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growing up

Family, fear, growing up, Uncategorized

The Brown House

We moved to the brown house a few months after I turned one.

For my second Birthday, my mom set a big tall candle in the middle of the dining room table and let me blow it out as soon as it had burned from the “1” to the “2.” For the next five Birthdays, I would sit at the same table with the same candle.

That house holds some of my strongest and happiest memories from childhood. A good portion of the stories I have written about are from this time, including the year I wouldn’t come out of my room on Christmas morning because I was convinced Santa had brought me coal.

In my mind’s eye, I can see every corner of it.

The swing that was bolted underneath the second-story deck, where I would pump until my feet touched the underside.

Our dog Sparky, who I may or may not have blamed for pushing my sister down the stairs one time.

The day my dad brought home a wrapped box, and when I opened it I read “T-Ball” but didn’t know what it meant. He told me we would play with it together after supper, which was all the information I needed to love it.

My grandmother taught me how to swim a few miles from the brown house.

I can still feel the pull my mom’s hands, tugging my wet boots off after hours in the snow.

It was exactly what childhood should be, and albums of photographs have preserved the days of the brown house.

Where I welcomed a baby sister into the world.

And played on a soccer team called the “Brown Bombers” that never won a game.

I listened to records and did gymnastics waiting for my dad to come home from a business trip. After awhile I stopped dancing and stared into the dark night, willing his car to pull in the long driveway so I could stand on his feet and dance with him.

   

I had my first crush there, and subsequently my first heartbreak.

Once I stuck my head through the slats on our porch, only to realize that my ears prevented me from pulling it back through. It wasn’t nearly as alarming as it was comical, and truth be told I don’t remember how we ever did get me out of there.

There was always snow in winter, bright sky in summer.

It was idyllic, really.

I would hasten to say I have exhausted Todd with my stories over the years

Unfortunately, it’s also the house that reminds me of the way I was afraid to sleep. I can remember sitting up in bed, staring straight ahead and waiting to see my parents walk to their room.

One night I thought there were snakes in my bed so I screamed until my mom came. They were actually not snakes, but rather the tails of the mickey mouse images on my bedsheets. We decided Holly Hobbie was a better option after that.

I can smell the humidifier, puffing and piping steam while my sister cried a few doors down.

I got my first scar at the brown house. My mother was sitting behind me, blowdrying my hair, and I swung my legs and lost my balance. I landed on my chin and split it open. I still remember the man at the hospital telling me it wasn’t exactly stitches, but something about a butterfly instead, which sounded better than bleeding.

One of the hardest days of my childhood was the first day of school.

I vividly remember being concerned that my hair wasn’t quite long enough to be braided the way I wanted. I watched my mother make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and as her hands moved from one side to the other and I stared at the back of her head, wishing she would let me stay with her instead.

I didn’t smile for a single picture, because I was petrified. I gripped the handle of my lunchbox and pleaded with my eyes.

In light of everything that has happened in the past several days, this particular photograph has taken on new meaning.

Beautiful, precious, and full of a lifetime of days I hadn’t seen yet.

I was six- a Kindergartner.

At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

I look at myself, standing in a kitchen where another child likely stood last week, and the weight of it all overwhelms me.

We sat as a family today and we each prayed for everyone involved. We begged God to be present with the families affected, and to work in supernatural ways to bring healing.

It’s familiar to me, this town.

It’s as much a part of me as any other place I’ve been.

But this grief, this upside-down, twisted inside-out devastation that is wreaking havoc on streets I used to run…it’s more than I can bear.

I cry as they show images of women, panicked and running with their children. I fold over myself as the first images are released and I am face to face children who are Kate’s age.

I’ve tried to write this post over and over, and I just can’t get through it. I am so terribly broken for all of those who have been affected, and I fear my pen can never reach the depth of these emotions. There are beautiful and right things to say about our hope as Christians, but some days it’s a fight to feel the peace we profess.

