Long time gone...let's RESET

I haven't blogged in a long while. I won't spend a ton of time making excuses. Just let's say that when you're in a thunderstorm and sitting in driving rain, you don't spend your energy saying anything. You just hold on.
I'm ok. It's just been quite a half-year. All my energy has gone into work, Shepard and Jerod, the house and trying to make it from day to day.
Sunday, though, I had a factory reset. If you're not familiar with that, it's the equivalent of erasing every alteration/app/program from your electronic device and putting it all back to the way it came. Sometimes you might lose some good stuff...helpful programs even, but a factory reset erases everything and allows you to proceed as if the device is brand new. Since I anthropomorphize everything in my head, I imagine the motherboard in the device feeling fairly violated and making screaming noises. If you had a device and did this, you would then need to go back through and change your backgrounds, ringers, download new apps, etc. You'd need to start the process of personalizing your device all over again. That's what I feel like happened to my soul on Sunday.
I heard from the Lord. Seriously. It was a spiritual factory reset for me.
And it's not that what I've been taught all these years has been altogether wrong. It's not that I haven't heard Jesus' voice for myself and experienced his presence. It's just that, in light of Sunday, I have to RESET everything and see it through this perspective. Honestly, it felt like putting on glasses for the first time and actually SEEING what you've been missing.
It's so difficult to put into words. I've had many a sermon speak to a particular part of me...bringing conviction or encouragement. This sermon was entirely different. I don't know any other way to say it than just to say it reset my lenses and filters.

Here's a link to the podcast. You should be able to access it in iTunes or listen at a computer. It's the "Building Bridges to the Future" sermon from 4/23/13.

I know very few people will likely be able to listen...it's really too good to try to sum up. For now, I'll just say that while I hope that if you attend a church that your minister speaks into your heart and life. I don't often share stuff from my church for that reason. If you don't attend a church, go ahead and give this a listen just for kicks. To me, it should be in Christ-following 101; but I think most churches and pastors aren't thinking about how we can bring the hope of Christ into the world. We carry the Kingdom of Christ among us. We can prophesy hope and peace. It's not about just waiting at the cosmic bus stop for the magic heaven-bus to come pick you up and take you out this "evil place." All creation is longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8). We are part of the holy restoration of the earth! "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."
Anyway. I can unpack this more sometime. For now, I'm still chewing on this divine headlong charge into God's heart. As one of our members tweeted, "I think Jesus was saying 'Amen.'" Yes. Bryan. I think He was.


I hope never to move again

The last few weeks are a blur of boxes, phone calls, paint rollers, spackle, worry, stress...we've been moving for weeks now. I don't feel as if I've even had time to breathe. And breathing is always hard when you're allergic to dust mites, and packing surely involves pulling down the dusty stuff. Sadly, we don't travel lightly. I'm done with moving. And I'm not. We still have an attic and a storage unit with STUFF in it. I wonder why it's so hard to get rid of some things? My mind says things are just things, and then my optimistic core takes over and says I will use ________ someday.
I fear that our twice-as-big house is going to be just as full!
I need to have a serious purge. Just as soon as I find my soap. And shoes. The only room in the house with any semblance of order right now is the kitchen. YIKES!
I really, really don't ever want to move again. I'm not good at it. I don't want to be good at it. I think it is the most detestable thing. Our family and friends have been PRICELESS over the last few weeks. It has been good to spend time with them. They will cheer you on right when you're flagging and want to throw in the towel. Apparently, it takes a village to move the three of us. Looking forward to having some order. The new house is beautiful, and we can't wait to have everyone over and NOT put them to work. Thanks for bearing with us during the transition!

Much love,
Shelley, Jerod and Shepard


Peeling back the layers

Ever peel an artichoke?


