planned to write a blog post today, but sometimes life hands you a golden opportunity and you just can’t not share about it.

Mine came this morning in the form of this hair.

Y’all. Can we appreciate the fact that this hair is just next level amazing? I’ve already previously established that I am a fashion blogger and this is why. It’s because I wake up like this without any effort at all.

So this look is phenomenal, especially since the one thing I had to get done today was to renew my driver’s license. Obv, when I looked in the mirror at 7 AM this morning, I knew the day was shaping up to be a good ‘un.

So I hustled like crazy, tamed the hair, and got myself to the DMV bright and early before they opened so I could get in line behind all the senior citizens who are smarter than I am because they brought their own chairs. I had super low expectations for the whole thing because I had to get one of those certified licenses that’s next level you-can-get-on-an-airplane-please-enjoy-your-complimentary-bag-of-covid license and I had to bring a ton of proof that I am, in fact, myself.

Gracious, that was a lot of work trying to round up all of the paperwork to prove that I am who I say I am, but I was so thrilled because I got through the DMV outdoor screening and made it inside with all the right stuff and it went off without a hitch. Like, they didn’t question any of my documents, except my bank statement mail and that’s just probably because few people have that little in their bank account. It’s a real old account that only has $5 in it and I don’t know why I haven’t closed it yet, but it had my name on it and not my husband’s, so it counted as real mail and proved my identity, so holla atcha old account.

Anyway, the whole thing was seamless. The employees were so kind and friendly, it was super clean, every single person was wearing a mask and not being an asshole about it…all in all a delightful way to spend a morning! (And that is a commentary on our current situation.)

So I get to the part where I take the picture and I’m already laughing over how bad my hair was this morning and how funny it would’ve been if I had just showed up at the DMV looking like Bellatrix Lestrange ready to renew her broom license and it was all so humorous.

So I go to take the picture and was asked to keep my glasses on since I use them to drive. Cool. No problem. Next I’m asked to tilt my chin down, “just a millimeter or two,” just to reduce the glare on my glasses. Also, don’t smile because we need you to look like what you’re going to look like when you get pulled over. So I tilt my chin and there’s a glare. We repeat the entire process a couple of times, each time increasing the chin tilt until we end up with this gem.

Y’all. There aren’t words. The level of disgust that this photo encompasses is just astronomical. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but can I just vote myself Poster Child of 2020, or do I need to wait another month or two?

Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “oh bless her heart,” and that is totally fine. Y’all are probably wondering why I didn’t demand another retake since I’ll have this photo for four years. Some of you are probably ready at your keyboard with your sweet comments about how nothing can diminish my real beauty.

Frands. I do not need any of that. All I need in this moment is proper congratulations for pulling of the most ah-mazingly fantastic i.d. photo that has ever existed. I cannot tell you how hard this has made me laugh or how much I genuinely love this photo. I am not lying, I love it.

Guys, drivers license photos are not supposed to be attractive. They’re, by nature, required to make you look like a psychopath and, gang, I. nailed. it. It is the single most wonderful photo that has ever existed of me and I am genuinely tickled to death that I get to keep it for posterity.

Y’all, can you imagine the glee I am going to have every time someone asks to see it?? I am going to cackle laugh every single time. I am going to start buying Robitussin and spray adhesives just so I’ll get carded and have the chance to show that beauty off! Can you foresee how many people I am going to bless with that i.d. photo?? It is such a gift and I am beyond honored to be the recipient of such a treasure.

I seriously sat in my car and laughed until I cried because that photo is so great. And then I sent it to my mom and we both laughed our faces off over it. Gosh, it is the absolute best.

So anyway, that’s my Monday and I’m thinking it went super well. Zero complaints, only compliments on my glamour shot from here forward, thankyouverymuch.

Speaking of which, I think in four years when I go to take another photo, I’m going to curate an actual glamour shot look. Like, how great would it be for me to show up in the studded leather jacket/biker hat combo? Or take my i.d. photo in an off the shoulder feather boa?? There are so many options and I know it’ll take a while to narrow it all down. Thank goodness I’ve got four years to plan!

Got Toddlers? Read on for Your Official Free Pass!

Mamas of little children, listen unto me: You are doing enough. Let me say that again. You. Are dewing. E-nuff.

Here is how I know this. My youngest is about to turn five (sob, sob, but also happy dance, but sob) and whenever I hang out with friends who have mostly tiny babes I am exhausted. I don’t even live with those fools on a regular basis and they exhaust me. I got worn out just from FaceTiming with my nephew today and all he was doing was climbing in and out of a box.

I had four babies in five years (because efficiency) and I distinctly remember feeling like a failure all the time. My house wasn’t clean enough, we watched too much Daniel Tiger, I was never on top of laundry, and I could just never figure out why I couldn’t get ahead. It boggled my mind that my life wasn’t somehow manageable.

Let’s take a gander at this photo that popped up in my Facebook memories from five years ago, shall we? I was four hundred thousand years pregnant with my fourth baby. In July. My original caption was, “Should be cleaning, but here we are.” What kind of a ding-dong thinks she can clean anything with a toddler who can’t nap unless he’s touching her and her gigantic belly?? Also, I need y’all to recognize that I am wearing jeans in this photo. Lawd, what a fool I was. I haven’t worn jeans since March and I have “no regrats” as the kids say.

You wanna know why I couldn’t get ahead? Wanna know why things weren’t manageable? Because my children were like zero years old and spent all their time bouncing from suicide mission to suicide mission all damn day. Children under the age of five are helpless and also hell-bent on destroying the world. It’s what they do.

Guys, I have seen some shit. I have had the usual marker/flour/playdoh/glitter accidents, sure. But I’ve also had raw sewage flood my basement because a kid flushed a pair of his underwear like a psycho and clogged the pipe. T’was a delightful day.

There was a period of time when literally every surface of my house was covered in dirty diapers what somehow didn’t get thrown away. I’d find them under the couch and in the couch cushions and maybe if you come over, I wouldn’t recommend sitting on the couch is what I’m saying.

Also, that same undie flushing kid once wandered out of the house…in only a saggy diaper and a t-shirt…in February…and got picked up by a Good Samaritan and an off-duty detective all while my husband was helping a kid throwing up in the bathroom and I was taking the eldest to kindergarten.

Speaking of vomit, I’ve been awakened many a time by a child puking on my hair/pillow.

I have gone literal years without adequate sleep, struggling with the constant pressure of keeping the kids alive to see another day…or at least to see another opportunity to maim themselves and/or otherwise wreak havoc on the tri-state area.

