In Which I Write An Open Letter to Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker, Kathy Escobar and the like

I read somewhere that the human mind literally does not remember the pain we were once in. This makes sense. Had I not recorded it, I would completely underestimate the terrible mess I was the weeks before the Rooster was born. I think this causes us to sometimes gloss over others pain. “I did that and it wasn’t that bad,” when in actuality “I did that and I don’t remember it being that bad.” Those are very different things. I know that my circumstances are not hopeless, they just feel that way right now. I feel pretty strongly that if nothing else the Lord is calling me to be transparent, and I want to honor that by writing how I really feel, through the mess, so that someone else can stumble upon this when they are all messed up to, but hopefully read ahead and feel reassured. Some of you  (mom)  worry a little when I do this. I am okay, or if I am not the Lord is working on me. This is the dark underbelly I am exposing. In His infinite wisdom, God had some things planned already for me to read that are cleaning this out.

These ladies I am writing I have discovered in the past year and their words on their blog, they minister to me. When I grow up I want to be like them. But lately I am stuck right where I am trying to get out. I know that it is God who will pull me out of this mess (with little to no help by me) but sometimes you just want someone wiser to come in and fix the whole mess that is your heart.

Dear Sarah,

When you wrote that post about your husband turning in his final papers, and celebrating with a waffle maker, I was happy for you in a way that was far more than a “hey a blogger that I read had something good happen today.” We are sisters in Christ you and I, even if you don’t know me yet. But I confess that I was also jealous, not that cute “I am so jealous but it is just my way of saying I think your life is great” jealous. Nope, it was more of the “You get right back here right now missy. If God hasn’t pulled me up out of this then you should be stuck here too” kind of jealous. The kind of jealous that makes you scream those unholy words “this is not fair’ and “why me.”

You see, I had an unexpected baby in September, a month after I was transferred to a new school and my husband started his PhD program. All of these things we know that God has called us to. The Rooster is the sweetest, most even-tempered baby in the history of babies. But my family is just starting and your family is done, and I don’t know if I can do three more years of this without knowing that you are doing it too. I know you don’t know me, and it is so very selfish of me to think this way, but we were in this “holding down the fort while our husband gets his school on because we run a mean egalitarian household” thing together. And I know it makes no sense, but I feel abandoned.

Dear Jen,

When you wrote that post, about feeling completely overwhelmed and being empty I had to stop reading right in the middle because I was too tired to finish it. As a high school english teacher, I appreciate that irony. I am glad I did because the state of my heart would have caused me to throw up all over my computer when I got to the part about that being the way that God can use you, empty like that.  I read it the next day and was inspired as usual.

But then you got to have a weekend away. I know that I should celebrate with you, and as a teacher I get holidays that everyone else wants to punch me for (what other adult you know gets spring break every year?), but when you wrote that blog post about your weekend on the Harley at your friend’s house, with no diapers to change, I held my breath so I wouldn’t scream and wake up the two under two who were both sleeping at the same time for the first time in what seemed like an eternity even though it was probably just that weekend. Some days, the days are just that long. I’ve read your books, I know you have been here where I am. You got to go on that respite I have been dreaming of. I don’t fault you, I just wish I had one coming.

You two ladies and Rachel and Kathy,

You all write about these amazing spiritual spaces where people are coming to doubt, to question, to heal. Where they and you and we all come and be and receive the body of Christ. Spaces where people don’t have to have all the right answers and do it all the same way. I believe in those spaces, was raised in a house that valued those spaces, am attempting to live an honest, communal life where I really and truly do community with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and the neighbors who are perhaps far from Him (Am I still allowed to say that in these spiritual safe places?).

You write about all of the healing, holy-humility, right-with-Godness of it all. And I believe in that. I swear I do. But right now I am at a total loss in how to do it and I could use a little help. It is just your stories always seem to come around in the end. I am afraid mine won’t.  Those stories lift me up when I need them, when I don’t know if I will ever find God in a place, I cling to them, hold them up as proof that the “all things work to the good of the Lord” thing I keep hearing is true. It is true, isn’t is? Oh, please tell me it is.

You see, I am left searching and keep checking your blogs to see if you will write to my situation, because I desperately want a clear-cut answer. One that maybe I am afraid of. Are there stories of yours that you don’t publish because they are too painful? Because they start with “God made us sisters” but end in “I hope she is doing okay, I thought it was forever, but it was only for a season?” Do they just hurt too much to write? Or am I as alone as I feel in all of this?

