Giving Up on Why

Today I am guest posting for my dear friend across the pond, Tanya Marlow to kick off her fall series on God and Suffering. Hope you’ll start here and click over and as always thank you for your presence and readership.

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This past spring, my husband graduated from Seminary after a seven-year, marathon journey of taking classes when we could afford it, both time-wise and financially. He started on campus, and finished up with intensive courses and online.

To celebrate, we made the seven-hour trip down to Kentucky for the commencement ceremonies. As I took my seat after checking our two children into child-care a single, paralyzing thought occurred to me.

I am here alone.

I was surrounded by a gymnasium of people, clustered together to celebrate their graduates. Some had signs and balloons, most chatted happily as they waited for the ceremony to begin and there I was, literally alone in a crowd.

I started to cry, and masked it by flipping through the program, hoping no one would notice the lonely woman bawling.

Let me fill you in on a little of the backstory as to why I found myself alone that afternoon.

Shortly before I met him, my husband’s father died from two, rare types of brain cancer. The beginning of our relationship was steeped in his grief. His birth mother died a week earlier and, although he hadn’t had contact with her for fifteen years, her death was a hard blow as, with it, all hopes of reconciliation were shattered.

A year and a half later, I received a phone call from my Mother: my father had passed away overnight in his office chair after a sudden heart attack at the age of 49.

 

Five years after that, another phone call: my mother had taken her own life on the train tracks of our hometown.

So that afternoon I sat at seminary graduation alone, feeling the weight of our collective losses. It wasn’t the first time I felt the holes left behind by our parents, but this time it was particularly sharp.

So many people who should have been there beside me…

As the graduates received their diplomas the people who had gathered to honor them stood to cheer. A few names in, a paralyzing thought occurred to me: “I will be the only one who stands and cheers for him; he deserves so much more than just my lonely voice.”

God why did you have to take them all?

Click here to head on over to Tanya’s blog to finish up. 

Love Showed Up: Love that Doesn’t Need You To Say It Back

Today’s post comes form the lovely Sarah Siders, who I happen to know because she works with my brother on an Army Base in Kansas. I hope you enjoy her lovely words today.

“I think we’re going to break up,” I announced to my new boyfriend after everyone else left the church that night. “I break up with all my boyfriends.” 

We’d only been dating two days, yet my previous relationships told me everything I needed to know about this one. Relationships with me end badly. I figured it was only fair to let this new guy in on my secret.

Ironically, I started this relationship believing it would end. But on the other side of my inner cynic was a hopeless romantic, one who hoped someday a man and I could love each other with a true and lasting affection. I’d just never seen it done. Not in my life anyway.

I don’t remember how he responded to my anxious forecast, but I have no doubt he calmed the storm with his trademark patience I would come to expect over the years. I do remember we left in the same car that night. And the next day, we were still together.

After barely a month of dating, or in my world, after 30 days of not breaking up, we curled up beside each other on a crusty, aged couch along his living room window. It was already dark, but we wouldn’t say goodbye for hours. I never wanted to leave him, even though he terrified me. No matter how dim my pessimistic predictions, I couldn’t make him go away.

As we lay there talking, he whispered the three scariest words, words I knew meant we were over. “I love you,” he said, his voice tender and sincere. But they sounded like the end to me.

I couldn’t say it back. I didn’t know how I felt. My mind flooded with all the fearful thoughts. It was too soon for the L word. Why was he being so pushy? Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to wait on those words, like a year or something? The men who said “I love you” before wanted me to say it back. And then we broke up. The L word is a break-up precursor. Doesn’t he know the rules? Now we’re doomed.

As the anxiety whirlwind spun a dervish in my mind, I sealed the words inside my mouth. Eventually I mustered, “I can’t say it back yet.” I braced myself for the awkward guilt I knew would follow my confession.

“I’m not saying it for me,” he consoled. “I’m saying it for you. I don’t need you to say it back.”

What? Who was this guy? I didn’t know, but in that moment, he was the man who loved me, and he didn’t need me to love him back. I decided maybe I did not need to break up with him.

He exuded a disconcerting confidence, the kind that could give love without leaving behind a gaping hole in need of a refill. He didn’t need to coerce me into saying something I didn’t mean.

He was a strange man indeed.