And that wasn’t even during a pandemic. Back in the olden days when my kids were super little, I could at least take them to McDonald’s and lose the little gerbils in the play place for a minute while I collapsed in a corner and hoovered some fries with my bestie. Nowadays, there’s no escape for you guys and I genuinely feel bad. My heart is especially wounded for those who are legitimately trying to do actual work from home while the little dementors run around and tear shit up. Gracious, y’all are going to zip through purgatory, I’ll tell you what.

Anyway, I am on the other side of toddlerhood now and I need you to know that if you are a parent of tiny humans and you’re literally just surviving, that is enough. For real. Look at the big picture and take it all in. They are literally depending upon you to keep them alive, so if that’s the extent of what you accomplish in a day, then you my friend are the winner winner chicken dinner.

If anyone else’s coworkers acted the way yours do, they’d quit their dang job. Like, can you imagine someone working in an office having to deal with their coworkers constantly following them into the bathroom and demanding to know why they don’t have a penis? Or having a colleague who just randomly shoves their crumby hands down their boss’s shirt and asks for a snack? Or how about an employee who won’t stop rubbing boogers all over the cubicles and refuses to wear pants? That shiz would get shut down real quick, because it is a serious hindrance to productivity. But that’s just the office culture for parents of little kids and I think we need to ponder that a moment. Like, if that’s what your coworkers are doing on the reg, you get to cut yourself some slack for not wiping the crumbs off the table or scrubbing the toilet today.

So, anyway if you’re a parent at home with tiny humans and you’re feeling worn out, ineffective, and always behind, I hereby declare you excused from anything that’s not survival oriented. I have spoken. I said good day. So let it be written, so let it be done.

If you’d like this in writing, I am happy to create a printable certificate for you to frame. I’m not above that one little bit.

Now y’all go scatter some goldfish on the floor in front of the tv, give my regards to Daniel Tiger and Bluey, and take yourself a well-deserved nap. You’ve earned it. I swear.

A Light Read: Sobriety, Codependence, and Coming Back From the Edge

The fifth of July is a really special day for our family, but not one that usually get’s a lot of pub. This is mainly because July 5th conjures up some pretty painful memories and not all of it is my story to tell.

However, it’s a story that’s worth telling because it is an example of perseverance, answered prayer, and an incredibly faithful God. July 5th is my husband Vinnie’s sobriety anniversary. This year marks two years sober for him and I could not be more proud or grateful.

I checked with Vin before I wrote this post because I really wanted to make sure that he was okay with me sharing and that he read it all before I pressed the publish button. It’s really important for me to make this distinction because being vulnerable about alcohol dependence – or dependence upon any substance, for that matter – is hard. Really, really, hard. I’m incredibly grateful that my husband is okay with me sharing publicly. Because, here’s the thing: I know we’re not the only ones and it would be such a gift if we could be an encouragement to someone in a similar spot.

I’ve learned so much in our two years of sobriety. I could probably write and type and talk all day about the things I’ve learned and am continuing to learn on this side of alcoholism. But I’m going to try to reflect a little here and see where we get.

Vinnie is probably the smartest person I know. He is so clever and quick. He’s one of those guys who can figure out how to fix just about anything and we always joke that he knows just enough about enough things to bullshit his way through the rest and come out on top. I’ve never seen someone who’s able to turn nothing into something like Vinnie can.

When we moved to Cleveland from Florida, we were pregnant with our second baby, jobless, with few prospects. It was a low point to be sure, but Vinnie managed to find a job as a deli clerk at a grocery store and worked his way up from there. He became a journeyman meat cutter, then snagged a spot on the opening team of a new upscale grocery chain, then became the head butcher at a high-end steak house in town. Eventually, he worked his way up to sous chef at the restaurant and has since moved on to become one of the most highly trained butchers in the area. He’s really great at what he does and I’m so proud of him.

But what most people don’t know is how deeply dangerous the food industry can be, especially for people who are predisposed to depression and/or substance abuse. Vinnie checks both of those boxes off, so while he was succeeding and growing and advancing at work, it was in a toxic environment.

Restaurant life is brutal. The hours are abysmal. Employees arrive early and leave late. The pace is hectic and stressful. Good restaurant crews are able to create amazing food for countless tables, simultaneously balancing special requests, cook times, miscommunications, and endless complaints from obnoxious customers. The pay is low, the thanks are nonexistent, the hours are shit, requiring employees to work holidays and weekends, and success or failure is just one bad Yelp review away.

If you’re scheduled for late service “late” means 2 am some nights. And after you’re finally done with service, the party culture restaurants are famous for leads the crew out to drink either celebrate a good night or drown their sorrows. It’s common for staffs to leave work, party hard, then stagger back the next day hungover just in time to do it all again.

I only understand a shred of it because I’ve never personally lived it, but I have seen what it does to people and I know I’d never make it. No chance.

The restaurant industry chews people up and spits them out only after making sure they’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually stripped bare and broken. It’s no surprise that the people who making the industry tick struggle mightily with mental health and turn to numbing behaviors to get by. It’s no way to live. We’ve seen friends deep in the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and have lost some, too. People are dying, literally dying, and yet the industry gets no breaks. (If you want more information on this, check out this article that references some interesting studies and work being done to support people working in the food industry.)

Our story unfolded somewhere in the middle of all of that. When I look back at what we got through, what Vinnie survived, I am just floored by how lucky we are. We dodged the bullet in a lot of ways and all by the grace of God.

Man can fly from everything in nature, but he cannot fly from himself.

Venerable Matt Talbot

We’ve been married 11 years now and a lot of that time was spent in denial. We both knew there was a problem, but neither of us wanted to address the elephant in the room. Add to that the fact that we had four babies in five years, lots of stress and job changes, and the grinding culture of restaurant and retail work, and you can see how we became more and more dependent upon our addictions. His was alcohol, mine was food.

During the worst of it, I was deeply struggling with codependency, something I’m only now fully realizing and continuing to work through. It was really easy for me, the non-alcoholic, to feel smug and self-righteous because I wasn’t doing anything “wrong.” But the more things spun out of control for Vinnie, the tighter I tried to control it. I micromanaged and nagged and obsessed and stalked. I compulsively checked his text messages and looked for any excuse to catch him doing something wrong. I obsessively talked about it with my best friend in Texas, rehashing arguments and airing a laundry list of worries, complaints, and fears. Weirdly, this behavior made my husband pull away from me.

The one thing I got right in all this was that I prayed. My prayers may have stemmed from a place of fear and control, but the deep desire of him being stripped of dependence on alcohol and falling into dependence on God was real and pure. I became good friends with St. Joseph and St. Monica. I prayed novenas and rosaries, offered masses, and begged the Lord to deliver us, to heal our relationship, and to save Vinnie’s life. While I frequently feared for his physical safety, I was desperately afraid for his soul and my deepest desire was for Vinnie to see his own worth, to be known and held by the Father.