I await the day when it will be made right, and in the meantime, I will fix my eyes on Jesus. I will pray for these families by name, and will never forget the tiny faces that flash on the nightly news…

Lord, we don’t understand. We are trusting in  Your goodness, leaning hard into you instead of what’s all around us.

Please, Jesus…have mercy. We are broken and devastated over a loss like this…we need you, Father.

Come Quickly.

 

Charlotte, Everyday life, Faith, Family, growing up

Mirror and Sky

I didn’t use to be so worried  about wrinkles. Which made sense because I didn’t have any. I think for a very long time I was actually convinced that I would be the one person in the history of time who would grow old without ever having to buy wrinkle cream.

A few months ago I was getting ready in the bathroom and Ellie walked in and said something funny. I laughed and then gasped at my reflection in the mirror. Were those…? I mean, surely not. I’ve worked out all the details. No gray hair, no wrinkles, no belly fat, no stretch marks. And I accepted the latter two as payment for my babies. But the Lord and I had not come to any definitive conclusions about the rest of it.

Imagine my surprise a few days later when I found not one, but three gray hairs.

Clearly, it was time for intervention (and by “intervention” I mean “shopping).

I headed to Sephora because they are like a therapist but with more lipstick choices. I found a woman who seemed to have made the same pact with God about aging but apparently had better moisturizer than I did. She walked me to the back of the store and introduced me to an eye cream that smelled like dead fish. I wanted to embrace the dead fish because once my teenage skin came back it would seem like a small price to pay. I bought the fish stuff, along with a few other “must-haves” for the rewind process. I’m not going to say I didn’t give it a fair shot, but approximately 45 minutes after I put it on, I still saw some wrinkles and I gave a monologue that would have made Solomon seem optimistic in Ecclesiastes.

Stupid wrinkles. They’re just around my eyes a little and mostly when I smile. Actually, I’m not even 100% sure they are wrinkles. They might just be my face.

Whatever.

They smell like fish now.

My thought process for a few days went something like this:

“I’m old. I’m practically on the doorstep of death. I need to deal with it.”

“Who cares what I look like? I mean, the Lord doesn’t look at the face. He looks at the heart.”

“Well that’s good. But unfortunately, everyone else looks at your face and yours is old and freaky looking. And I would be much more concerned about your arm fat than your wrinkles. You can give up smiling forever but your arms are going to have to move.”

“I’m so vain. I need to get over it.”

And on and on. And then on a little more because why not go for broke, you know?

I know I’m not the only one who has been through this, and I also know that it’s inevitable. But I guess I never realized I was going to be included.

Truth be told, I don’t think it’s even about face lines or gray hairs.

I just don’t want things to be moving quite so fast.

I meant to take a picture of Charlotte’s tiny little baby feet hanging off the rocking chair the other day and I took at least 15 photos, bemoaning the way the angle was making them look so big. I scrolled through a couple and looked up at her again, and in an instant I realized they were wholly representing what existed. Her feet are chubby and delicious, and I kiss them every single day. And somewhere in the kissing and the shoes and the towel drying them after bath time, I missed the part where they changed.

The camera doesn’t lie, and neither does the mirror.

My heart says, “It will never change,”  but the reflections tell me otherwise.

I sat in the moonlight all alone that night and whispered to Him, “Why?”

Why do you let me love things as they are only to tell me they won’t stay?

And as the blushing bride, ever well-intentioned, I realized my mistake as soon as the words left my mouth.

All this dark night, and you sit in the moonlight asking why.

I’ve been holding it all too tightly. Shoving feet in tiny shoes and scrutinizing the way the hours are robbing me of what was beautiful. I missed the way He lit up the night for me.

His moon.

His love.

His painting of my hair and ticking of the clock.

His spectacular plan that I’m so tempted to forget in favor of wrinkle cream and doubt. I get the sense that I’ve been treading water for a long time, asking Him to give me something that feels better.

I spend more time looking for my reflection in a mirror, rather than in the night sky. I want to drink deep of the landscape He has blessed me with. Not from behind a camera, trying to clip and edit until it matches my heart, but as a woman who can see the stars spilled out and believe Him.