He loved me with a thick, rugged kind of love, gently and slowly burrowing beneath the scales of my soul. His squinty eyes beamed affection and admiration at me, but his romance never showed up grandiose. It just showed up. And kept showing up.

During the coming months, I stormed, nearly ending our relationship on a monthly basis. I tried to find good reasons to write him off like the other men, but I couldn’t deny this one was different. His persistent love rendered me uncomfortably vulnerable. I wanted to crawl away to save myself from the inevitable pain, but every time I tried, he talked me off the ledge. Calmly, relentlessly. And down I came.

All the while, he showed me he wanted a grown-up life with me. He quit his job at the grocery store and took a new job at a bank, a job with potential for growth, something that could support a family. He bought a new car. He met my parents. At first, it didn’t go well.

At our gregarious family dinner table, he was awkwardly introverted. We all wanted him to crack jokes like the rest of us. Instead, he sat quietly with his thoughts, not competing for attention’s center. He drove me crazy, yet his quiet confidence was what I needed so desperately in a man.

His love persevered, present but never fancy. A love

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with nothing to prove. It confused me, but drew me at the same time.

We dated only eight months before we learned my brother would leave for his second deployment in May. It was less than four months away. We considered a wedding after he returned, but suddenly I knew. I wanted to marry this man, this sturdy, bearded man who I couldn’t convince to stop loving me. So why wait?

There was no time for the romantic proposal I’d dreamed of, an evening full of surprises recreating our relationship or a knee drop in a four-star restaurant. We started planning the wedding immediately, without a ring on my finger, and part of me felt cheated. But there was no time for doubt.

One night only weeks before the wedding, he whispered to me in the dark again. “Sarah, will you marry me?” His voice was timid this time, but still sure. And finally, I felt sure too. “Yes,” I replied as the ring slipped around my finger.

We married in the middle of May, a year and a day after our adventure began. After nearly six years of marriage, I doubt his love less and less each day. His love shows up in sickness and in health, in childbirth and mortgage payments, in diaper changing and lawn mowing. His love shows up even when mine doesn’t, just like he promised.

 

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Bio: Sarah Siders is a social-working writer in a Midwestern college town, where she unsuccessfully tries to keep her chocolate stash secret from her husband and son. Sarah is the author of the eBook, My Birthright For Soup, and is currently working on her biggest project yet, Dream or Die, a primer on recovering dreams and vision for our lives. She laughs and thinks out loud on dreaming, relationships and the hilarity of parenthood at her blog home, www.sarahsiders.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @sarahsiders.

Interested in contributing to the Love Showed Up series? Send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and let’s have a chat about it. 

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Love Showed Up: When People Say They are Hurting, Believe Them

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Abby Norman is a brave, dear friend with a voice that makes one feel stronger for bearing witness to it, I hope you enjoy her wise words today.

But you seem fine.

From 1997-2009  my body was not fine. I was tired and achy and just didn’t feel good. For hours, for days, for months at a time. I for sure was not fine.

But you look fine.

But I looked fine. I looked totally normal. I was tallish and thinish and smiled and laughed a lot . I was participating in class discussions and marching the tenor drums in the marching band and trying out for the school plays. I was bringing home trophies from the speech tournaments and dating boys.

Then, I would just up and disappear.

For a day, for two days, on a really bad stretch for a week. In my Junior Year of High school I missed most of the month of October. But I looked totally fine. I got my diagnoses a month after that terrible October, about 4 years after the whole ordeal started.  I got my miraculous healing 9 years later.

But in between? I got a lot of people questioning whether or not I was telling them the truth. What do you mean muscle disorder? You look totally fine. I get that you are tired Abby, but I am tired too. We are all tired, all of us have feet that hurt. What do you mean you can’t eat that? My mom has fibromyalgia too, but she doesn’t react this way.  I didn’t even hit you that hard, it was in fun, on the back. Stop crying.

Here is a piece of advice that is overlooked because it seems so basic: When people tell you that they are suffering, believe them.

With a cancer diagnoses, a parent dying, a baby coming, there are obvious signs that people are in need. But what about when it is a little less obvious, a little more constant. Is there space in your life for suffering that seems hard to understand? Or the kind a quick google says not all doctors can agree on?

When people tell you they are suffering, believe them.