I need to let you know, though, that my prayer life wasn’t perfect. There were plenty of times when I let my resentment, pride, and anger stop me from praying for him as I should have been. My heart has been hardened and broken too many times to count. While this is a story of Vinnie overcoming an alcohol addiction, it is also a story of me being humbled over and over and over again, learning to listen and to surrender it all to the Lord.

Eventually, I started going to therapy. Y’all, every damn person needs to go to therapy. Yes, that means you, too. If you haven’t tried it, you are seriously missing out. Self awareness can be harsh and hard, but it is so healing. We can’t expect to effect change in our relationships until we identify and take responsibility for our own negative behaviors.

In the darkest part of this journey, I was so worried about controlling my children and husband so that we could check off the boxes to show we were doing things “right” that I wasn’t taking care of myself. I became a person who was only as happy as others were with me. I blamed myself for everything. It was my fault that the children didn’t behave. It was my fault that he had to work such long hours. It was my fault that he was drinking so much. If I were a better wife, he wouldn’t do that. If I were a better mother, they would act the way they were supposed to. I was caught in a cycle of self loathing and self pity, and it wasn’t pretty. I was desperate to control everything and furious that it wasn’t working. I was murdering myself to make everyone else happy and then completely filled with resentment when they weren’t miraculously joyful.

My therapist taught me the mind-blowing truth that I’m not in control. Then she took it to the next level and told me that I’m not responsible for anyone else’s emotions. And then she told me that I can only control the way I choose to react to situations and that maybe, just maybe, not everyone else processes things as quickly as I do. It was revolutionary.

I did a lot of hard work to stay in my lane and to take responsibility for myself. Allowing others to make their own choices and letting them experience the repercussions of those choices has been the number one game changer in how I approach parenting and my marriage. I will struggle with this for the rest of my life, just like I struggle with my own numbing behaviors and unhealthy relationship with food (a post for another day), but just being able to name the thing has been life altering. It’s hard to fight a battle when you can’t articulate the thing you’re fighting.

And that was when we had the breakthrough. It was the ugliest, most depressing July 4th of all time and I won’t go into a lot of detail on the particulars, but at the end of that day I put it all down and told him he got to choose. And he chose us. On July 5, 2018 my husband signed up to receive emails from Alcoholics Anonymous and started the process of getting help.

And then we lived happily ever after…in an alcohol saturated culture where it’s almost impossible to go against that stream. Vinnie decided to get sober while he worked in a place that kept whiskey on hand for the sole purpose of staff drinking. He decided to get sober in a country where it’s culturally expected that you drink under all circumstances. Celebrating something? Have a drink! Having a tough time? Have a drink! Want to have fun? Have a drink! It’s more fun! Want to relax? Have a drink! You’ll be more chill! Want to be hip and masculine? Have a drink! This one has a beard on the can! Are you the mom of small children? Rosé all day, mamas!

During his first few months of sobriety, we had to navigate a lot. Birthday parties held in bars, holidays, explaining over and over again that he quit drinking and then dealing with the absolute weirdness that comes from saying that to another human. Fam, if someone tells you they don’t drink, please don’t feel awkward. Just say, “Cool!” and move on. They probably don’t care if you drink. They’re well aware that other people don’t have the same problem that they do and they don’t expect the entire world to stop drinking just because they did. Alcoholics live with this unfairness every day. You’re nothing new. If you do want to abstain around them, that’s incredibly kind and we thank you, but don’t make a big thing of it. Maybe just congratulate them and then talk about something else. It doesn’t have to be weird unless we make it weird.

In all of that, Vinnie just went cold turkey. We got better at communicating and giving each other permission to feel how we feel. I started fighting my own addiction demons, which kind of made us feel like we were more on the same team. We started making our faith more of a priority together and we have scraped and crawled and grown so much in the last two years.

Obviously the struggle is not over. There will always be days when Vinnie wishes he could drink. There is often a feeling of being left out of the club and sometimes the awkwardness takes us by surprise. But he will be the first one to tell you how awesome it feels to not be hungover on July 5th (or any other day, for that matter). We’re going to be working on this for the rest of our lives and that’s okay. We know what it looks like now to look our ugliness in the face and give it to the Lord. We’ve confronted a lot of demons and are living witness to the fact that God is faithful. He loves us, He hears us, He pursues us, and redeems anything.

Our story is not over. God is still healing and working on our hearts. I can only say it is such a privilege to have been chosen to be Vinnie’s wife. I have seen him look his demons in the face and fight for life. I have seen him grow into the husband and father I knew he could be when I first fell in love with him. I have seen him come back from the absolute brink and I have been generously given back the husband that I lost to alcohol. I pray that I may be made worthy of my vocation as his wife and the mother of our babies. I pray that we would both be given the grace to carry our crosses well for the greater glory of God and I am so thankful that God can use even this to reveal His love to us.

If you’re in the middle of a dark place, take heart. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an expert and I obviously realize that your story won’t necessarily play out like ours has, but regardless of how things are resolved, you’ll never regret pursuing God first or taking responsibility for yourself. If you’re struggling, keep going. Things won’t get better overnight, but healing does come. Fight for your spouse. Hold them accountable and hold yourself accountable, too. On this side of alcoholism and codependence, I can assure you that the benefits are worth every single minute of struggle.

Yes, in all my striving, He is both the rest and the restoration I seek.

Megan Hjelmstad for Blessed is She

Resources: If you’re a book person and want to dive into addiction and codependence I suggest starting with The Book of Waking Up by Seth Haines and Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Even if you think you don’t personally struggle with either, I’d be willing to bet that you’ll identify with some of what you find in these books.

You can also hear Seth Haines featured on the Fountains of Carrots podcast, which I highly recommend.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

You are loved, you are loved, you are loved. You are deserving of the goodness that comes from a life free from addiction.

For Such a Time as This

I had a really rattling experience the other day and I’ve been trying to decide if it’s worth sharing because it’s so layered and nuanced. I’m going to go ahead and share it with the caveat that I don’t have the answers, y’all. I don’t usually share too much political or potentially political stuff on this platform but I want to share this story because it’s important. I need to start by saying that I don’t expect you to agree with all of my feelings about this situation, but I ask that you disagree with charity. Also, this is going to be a real long post, so hang on to your butts.