I actually haven't before, but I can tell from pictures about what it's like. I had the oddest picture come to mind during church yesterday, though. The only thing I can liken it to is an artichoke. I had a picture of myself as a translucent (kind of glowing) egg-shaped thing. Perhaps that was my soul? And there were all these layers of dark petals around it, like a rose or an artichoke, but the layers were black. I could see a hand peeling back the layers, one by one, until you could actually see the inside. Or if we're still hanging with the artichoke theme, the HEART.
The layers were years of religious dogma, not grounded in the word. Years of being judgmental and pointing fingers. Years of putting up a facade of capability and performance. Years of pride. Thankfully, there is a hand peeling back these ugly layers that choke out the love of God. It's truth. The more I hear the truth, act on the truth and embrace the truth, the more God can peel back the ugly. Oddly, the layers protect me in a way, as I could see in my mind's eye how vulnerable the white, glowing center looked. Love makes us vulnerable. Loving radically almost surely sets us up for hurt. We can't be hurt by that which we hold at arm's length.
It's easy as Christians to talk about "those people." Whoever those people are to you. Abortionists, liberals, alcoholics, druggies, homeless, Muslims, homosexuals...and the list goes on and on. But the TRUTH of it is, Jesus died for "them" too. The same grace that I have received is a free gift to them too. And it's only our love + His grace that will change anyone's heart. Because what we're really after is not just behavior modifications. What would be REVOLUTIONARY would be people treating each other with respect and compassion. Putting others' needs before your own...walking in humility...being patient and longsuffering.
I die inside when I see "Christians" screaming and clamoring. As my pastor says, you are just another angry voice in a sea of angry voices. Jesus told us that "THEY will know we are Christians by our love."
What are your layers? What have you cocooned yourself in that keeps your heart safe and unexposed...and choked off from truth?


Confessions of (reformed) clutterbug

Here's what I used to think:


We've had about six house showings in the last week and a half. That means that people I don't know are strolling through my house eyeing it up to see if they'd like to live in it. No pressure.
I always anticipated the day we might put our house on the market with excitement and dread. Dread, because I am a life-long clutterbug. I always have a pile of SOMETHING in most every room. Magazines that I plan to read. Mail I need to go through. Coupons to clip. Shoes. Clean laundry. Hairpins. Yesterday's earrings. You name it. 

Having people over always meant several hours straightening up. I keep my bathrooms clean, and we both work on the kitchen every day...but our living areas have always been just a little less than perfect. All in all, I'm ok with that. We have a toddler, so pristine will not be an option for a long while.
However, I have definitely discovered in the last three weeks that keeping a clean house is a lot easier than cleaning a house. I'm trying like heck to be less lazy and putting things where they belong as soon as I'm done with them. My post-college roommate would read this and say, "WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG!?" My clutter-habits probably cost her a few night's sleep. I try to leave the house in about 20-minutes-til-ready each day. That's what I think it would take to get it ship-shape for a showing. It's sooo awesome to walk into a clean home each evening. I still need to work on actually FINDING a place for everything. That's my real challenge. But I surely am enjoying this keeping things clean thing.
Am I reformed? I hope so. I will never be a vacuum twice a day kind of girl, but it seems to take less time to keep the clutter at bay than it does to try to attack it every Saturday.

Now if only the laundry would magically load itself...


Hurry Up and Wait.

I like to think of myself as a fairly patient person. I do have deep faith in God, which should ultimately lead to all kinds of patience. I mean, if God is really in control...if His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts...if He really has me and mine in the palm of His hand and the shadow of His wings...well, shoot. He can handle my piddly little life circumstances! (I'm going to "amen" myself. That'll preach, y'all) AMEN? Amen.

Whew. The last few weeks have definitely been a test of whether I believe all that. We started house-hunting. Somewhat accidentally on purpose. For some reason, Jerod decided that there were a handful he'd like to go out and see. I mean, yes, I have been keeping tabs on the market pretty well over the past 10 months. As in, he would mention a property he looked at online...and I'd respond with, "Oh the brick one with the cute porch and purple kitchen? I think it's too far out..." To which he would stare at me blankly. "Imagine what else you could do with all the brain power it took to memorize every house for sale in Rock Hill." Yes, he said that to me.
Well, what fun would that be? I'm a visual learner, so after multiple looks at a house and pictures, I knew where they were on the map and which one had a huge painting hung UNDER the window next to the toilet. For real. Who hangs a picture at knee-level? Should we even discuss what manner of stuff might get ON said picture? So, basically looking at other people's houses is a fascinating exercise whether I ended up buying one or not. I *might have created a new addiction.

Long story short (what's the fun in that?), we found a house we love just a few miles away. Double the square footage, very affordable, even closer to interstate...with a stellar front porch and sunroom. Pretty much everything we've ever wanted in a house.