Believe them when it is incomprehensible. Even when it feels like they are lying, when they tell you they are sick and 24 hours later show up to an event seemingly totally fine. Just because you don’t see the suffering, because it is happening in rooms that are behind closed doors, doesn’t mean the suffering doesn’t exist. Even if you don’t understand it, believe them.

There were a million moments where my suffering was invalidated, my pain not believed, my decisions about how to use my energy to have as normal a life as possible were scoffed at. That part sucked.

But love showed up a million times over.

In the ways my college roommate and my friend upstairs would just quietly go get my lunch or dinner when I told them I couldn’t really get out of bed.

When my speech teammates would quietly take the bag off of my slightly shaking arm, get up from their seat and quietly insist that I sit down. Now.

When the pastor of my church not only didn’t tell me I was a distraction, but thanked me for being willing to show up to my church with a yoga mat in hand when it was just too painful to sit in the pews. He said I was a visual sign to guests that everyone was invited.

Love showed up in the seventh grade when my friend noticed that I had been gone for a school for a month and showed up on Valentines day with a teddy-bear and a box of candy that let me know I wasn’t forgotten.

Love showed up in the forms of teachers who tutored me during lunch, excused a couple of quizzes, stayed after school to let me make up a test. Then, they applauded and congratulated me for the success I was having on the speech team. They didn’t question why I could show up for that and not class.

There were a million ways that people were the hands and feet of Jesus to me when I was chronically and somewhat mysteriously ill.

But it all started here: They believed me.

The most painful thing that happened to me during those years was being ignored, and not being believed.

Love showed up every time my pain wasn’t questioned. Every time how can I help was uttered instead of “why do you need that?”

I’m not the first or only to have an invisible illness. I am not the only one I know whose pleas for help have been met with an eye roll, a shoulder shrug, a why? There are things people suffer that we understand and can relate to, and there are things we just don’t get. (Mental health issues often fall into the second category.) I don’t know why some suffering is easier for me to dismiss than others. But I do know this:

Love showed up for me when people believed I was in pain. Even when I didn’t look like it. Even when I didn’t act like it. If you want to love someone who is suffering, believe them.

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Abby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She swears a lot more than you would think for a public school teacher and mother of two under three. She can’t help that she loves all words. She believes in champagne for celebrating everyday life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then. You can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional and tweeting at @accidentaldevo. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies and literally burning lies in her backyard fire pit.

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Interested in contributing to this series? I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll have a cup of virtual coffee over it.

Love Showed Up: Best Friends Know Better

Leigh Kramer is a longtime blog-friend. Her writing, compassion and zest for life never cease to astound me any time we cross (digital) paths. I hope you enjoy and resonate with her story today, that it ignites gratitude and bittersweet memories in your heart as it did mine. 7023751359

I don’t remember if she picked me up or if we met at the restaurant. I do remember putting up a fuss at first. I wanted to stay in my cave. It was cozy, didn’t require energy, and my tears could arrive as they pleased.

But best friends often know better than we do. Erin told me we were going out for dinner, which is how I found myself sitting on the patio of one of my favorite Mexican restaurants a couple of weeks after my grandmother died.

I see us there perfectly but I have no idea what we talked about or whether I had a margarita that night. Grief’s blur covers almost all my memories from that time. I know we went to dinner. I know it was good for me. I know I never would have realized that apart from Erin’s insistence.

I had lost other loved ones, throughout my life really. Losing Grandma the summer of 2007 rocked me to my core. We were close and I was involved in her care during her last weeks. Our family changed dramatically in the course of four months. Or a little less than a year, depending on where we start the story. My great-aunt was on hospice for about 10 months. Grandma was a valiant caregiver but family had to step up more and more as her own health troubles began. In the week after my great-aunt died, Grandma received her own terminal diagnosis. She started on hospice and died almost two months later to the day.

I worked for that same hospice as a social worker. I picked the team for these two women I held dear. I walked alongside and pitched in as much as I could, ever mindful I was a great-niece, a granddaughter. After they died, I tried to resume the old routines but found I couldn’t.

There was no escaping my grief at work. I would do my best to make it through each day, stuffing down tears as families walked down the same path I’d just traveled. When the work day ended, I’d collapse on to the couch in my living room and crack open a book. Book after book after book. Not even good books. I turned to Christian fiction. While I insist good Christian fiction exists (it does!), it is not always easy to find and the series I turned toward in those days would not qualify as “good.” Now it wasn’t Amish fiction or the drivel I had regularly sold while working at The Christian Bookstore- I still had some standards- but it was sure to have easily solvable crises and happy endings. I needed predictability in the midst of my fallen world.

