Don’t Lose Heart 

With a heavy metal bar uncomfortably resting on your tired shoulders, you squat down one more time as your legs turn to Jell-O. A bead of sweat drips over your eye brow and down your rosy cheek. “I can’t do any more,” you tell him through salty lips. “I didn’t tell you this was going to be easy”, he replies, “but I promise you it’s worth it. Now let’s do one more. You’ve got this!” 

   Have you ever paid for a personal trainer? If so, you probably understand that in order for muscle to grow, it has to be broken down. You also understand that training sessions aren’t always fun and most definitely not easy, but your trainer probably warned you about that. You understand the feeling of being half way through a work out and wanting to quit. You’ve also experienced your trainer come along side you, encourage you, and even push you; your trainer has never left your side. And after your entire workout plan, made up of several grueling sessions, comes to end, you strangely find yourself thanking your trainer. Why? Because they believed in you when you didn’t believe in yourself. They pushed you to limits you never thought you could reach. And you’re much stronger now than you were when you began. You might even say you’re on a high. 

   Isn’t that the best feeling…when the hard times are over? When you can look back and see how far you’ve come. At times I find myself wishing life was easier and that horrible things never had to happen. Those times usually occur when I’m stuck in the middle of a hard situation. However, when I experience God carry me through a difficult time and come out victorious, now that’s different. Then I feel empowered, and thankfully in awe of all God taught me and the ways He moved through me. 

   Maybe like me, your current training session isn’t over yet. You’re smack dab in the middle of the sweat and tears. Don’t lose heart. God will not not leave you. He’s not giving you more than you can handle either. He’s in this with you. And if your current session just came to an end, and you’ve witnessed God’s work and glory, then take Joy in knowing He is faithful. Come alongside someone that can’t yet see the end result and offer words of encouragement or even a hand. After all, we’re all in this together.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 

Romans 5:3-4

My Child Always Listens When I Say This

Like most of you I’m sure, my day with a four-year-old means repeating myself a lot and if I could count the number of times I say “focus” in a day then I’d tell you how many times I say it. We have a strong-willed and independent little booger on our hands. One of her preschool teacher’s nailed her in a nutshell when they said, “she’s sweet and quiet but fiercely stubborn and independent.”So that brings me to my next point: getting her to obey. Not that any child likes being told what to do, but oh does she NOT like it. I know there’s differing views on the whole “giving them choices” parenting style; some of you may know it as Love and Logic. And although I think there are some absolutely great tips to follow, I was realizing how inconvenient it would be to always give her a choice as to whether she would rather go get her shoes on first or go potty, brush her teeth here or there, etc.- OK you get the idea. I mean don’t get me wrong, the whole choice thing is, I believe, crucial for helping get along with the strong-willed child but there’s a time for it. For example one of my favorites: Would you rather have broccoli for dinner or [whatever I want her to eat]?

So here’s where I was stuck. I didn’t want every task I ask my daughter to do to end in a battle. I tried to get inside her little brain, and I mulled over this a while. I’d tried everything, I thought. Then, at the time I was watching Octonauts with her, and I noticed they always go on a mission. Then she was on a Little Einstein’s kick, and they’re always solving a problem. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Again, problem-solving. 

And her current preschool teacher confirmed that I’m onto something the other day when she said that if a child is not obeying in class, she asks them if they would like to be part of the problem or part of the solution, and of course they typically choose to be part of the solution.

My daughter is super- and I mean super- into make-believe. Half the time she won’t respond to her own name because she is not herself but, in fact, a doctor, or a superhero, or a princess. So what if sometimes we just join them? What do I mean?

Here’s what I did: one day when I needed my daughter to do something for me, instead of asking her to do it, I told her I had a MISSION for her. Boy, did she love that! She was so excited to complete the mission, which of course was just a task I simply needed her to complete. And you know what, it caught on. Now, most of the time when I need her to [fill in the blank], I tell her I have a mission for her and I can promise you that she has not only never complained, but she often excitedly runs over to me to find out what it is.

Sometimes we even have a little fun with it. I hold out my hand like I’m ready for a high-five, and she checks in by placing her hand against mine, I make a few silly beeping noises, and give her the mission in a robot voice. She’s figured out the drill for bedtime, let me tell you. As soon as we begin the mission, she tells me what tasks are needed: go potty, put pajamas on, brush teeth- mission complete! Usually she’s in a hurry to complete a mission as fast as she can because she views it as some sort of challenge. I never give her more than three things to do at a time, and she usually finishes them all.

So mamas, I have a mission for you: try this out and let me know how it goes! 

PS If your child isn’t quite sure what a mission is, just throw on an episode of Octonauts. OR if you’re a better parent than me and don’t allow screen time, use a super-hero analogy to convey the message. 

Good luck! 

From Meth to Mom

Her skeleton frame began to tremble as she saw her reflection through the cracks in the grimy bathroom mirror, and she thought to herself, “How did I get here?”

Fast forward a few years, and she’s the person that welcomes new employees at the office. Her outgoing and bubbly personality is an instant source of comfort. She lights up every room she walks into with a beautiful and healthy smile that is as genuine as they come. And she always looks comfortable and natural. Her laugh echoes and invites others to join conversations. She has the biggest brightest eyes and breathes happiness. This is the girl I met. The only side of Mary [name changed] I knew. When I heard about her past, I was absolutely shocked. “Wait, you mean to tell me that she did drugs? You’re joking, right? Not Mary. No, no, no. She couldn’t have.”

Luckily for me, I got to know Mary better as we worked together for a few years before moving onto other chapters. She told me a bit more of her story, and I learned that she’s not afraid of her scars because she’s been healed. She loves to help others and has a heart of pure gold. She found a wonderful husband, and became a Mrs. while we worked together, and more recently she’s also become a mom. But not just any mom, an amazing mom that loves her sweet little girl with the cutest, chubby, rosy cheeks, blonde hair, and blue eyes. She’s committed to being the best mom she can be. And I got to thinking, now that is a beauty from ashes story, which I just love. So I asked Mary if she would let me share it [and obviously she agreed].

She knocked on my door, and I opened it to find the exact Mary I had come to love. She had on a San Francisco Giants sweatshirt, and her thick black-rimmed glasses, jeans, and sneakers. Her face always has this natural glow as she doesn’t wear much make-up, and she’s one of the few that can get away with it. She showed up early, and didn’t mind that my house was a total disaster. She even went outside and played on the swing set with my four-year-old while I put the baby down for his nap. We eventually got situated at my kitchen table with some peach tea, and the sun perfectly shining in on us from the back windows. We talked about the way we would share this together, and I was so eager to hear the whole story so I began:

Me: Describe your life growing up.