I've never bought a house. Without going into a litany of the back-and-forth, let's just say the past few weeks have been a difficult emotional roller coaster. Waiting on phone calls, checking email...and now our house is for sale. I stare at my phone hoping someone is setting up a showing. Ring, ring, ring, phone.

Then, I remember to pray for our potential buyers. That our house will suit them just it has us. They will have a place to make lovely memories. Prayer. Feels so useless sometimes, but I remind myself that it's the feet to that faith that I profess. I'm not talking to the clouds. This whole experience is a good reminder of all of that. Sometimes you step out in faith and trust the ground to appear beneath your feet.

Lord, please help me trust you in the midst of all this waiting. Help me not to be a worrying waiter. Help me trust in your goodness and grace. Amen. AMEN!


In the middle of the night...

That one night when we hardly slept for no good or apparent reason? Yeah, that was LAST night. (this post is way too long to reflect the 18-hour night we just endured)

6:59 pm: Toddler was sleepy after bath, rubbing eyes and putting blankie over face. Took two books and about two minutes to get zzzzz's. Mommy then sits on sofa to work on her words with friends games.

7:14 pm: Mommy showers for the night and settles into the sofa for some quiet while Daddy works on his online classes.

7:40 pm: Toddler starts screaming like it's the end of the known world. "Might have a poo..." Mommy thinks. Gives him a few minutes to settle. He doesn't settle. Mommy goes in.
Todder: "Hi." Nonchalantly. Standing up. Still smells like baby powder. Seemingly just wants to chat. Shows me toys. Asks (ironically?) for her to read him his potty book. Mommy refuses. Turns off light, rocks, and he is out in moments.

11:30 pm: Shoot. Mommy and Daddy meant to get to bed earlier. What happened? Mommy recounts details of potty book to Daddy as a goodnight story.

after midnight: Parents finally asleep.

1:30 am: Toddler starts screaming like it's the end of the known world. "Might have a poo..." Mommy thinks. Daddy volunteers to see about it. Screaming continues while we wait to see if he can settle down on his own. Mommy slides out of bed.

In the hallway, she sees a kitchen light turning off and on intermittently. Weird. Jerod never leaves lights on. Never. At first she thinks it's lightning, then maybe car headlights. But neither of those fit the bill.

Mommy: "Hon. There's a weird light flickering in the kitchen. Did you leave a light on?"

Daddy: "I don't think so."

Mommy tinkles and goes in to see about toddler. No poo. "May as well change him since we're all up. Maybe he'll sleep later in the morning if he isn't soaked," she thinks.

Daddy reports that the light over the sink blinked once and then was fine. Odd. It was definitely going off and on. At this point, toddler on the changing table says aloud, "Scary."

Daddy feels uneasy. Mommy rocks toddler for a solid ten minutes trying to determine what woke him up. He is happy as a clam in her lap and falls asleep swiftly. Pops his head up after a few minutes, "Shirt. Mommy shirt." Points to Mommy's shirt. This gets him chatting about music. Mommy turns on soft music. "I just want to go to bed," she thinks. "Please. Let. Me. Sleep."

Toddler again asks for potty book. Mommy turns off light and hopes for the music to do its trick. Toddler falls asleep. In transit to the crib, full-on wake up, screaming, standing...Mommy leaves the room to let him sort it out. All known variables have been addressed.

"Mommmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" Toddler screams.

Daddy and Mommy discuss weirdness of the light. Now they're both uneasy. Toddler still screaming. Everything is weird in the middle of the night.

1:52 am: Mommy returns for one more round of rocking chair. Toddler easily falls asleep but oddly clings to her like a tiny monkey when she tries to return him to crib at 2:10 am.

Attempting sleep. Moments of quiet.

Toddler is sitting up in bed, visual courtesy of video monitor. Mommy is watching monitor to see if he lies down. Oddly, while watching, bleary-eyed, the monitor says "Medium Frequency" and then "NO SIGNAL." Ugh. Daddy thinks this is weird. Neither of us has ever seen this message.

Toddler still screaming.

2:30 am: Daddy brings toddler to parents' bed.
2:31 am
Toddler: "Dark. Mommy's bed....night night Mommy." Mommy hopes for dreams.

2:34 am: Toddler pops up. "Dark....pillow. Daddy's pillow? Mommy's pillow. Night night." Mommy's insane optimism. "Maybe he means it," she thinks. What could be better than sleeping between your parents?