So the other day I was driving my eldest to piano lessons and I had all the kids in the car. We were traveling down a street and I looked over and noticed that there was a man kneeling on the ground about a block ahead of me. As I got closer I saw that he was a large black man on his knees on the sidewalk just sobbing. Like, absolutely wrecked, entire body shaking, full on sobbing.

Y’all, it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. And I couldn’t just leave him there. But also, I had all my children in the car which always makes me nervous any time I’m tempted to interact with strangers on the road because you just never know. So I wasn’t 100% comfortable with stopping, but I was 1000% not comfortable leaving him.

So I turned around and tried to get back to him, but the streets in that area are all wacko and weird about where you can turn so it took me a minute and I ended up only being able to turn left and approach him from the turn lane. I rolled down my window and called to him, “Sir, are you ok? Do you need help?” and he just looked up at me and didn’t reply. I was pretty certain that he had been drinking since he was swaying a lot and was uncommunicative. I couldn’t stay in the turn lane much longer so I tried to turn around again all the while desperately wracking my brain to figure out who to call.

Normally, I’d just call the police, but that felt all wrong. (This is where you might disagree with me and that’s ok.) As far as I could tell, this man was committing no criminal activity (aside from possible public intoxication), he wasn’t causing a disturbance, hurting anything or anyone, and I just really feel like if you’re in a place in your life when you’re drunk and sobbing on the sidewalk, the last thing you need is a ticket for being drunk and sobbing on the sidewalk.

And honestly, I think that the police in that part of town would probably have been incredibly helpful. However with the current climate in our country, I just didn’t really want to risk things escalating when this situation didn’t necessarily warrant police assistance. I have never felt so stuck, so unable to find a solution, or so helpless. I was crying and praying and circling back to pull over again when I saw that someone else beat me to it.

I pulled up to a stop sign and looked over to see that there was now an older white man holding the black man in a deep, deep hug.

While I was turning around, this older white couple (who could’ve been poster models for the “Boomer” generation) got out of their car and approached this wounded black man on the sidewalk, picked him up, and held him. And it was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long time.

To be clear I’m not sharing this to say, “hooray for white people coming in and saving the day for this poor black man.” This isn’t one of those situations where you get extra credit for doing what you’re supposed to do in the first place. However, in a world where a lot of what we see is the ugly and the nasty, it was really wonderful to see humanity show up in a positive way. It was such a blessing to me to see such opposite sorts of people be so vulnerable with each other and it showed me a new layer of my own privilege and prejudices.

The entire thing left me feeling shaken and upset that I felt unable to help this man. That morning before all this happened I had made an Instagram post about how everyone at home was crabby and I was girding my loins by wearing a shirt that says “Perhaps you were made for such a time as this,” and my Stella Maris medal. If you’re not familiar, the shirt references the book of Esther and Our Lady Stella Maris is the Star of the Sea, symbolically guiding and pointing our ships to Christ through the storms of life.

Later, after piano lessons, I got a message from my friend, Meredith, who wanted to share with me a piece that she wrote for her church newsletter. In it she talks about the very scripture in Esther that my shirt references. I’m going to just go ahead and share Meredith’s piece with you because it is just so good and I can’t bear to choose just one quote.

So, here’s Meredith:

Esther was living in tumultuous times – the Jews were in danger, rulers were corrupt, everything felt risky, and she, a single individual who felt very unqualified, chose to be brave and stand on the foundation of her faith.  I’m sure in that moment, when she went to stand before the king, she felt like I often do – stomach in knots, shaking hands, and that nagging feeling that none of her efforts would make a difference, anyway.  But for those of us who are sitting here in the summer of 2020, we look back and we know: it made all the difference in the world.

“For such a time as this.”  What relevant words!  Throughout the ages, the saints of God have been standing on his promises, declaring the truth, standing up for justice and mercy, and proclaiming the gospel to the next generation.  They did it in the book Acts, as the early church spread like wildfire.  They did it during the early years of this country, as they helped each other to freedom on the Underground Railroad and did not give up hope.  They did it during World War II, hiding Jewish families in their homes and risking their lives for what was right rather than what was easy.  They did it in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, as they cared for the sick despite the sacrifices involved.  And they did it in all the times between, in the uneventful years, when wars were ceased and times were calm, as they pointed to Jesus in the everyday living.  

It has struck me recently that we are the saints chosen for “such a time as this.”  We are part of this enduring story that started with those early Christians and has passed along down generations of families.  We’ve had our faults and our failures, but the truth of the gospel has remained steadfast, and throughout wars, famines, disease, and unrest, the saints of God have stood firm on his Word and proclaimed the truth that we have hope and that all will one day be made new.

And here we are. We are living in a time of sickness, political unrest, and racial disparity. We are holding the torch – we are carrying the baton in this moment of history.  How will we, like Esther, stand firm, despite our shaking hands and nagging doubts?  For me, I will tell my children about the good God that I serve.  I will encourage others.  I will not stop standing on the truth that I know brings healing.  

One day, my great-great grandchildren will look back at this time, and it will seem like vague history – that’s ok. But I hope that these great-great grandchildren will be carrying the torch of faith with them as they face whatever trials they are facing.  I hope that my choice to stand firm on the promises of God will be the link in the chain that makes all the difference.

Meredith Priset

Guys, I don’t know the right answer to heal our broken country. I have a hunch that it’s a billion little answers that are nuanced and complicated but equally rooted in the Truth of love. I am never going to be a political mover and shaker. I will never be a lobbyist or a pundit. Just like Esther, Meredith, and so many before me, I most certainly am going to be unsure and hesitant about my role and will most likely feel ineffective and helpless again and again just like I did the other day.

But I am clinging close to the truth that we are building a cathedral. Each small act of justice, every whispered prayer, all of the tough conversations with children, the letters written to law makers, each and every interaction of love between strangers is more brick and mortar building us all up to heaven.

We were made for such a time as this, to bear witness to the Light. And when we see Light shining in the darkness, it is our responsibility to illuminate it further and to keep laying more foundation like all those who have come before us, one brick at a time.


“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household fo God, built upon the foundations fo the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:19-22

Healing

In light of current events, I’ve been overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve often felt frightened, anxious, ashamed, convicted, angry, resentful, and confused. I’ve had a hard time making sense of things and have prayed for cunning eyes and the grace to see Truth amidst the many voices and headlines that seem to assault me every time I glance at my phone…which is basically every spare second of my time because I’m an addict. Working on it.

In response to that, I’ve been trying to be more disciplined about reading Scripture. Every day I try to start my morning by reading the day’s readings and devotions I subscribe to. I’ve been opening up my bible to read the scriptures in deeper context and to take time to really meditate on them instead of just reading them on my phone. It has been a life-giving practice.