Mary: It was pretty normal. My parents did divorce when I was twelve, and my time was split, but there were really no traumatic events. My parents hardly even drank around us. I didn’t have any experience with drugs or really even know what they were. I wasn’t really into anything specific. I tried sports, but that didn’t really work out. I wasn’t good musically, and so I just didn’t pursue anything. I would try, but I would not be consistent and end up quitting. I grew up going to church youth group every Wednesday and church every Sunday. My dad even led a bible study at our house. I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason I started using. A lot of people do know what triggered it for them, but sometimes that’s also more of a scapegoat or an excuse.

Me: So how did you get into drugs?

Mary: When I was fifteen or sixteen, I started hanging out with people who drank and did drugs. I didn’t know about that lifestyle because I wasn’t around it. I was ignorant to it. I started partying and drinking and smoking pot occasionally. There were a couple of girls I really attached to. They accepted me and made me feel like I was a part of their group, and I hadn’t felt that close of a bond before. I felt different with them. They did a lot of drugs. One night a friend’s parents were gone for the weekend so a bunch of people from high school got together and tried many different drugs. They had coke, and I had tried it but didn’t care for it. I had done a bunch of Oxycontin at the time.


But from that night on, I was hooked.


 

I was on a prescribed antidepressant as well, and that night they said they had meth. I had no clue about meth. I had never been talked to about it. I figured it was probably just like anything else. But from that night on, I was hooked. I had a psychotic episode because of the mixture of antidepressants and other drugs being used. I took a couple of days to bounce back from that experience.

So near the end of that weekend, my mom came over to my friend’s house at about 7pm looking for me. She walked in with my brother and sister. It was a Sunday. I was sleeping for the first time that weekend. I thought it was 7am, and I was late for school. My mom realized something was terribly wrong. There was alcohol and drug paraphernalia everywhere.

After that I continued using meth for a while and ended up at a rehab center at seventeen-years-old. I got out and wanted to graduate, and by that time everyone at school was doing heroine. People were asking for more drugs so I started selling heroine to kids at school and dropped out again.

I used to disappear from my house for days on end, and my parents didn’t know what to do with me. They were at a loss. They would yell or threaten me, but it would happen all over again. They couldn’t control me so they let it go because they didn’t know what to do. They weren’t bad parents. They just didn’t know anything about drugs either. I went from 150 lbs to 90 lbs, and they were really concerned about me.

Me: Who were you when you were doing drugs?

Mary: I wanted the best most extreme high I could get ever since the day I started. I was all in. In my life I had never wanted to do anything to the best of my ability. It was hard for me to fully commit to something or be the best I could until I started doing drugs. Then I wanted to be the one that could do the biggest shot and blow the biggest cloud.

Me: What was your lowest point?

Mary: I had just started hanging out with a new boyfriend. We were in a shack downtown. There was one guy living in it. It had a dirt floor and a bathroom. I had been shooting up for a long time before I met him. By now I was nineteen or twenty-years-old. My boyfriend had used meth since he was twelve because his mom was an addict. He smoked it but hadn’t used any intravenous drug. I had recently gotten clean again, and then dropped out of college and was really skinny again- probably about 90 lbs. I was dehydrated and wanted to get high, but I didn’t have any veins.


I was frustrated but determined to get that high. My boyfriend looked at me and said, “I can’t watch you do this.”


 

I was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, which looked like it was in somebody’s shop because it was covered in dirt- and I was trying to shoot up. I had blood dripping from both arms because I could not hit a vein. I was frustrated but determined to get that high. My boyfriend looked at me and said, “I can’t watch you do this.” When a fellow drug addict is telling you something like that, that’s a sign. He left the bathroom. At this point I was physically in pain. I had poked myself like a pin cushion. I was mentally and physically craving a high. I looked in the mirror. It was dirty and cracked, but through it I saw myself. I looked like a skeleton covered in blood. I was so skinny my face was sunken in and my cheekbones were sticking out. I remember in that moment thinking, [Mary started to cry and then collected herself] “I wonder what my family is doing right now” and “I can’t believe this is my life”. I just felt despair. I can still feel the pain of looking at myself and being completely lost. But I just kept going. I thought, “I’m going to die like this. I’m going to die a junkie on someone’s couch. Selling drugs is all I will do with my life. I’m gonna do this as hard as I can until I die.” I was stealing and taking advantage of people, and this continued on until I got arrested a couple of years later.

Me: Tell me about that time. What changed?

Mary: A lot of really hard stuff took place between that and the time I got arrested. Once everyone I knew started getting arrested and going to prison, I started to realize I didn’t want that for my life. But I didn’t want to do it myself. I didn’t want to go home and withdraw on my own. In the meantime, a lot of federal agents knew who I was, and I was being followed. There was one in particular that really followed me. They would sometimes watch a girl and who she hangs out with. I was that girl. They had been to my house and talked to my dad so he knew my home life and knew I didn’t belong in that scene- not that anyone does. He would arrest me every so often and put me in jail for a misdemeanor. I would get out and go back to what I was doing before. He sticks out in my mind though. He told me to stop hanging around these dangerous people.

I was hanging out with a guy that was a drug dealer. He got arrested the day before I ended up getting arrested. Then his drug dealer got arrested. I had it coming to me. When I got arrested it was a super hot day in August. I was driving through town headed to a lady’s storage shed with her. I was proud of myself because I didn’t have any drugs on me. I had taken a step back. We were driving past a church when we got pulled over into the church parking lot. They wanted to search the car. I thought I wasn’t going to jail because I had nothing on me.  The detective was a jerk to us, but I was talking back to him as well. He eventually pulled a backpack out of the car. Inside it he found drug paraphernalia and pills. It belonged to the lady driving the car. Her son was the one that got arrested the day before, and she started telling the detective it belonged to him.


He began to arrest me, and as he was fastening the handcuffs onto my hand, I looked up and saw a sign above the church that said something about “being free”.


 

I felt like I needed to defend her son because I felt a lot of responsibility for him so I said, “It’s my backpack.” Little did I know just all of the items they would find in it. At the time I didn’t care about the repercussions. He began to arrest me, and as he was fastening the handcuffs onto my hand, I looked up and saw a sign above the church that said something about “being free”. I remember that moment vividly. “This is it,” I thought, “I am never going back here again. No matter what. I’m changing my life.” I wasn’t spiritual at the time, but I felt like God was saying to me, “This is it. This is your time.”

So I went into jail, which was horrible. I stayed there from August until the week of my birthday near the end of October. I was relieved when I first got there. Then a day went by and I was coming down hard. I was on the phone with my dad every hour just begging him to get me out. I was cussing at him, and wanted him to end this cycle of despair. “I’m not bailing you out,” he said. He had never said that to me before. I had messed up a lot of big things, and he always fixed it, except for this time.