Before this loss, I was the quintessential social butterfly. Afterward, I stopped planning parties and turned down invitations. The energy that had powered me through the last few months deflated suddenly and quickly. I had nothing left to give and I didn’t know how to receive. Books required little of me. I could lose myself in the pages.

Erin let me be. At first. But when Erin decides something, it’s going to happen. We were going to dinner. She ignored my excuses. She told me to decide when and where.

It was a bright moment of normalcy. I’m sure the conversation meandered through all manner of topics because that’s how our conversations go. I’m sure she asked how I was doing- how I was really doing- because Erin is compassionate and caring. I’m sure she also let me decide how much I wanted to talk about the loss, for the same reasons.

I needed to stow the books away for one night. I could return to my grief cave the next day. The dinner was a line in the sand, not forcing me to change but opening my eyes to life again. In the weeks and months that followed, I’d start picking better books and re-engaging with my closest friends. The loss changed me more than I realized possible and set down a map for how I would navigate future loss.

Erin showed up in ways big and small during that time, as did other friends and colleagues. I didn’t need listening ears per se but I needed people to draw near when I didn’t have the strength to reach out. When I didn’t have words for what I needed.

Thank God they showed up.

Bio picture Bio: Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Story. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.

 

Don’t miss a post in the Love Showed Up Series, there is so much goodness here Use this handy box below to subscribe over email, or click the bloglovin icon on the top left to sign up that way.

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Love Showed Up: Guitar and Cupcakes

You are blessed today, because today you get to hear a word from my friend Esther Emery. I remember the first few times I came across Esther’s writing, the time her brave voice made me cry in a video, the time I stalked every picture on her blog about living off the grid in a  yurt, the time I realized this is friend who would encourage me, challenge me and make me feel like a braver woman by proxy and prose. Someday soon I will hug this woman in real life, but for today her beautiful words will do nicely.  

The best thing I ever did with grief was feel it. And I’ve done grief wrong. My mother died when I was 25. I don’t know whose fault it was, but the key just didn’t turn in the lock. Maybe it wasn’t anybody’s fault, not even my own. But I simply didn’t grieve. I didn’t feel at all. And that was a wrongness that hovered in my life for years afterward. Six years later, I still felt the numb place in myself like a disease.

But this story is a story of people who help. This is a story of people who do the right thing in a time when everything feels wrong. This story is about my husband’s family, and second chances.

It was six years after my mother’s death that my husband’s mother got her diagnosis. I still felt young. I was thirty-one years old and not done bearing children. My mother-in-law was the only mother figure I had left, and my oldest child was two years old. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like, to go on without her.

But this is a story about people who help. This is a story of moving forward, past what you can imagine is possible. And this is a story about my husband’s family.

What can you do?

Well. First, there was a welcome. The dying woman was taken in, not pushed out to the sterile places or to the experts, but taken in, right to the center of her son’s home. And we were welcomed, too. I can’t remember whose idea it was, for us to come. I think none of us were completely sure what were doing. But my husband and I packed up our two small children and flew from Boston to Boise, Idaho, at a moment’s notice and on a leave of undetermined length. The dying woman moved into the center of her son’s home, and we moved in with her. We all lived there for weeks.

First there was a welcome. Secondly, there was a party. In my memory (memories are not known for their accuracy) it was a nonstop party. We celebrated her birthday. We celebrated Mother’s Day. We celebrated my baby daughter’s birthday. (Two busy weeks in May…!) We blew up balloons and had the kids draw pictures. We ate a lot of cupcakes and played songs on the guitar.

flickr.com/xlibber

flickr.com/xlibber

My husband and I sat on the floor in the living room and played and sang Neil Young, with something less than skill and more than enthusiasm. The dying woman clapped her hands for us, with the extra energy one might have under the influence of heavy painkillers, and we laughed real laughter, and the whole world seemed sharp and in focus. My husband made cake after cake and learned to play his mother’s favorite song.

First there was a welcome. Secondly, there was a party. And thirdly, for me, there was the gift of grief, unleashed.