I rarely have a hard time finding a way to connect with the day’s readings, but today the readings just gutted me. It was like they were written specifically for this very moment in history.

My eyes are spent with tears, my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground at the brokenness of the daughter of my people, as children and infants collapse in the streets of the town.

They cry out to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint away like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out in their mothers’ arms.

To what can I compare you – to what can I liken you – O daughter Jerusalem? What example can I give in order to comfort you, virgin daughter Zion? For your breach is vast as the sea; who could heal you?

Your prophets provided you visions of whitewashed illusion; they did not lay bare your guilt, in order to restore your fortunes; they saw for you only oracles of empty deceit.

Lamentations 2:11-14 NAB

Gracious, if that isn’t relevant. I’ve never really spent much time in Lamentations, because honestly it’s not very pleasant. I’m definitely guilty of seeking out scriptures of hope and promise and avoiding the uncomfortable ones. The introduction to Lamentations in my bible says, “…the reader is not so much engaged by the Book of Lamentations as assaulted by it.” I feel the same way about the news every dang day. “But with its unsparing focus on destruction, pain, and suffering the book serves an invaluable function as part of Scripture, witnessing to a biblical faith determined to express honestly the harsh realities of a violent world and providing contemporary readers the language to do the same (emphasis mine).

I think that’s where we are, friends. Or at least that’s where I am. I feel assaulted by the pain, horror, injustice, and evil in my country and overwhelmed by the fact that it comes from all sides. But I’m learning that I have to lean into the uncomfortable parts of life in order to grow. I have to examine my own heart, to identify my personal responsibility, look my sin in the face, and make it right. I’m heading to confession today.

I don’t understand the world. I don’t have all the answers and I have failed so many times. I feel pinned and inadequate, ill-equipped to grapple with the things going on in my country and paralyzed by the fear that whatever it is I do, it will never be “right” or “good enough.”

But here’s what I do know. Racism is a horror, an unequivocal sin, and a blight on our culture.

I also know that there’s a difference between justice and vengeance.

I know that we are all sinners and we are all deserving of mercy. Everyone.

I know that nothing will heal us but God, and that we’re not all called to fight injustice the same ways. But just as with the book of Lamentations, I am called to look sorrow and pain in the face and to listen. Everyone is allowed to feel their feelings, even if those feelings aren’t easy for me to understand or agree with. The only way forward for me is to push into the pain and to pray.

Cry out to the Lord from your heart, wall of daughter Zion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night; give yourself no rest, no relief for your eyes.

Rise up! Wail in the night, at the start of every watch; pour out your heart like water before the Lord: lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who collapse from hunger at the corner of every street.

Lamentations 2:18-19

Right now my heart feels like the Centurion in today’s gospel (Matthew 8:5-17): “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” I know that I am unable to heal anything on my own, unable to affect change without first being healed myself, without being radically transformed by Christ.

Healing is the central theme of the gospel and healing is what our world so desperately needs. Today in Matthew, Jesus heals the Centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and many more:

When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:

‘He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.’

Matthew 8:16-17

He’s here to heal us, friends. We’re never going to conquer evil or injustice or pandemics without looking into our hearts with humility and honesty, taking responsibility for our place in the world, and opening ourselves to the healing light of Christ.

We have to boldly seek truth, realizing that political leaders and organizers of movements may not be completely rooted in gospel truth, regardless of whichever cause they serve. We have to develop open hearts and cunning eyes, constantly checking in with Jesus. He must be the only one we serve, not politics, parties, or movements. To be clear, I’m not advocating that we take no action but rather that we carefully discern which organizations and individuals we support rather than being swept away by every social media post we see that has an eloquent quote (something I am guilty of). We have to do our research before we align ourselves with anything or anyone.

Healing starts with recognizing the belovedness and inherent dignity in each and every person, even those who seem the most evil and ugly to us. We are called to serve justice with mercy and reconciliation. We are required to take responsibility for our actions, even if that means admitting we were wrong. We have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, leaning into the discomfort and hiding ourselves in the wounds of Jesus.

Here is the prayer of my heart:

Lord Jesus, you know our hearts, where they are aching, consumed by anxiety, gripped with fear, where they are hurt, wounded, and hardened. You know all the places we store up little hopes. You know our wants and needs and all the false gods we turn to. Give us the grace to turn to you today. Lord, bolster us where we feel weak, weary, and worried.

Jesus, heal our hearts. Bind up those things in us that rebel against you. Purify us and give us hearts of flesh in place of our hearts of stone.

Father, give us eyes to see you at work in our lives, hearts that break over what breaks yours. Give us ears to hear you speaking directly to us and the humility and obedience to serve you.

Reveal yourself to us, Lord, in every person we meet. Remove our blinders that we might see belovedness all around us.

Jesus, this world is broken. We are broken. Draw us to you and comfort us at your breast. Help us to recognize you offering yourself to us and give us the grace and fortitude to offer ourselves back to you.

Amen

Welcome to My TED Talk

Y’all. My husband came home last night and after spending a few minutes casually filling him in about my day, that man accused me of being chatty.

Chatty.

Me.

I just cannot.

I mean, in all actuality I’m pretty sure some variation of “chatty” was written on, like, all of my report cards. And also, I do love to chat. My mother-in-law insists that there’s some sort of phenomenon in which I will run into someone I know and become engaged in small talk regardless of the location we happen to be in. She’s not wrong. The last time we were at Disney World I ran into a former co-worker from Ohio. True story. I admit am a notorious conversationalist…and by ‘conversationalist’ I mean that I like to talk a lot because I’m an extrovert the end.

But, y’all, after months and months of quarantine and social distancing, I have to admit I’ve turned into a bit of a monster. I just can’t help it. For an outgoing and social person, times are tough. I am literally never around another adult for the majority of the week, so I have had to take matters into my own hands.

Which is why I am making a friendship bracelet for the nice receptionist who helped me schedule a well-visit for one of the kids. We’re best friends now.

I added a post to my Insta-stories the other day about how excited I was to talk to my new receptionist BFF on the phone AND get an actual appointment on the calendar. I’ve finally got something to live for and I am literally counting the days till August when I get to see my pal in person at the check in desk. I got a chorus of feedback from that post, so I know I’m not the only one in this state of social desperation. Ok, there was, like, one person who responded to my pathetic excitement over scheduling a well-visit, but we are totally in this together.