2:36 am: Toddler adjusts positions seemingly trying to get comfortable for a solid 15 minutes. Some of the positions he tries are elbows-in-Mommy's-ribcage and on her head. Mommy has the head-end. Daddy must have been dealing with the kickers.

Toddler notices alarm clock. "One!" He says proudly. "I'm thinking it said TWO, baby. I remember a TWO. Do you know what TWO means at the beginning? It's time for night-night. Night-night, sweet baby." Toddler goes face-first to mattress. Mommy covers up alarm clock with a stuffed animal monkey. Mommy hopes for dreams.

Toddler pops up. Notices alarm clock on the other side. "Nine."
Mommy: "Cover that up."
Daddy: "Working on it."
Mommy: "Night-night, Shepard," she says with firmness and meaning.

Sounds of toddler sleep-breath. Mommy tries to get comfortable. Puts hand on toddler to see where he is. Why is Daddy's arm right there? Daddy tries to dislodge arm from under 30-lb. toddler. Toddler awakens. Again readjusts to get comfortable for a solid ten minutes. Squishes Mommy's chest and pulls her hair.

3 - 4 am: toddler moves around about every minute. Several times landing on Mommy's back or head and seemingly diving toward the edge of the bed. Mommy sighs audibly. Daddy sighs audibly.

Daddy: "what should we do?"
Mommy: "take him back to his bed."

Sometime around 4, but not sure because there's a monkey covering up her clock:
Daddy takes toddler back to his bed. Rocks him for 15 minutes. Gets him good and asleep. Mommy finally starts to drift off. Toddler will not go in crib. Screams. Daddy brings him back to bed.

Daddy: "He won't get in his crib. What should we do?"
Mommy: "Let him cry. I have to get some sleep." Mommy was callused and exhausted.

Daddy: "I won't be able to sleep if he's in there crying." Daddy brings him back to bed. Daddy is the nice one. The ratio between lack of sleep and Mommy's lack of sweetness is concurrent and direct.

Toddler kind of settles long enough for Mommy to have a paranoid dream about four people busting up into her house at 4 a.m. and acting strangely. Then she dreams of a violent thunderstorm outside, and a tree crashes through their bedroom. She takes the toddler to the nursery, and a tree crashes into the nursery, grazing Daddy's head. Next, she discovers that the people who visited earlier left magnetic nametags on her chairs that had bugs for listening embedded in them. She realizes they had been there under false pretenses. Daddy seems unconcerned. People show up on her doorstep again. She goes Georgia-hood-rat on them and starts yelling and hitting. They barge in anyway. Child won't sleep in the dream. They are in her guest room, bedrooms, and are interacting with her kid. Uncool, weird people.

Oh wait. Child is still crawling on her back and head and ribcage in real life. Perhaps there is some dozing between 5 - 6:15 am. Light dozing. And sweating because she's afraid to move.

6:15 am: Toddler moves to the foot of the bed and seems to get comfortable. Mommy laments that alarm is set for 6:45 am. Moves monkey and pushes alarm forward five minutes. Like that will help.

6:36: Toddler awakens. Tries to slide off side of bed. Mommy catches him with her feet and slides him back up. "Ten more minutes, baby. Please." She closes her eyes and hopes. Not for dreams, but for a magical dose of rest.

6:38: Toddler is ready to greet the sun.

6:40: Mommy finds sippy cup and Mickey Mouse on DVR. Makes strong coffee. Attempts to curl hair. Cannot get into any conceivable rhythm for getting ready. Has to be at work early today of all days.

7:30 am: Toddler is refusing all foods except four puffs and half of a graham cracker.

Hello, Wednesday. I've spent so much time with you already.

If you happen by my desk, and don't see me; I'm underneath, dreaming about a toddler climbing on me like a jungle gym in the night.


God uses broken pieces

Grief touches us all. Sometimes there are seasons of life, sometimes events knock the wind out of our sails. I told you about a trying time for me coming to terms with the fact that I was actually depressed. That post is here. Ecclesiastes 3 sums that up pretty well:
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

The only ways I know how to describe the feeling I had was either that I was lost at sea. I was bobbing up and down with the waves of life and catching air, but not really feeling that there were any life rafts. I felt very lonely and a bit paranoid that anyone else was able to help me.