There is beauty in the believing, isn’t there?

It’s a warm summer day today, and I have a feeling my backyard will be full of noises and patches of light tonight.

And as it often does, the wind will pick up the swings and move them back and forth while I cry out for them to be still. Tonight I will watch them and I will smile.

And instead of worrying about the swings, I will thank Him for the wind.

Constantly moving.

Always nudging us toward our home with Him.

Jesus, You make it all unbearable beautiful when we dare to look. Thank you for the mercy that sets us all free to love you in return…You are Everything.

And also, Jesus?

I don’t want to smell like fish anymore.

Amen.

Abby, Dad, growing up, Story

The Runaway

So we reached a parenting milestone that I was really hoping we never would.

Ellie comes running down the stairs holding a picture that Abby drew and she’s crying and shaking it at us. After a few muffled minutes, we calm her down and realize that Abby had told her she was running away.  And she had drawn a picture to prove it. It was the outside of our house, complete with our whole family on one side (except Abby) and her on the other side, walking away.

We were understandably very sad in the picture. She, however, did not look fazed. She got a straight-line mouth instead of a sad one. I think I was waving. It was a pretty rough stick-figure scene.

“Abigail Grace, I need you to come to the kitchen right now so we can talk about this.”

I could hear her footsteps in the upstairs hallway as my mind flashed back to one of my poorly-planned attempts to get attention run away from home.

We had just moved to Cincinnati from Japan and I was about to start sixth grade. Let’s just say my idea of fashion wasn’t necessarily in line with my new American school, but for some reason I had an image of what I wanted to wear and I begged my parents to take me to the mall so I could buy it.

In the event that you’re wondering, the dream outfit included a shirt, skirt, tights, headband, and shoes that were all various and inharmonious shades of magenta.

Magenta. I was always a step ahead on the trends.

So anyway, we went to Sears. Actually I think it was Sears-Roebuck. I don’t know. I just know it was 1988 and it was time to rock some McKids clothing.

In the event that you are puzzled by that last sentence because you were in Benetton or the Limited checking out Outback Red, let me tell you. The real party wasn’t at Camp Beverly Hills.

It was at Sears. Right by Ronald McDonald himself.

And yes, it was a clothing line launched by McDonalds, display complete with a 7 foot plastic cut-out of the red-headed-creepy-clown man. I don’t see how people resisted. I wasn’t that strong, I can tell you that.

I settle on this stunning ensemble (not one that they had put together, and kudos to me for shaking it up) and walk over to my dad to show it to him. Apparently Ronald had marked up his prices a bit more than my dad was willing to pay, and he shook his head and kept browsing.

I was devastated.

So much so that I decided to make a bold proclamation. One that should send fear to the hearts of every parent.

I took my clothes back and said, “OK, fine dad. You know what? You don’t even have to buy anything, so just FORGET IT.” Then, I did the dramatic walk-away. Nothing. He wasn’t budging. Time to step it up a notch.

(Insert “whip-around move complete with fake trembling lip” here).

“Because you know what, dad? I’m not even going home with you. I am going to live here.”

My dad looks around me while I nod my head like I’m confident about my decision.

“When you say, here, sweetie, can you tell me exactly where you mean? Cincinnati?”

Time for the big dogs, people.

“No, dad (fling hair, narrow eyes). I am going to live at Sears.”

Take that, Mr. Stingy.

I could see the breakdown in his eyes. He tried to mask his terror with a stifled laugh but I could see through it. He knew he was about to lose me to Ronald. Man, was he going to regret this for the rest of his life.

He nodded while I considered my brilliant plan. I started thinking it might not be believable so I decided to walk away. Let him think about what he had done and come find me to tell me I could indeed purchase the ticket to popularity.

He went back to browsing without saying another word, so I huffed off and found a spot on the other side of the department. I set my clothes under my head for a pillow and took off my coat to drape it over me like a blanket.

A few minutes later he peeked over the rack.

“Angela, what are you doing, honey?”

“I’m just settling in, dad. Just settling in to my new place.”