And I do totally know what my Walmart cashier did for Father’s Day. Toni has five kids (four boys and a girl) and sixteen grandkids and that woman hosted them all at her house for Father’s Day. It was wild, but so wonderful and gosh do those kids eat a lot. (We laugh together knowingly as she scans my watermelon.) She even watched a few of those grandkids for three days last week and she’s kind of glad to be back at work just so she can have a break! Also, Toni is a dedicated double-bagger, wears her mask properly, and has lovely eyes. I can’t wait to see her when she’s here for Christmas. Do y’all think it’s too early for me to be picking out our matching holiday pajamas or am I good?

I can’t pretend that I haven’t always been the type of person who talks to their cashier, but gracious desperate times call for desperate measures. A few weeks ago my friend, Diane, was driving down my street and pulled over real quick to chat since she saw me hanging out in my front yard, (ie desperately scanning the horizon for any human with which to connect). When she pulled away forty-five minutes later, I felt like Jane Seymour in Somewhere in Time when Christopher Reeve gets sucked back into the future just because he found that dumb penny in his pocket. Obviously this is a worthless comparison if you’ve never seen the movie, but for the four of you who have, I know you get me.

Come back to me…

Anyway, this is all to say that if you happen to see me out and about…you should probably just go ahead and buy a lottery ticket because I only go out like once a week and if you see me during that hour then you, my friend, have certainly hit the jackpot. And if you do see me while you’re buying said lottery ticket, I am happy to help you pick your numbers. Odds are I’ve already quizzed everyone within a twelve foot radius of me about their lucky lotto numbers and we’ve just finalized plans for New Years.

It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all good. I’m just over here making friends one week at a time and talking my husband to death the second he gets home…which would explain the long hours he’s been working. This is my life now, though, and my yapping can’t be stopped. I’m not even a little bit sorry because extroverts gotta extrovert Covid be damned.

Alright, thank you all for coming to my TED talk on how much I talk. There will be another one in approximately four minutes titled, “Interpreting Spousal Sighs: How to Ignore Them and Get Your Point Across,” followed by, “My Kids Won’t Shut Up: How to Get a Word in Edgewise.”

Motherhood: The Maximum Threshold

Hey, gang…how y’all doin’? I hope you’re well. I wanted to talk to all you mamas about something that I’ve noticed many, many times in my years of motherhood, but that I was recently reminded of in a Facebook comments thread.

Here’s how it usually goes: Someone will post something about struggling with motherhood and it’ll get a chorus of “me too’s.” Inevitably, somewhere in the comments, one of those sentiments of solidarity carries a caveat, “I feel that, too, but I only have X number of kids.” It’s got that unspoken sense of comparison and failure that says, “It’s okay for you to feel that way because you have more children than I do, but if I also feel that way then I must be doing something wrong because I don’t have that many kids. I must be failing.”

Y’all, that is straight up bull slaw and I will not have it.

Listen to me. Your personal max is just that, the maximum threshold of challenge you have ever personally navigated. Struggle doesn’t discriminate based on family size, experience, age, or any other variable. This shiz is hard regardless.

We do this comparison/failure thing all the time with all sorts of things. You’re allowed to complain about being sore after running because you’re an ultra marathoner. I however, should shut up and stop whining because I can only run six miles, never mind the fact that I’ve only recently taken up running. You’re allowed to struggle with exhaustion after your work week, but I’m “only” a stay at home mom or I’m “only” a student without a “real” job so I should have nothing to complain about.

Guys, this is not only completely untrue, but it’s also unhelpful and unhealthy. When we’re talking about this issue as it pertains particularly to motherhood, I think it’s even more dangerous. Motherhood is intrinsically connected to the depths of my identity in a deeper way than being a runner, or an employee, or a student ever could be. My identity as mother defines me to my absolute core, so a sense of failure as a mother is felt far more deeply than any other failure I can think of. I think this is true for most moms I know.

We all know that comparison is as unhealthy as it is a natural response to being a human. We’re constantly tempted to check where we are in relation to the herd. Are we behind? Ahead? Keeping up? Holding people back? It’s human nature, which makes it that much harder to resist.

Mamas listen unto me. Hear my voice and take a second to really think about this. You are currently working at the maximum level of motherhood you have ever experienced. Of course your experience of parenting feels like it’s pushing you to your limit because it is. The number of children you have does not dictate the level of difficulty you are allowed to experience. I have friends with one child, friends with five kids, even a pal who has eleven. Each and every one of them is allowed to feel the magnitude of what they’re being asked to do on a daily basis. It does not matter if you have one child or fifteen, you’re allowed to feel the weight of that responsibility. You’re also allowed to be annoyed by the noise, mess, and sacrifice and also to laugh about it all. Numbers simply do not count here.

We wouldn’t expect a novice runner with shin splints to suck it up and stop complaining just because she’s never run a 10K or a marathon. Shin splints hurt no matter who is experiencing them. We wouldn’t tell a student cramming for finals to shut up and work just because she’s not currently a lawyer. Intellectual exertion pushes us to our limit regardless of the level of work we’re doing.

Mamas, you are allowed to take up space. You are allowed to admit things are hard and frustrating. You’re allowed to say, “me too,” and laugh at the absurdities of motherhood right alongside your sisters who are juggling more or fewer children than you. You are allowed to be there in the comments section, taking up space, and being part of the community. You’re allowed to be there, because here’s the thing. We want you there.

Comparison wants to whisper shame and tell you that not even your struggles are enough. Comparison wants you to be small, and insignificant, and alone. But in my experience, the right group of moms, and honestly the group that I’ve worked hard to cultivate and attract to my posts and writing, is the kind of group who wants you. If you don’t show up, we’re missing out on another voice validating us. If you don’t show up, we’re missing out on a chance to love you. If you don’t comment or say, “me, too,” we’re missing out on another voice in the herd reminding us that we’re all in this together regardless of family size, experience, or ability. We need you to show up. Desperately.

Now, I know that not all comments sections are kind. We obviously have to be wise and share our hearts with people who are safe and can be trusted, but that’s true no matter if we’re sharing on the internet or in-person. The other side of this is that we need to be on the look out for mamas who are making those comparison comments, the ones we can see who need a little extra validation. Those are the friends (or strangers) we need to speak up for, offer a hand and a reminder to that they’re important and loved. We need to take care of those mamas. Odds are, we’ve been on the receiving end of another mother’s kindness, too, and it’s our responsibility to pass that on.

Motherhood is such a gift. We get to experience creation, sacrifice, and intimacy with another human in ways that are almost inexplicable and then we get to have that person puke on us, and make us laugh, and walk away. It’s hard and it’s funny. Motherhood pushes us to our absolute maximum threshold every single day. The silver lining is that we also get each other. We get to be part of a community of sisters who gets us and sees us right where we are. We come in all shapes, sizes, numbers of kids, types of jobs, different cleaning styles, religions, ideologies, and so on. There are infinite differences, but we can all agree that this is the toughest, most rewarding gig we will ever have the privilege of holding down and navigating it alone is just not an option.