The judge ordered me to complete a class while I was in jail, and once I completed it, my dad bonded me out. I got out and surprisingly I did not go right back to drugs. I moved in with my dad right away. I didn’t have any friends or a community at the time so I leaned into my family big time. My dad and I would be up every morning at 6am and have coffee together. I was searching and reaching for anything I could grab onto. I did a devotional I did every day, and I didn’t know what it all meant, but I was just trying to get by. Awhile back, my mom had started volunteering at a Christ-centered transitional living center. Throughout my addiction, she was always asking me to join it; I would tell her I would, but then never show up. I was desperate for some life skills and structure. I didn’t know how to gain that myself. My court date was coming up, and I didn’t want to go to prison. In January of 2011, I started this program. That’s where I really started changing my life, and God took a hold of me, showing me so much about myself. This program protected me and helped me to form who I was, and more importantly, who I was in Jesus.

Me: What did your past teach you about life?

Mary: After coming out of that lifestyle, the biggest thing for me was knowing I needed to have something to rely on other than myself. I needed to know the tools in order to function in life. For example: pay bills, have normal relationships, be a part of a bible study, etc.

Me: Did you ever see yourself as a mom?


I had given up on the idea of being a mom.


 

Mary: [Her eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face as she excitedly answered] I did! Although I miscarried while using and felt like I didn’t deserve to be a mom anymore. I had given up on the idea of being a mom. I didn’t really feel worthy until I married my husband and had been healed from that situation. I’ve always wanted to be a mom.

Me: Do you feel worthy now?

Mary: I think for a long time I didn’t. My husband and I tried to get pregnant for about two years. When I finally did get pregnant, I thought, “Ok this is supposed to be. God has given me this child.” I’ve been redeemed and set free from that whole period in my life. Because I’d had a miscarriage and an abortion, I carried around a lot of guilt for that. During our time of infertility, I felt like I was punishing myself, and God was punishing me- which wasn’t true. When I finally was pregnant, I knew that was God’s will for me. I was going to be just what she needed as a mom, and she would be just what I would need as a daughter.

Me: I know you had a natural birth. Tell me about that.


I’m really proud of myself knowing I can overcome and persevere through pain and reach the end of it.


 

Mary: You know, it wasn’t as horrible as I thought. I’m thankful I did it. Would I do it again? [Mary laughed.] I don’t know. I went into it with an open mind. I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t use any drugs, but I also didn’t plan to have an epidural right when we walked through the door. My husband was praying over me the entire time I was in labor, and without that, I don’t think I would have made it through. It was an accomplishment. I felt good about myself, and we worked together as a team. My husband was there every step of the way. I’m really proud of myself knowing I can overcome and persevere through pain, and reach the end of it. It’s really rewarding.

Me: How has your story influenced you as a mom?

Mary: My past definitely influences me as a mom. I want to be really involved with her and truthful and honest with her about things, making sure she has a firm foundation and rooted with the Lord. I feel like that when you have that, and you have accountability around you, you are less inclined to waiver so drastically.

Me: What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

Mary: [Mary thought for a second.] I love watching all the things she’s learning. She constantly learning. She’s a year old so I loved watching her learn to crawl, and pull herself up- she always looks at me and is so proud of herself and wants my approval. She knows I’m her mom and my husband is her dad. We’re the ones that take care of her and have given her a good life because we have sobriety. We are giving her a happy life. My husband and I both come from the same background. He knows the same things I know, and it’s not a barrier. God has changed us so drastically. I feel so removed from that life.  It’s almost like it wasn’t me. My life is so different now that it seems like it was just a movie I watched.

Me: What words of wisdom can you pass on?

Mary: Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to someone or voice your concern or share about freedom in Jesus because you could be the one that plants that seed. If you don’t do that, that person could completely miss out. So many people did that for me.


You’re going to have to make big changes, and it’s going to be painful…


 

For a person that is in bondage- whether it’s drugs or whatever it may be, the biggest thing is that you do have to reach out and ask for help and humble yourself and know that the way you’re doing things isn’t right. You’re going to have to make big changes, and it’s going to be painful, but [Mary paused, and then the tears started to fall] if you would have asked me ten years ago what my life was going to be like I would have told you I’d be dead by the time I was twenty-five, and I’m just really thankful …. [she paused for a moment as tears streamed down her face] because nothing I have now would have been possible without God, and the people who spoke truth into my life and didn’t give up on me.

I think the world is a more beautiful place because of people like Mary that aren’t afraid to show their scars, ultimately revealing the glory of the one true Healer. Pain and tears are never wasted; they just turn into stories. Our scars don’t define us, but rather remind us that we survived- just not alone. Only The Creator can truly transform the filthiest of ashes in our lives into our own unique beauty.

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  

Isaiah 61:3

5 Things I Learned from Loss

The anniversary swooped in like a bat on Halloween night, and I found myself just a couple days away from the 27th of October- the day my husband and I were told our baby no longer had a heartbeat. We were just a few days shy of 20 weeks and finding out the sex of our baby, and even though something seemed amiss, we hoped that the precautionary ultrasound just meant finding out early if my belly contained pink or blue. The next day, I delivered our baby boy, and we left the hospital with empty arms. It was tragic to us as it was the first major loss we had both experienced. I know others have been through far worse which I can’t even begin to imagine.

This year marks year two since that life-altering event, and people say it all the time, but I think it’s true: time heals wounds. Also true is that time never fully takes them away. This year I was feeling especially strong and removed from that horrible October; I even have a ten-month old beautiful baby boy in my arms today. However, the last week has been rough and, well, I found myself sitting on the floor with my back against the couch bawling after a miniscule argument with my husband over the phone. Perhaps grief has a way of sneaking up on us like an unpredicted wave. Here’s five things I’ve learned from [my] loss:

1. Always be careful what you complain about.
A couple months after delivering my angel baby, I was out with some girlfriends. Some of the ladies there I didn’t see as often so I was updating them on what had happened. They asked some hard questions, and as I started to answer one of them I got choked up. I was still healing and the pain was raw. A few minutes later as the conversation had switched, I was standing next a to a friend that was still pregnant at the time. She began to go off about how miserable she is when she’s pregnant. She flippantly explained she was not one of those people that loved it and just couldn’t wait for it to be over. All I could think about was the fact that mine was over, and that I would have given anything to still be pregnant. If I’m being completely honest, this complaining hit a nerve in me and made me feel hurt and angry. I know I have accidentally done the same to others, but I think it’s important to remember that sometimes the very thing we’re complaining about is the same thing someone else so badly desires.
2. Understand that others may be invisibly hurting.
You can see the lady with her head wrapped in a pretty scarf, a child in a wheelchair, or someone with a broken leg, but what you can’t always see is a broken heart. Days after losing our baby, I had to return to normal life. I still felt like I was in some kind of twilight zone, and of course, I didn’t want it to be my new reality. No one checking my groceries at the store, pouring my morning coffee, or cutting me off in a line of traffic knew what I had just gone through. I clung to warm smiles, sweet voices, and kind eyes. Simple gestures of kindness were like medicine for my wound. I try to remember this now. I wonder what kind of day people are having, what rain cloud may be hovering over their life right now that no one knows anything about. I’ll just end it with this quote I’m sure you’ve heard before: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
3. Don’t be too easily offended.
On the flip side of the “I hate being pregnant” scenario, I have to add that sometimes we just need to quit being so dang offended. Yes, I took way too many things personally after our loss. It’s hard not to when your heart has been ripped open, but now that I can see from a different vantage point, I know it was a problem. People often offer suggestions, advice, or something meant to be comforting that comes across wrong or perhaps is just taken wrong. And don’t take other’s happiness personally. What do I mean by that? Realize when something is a “me” problem vs. a “them” problem. For example, shortly after my pregnancy loss it was hard for me to be on social media. I would see pictures of siblings together and I felt offended and hurt. Don’t they know what I just went through? How could they rub that in my face? You know what I realized? This was a me problem. I started to try to be genuinely happy about others blessings even if I was so jealous and hurt I wasn’t experiencing the same thing for myself. And on this same token, don’t take things people say so personally either. Many times people don’t mean what they say and maybe because of our own experiences, insecurities, or doubts we turn it into something it’s not.
4. God takes things away.
Now stay with me for a minute here. I’m thinking of the verse “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away”, but I didn’t fully understand this until now. Shortly after the loss, I would have thought of it this way: God took my baby away for a reason I may never understand. I felt punished at times. I wondered what I’d done wrong. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to be a mom of two. But the truth is clear to me now. I can see now what God gave me; he gave me peace and strength when I didn’t have it. He gave me hope when I had none. And if he took anything away it was hopelessness and depression. His ways are higher, and I know that, but I’ll never forget something my aunt wrote in a card to me after we lost our baby and that is “some things we’ll never understand on this side of Heaven”. I don’t know why God allows certain things to happen for unknown reasons, but I can choose to focus on what He gives.
5. Good people are everywhere.
The news is filled with horror stories of disgusting and filthy people, but you know what the truth is? Beautiful people with souls that match are everywhere. We encountered many on our journey. My doctor sat in the hospital bed with me and played with my pony tail while we waited for the medicine to induce my labor. Our nurse, Shannon, was an angel and even sent us a card a year later. The chaplain at the hospital sad beside my bed, and told me how he lost a baby girl that would have been about my age now. Complete strangers wrote us encouraging messages. We even found a large anonymous check in our mail one day. And one time a complete stranger prayed with me at the store before he even knew our story [for more on that visit this post]. Kind, thoughtful, generous people are everywhere, and I think they just glow that much more when we’re hurting.

To the Woman at the Store

You know that loud and disgusting Dumb and Dumber scene where Harry is straddling the toilet because Lloyd slipped a laxative into his drink?

So there we were at Home Depot. My very newly potty-trained daughter and I rushed towards the restrooms because she gave me the typical ten-second warning [why does that always happen in public?!]. We entered the bathroom behind a slightly older lady, who shot us an interesting look as if she was thinking, “Oh crap.” But in hind sight, I think that’s exactly what she was thinking as her Taco Bell lunch rumbled around in her angry tummy. A few seconds after getting my daughter settled into our stall, I heard noises coming from this woman’s stall, who just so happened to be right next to ours. These weren’t any noises, you guys. Her body was clearly in rejection mode, and me? I went into panic mode.

Before I could even problem solve how to keep my toddler from embarrassing everyone in the room [besides herself], it happened.

“What is she doing, Mommy?” She asked in the world’s least practiced whisper.

I froze.

In fact, when I think back, I wish my pointer finger would have more quickly met my lips as I mouthed “shhhh”. I wanted the moment to be over, and I hurried my daughter as much as humanly possible to finish potty-ing.

More. deathly. number. two. noises…

At this point, my extremely curious and caring bundle of joy opened her mouth again and said, “Mommy, is she ok?”

And then this…

The suffering stranger in the stall next to us started demonically uttering obscenities, grunts, and demeaning parenting advice from her nose-burning cave.

We hurried. I did more shhh-ing. We left our stall. We washed our hands. The lady continued her grumbly- only louder. Apparently she thought the awkward situation needed to be more awkward.

And you know what? I FUMED.

I would tell you the rest of the story, but it was NOT one of my finer parenting moments, may have involved me waiting for her to come out of the stall, and also included the words “watch out for the grumpy lady” coming out of my mouth as my daughter and I tried to open the deathroom [I mean restroom] door at the same time as Taco Bell’s former customer.

Now in all seriousness, the situation obviously could’ve been handled differently by all parties, and especially me. But you know what I would like to say to The Woman at the Store [after apologizing of course]?

“I’m new at this whole parenting thing. I’m doing the best I can. I was just basking in the small victory of my child actually telling me she had to use the restroom and making it there before we had an accident. We’ve been working really hard at this for a while. We’ve had good days and we’ve had really bad days. I’ve tried many methods, changed many clothes, bought a lot of pull-ups, and even cleaned up the carpet a time or two- Ok, more. I’m sorry that I missed the minor detail of informing her ‘not to talk to others in a public bathroom’ while I was busy trying to explain to her what it feels like when she has to go potty.

Although I can assure you that as soon as we made our way out of the restroom, and I strapped my daughter into her RaceCar Cart, I looked her in the eyes and told her a few things. One was that Mommy really messed up, and we talked about what kind of day you may have been having. Another was a lesson in public restroom etiquette. And another was assuring her it was ok when she looked at me with apologetic eyes because she’s not some thirteen-year-old jerk, but a tiny little girl still learning so much about the world around her.”

And to so many other women we run into while the kids and I are out running errands, I want to say:

“Thank you. Thank you for not getting upset with me when the large Police Car Cart I was pushing the kids in accidentally got in the way of your motorized one. In fact, you weren’t bothered at all, but instead delighted. You smiled at my littles and told me it didn’t look like the world was bothering them any. Little did you know, leaving the house was the last thing I wanted to do that morning, but I desperately needed an antibiotic to treat the mastitis that nursing my newborn had caused.”

“Thank you. Thank you for not being so rushed that you made me feel badly for blocking you from your handicapped spot as I stuffed two small children into their carseats. In fact, you apologized to me when you finally got out of the car. Not only that, but your face lit up as you told me about your own grandchildren.”