My grief became my prize – how deeply I had loved and had been loved. First I felt it in the simpler and less ambivalent relationship with my mother-in-law, but it travelled, too, gently and gradually, into the diseased place where I had failed to grieve my own mother. I began to heal.

None of this could have been forced. Or even encouraged. I’m sure someone said to me, after my mother died, “You have to take the time to grieve.” I’m sure someone said, “You need to feel what you are feeling.” But it doesn’t matter what was said. I couldn’t feel it then. I didn’t yet know how.

I was helped years later by the chance of being welcomed into a generous and open-hearted family. I was helped years later by a rabbit hole, a magic space and a celebration of another woman’s life.

First there was a welcome, then there was a party. For me, there was the gift of second chances: the chance to really feel a loss, and grieve it well.

estheremerywriter Esther Emery used to direct stage plays in Southern California. But that was a long time ago. These days she is pretty much a runaway, living off grid in a yurt and tending to three acres of near wilderness in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She writes about faith and rebellion and trying to live a totally free life at www.estheremery.com, and is also the author of the free, inspirational ebook Unleash Your Wild. Connect with her on Twitter @EstherEmery.

If you’re interested in guest posting for the “Love Showed Up” series, I’d love to hear more.  Get in touch with me via email, I’m leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Love Showed up: Love Means You Keep Showing Up

Today we continue our series “Love Showed Up (link to series explanation here)” in which many dear friends from across the globe and internet are sharing their stories of God’s love showing up through his people in the darkest of days. So let’s sit down and soak in this story from Tanya Marlow. Tanya and I are new friends, but it’s a friendship I truly hope deepens. You can just tell she is one of those brave and beautiful souls that make the your world lovelier simply by bringing their true selves into it.

It wasn’t like it was the hugest of tragedies. No one had died. It wasn’t even as though it were completely unexpected: there was always a chance that my pre-existent autoimmune illness (ME) might be made worse by the physical strain of childbirth – we just didn’t know how much worse till we were home with a week-old baby. My body was broken: I could no longer walk more than ten paces and I had to lie in bed for 23 hours a day.

It was a strange time, navigating the new waters of parenthood at the same time as we were facing my new disability; a time of deep joy and tears of the unknown.  Jon is a church minister, and we had just moved to a new church one month previously – we had barely begun to get to know this new church family, when suddenly I was plucked from it, spending my days in just one room.

Our church loved us.

used via flick creative commons, user wordridden

used via flick creative commons, user wordridden

This wasn’t about reciprocation: we hadn’t yet done anything to earn their love or respect. They simply loved us because they were our family. However new we were to them, we were blood relatives because we all stood under the cross and called Jesus our friend.  

We were kin to them, flesh and blood to them, because of Jesus’ flesh and blood.

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I was too ill to speak to anyone, so they could not love through words or presence.

Our church loved us with food and ironed clothes. 

So many asked us what they could do for us, but we were at a loss of how to reply – how can you fix what was so obviously unfixable? The most helpful were those who boldly told us, “this is what I will do for you, if that is okay by you”, while we were still staring wide-eyed into the middle distance, so that we didn’t have to try to train our sea-battered brains into problem-solving mode.

They showed up – our new family – they showed up with cooked meals and ironed clothes and thoughtful emails, while we got our hands on the tiller and slowly began to regain our balance.

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And they kept showing up.

The most remarkable thing about this whole period was how long they did it for. Our problems were complex: they did not disappear after the customary 1-2 weeks of charity and consideration.  Most people find it difficult to continue to be generous for an undefined time period. We can do generosity for a crisis, we are good at doing the acute, the emergencies – but what of the chronic? What of the single parents, for whom it is always a juggling act to get food on the table each day? What of the cancer patients not just during chemo, but the weeks afterwards, when the disabling fatigue hits unexpectedly?

It is much harder to keep giving to a needy person or family when they don’t seem to ever emerge from that needy position, when you can never say that you have ‘fixed’ them, when your contribution will always be needed or appreciated. It is harder to keep on giving when there is no fixed end point.

Our church family, they kept on giving, as the days stretched into weeks and then months.

We had cooked meals and ironed clothes for months afterwards, and those significant acts of love and service for us just helped us to keep afloat. More than that, it showed us the enduring nature of the love of God at a time when so much else was uncertain. 