I adjusted my body around while pretending to get comfortable. There was a little T.V. playing ads for the clothing line so I continued.  Poor guy. This was going to send him right over the edge.

“I mean look, dad. They’ve got T.V., they’ve got clothes, there are all kinds of nice people, and if I get hungry, I’ll just go on down to the food court.”

“Sweetie you don’t have any money.”

“Someone will help me. Some stranger will care about me and take care of me. You just go on home and don’t worry about me.”

I flipped over, staring at the wall while trying to hear if his feet were walking away.

He kneeled next to me.

“I don’t think this is a good choice Angela. Your mother, myself, and Jennifer are going to be very sad without you at the house. But, you’re a very smart girl and if you think this is the best thing for you, I want to try and help you. Why don’t I leave a little money here with you and I will make sure the saleslady watches over you. Whenever we can, we’ll come back and visit, okay?”

Awesome. Not only was I not getting my outfit, I was going to be living next to a plastic clown.

He actually got out his wallet and as soon as I heard it shuffling around I decided maybe I needed to reconsider my offer. My heart started pounding and I sat up and looked at him.

“I don’t want Jennifer to be sad. She really needs me, you know?”

He nodded, wallet still open.

“Well, kid, I’m going to head out and I’d love it if you came with me.”

I lifted the clothes from under my head and held them out for him to take to the register.

He took them from me and smiled. So really, all my hard work had paid off, despite my little circus scare.

“Thank you dad.”

“Oh don’t thank me, honey. Thank the saleslady. She’s going to help you find the racks to hang these all back up.”

Aaaaaand cue scene.

Abby walks into the kitchen and I hold up the picture. She’s looking at it, looking at me, and seeing how this new revelation is going to shake me.

“Ellie brought this to me, honey. She said you were going to run away and find a new house to live at. I don’t want you to do that, and neither do your sisters or your daddy.”

I paused. After all, I learned from the best.

“But you are a smart girl, and if you think this is a good decision, I will help you. Why don’t you take some time to pray about it and if you still think it’s best, mommy has some very nice friends who would let you stay with them for awhile.”

Her eyes widened.

I got down on my knees and looked her dead in the eye.

“And if you decide that this is not what you want, I would like for you to rip up this picture and throw it in the trash. And I do not want to hear about it again. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am.”

She walked out of the room, and approximately 14 seconds later, returned with a shredded drawing and a new lease on life.

“I’m going to stay, momma.”

“Well I’m glad. Now go upstairs and clean your room like I asked you to an hour ago.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I looked in the trash a few minutes later and started laughing. I could hear her chronicling her failed plan to Ellie and I couldn’t believe I was already on the other end of the conversation.

Later that night, I found her getaway bag in my closet (where she knew I would NEVER find it. Clever girl…). It contained 2 princess dresses, some fake grapes, a stuffed dog and her song-writing notebook.

I have to at least give her credit for the clothing choices.

Ronald would be proud.

(in)courage, fear, growing up

(in)courage post


(I thought this was going to be up late tonight, but I guess it’s first thing in the morning! Check back on (in)courage then and hopefully it will be there!)
AND there will be another fun post up tomorrow (with video!) How fancy is that?!?!?!


The Yellow Line
When I was about 4 years old, my parents checked me into the hospital for a week.
My feet dangled off the edge of a chair, ankles crossed together and swinging from front to back while I waited.
I had bitten my nails down to nothing, and now they were tucked into fists, sweaty and restless.
I had on a blue corduroy dress with flowers on the pockets.
I was terrified.
I wasn’t a normal four year old, or at least that’s what they told me.
Normal kids don’t have to check to see if the stove is turned off before they go to bed, nor do they obsess about baby sister’s breathing.
They don’t stare out the glass door and wait for daddy’s car, crying because he might be hurt or lost.
And so I sat.
A few minutes later, I followed the nurses down a long hallway and they put me in a big bed with plastic rails. They gave me a red Popsicle and told me they would be back.
Then they disappeared around the corner with my mother.
**To read the rest, please go to www.incourage.me***