“Thank you. Thank you for entertaining my baby as he started to fuss while I was reaching for my wallet to pay for a few items and simultaneously keeping my daughter from jumping out of the cart. You saved me from feeling the flush in my face when my children have hit their max, but we’re not yet out of the store and settled into the car.”

I want to be you: the graceful, patient, and understanding ladies when I grow up rather than the judgmental, rushed, and bitter ones. I know I will leave this stage with young children someday, but I never want to forget it. I want to hold doors open and put carts away for moms with full hands and tired bodies. I want to be a comfort, an assurance, the smile they need that day, and if nothing else I never want my eyes to roll back in my head. I only want them to say, “I’ve been there, Mama.”

Why Parenting is Actually Really Easy

Parenting is so easy. The thing I love most about it is the fact that there is no gray area. It’s so black and white, straightforward, and to-the-point. Another amazing aspect of the easiest job in the world? Everyone does it the exact same way so there’s never any awkward moments, comparing, or judging. You want to be a good parent? Simple. Just learn the Universal Parenting Advice List, and follow it closely [I mean, but not too closely, of course.]

Universal Parenting Advice:

1. Excessive exercise is not permitted during pregnancy.
2. Be sure to keep up with your regular workout routine throughout your pregnancy. Lifting is encouraged as long as the weight is not “too heavy”.
3. Do not eat peanut butter while pregnant.
4. Make sure to eat peanut butter while pregnant in order to introduce your baby to nuts; therefore, reducing the risk of a nut allergy.
5. It is best to deliver your baby at the hospital with trained nurses and doctors.
6. Midwives and doulas make home births most comfortable for mom and baby.
7. Be sure to give your baby a pacifier shortly after birth to get them used to the idea of it.
8. Wait at least a few weeks into breastfeeding before you introduce a pacifier to your baby, or they may become confused.
9. Pacifiers should be long and rounded like a real nipple or flat and rounded so as not to be confused with a real nipple.
10. You should establish a breastfeeding schedule right away to control when your baby eats.
11. Feeding your baby on-demand is best for baby.
12. Wake your baby throughout the night in order to make sure your baby is eating enough.
13. Let your baby sleep; they will wake you if they’re hungry.
14. It is best to nurse your baby to sleep so they feel secure.
15. Letting your baby cry-it-out before falling asleep teaches them how to soothe themselves thus they become more self sufficient.
16. Wear your baby as much as possible so they feel close to you.
17. Do not hold your baby too much or they will become spoiled.
18. Be sure to vaccinate your child. Don’t miss any immunizations.
19. Do not vaccinate your child. This is a dangerous practice. You should at least consider a delayed schedule.
20. Give your baby a bottle within 2 weeks after birth to be sure they will take one.
21. Wait 4-6 weeks to give your baby a bottle or they may refuse the breast.
22. Your baby may begin eating solid foods at 4 months.
23. It is best to wait until your baby is 6 months old to introduce any solids.

Sorry, it seems I lost the rest of my Universal Parenting Advice List. But the good news is, the older they get, the easier it is. Deciding when to feed your baby solid foods is so difficult, but once you get into disciplining your child it’s a breeze. Just be sure to give your child a choice whenever you ask them to listen because that helps them feel like they are in control. And remember, you are the parent so that means you only need to give them options when it’s convenient for you. If they aren’t obeying, usually a time-out will do the trick. Or did it say a spanking and then a conversion about what they did wrong followed with telling them how much you love them? Ah, I can’t remember. But luckily, the same disciplinary consequences typically work for any child with any personality type. Phew! Can you imagine how hard it would be if that weren’t the case?!

Well, that’s all I got…GOOD LUCK!

10 Super Quick and Healthy Breakfast Items

Disclaimer: The picture of my breakfast is false advertising at it’s finest. I had kids climbing on counters and/or throwing cheerios to get that shot. Usually it’s on a paper towel, folks, while I spin circles through the kitchen fulfilling toddler breakfast orders [yes plural- one toddler, many requests.] But who would be enticed by that?

If you’re like me, Mama, then sometimes your breakfast consists of a couple pieces of the banana your child chewed and then spit out or half of the granola bar they didn’t touch because halfway through eating it they decided they no longer like them. It’s only when I intentionally plan ahead, do I get to enjoy some actual food- maybe even something healthy. Read on for a list of super quick and healthy breakfast items:

1. Boiled Eggs

I try to have boiled eggs in my fridge often because not only are they a quick and easy breakfast item, but also can double as an afternoon filler, or triple as a bedtime snack. I usually just sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them, or if I’m feeling spicy, a little mustard. Plus: the toddler will eat them as well. Score!

2. Microwaved Eggs.

Yes, I said microwave. This was one of my college go-to’s. You know, back when I was so busy with tests, part-time work, and boys. It’s super easy. All you have to do is crack a couple eggs into a mug [sometimes I add a little milk] and heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between. I like to top them with salsa or even a little [or a lot of] cheese if I’m feeling naughty.

3. Avocado Toast

I had you at avocado, didn’t I? I love, love, love avocados, and my husband doesn’t so I hardly get to use them in our meals [how sad is that?] Anyways, throw your bread [I love a great multi-grain with lots of seeds] in the toaster, and right after it pops up, spread your sliced avocado over the top. It warms it just a bit and spreads oh-so-deliciously. You can sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top or eat it as is.

4. Peanut-Butter Toast

I don’t think this one needs explaining, but it’s a definite staple in this house. I used to only use the sugary Jif Brand, but lately I’ve been spreading an all-natural peanut butter [the kind that gets mashed into your container at the store before your very eyes] and it’s got the perfect amount of crunch and is more salty than it is sweet, and generally just makes me feel better about myself. Because I love peanut butter- maybe too much.

5. Overnight Oats

There’s a million different recipes for these so all you need to do is type it into Google or better yet, Pinterest. I’ve made these before in a mason jar. The idea is that you stick them in the fridge the night before, and then eat them in the morning. The batch I made last time lasted me a few more days as well. Add-ins in addition to oats may or may not include: greek yogurt, applesauce, peanut butter, chia seeds, blueberries, etc. I remember making some once that were an apple pie spin-off and another that included the berries and peanut butter. The possibilities are endless, Mamas!

6. Crockpot Oatmeal

This may be one of my favorites, you guys. Here’s what I do: The night before, I stick steel cut oats, water, coconut milk, a little salt, a little brown sugar, and vanilla extract in the crockpot. I turn it on low, and when I get up in the morning- ta da! I like to top mine off with a bit more coconut milk along with any of the following: bananas, almond slices, chia seeds, raisins, berries, more brown sugar…Ok you get the idea. Usually the liquid to steel cut oat ratio is 8 to 1, and you can find a recipe like this by searching for “crockpot steel cut oats with coconut milk”. There’s many out there. Try it!