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This is love: to do what you can, even when you don’t know the person well, even when their problems are ongoing and unfixable and there is no clear end in sight.

This is love: to think beyond just the crisis point to those situations which are chronic and unabating.

This is love: to show up, and keep showing up.

photo Tanya Marlow was in Christian ministry for a decade and a lecturer in Biblical Theology. Now she reads Bible stories to her little boy as she learns what it means to housebound with a severe autoimmune illness. She likes answering the tricky questions of faith that most avoid, and writing honestly about suffering and searching for God.  She blogs at Thorns and Gold http://tanyamarlow.com.

Find her on Twitter @Tanya_Marlow or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TanyaMarlowThornsAndGold )

To learn more about Tanya and her story, check out this post: “Why you should care about M.E.”  We have to educate ourselves on this disease and then stand up to do something about it.

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Pause for the Whisper (a guest post for Emily Miller)

Today I’m guest posting for my dear friend and fellow extrovert, Emily Miller on my favorite spiritual practice.  I’d love for you to check it out, a lot of heart in here today.  

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I live in a noisy world, I bet you do too.  Between my two busy preschoolers, my talkative cat and my endless to-do list, rarely does a silent moment grace the walls of our home.  Even now as I write, dinner dishes are being clattered in soapy water while matchbox cars are being vroomed on the hard kitchen floor. Outside somewhere someone is trying to sneak in their lawn mowing before sunset and another neighbor is revving their motorcycle… for whatever reason people do that.

Noise, always noise.

And with it?  Anxious thoughts, worry, wondering if there will be enough. Enough time for the work, enough money for the bills, enough gentle words to outweigh the bad, enough good in me to remain loved and sought after by both God and his people.

It’s like a merry go-round, spun by a bully that doesn’t let up.

Some days I look at the carefree whimsy of my children with jealous longing. Remember the days of childhood?  The ones that came before the groceries, checklists and oil changes?  Back then we didn’t worry about being good enough or provided for.  We just played Care Bears and Ninja turtles and hoped someone would give us candy.

But no longer, now life is a noisy ride, so how do we hold on to the truth in the midst of the clammer?

Here’s my spiritual practice: It’s pausing for the whisper.

Our lives are loud, but the whispers of God’s truth are always and ever present.

Kindly proceed to Emily’s blog for the rest of the story?

Thieves and Curve Balls (A Guest Post by Sarah Crisp)

Today I’m honored to host a guest post by my new friend Sarah Crisp.  Sarah is a  wife, mom, pianist, blogger, and writer from my former home, Kentucky.

Sarah has a gorgeous, two part story to share about the tender and painful journey of loss from being the victim of a robbery.  I hope that you tune in here and then head over to her site to finish it up!

I never thought I would attest to understanding in full the verse that says, “Do not store up treasures on earth where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19).” It’s not something I was even worried about or prepared for.

So often, life takes a curve ball.

March 2009

March 2012

My husband and I are big time University of Kentucky basketball fans. We started early in our marriage going to games together and every spring going to the SEC basketball conference. It gave us an excuse to go somewhere different and root on our team.

In March 2009, we were very excited to be going to Tampa, Florida. We made extra plans to visit Bryan’s sister and her family in Fair Hope, Alabama prior to going to Tampa. In Dave Ramsey fashion, we had our trip money via cash. All that was left was to drop off our Collie at a friend’s house who would keep him while we were gone.

When we returned from dropping off our dog we came home ready to leave.

“Did you take the money from the table?”

“What money”, I asked?

“The money for our trip”, my husband said with a please say you took it tone.

When we left we noticed our teenage neighbor watching us leave. She was as usual up to no good. It didn’t take us long to realize we were victims of a robbery.

We were scared to leave, and yet so scared not to leave. Our entire trip had been planned and we had looked so forward to the week ahead.

Tampa Florida 2009

We decided to go. We tried to make the best of our trip but the thought of what happened did loom over our very long drive to Alabama.

We returned from our trip and life went on. We were cautious about our neighbor, but we had no evidence to convict her. The cops that had visited the day of the robbery were unable to get any fingerprints. If only I hadn’t touched the door handle he said.

We tried to dwell on the blessings God gave us. It was only money that was taken, not any personal items.