I know that it is the black and white thinker in me that wants a what if scenario to be answered in a certain way. This is something that perhaps God is trying to rid me of. But what if you really don’t know what to do? What if someone says they found God in a space the bible says you shouldn’t go? Can you find God there? Is it God if He isn’t leading you out? What do you do then, when you have been doing community so well that your lives are so intertwined that you feel complicit in it even when you aren’t (or am I, Do you see my dilemma)? I know it is against every prescriptive bone in all of y’alls bodies. But can someone please just tell me what to do?

What if you do something so hurtful, and un-godly as you are looking for answers that you wouldn’t blame someone for writing it all off? What happens when community feels like a group of wounded people thrashing around and accidentally inflicting more wounds? Lately, I don’t see God in the journey. I don’t believe that God can redeem this mess. Even when I know that I should. Even when I desperately want to. I know that God works through the lives of imperfect people. I was in the Sunday School circuit long enough to have the stories of David, Moses, Paul, down pat. But I need to know, do you flounder too? Are there days and moments when you are sure you aren’t good enough? Does God still think I am a woman after His own heart? Even when I don’t?

Thanks for sharing your life with me, for being ladies I can look up to. Sorry this first interaction is so needy. It is just, you seem to be doing life so well, and I could use a little help.

Sincerely,

Abby Norman

The Younger Siblings Baby Book

The best way for me to describe my relationship with my sisters while growing up is this story. In pre-school we were talking about heroes or bravery or something. Anyway, I told my teacher about how brave my sister Jill was, that she stuck her fork into the toaster in order to rescue my breakfast from the malfunctioning button that was holding my bread hostage and burning it. My teacher, (being a responsible professional) told me that this was very dangerous and no one should ever shove a metal fork into a plugged-in toaster, especially one that was turned on. In my four-year-old brain this teacher was a complete idiot. She missed the whole point of how extraordinarily brave my older sister was, and did not understand that my sister was clearly invincible. I never saw her in the same light, she was a moron for the rest of the year.

There are unique situations that only apply, if you are the little sibling. The Rooster has a whole list of firsts the Peanut never had.

The first time you and your sister meet.

The first time your sister and you wear matching outfits and everyone thinks you are ao cute.

The first time your sister hits you.

The first time she scratches you.

The first time your sister leaves a mark.

The first time your sister hits/kicks/scratches/ you because she is really just mad at your mother and she knows this will make her mad.

The first time your eyes light up and you kick your little feet because you see your sister.

The first time your sister lies about you. (Ouch, Rilla pushin’ me out of the back seat of the car when both of you are strapped firmly into your respective car seats.)

The first time you pull her hair.

The first time she shares her food with you.

The first time you get to have a present strictly as your own, rather than sharing it with your sister becuase she wants it (sorry about your christmas presents this year, you can have them back when you are mobile enough to go get them).

The first time you sneak into her space and play with or wear the things she told you not to, just because you can (this will likely happen when she is at school and you are not).

The first time you miss each other.

The first night you share a room.

The first time you refuse to wear matching outfits with your sister (note this has still not happened with me and your Aunts. We still would wear matching outfits.)

The first time you are in cahoots with your sister behind your mom’s back.

I hope you two like having sisters as much as I do!

So commenters, this list is not complete! What did I miss?

Sometimes on Saturday

Sometimes all it takes is making coffee with the french press to be reminded;  Out of what looks like muddy water to us, God makes beautiful things.

Sometimes your friend sends you a text message with the word “ass” in it and it makes you think: “She has grown so much since I have known her!”

Sometimes you wake up to your oldest babbling through the baby monitor. She tells Teddy all about J, and M, and S each in turn. You are reminded how blessed you are that God saw it fit to give your daughters a whole bonus family.

Sometimes you are sitting in the bathroom waiting for your child to agree to get out of the tub when she stands up and announces “All done!, Towel.” When you wrap it around her, she insists on crawling into your lap and having you rub the towel close. You learned how to do this from your mom. You tell her that this is the very best part of the bath and she agrees.

Sometimes both kids take a nap at the same time and the dog insists you sit outside with him. You agree so you don’t have to clean the house.

Happy Saturday! Hope yours is going just as swimmingly.

The parable of the popcorn (thrower)

One day a mother was making popcorn just because she thought it would be fun. But she spoke too quickly and out of turn. She suggested said popcorn as a snack before the not-yet-two-year-old was finished with her sandwich.

“Don’t want it!” “I no WANT sannwhich” called the not-yet-two-yearold. “Pop, pop, pop!” The mother tried to encourage the not-yet-two-year-old, but alas, there was no reasoning with her.

So the mother pulled the popcorn pot from the top of the cupboard, put the oil and popcorn in, and began to heat the whole thing up. “Pop, pop, pop!” cried the not-yet-two-year-old. The mother tried to explain that there would indeed be popcorn but the stove was hot and the not-yet-two-year-old was not to touch it. But the whining escalated as the mother was forced to hip check the toddler so the toddler would not be harmed. “MIIIIINE! MY POP! NO! MINE,” whined the toddler clawing desperately to get to the popcorn pot on the hot stove.