7. Plain Greek Yogurt w/ Toppings

Again another one I love. I usually buy the Zoi Nonfat Greek Yogurt, and then add in any of the following: apple pieces, tiny chocolate chips, granola, almonds, chia seeds, berries, cinnamon, etc. Here are a few options:

Option 1: apples, cinnamon, honey [tastes like apple pie just FYI]

Option 2: apples, granola, chia seeds, almonds, and of course, tiny chocolate chips [thank you to my college friend for getting me started on this one]

Option 3: berries, chia seeds, granola, and a little honey or a few chocolate chips

You can mix and match or come up with your own concoctions until your heart is content. I have also put these in the fridge overnight and added the granola in the morning when I know I will be in a hurry the next day. I used to eat it in the car on my way to work. Enjoy!

8. Protein Smoothie

Because sometimes moms can only drink their breakfasts. I’ve tried several different protein powders and many make me feel bloated afterwards. I was so excited to hear about Orgain-this is a plant-based chocolate protein powder I started using when I was nursing and thought my son may have had a dairy sensitivity. And by the way- zero bloating. The best part? You can get it at Costco, and I’ve also seen it at Whole Foods. My favorite way to use it? In the blender with a frozen banana, almond or coconut milk, and you guessed it: peanut butter! If I don’t have time for that, I just shake it up with almond or coconut milk. I’m thinking next time I’ll have to try the Vanilla Bean flavor because talk about the possibilities…

9. Protein Cereal 

Ok, so we’re getting lazier here, but I do like me some Kashi protein cereal as a last resort. I use almond or coconut milk and sometimes add in a few raisins or cinnamon depending on which one I buy. There are several options and some are, shall we say, a bit less flavorful than the others. But you’re hearing that from a girl that loves a bowl of plain ol’ cheerios. P.S. There are other brands besides Kashi that are good as well. I’ve had a Quaker brand one before, Special K is always good, and Grape Nuts too. Now someone bring this mama a bowl!

10. Cottage Cheese and Fruit 

For some reason this one totally reminds me of my childhood. I think it’s because my mom used to give us cottage cheese and peaches, which I love. Since becoming a grown up, I’ve expanded my horizons a bit to find out that mandarin oranges are also very tasty, and possibly my favorite combination is cottage cheese and pineapple. My best friend also got me hooked on just adding a little salt and pepper to my cottage cheese for those of you that aren’t down with the whole fruit idea.

So there you have it. Ten breakfast item ideas, and hopefully at least one was news to you. As always, don’t let my words fool you. I’m no health nut when it comes to food, but I do try to balance between somewhat healthy and, well, the occasional Burger King when I’m in a hurry [last night and I LOVED it.]

Have it your way!

I See You, Mama

I see you, Mama.
You’re smart. You’re successful. You’re keeping it all together. You’re the one they all look up to. You can’t let them see you falter. But you’re not doing as well as they all think. You’re hurting. You’re worn out. You’re wondering how you got to where you are because right now it feels like everything’s sliding backwards.

I see you, Mama.
Your husband is away too much. You want to feel appreciation for all his hard work, but you’re burned out and tired of holding up the house on your own. The long hours are wearing on your body and your soul, and you’re feeling lonely in your own home.

I see you, Mama.
You work full time which most would think is forty hours, but if you include all the driving time it’s actually more like fifty. Fifty hours that you miss your children, but that you are providing for your family. You’re making a difference in the world, but your children are your world and unfortunately so much of your time with them is strategical and rushed.

I see you, Mama.
The books didn’t prep you for all of this. It’s new, it’s stressful, and you feel like you’re drowning. You’re learning as you go, but time is going too fast. You’re feeling unprepared for the next stage, and missing the one that just passed. Your child is growing, and you’re feeling the growing pains. You’re lost in this new life.

I see you, Mama.
Everyone comments on your perfect and beautiful family, but they don’t know what really goes on behind the closed doors of your stressful home. The marriage that once flourished is now falling apart and you’re hanging by a thread. You can’t let anyone in because it’s only your battle to fight.

I see you, Mama.
You’re not well. You need taken care of, but you have children to care for. You feel like you have nothing left to give, but somehow you’re doing it. You want nothing more than to be healthy for your children. You want so badly to play with them, to encourage them, to be there for them. And you are, but you’re struggling. You’re barely holding on.

I see you, Mama.
You just added another to your flock. You love being a mom, but with every child you lose a little more of yourself. You’re being pulled in a million directions at once. You’re spinning in circles, and you just need time to slow down a bit. You’re wanted by so many. You can’t handle the chaos and all life demands from you. You’re feeling inadequate and unappreciated.

I see you, Mama.
You never thought your perfect marriage would end this way. It breaks your heart that your children will grow up in more than one home. You want to find the real Mr. Right this time, but you’re terrified more than you are hopeful. You love your job as mom, but doing it alone is painfully difficult.

I see you, Mama.
The world was in your hands. You were going places in a hurry, climbing the ladder, and reaching for the stars. Your child changed all of that. You hold a different title now. Your dreams are slipping away as quickly as the time passes. Your priorities are changing, but it’s hard letting go. Your child has changed you, and sometimes you desperately miss that person.

I see you, Mama.
Your child is your joy, and your lack of another is your pain. You want more than one, but life isn’t panning out that way. You see moms with arms full of children, and your heart is heavy. You’re tired of waiting. You’re having trouble accepting. You’re worried about the one you have. You feel their loneliness as they longingly watch other siblings.

I see you, Mama.
You’re not sure what comes next. Your home is full and so is your heart, but you’re empty still. You’re up and then you’re down. You’re trying to balance it all, but you’re failing. You’re lost and confused. You’re tired and alone. You’re in love with your children, but you’re in doubt of where life takes you now.

I see you, Mama.
You’re barely getting by. You’re trying to make ends meet, and the future scares you. You’re taking care of your children with no change in your pocket. You’re envious of others who have it so well. You’re doing all you can, and it’s not seeming like enough. You’re broke and hoping for a miracle.

I see you, Mama.
They don’t know what you’ve been through. You once held life in your body, but not long in your arms. You’re still hurting and confused, and often angry. You’re jealous of babies that can walk and talk. Your child can’t be seen or heard but only felt. You’re a mom, but no one knows. Your child waits for you in Heaven.

I see you, Mama.
Your hard is not my hard. We think no one understands, and maybe no one does. Our journeys are unique. We know pain. We know beauty. We know something in between. We give and give, but sometimes we only want to take. We want someone to care. We want to feel loved.

But you see, Mama.