Telling my family I would be a Mother on Mother’s Day 2009 (Sarah and her Mother-in-law, Annelle)

The months that would pass were filled with great joy finding out I was pregnant. Something I didn’t think was even possible. The robbery was behind us.

In mid July of the same year, I was in a hurry running late for a Bible study. I got a couple miles down the road and realized I had left my phone at home. I had this wash of worry about going back home to get it. I can’t really describe it. I insisted on instead getting to the Bible study.

When I arrived home around 9 pm I couldn’t find my phone which I distinctively remember leaving it charged in the kitchen. I glanced at the sofa where I had left my laptop and noticed it was gone as well.

I knew it had happened again.

Please read Part two to this post for the surprising ending.

What curve balls have you experienced in your own life, that you weren’t prepared for?

When in doubt, dance it out. (A guest post at missbananapants)

If I was looking for a reminder of God’s goodness in this season, I need look no farther than my friends.

One of my sweet new friends these days is the fabulous and funny, Michelle Clark. We write together over at EpicTots and today I get to have some fun with a guest post on her blog, Missbananapants!

Put your dancing shoes on, cuz here we go:

 Everyone has a portion of their day where they’re just trying to survive. For some people it’s the morning, for some people it’s the post lunch slump, but for me it’s the hours between 3:00 – 5:15. When naps are over, I’ve exhausted all my creative energy, organizational skills and patience. When all I can do is dole out goldfish crackers and stare at the clock until my husband comes home.

Incidentally the staring at the clock business just makes everything worse.

Sure I could pop in a movie, but usually it fails to fully distract my kids and they just end up under my feet in the kitchen while I grumble and try to get dinner ready.

Why, oh Why are they so interested in messing with my perfectly organized spice drawer? And what is so interesting about breaking into the dishwasher and trying to jump on the door like it’s a trampoline?

There is only one remedy for this portion of the day and Lady Gaga said it best when she said: Just dance, gonna be okay, da-da-doo

To finish up this post, head on over to Miss Banana Pants and keep be bopping along.

Official Epic Tot Announcement

There are a few things that I didn’t get to write about this past month because turning them into a Mother Letter would have been forced and all wrong.

One of these is writing about Rachel Held Evan’s new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  This will be coming soon.

The other is that I am now writing 2 – 3 days a week at a new blog called EpicTot.

I wanted to fill you guys in a bit on what EpicTot is, why I got involved and what you can expect from us there.

EpicTot is an offshoot of EpicParent, which is the blog home of writer and speaker Chris Spradlin.  Chris is a friend through blogging and now in real life as well. Chris has taught at Lifechurch.tv, Euzoa Church in Steamboat Springs, CO and now does the EpicParent gig full time.

Chris has a passion to “empower and unleash a new generation of parents.”  The thing is that as his kids approach teenager-hood he needed a few new writers to step in and speak to the parents of the youngest generation.

That’s where my friend Michelle Clark and I come in: We have four little ones between us and ample insight into the diaper, cheerio crazniess that is parenting through the preschool and early elementary years.

And so it was that one night in 2012, at BJs Pizza, EpicTot was born.

I’ll be honest with you, it’s a totally different vibe than what you will normally find here.

Chris describes his content goals as: “…to create funny, gut busting, inspiring, Jesus centered, challenging, raw, honest, creative content that parents can implement today.”

I deliberated about writing for two blogs that had such drastically different feels. In the end I thought that writing for EpicTot sounded like an amazing, refreshing counterpart to writing here at Leannepenny.com.

So I jumped in with both feet and have been writing over at EpicTot for about three weeks now.

Michelle and I want to speak honestly into the lives of parents who are making their way through all the challenges of early childhood.  We know it can be unbelievably frustrating and rewarding, filled with sobbing and laughter and poop, lots and lots of poop.

I’m so excited to have this space to speak to all the mamas and papas in the parenting trenches with me.

I won’t blend the two blogs often but will always tweet about posts here and share them in on the Leanne Penny author page on facebook.   So hook up with me here for content updates.

Okay, yeah I think that’s all of it…

I hope you’ll tune in and put up with twice as much content from me.

Anything you’d like to see us write about at EpicParent?  

Have a good poop or puke story you want to share?

(Now seems like a great time to tell you that Noelle threw up a fruit salad all over her Halloween costume on the way to our big party out of total excitement over trick or treating.  Super Duper!)