You belong here. You are wanted, and needed, and necessary. I hope you know that, my friend.

xoxo,

Mary Susan

House Rules

Y’all, I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable here, but I put on real pants today, pants with buttons and a zipper, and they fit. In the spirit of that level of success and productivity, I thought I’d take the time to write down my updated list of house rules.

Previously, I’d say that our house rules were pretty normal. My demands are usually fairly minimal, stuff like “don’t jump on the couch,” “muddy shoes belong on the mat,” “don’t bring slugs indoors,” that sort of thing. But, as with most things these days, I’ve come to realize that our house rules need a little bit of a revamp.

Below you’ll see the letter I’ve written to the darling cherubim I like to call my children. Please feel free let me know if you’ve got any ideas for additions or revisions.


Dear Offspring: As I’m sure you know, times they are a-changing. Therefore, I have updated our house rules. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is long overdue, as I have heard your repeated protests and observed your continual opposition. Today, you’ll be pleased to know that I have heard you and your demands are reflected in policy changes below. Please review the proposed legislation, which follows. Thank you for your continued support in keeping our home a haven of rest, serenity, and joy for many years to come.

  • Do what you want with the couch. Go ahead and jump, climb, slide, destroy, and ruin that thing…I’ve accepted the fact that its demise is near.
  • Just put the shoes anywhere. I’m tired of hearing myself speak pointless reminders into the empty, echoing void.
  • All future arguments will be settled by trampoline cage match. Just sort it out amongst yourselves. You know where the bandaids are.
  • If you could just kind of attempt to clean your teeth, we can call it good. Just try. Do it for me and the people living in the tri-state area who can smell your stench.
  • If you are tempted to tattle on someone, please refer to #3.
  • Just use the screens. I don’t have it in me to police screen time anymore. Give my regards to Mario and the Koopas. Good luck with your turnips and I hope you catch a red snapper who’s looking pretty dapper. I’m out.
  • If you can keep living insects out of the bathroom, that’d be cool, but I understand the deep desire to bring the outside in. Let’s just avoid the ones with stingers, shall we?
  • Go on ahead and just scatter those LEGOs like party confetti. I’ve become accustomed to navigating the house as though I’m traversing minefield and I rather enjoy the challenge of charting a new potentially pain-free path through the living room every morning. If I ever find one, I’ll let you know!
  • Feel free to partake in wrestlin’, wrasslin’, wranglin’, tanglin’, tumblin’, bumblin’, or any other form of fisticuffs while you’re upstairs. I accept the fact that your fighting will eventually bring the ceiling fan in the kitchen down upon me. ‘Tis inevitable.
  • You’ve got open access to the nail polish, the stove, and the lawn mower. Again, you know where the bandaids are.
  • Essentially, kids, the house is yours. I formally surrender to the fact that I am a mere observer of the real-life Lord of the Flies reenactment that my life has become and I shall sharpen my pike as a sign of unity with your new form of government…
  • HOWEVER, No child shall eat, breathe, or make any manner of mouth noises anywhere near my person. If there is a youngster in the tri-state area who is partaking of foodstuffs and I can audibly hear the consumption of said food, I will flip my actual lid. I can handle all of the other annoyances for they are minor in comparison. But if I hear another child noisily masticate a graham cracker right in my ear, I am out. Totally not kidding, Imma check myself into a hotel and y’all are on your own. Good luck, you know where the bandaids are.
  • And while we’re at it, if the rare occurrence happens in which I am granted the opportunity to sit and eat my own meal, y’all better not touch my body. Me sitting down to eat is not the signal for you to climb into my lap, hang on my arm, or violently lay your entire body across my back. It is not the time, younglings. Not. The. Time.
  • In conclusion, my food is the same as your food. Actually, it’s probably just a collection of cast off scraps that I’ve pillaged and gathered from your plates. Contrary to popular belief, my meals are comprised mainly of the food you refuse to eat. Do you remember that food you loved yesterday that I foolishly assumed you’d eat again today? Anyone recall that old favorite from days of yore that you can’t bear to eat ever again? It doesn’t magically become different food when I scrape it from your pitiful plate of refusal onto a different plate which is then placed in front of me. When my plate is full of these outcast foods, it’s still the same food, so please don’t try to steal it from me. It is still the cheese I sliced incorrectly or the third helping of meat you demanded and then realized you couldn’t eat. It’s not miraculously more delicious than when you had a chance to eat it, so just let me eat it in peace. It’s all I’ve got and I just want to eat undisturbed.

Sincerely yours,

Your devoted mother


At the time of publication, I literally used the phrase, “Don’t put that sheep in your pants,” so I suppose that’s getting added to the list.

The One Where I Try Things From the Internet

Buckle up, y’all. This one’s a doozy.

So, a few weeks back my mother in law sent me the following video (I think halfway joking, but one can never be sure with that one…) saying that I ought to try it on our dog.

A word about our dog.

His name is Oliver, he’s a miniature labradoodle, and a complete and total brat. Y’all, I don’t even have words for this dog except to say that he is the definition of “extra.” If you accidentally step on his tail or foot, he howls and dramatically limps around as though he’s just been hobbled by Kathy Bates. He is SO dramatic and gets his feelings hurt easily. I am not making this up. Once, when we were on vacation and he was spending the week with our friend Diane and her dogs, he wanted to play with another pup. The other dog wasn’t having it and kind of bark/growled at Ollie. Diane said that Oliver literally ran to her lap and cried about it for 15 minutes. He sat on that woman and whimper/cried because someone didn’t want to play. Lawd.

Oliver is absolutely absurd about any sort of grooming, particularly about getting his nails trimmed. Once, I took him to the vet for a checkup and asked if they’d clip his nails because he won’t cooperate for me. At all. Ever. He put on an Oscar-worthy demonstration of theatrics until finally they took him in the back to do it because he was causing such a scene. He was back out in two minutes because the vet tech said, “He was totally fine once he was out of your eyesight.” Cue side eye from me.

Aaaand cut to yesterday!

I tried it. Y’all, I wrapped my head in plastic, smeared on some peanut butter, and went to work…because I’m not one to question the wisdom of the internet and also I’m desperate. And bored.

I’ll let the pictorial evidence speak for itself. (I apologize in advance for the cleavage, it can’t be helped.)