You are undeniably strong.
You are more than enough.
You are nothing less than amazing.
You are entirely beautiful.

You are His.

He knows your hard, and He understands. He planned where your journey takes you. He knows your pain. He created your beauty. He cares about you. He loves you unmeasurably. He’s your source of strength. His arms are open wide. Fall into Him. He’s patiently waiting.

He sees you, Mama.

Pregnancy After Loss

Pregnancy after loss. What a paradox it proves to be. On one hand, I’m elated to have new life in my belly, and on the other, I’m terrified at the thought of not ever being able to hold it in my arms. First trimester woes [aka throwing up like clock-work and constantly feeling uber nauseous] left me seriously blue having just gone through similar only months before yet each hover over the toilet served as a strange assurance that I was, in fact, still pregnant. I ate the same few foods I could keep down for weeks, lost weight, and all the while battled a feeling that I should be happier through the mess vs. a feeling of anger just imagining it all possibly being stripped away.

On the way to the first baby appointment, I found myself preparing and doubting which muffled my overwhelming excitement. I turned onto the familiar street indicating I had almost reached my destination when “You Make Me Brave” started playing on the radio. This same song became a theme for me weeks following our loss, and I instantly felt God in control of the situation just as He remained faithful before. The shakiness left my body, and I felt a peace wash over me. That is until my husband and I entered the very same ultrasound room that brought such despairing news a few months before. The minutes were hours as we waited for the little bean inside my belly to pop up on the monitor. At the first sight of baby, the breath I’d been nervously holding finally expelled, “Is there a heart beat?”
Yes. Yes was the answer. I could relax until walking on pins over to the doctors office to ask if everything looked good- the heart beat not reassuring enough.

“Should I have switched doctors this time for a fresh start?” I wondered. But this same doctor held my hand as she told us the bad news through watery eyes, arranged for her husband to watch the kids so she could be at the hospital to deliver my angel boy even though she had the night off, and stroaked my long ponytail as we waited in the hospital room for the medicine to induce my labor. Her familiar voice, young spirit, and kind soul helped me push past the familiarities from the last pregnancy and know she understands this journey almost to the point of it being her own.

Daily I experience excitement and hopefulness tainted with doubt and insecurities. Yet every wave of dizziness and flame of heartburn leaves me more at ease that another life still exists inside of mine. Before almost every appointment, I’ve seen a vivid miscarriage through my dreams the night before, gladly waking up to it being untrue. I’m not sure at what point I will feel complete joy and comfort, blissfully waiting to hold my baby. Perhaps it won’t happen until that first breath turns into a baby’s cry.

But I don’t have to look further than my wrist to remember that God is my hope, and only He can truly diminish my pregnancy fears. The anchor tattooed on my wrist reminds me that “hope is an anchor for the soul” [Hebrews 6:19]. In the middle of the anchor, I see the cross and know that even when God “calls us out beyond the shore into the waves” [You Make Me Brave] He is there, stronger than ever. So I’m “joyful in hope” [Romans 12:12] that this Rainbow Baby comes home with us, but secure in knowing God is in control regardless.

After all, His rays of hope have been shining down on this pregnancy since before it began…

Months ago, my daughter and I were wandering down an aisle at the grocery store on our routine Monday morning shopping trip. If I remember correctly, she had vibrantly dressed herself, and I was flaunting the usual yoga pants and t-shirt. I had started working out again, but remained slightly uncomfortable with the leftover bit of baby-flab I was boasting without a baby to show for it. At that point in my “miscarriage recovery”, I stayed eager for a new addition to our family but had finally found some joy in the waiting. The prior couple of months saddened me as I saw pregnancy announcements galore and enough new baby pictures to make anyone [baby] feverish. But I was feeling truly happy again.

Back to the canned soup aisle> As my daughter and I browsed the food, I leaned in towards her and laughed- our scrunched up noses touching while we played. I then noticed an elderly man slowly passing us in the opposite direction. His tubby, slightly waddling body, and greased back grey hair were enough to make anyone smile, so I did just that as we exchanged glances.

“She must be yours,” he joked, “she’s about 95% you.” First of all, I rarely hear this as I’m constantly told how much she looks like her dad [she does], and second of all, I appreciated the nice comment. He’s as sweet as he looks, I thought. What happened next blurs in my memory a bit, but I remember him saying a couple of things such as “you’re both very beautiful”, and an off-the-wall comment about me doing a good job of “losing the baby weight”. I remember being slightly weirded out by this for a few reasons. 1. If you weren’t a cute and quirky old man, I may be offended by this. 2. I was just struggling with this very thing you complimented me on. And 3. What baby weight are you referring to? You don’t know about the baby I just lost, and surely you’re not referring to my two-year-old.

His next question threw me off as well, “Is she your only?” I felt like this implied I should have another one or begged for a deeper explanation. This question tied me up the same as someone now asking of my pregnant belly, “Is this your second?” I struggle with wanting to tell my story, not forgetting about the baby boy I carried for 20 weeks, but also not wanting to reveal too much to a complete stranger who isn’t looking for an awkward and uncomfortable answer. So, I looked at Grocery Store Man and said, “Yes, she is.”

Maybe my eyes lead him to believe I left out the whole truth, the complete answer to that hard question. And then it happened, near the rows of spices in the grocery store aisle, he stuck out his wrinkly old hand and asked if he could say a prayer with us. What do you say to that as people maneuver around your now parked carts in the middle of the lane? [You may be thinking, “No Thank you…No thank you is what you say- This is getting weird.”] So in a split second of uncomfortableness seasoned with “this feels right”, I offered my hand and agreed.

There in the middle of grocery shopping, he prayed a beautiful prayer over my daughter and I [as she grabbed for the salt and pepper]. I can’t tell you exactly what his prayer contained, but I specifically remember him asking God to give us a blessing during that coming week that we would know could only be from Him.

After the prayer, I thanked him. And then he asked, “So do you plan to have other children as well?” [OK, getting weirder.] At this point I remember feeling as if he knew something I didn’t know he knew. This prying about my angel baby [so it felt like to me] was enough to open me up. Or perhaps it was the fact that we just shared a moment as complete strangers in between moving carts, macaroni and cheese boxes, and a squirming toddler.

I briefly told him we do want more children, but that we had lost one during our pregnancy a few months back. This lead to another prayer [can’t make this stuff up]. He grabbed my hand again, and this time prayed for healing and ultimately a new baby for our family. This prayer seemed longer and more passionate. Afterwards he told me that he knows Jesus heals because he healed his wife of cancer, who is now in Heaven. He told me about his five children, and God’s blessings. He described asking God for something in a way I can’t quite relay to you, but I took away thoughts of bible verses- ones about asking for things in hopefulness and confidence that your request has been answered. By this time, my toddler was clearly being two so we said our goodbyes.