Of course, through it all God was there. We had such a beautiful message on Sunday for those who were either in a season of grief or battling with something more long-term. About how God can use the broken places in us to bring healing to others and how, even in our pain, he is PRESENT with us.
Here's the link to that: http://renovatuschurch.com/#/podcast

All of this to say, it is good and necessary to remind ourselves that we are all human. That sometimes you just need to be sad for a while and sometimes you need to just CRY with someone else rather than try to cheer them up. I think as Christians and perhaps Americans, we are tempted to just put on a smile or say "I'm fine" when we're not doing so great. You don't have to let EVERYONE in to your cave, but you need to let SOMEONE into your cave. And even when your faith takes a beating, know that "Jesus wept" at the death of Lazarus. Odd, since he knew what he could do and was about to do--raise Lazarus from the dead!!! He wept because he wanted to share in the sorrow, not because he had no hope.

Be a lifeline to someone around you. Grieving alone is the worst. You don't have to have just the right words or any magic prayers. Pray for the peace of God and healing of the heart. If you sense a friend is down, ASK. Dig. Pray.

Take time to grieve when you need to. You get no brownie points in heaven for trying to paste on a happy face. Seek the Lord and His joy.

I'm doing much better these days, now that I've faced and named what was going on and have been using life boats of medicine and friends and even this blog. Joy really can come in the "morning."


Lonesome Lion

A while back, lots of us at church were taking a particular personality test that categorizes folks into four basic animal groups. Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever and Beaver.

I am a Lion with a nearly equal dose of Otter. Click here to see general characteristics of each if you want. Or take the test!
Basically, lions are task-oriented. There are jobs to be done, done now, and done well! Otters are more the party animal, hoping for everything to be fun and highly social. Over the years, I've hopefully learned and gleaned traits from others to iron out the rough spots (read: weakenesses), but when it comes to friendships, I'm hopelessly LION.
This personality likes to lead. The lion is good at making decisions and is very goal-oriented. They enjoy challenges, difficult assignments, and opportunity for advancement. Because lions are thinking of the goal, they can step on people to reach it. Lions can be very aggressive and competitive. Lions must learn not to be too bossy or to take charge in others' affairs.
I tend to live my life in my to-do-list bubble. If getting together with people is scheduled, it will happen and my otter-half is happy. However, if life takes over and I fail to make appointments for fun and fellowship, I find myself going for weeks with meager outreach on facebook or email and no real interaction. This leaves my friendship tanks running on empty...and ultimately leaves me without a lot of good healthy friendships. It's not that I don't DESIRE good friendships. I'm just not good at them. It's not a cop-out. I want to be good at them. My natural tendencies are to be self-sufficient, independent to a fault and more concerned with plans and tasks than people. I'm a lion saved by grace.
It's not easy being a lion.

Whoa there, tiger.
God pretty much REQUIRES us to live in Christian community. He mandates that we are to be HIS hands and feet and to show his heart to those around us. "They will know we are Christians by our LOVE." Not by how many items on the to-do list were done. He makes a big to-do over how we treat our brothers and sisters and our community. In short:
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11-12
It is so important for us to be a visible representation of God's love. I just have a really hard time in my day to day life making PEOPLE a priority. I do make Jerod and Shepard priorities, but their needs are pretty much in front of me all the time. If your need collides with my day, I will drop everything. But what if it doesn't? I'm working on this. I'm working this out. I actually write myself notes to call so and so, pray for so and so, etc. Because I have to have a visual reminder to connect. So, if we are at all friends, I would like to say thank you for BEARing with this LION (ha). I am often lonesome; not because I don't want your company or advice, but because I simply filled every waking moment with some THING right up until the moment of free time then realized that I could have spent said free time with SOMEONE or even calling someone. You know, like waiting until Friday afternoon to ask someone on a date.

My otter-half doesn't come out until I get to let my hair down. I really like my otter half.

Jerod and I need friends. I won't lie. Between his working in a foreign land Davidson and having the added joy of a toddler, we aren't just bumping into fellowship opportunities. He's a great friend. But many of his friends have moved or are out of our sphere for some other reason. But he's the best kind of friend there is...he's a golden retriever.  :)  He's a ready-made friend for this lion, but sometimes we just need to cavort with some other members of the zoo.
My sweet hubby. Easy to please. Loyal. Helpful.