So, yeah. That happened. I can report that I successfully clipped four of his nails. This is four more than I usually clip so I’m counting it as a win. Gracious.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to upload the video footage of this delightful scenario directly to the blog because WordPress wants me to upgrade and I’m not sure this is fifty dollars worth of solid filmmaking, no offense to my ten year old cinematographer. I will, however attempt to post it to my Instastories and Facebook story because I have no shame and feel that it should be recorded for posterity, if only for 24 hours.

So, that’s a thing we did and I highly suggest that you try it and publicly share your results preferably in picture and/or video format. You know…for the inspiration of others.

Rest and Rise

I recently reached the point in the ‘ole pandemic in which I was crying in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I mean…if you’re not crying in the Wal-Mart parking lot, are you even coronavirus-ing?? The tl:dr version is that I hit a wall.

The long version is that it was the first day of our weekend. My husband had worked yet another 60+ hour work week, and while I am eternally, eternally grateful that he’s still got a job, his working so much means I’m home alone with the kids. Again, I am so grateful but it’s hard. (Yet another of life’s strange truths: you can be indescribably thankful for something and also be completely over it.)

I started the day tender, emotional, and testy. I eventually set out to do my once a week apocalyptic Wal-Mart run, which was awful because Wal-Mart and also extra awful because pandemic. Ugh. The register was possessed and either wouldn’t scan things or inexplicably scanned things that weren’t even near it. Not kidding, a package of graham crackers was ghost scanned like ten times, so the poor cashier had to void that out and then move on to peppers that wouldn’t scan at all. The whole experience was trying, made extra frustrating by the fact that I got home and realized I had left two bags at the store.

I took it really well. (Please see: lying liar who lies.)

After I finished teaching the kids new curse words (let’s be honest, reviewing the word’s we’ve been working on for the last few weeks), I set in to fight with my husband who was being nice to me. He foolishly offered to help me, perhaps forgetting that I am a native Texan born and bred and also the clone of my mother and don’t nobody try to help me when I need it thankyouverymuch. It was one of those moments when I knew I was completely in the wrong and I needed to shut up and be humble enough to accept help, but I just couldn’t get my dumb self to do it. Lawd.

So I found myself crying in the Wal-Mart parking lot, texting a dear friend who replied, “I feel like that so often. Cry it out is my theory. Don’t block the feeling because this f*$%&@! sucks.” And ain’t that just the perfect truth? So I cried at Wal-Mart and went in to get my stuff and kept on moving forward, which is just kinda where we’re all at these days. (As an aside, can I just say that masks work real well to hide the fact that you’ve been crying in the parking lot, a perk I wasn’t expecting when this whole mask thing began. So there’s a little silver lining.)

I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then. Trying to piece together why I’m wound so tight, finding it so hard to cope some days. Even my (completely patient and not stubborn like me) mother told me yesterday that she, a retired person, feels inordinately stressed, rushed, and busy. She’s been making masks for folks, perfecting her pattern and sending them off to friends and family who need them, but other than that her daily life hasn’t changed all that much. She lives in a rural area in Texas that sort of forces her to isolate just due to geography. Mom and I agreed that, regardless of our life situation, there’s a pervading sense of urgency to everything we’re doing these days that seeps into our consciousness. The fact that we’re always at home doesn’t affect this pressure at all. We’re collectively operating under a sustained high level of stress, like some sort of twisted carpe diem that urges us to hustle and do “enough” while we’re effectively forced to tread water. What a time to be alive.

Separated from the Sacraments, unable to do my weekly holy hour in Adoration, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly more prickly. I’ve allowed myself to settle into the mindset that I have to do things myself, my wellbeing is dependent upon my actions, I’ve got to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and it is through my own power that I will forge on ahead into the new normal, as they say.

I realize that this is clearly not due to separation on God’s part, for He is nothing if not constant. This change in attitude is due to my own weakness and sin. I’ve allowed my grief to build up walls in my heart. We’ve lost so much and I think it’s normal for our defense mechanisms to spring up. Perhaps you’re finding that, like me, you’ve become critical, prickly, and judgmental when you desperately desire to be gentle, open, loving, and free.

While this response is normal, it’s never satisfying, at least for me. The walls I put up on my heart always end up being constricting and the “control” I create is stifling and suffocating, certainly not freeing like I intend. I find that my version of “in control” often ends up looking more like paranoia and a vice grip on the steering wheel rather than the confidence and peace I’m really searching for.

The truth is, of course, that nothing I manufacture for myself will ever satisfy. The deeper truth is in the resurrection, the truth that every death I experience is a new beginning and Jesus is deeply present in both. Right now we’re in an ongoing new beginning that seems to stretch on in an eternity of unknowns. We have laid so much down, been required to offer up, sacrifice, let go, and take away. It hurts, this death of our previous lives. It hurts deeply. But after death there is always resurrection. Christ is present in it all consistently redeeming it with His endless mercy and grace. In a reflection over at Blessed is She, Kelsey Dassance says, “Let us rest and rise in His invitation to grace. Let’s live for eternal life.”

Rest and rise. I love that.

Guys, we can rest in grief. We can let ourselves be sad and cry in the Wal-Mart parking lot. We can take a moment and feel the weariness and acknowledge the fear. But we are an Easter people, are we not? We get to live the truth of the resurrection every single day. It is only in claiming that truth that we can make peace with where we’re at.

Claim the truth of the resurrection every moment of every day. That which has been killed, the places we’re laid low, the dead ends, the broken backs, the space where we’re just done…that’s where He is. Christ is right there waiting to hold space with us, be near us in our woundedness and redeem it all. Each ending, however large or inconsequential it may seem, is an opportunity to receive Him. The key, I think, is in laying down our will and taking up His. Christ specifically said,

“…I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.”

John 6:37-40

Guys, whether we’re grouchy, afraid, crying at the Wal-Mart, or lashing out when others offer us help, now is the time to rest and to rise. Now is the time to live the truth of the resurrection over and over and over again, as many times a day as we need. Jesus is constantly working, constantly moving, always redeeming and raising us up in every single dead space we experience. But we have to claim it. We have to open our prickly, grouchy, fear filled hearts, rest in Him and rise in His truth.

And as a caveat, let me remind you that we’re not required to rise and seize the day and come out of all this like perfectly transformed butterflies with new business ideas, angelic children, and the recipe for world peace. Shit, we don’t even have to have mastered foamy coffee or sourdough. We’re simply called to rest and rise in Christ. And when we rise, let us rise in the deep truth of our identity: that we were created from love and created to love. Let that be our transformation, to love others and ourselves through the gentle, redeeming eyes of a Savior who’s been there.

Rest and rise today, my friends. You are indescribably precious and loved.