I walked away wondering what just happened and what other shoppers thought as they passed by. But surprisingly, I didn’t care. I looked around, down, and up, “God?”

I figured as long as Grocery Store Man didn’t turn out to be crazy and follow us home, I could safely assume that may have been a divine intervention. We checked out at the counter several minutes later and there he was doing the same a couple rows down. We opened up the car door to throw the groceries inside, and there he was hopping into his car in the handicap spot- diagonally across from ours. He didn’t look over or wave. He just climbed in his car and drove off.

I sat in my car for a moment before leaving to record a little piece of what happened in my phone. As we drove away I wondered if God would bring a blessing that week I’d know was from Him. I don’t know, but it seemed a little fortune-cookie-ish. The prayer came to my mind at times that following week, but nothing strangely stood out. I do, however, remember beginning to pray more confidently- like “my prayer will be answered” confidently. I began asking God to bless us with a new baby, but this time assuming He was working on just that.

Fast forward a couple/few weeks [not to be technical or anything], and I was feeling a little sluggish. I finally decided I wanted to take a pregnancy test just to make sure that I hadn’t missed something from the last month as I was feeling very off [you do strange things when you’re trying to make a baby]. I knew a test wouldn’t show if I was pregnant for the current month because I was still days ahead of my expected you-know-what. I was just curious about the last one.

A few seconds after watching the empty space on the test saturate, two lines appeared. Two. One was very faint. I was shocked. Could I be pregnant? I think any trace of the hormone showing is still a trace. But if I was actually pregnant last month, the lines would be more clear. [Gosh, of course that was a period, you doofus]. Are we barely pregnant?! Naturally, I did the only thing you can do in a situation like this: Google it.

In those following moments, I knew I was pregnant…But wait, it’s SO soon. The box says there’s only a 50% chance of it showing a positive this soon. I wanted to tell the husband in a special and thought-out way, possibly waiting until I became more sure. So when he walked in from work a couple hours later, I waited three minutes, and then I spilled the beans! [Along with a disclaimer of my uncertainty- to which case he “studied” the test as only an excited man could do.] I figured I would wait a few days and then take another test to be sure, but the next morning the husband eagerly insisted I do it again. This time: clear and vibrant lines! We were pregnant! What an incomparable relief after wondering if it would ever happen again.

We realized it was not only my father-in-law’s birthday the day we found out, but that the baby would be due on my dad’s birthday: December 28th- three days after Christmas! A little Christmas miracle [with a slightly unfortunate birthday].

Why is that [ironically] funny? The last time we tried for a baby, we skipped the month that would result in a December birth date. You know, with the busy holidays and all. [Plus, I always felt bad my dad had to celebrate his birthday three days after Jesus. Talk about tough sandals to fill.] This time? This time we told God we wanted a healthy baby…any …time…of…the…year! And you know what else I realized? I didn’t get my Birthday Baby [I sheepishly prayed to find out we were pregnant before our angel boy’s due date and my birthday to ease the pain]. I also realized we didn’t find out we were pregnant during the week Grocery Store Man asked God to “give us a blessing we’d know could only be from Him.” That would have been a cool story.

“What was that blessing anyways?” I wondered…

I hope I always remember that God’s blessings come in His timing, which also means He is working on them long before we actually get to see or experience them. Something dawned on me. I got out my phone to see what Monday I ran into the Grocery Store Man. Then I switched over to my app that calculates, ya know, girl stuff.

Basically [scientifically] I realized this: The week Grocery Store Man asked God for a blessing that we would know could only be from God was the week we got pregnant.

Costco Christian

John 13:35
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

After making my way through Costco and checkout lines resembling the holidays [with both kids], I decided we needed some lunch. I wanted to grab it and go [get the heck out of there], but my three-year-old really wanted to make a date of it and sit there in the food court with our gluten-free, organic, grass-fed, all-beef hotdogs [Ok, just hotdogs].
“Honey, there’s no where to sit,” I sadly [gladly] told her.
Sure enough, she found the one table in the entire food court with people cleaning up to leave. Reluctantly, I agreed to stay. After all, the table was on the outskirts of the food circus [I mean food court] so how bad could it be? If I had to eat lunch with two kids in a super crowded area, it’s the table I would have chosen.
I pushed our cart right up next to the now-empty table, told my daughter to sit still, and hopped in line. The food line was just as long as the checkout lines, but the kids were close and in plain sight so I made sure to keep my eyes on them the entire time.
Right before I finally stepped up to the counter to order our food, I noticed a slightly older lady get up from a crowded table and walk towards our table with food in hand and two little girls, who I assumed were her grandchildren. Surely they weren’t going to steal our [clearly reserved] table, I thought.
Next thing I knew I was getting weird looks from my confused daughter as she watched these strangers shimmy their way into our table. All I could think was, “Oh great, I just waited in line for this long only to have someone take our only spot to sit. Is there any possible way she didn’t realize that the reason the cart [with kids in it] was pushed up [practically over] the table was so that their mother could join them once she returned with the food?”
Maybe I just don’t know all the Costco rules, but this lady had just messed with an impatient, sleep-deprived mother who just wanted to eat her hotdog in peace [or something like that]. I eventually wandered back up to the [our] table, and the lady just kept eating like nothing happened. When she finally poked her head up out of her lunch, I just smiled in an I’m-confused-why-you’re-sitting-in-our-table kind of way. She looked at me, and the food piled up in my hands, and then at the kids in the cart.
“Do you want to join us?” she asked. “We can scoot over.” And she started to move and make room for us [at our own table].
Ok, ok…You get the point. In that moment it was as if God was holding a mirror up to my face so that I could see how ridiculous I was acting. My ruffled feathers started to lay flat, and I stopped pretending to be a toddler whose toy [that didn’t actually belong to them in the first place] had just gotten snagged. Against my desire, I started to uncomfortably set our food down on the [Costco] table with our new acquaintances. I decided to just make the best of the awkward circumstance when suddenly a table nearby opened up. We told them thank you, but we would take the new table and give them their space back.
Sometimes God speaks me to in my dreams or while I’m basking in the sunshine, but other times it’s through a hotdog. I began thinking about the whole scenario, and what may have been going on in that lady’s day- or even life. I thought about the fact that every day we have interactions with various people allowing us to show them [or not show them] Jesus. I gave myself a C- for the day [and that may have been generous]. “They will know we are Christians by our love” the song says. Sometimes, if I’m being completely honest, I’m glad I don’t have Christian stamped on my forehead because I’m not always a good example of that title, and I can fly under the radar on a bad day. [Or can I?] I think it’s important to remember that even if other people aren’t necessarily watching us, God always is. Are we making Him proud?