Finally, the popcorn began popping, and just as quickly finished popping. The mother had been so overwhelmed by the behavior of the not-yet-two-year-old; she had forgotten to acquire a bowl for said pop. So she picked up the hot-pot and held it in the air as the toddler continued to claw at the mother’s legs. “Mine! mi-ha-ine-ha-ine-ha-ine,” she sobbed.

The popcorn finally made it into the bowl when the not-yet-two-year-old immediately found a chair and pulled herself up to the counter. She was quickly placated by her mother who suggested she fill up her individual a few kernels at a time. When this was over the toddler immediately picked her bowl above her head and dumped all the popcorn on the floor.

After the popcorn was picked up the not-yet-two-year-old took her bowl into the living room to eat with the other kids, where she picked her bowl up over her head and despite her mother’s screams of “NO, STOP, NO!” flipped it upside down and let it rain popcorn.

And when the mother tried to pick it up she stomped all over it so her mother could not get to it.

I have no idea what this parable has to teach me….any takers?

Let the Record Reflect

Aside

Let the Record Reflect: That Jill called me at 5 to 10 and no one was out of there PJ’s or showered. And I got the girls out of the house by 10:30. I was showered and everyone was dressed. And everyone was fed.

But Let the Record Omit: That the Peanut and I both had Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast and I did my hair and make up at the house we were headed to after we got there. Oh, and that the Peanut had last nights ketchup on her face until Aunt Jill wiped it off for us.

We Talk Nice

Oh language acquisition, how you teach me so so much about myself. The Peanut is quite chatty these days, and lately some of the phrases she has picked up are less than cute. As my car pooling buddy said yesterday of toddlers “they are like tiny mirrors being constantly held up to you.” After all, there are a very limited number of people the Peanut could be learning these words from. And perhaps I am not as nice as I once thought. Because I am constantly having to remind the Peanut, “We talk nice in this house.”

You see, the Peanut has picked up too phrases that are neither winning friends nor influencing people. The first phrase is this: have it. I wish that I could accurately type that phrase with the correct inflection. It comes out of that darling little mouth so quick it sounds like habit. But more like HABIT. It almost always is accompanied with her arms stretched out. It is usually followed with a full on fit if “it” is not in her arms within moments. “It” is often in reference to the Rooster…… Sorry kid, we can’t let you kill your sister. She is also still very good at MIIIIIINE!

The other phrase she picked up is moooove. This is mostly accompanied by pushing. She likes to direct this at me and the dog equally. Somehow she knows not to use this one on her dad. I could not for the life of me figure out where she was getting these phrases…until they came out of my mouth. The Peanut was taking a little too long to get into the door and I shoved my knee into her back and said…move. Oops. I guess I am the one who needs to start saying excuse me. And after that little epiphany it didn’t surprise me that much that “I’ll have that” and “Can I have it?” and “You can’t have it” are regularly occurring phrases in our household.

What I am realizing lately is that the same phrases the Peanut has been shouting at me lately are the ones I am most likely to shout at God. “God can I have it?” “Mine God it is mine!” “Let me direct that, move!” and the usual from both me and my daughter “Help!” I don’t want to continue with my toddler prayers. I want to talk nice too.

Rooster: 4 months old

The Rooster is officially four months old. Two days ago she was sitting on my lap and when the dog came up to join us, she lunged in his general direction. This noticing the dog thing, this is a major milestone around our house. I was shocked.

As interesting as that furry thing is, nothing is as fascinating as big sister. When the Peanut walks into the room, Rooster lights up and tracks her as she spins in circles. And the Peanut has declared herself the keeper of the little sis. If  you go anywhere with just the big one (it is how we are distinguishing them  of late) don’t be surprised when you get a constant barrage of “sister. sister, what happened?” out of the backseat. Yesterday Rooster was crying, and I was told in no uncertain terms by the Peanut “Rilla, Rilla, UP! UP! Rilla UP!” Translation: Mom, my sister is crying because she wants you to pick her up. Do it. Now. I love the way they already love each other.

I learned on Dooce.com yesterday that dimples are actually a malfunction of the cheek muscle. It is something messing up. If Rooster’s dimples aren’t proof that God can make beautiful, beautiful things out of our malfunctions I don’t know what is. I love that she wears a metaphor of God’s goodness in the midst of our brokeness on her face. We have ourselves another very happy baby and those dimples make friends and strangers alike melt into a puddle on the floor.

Speaking of puddles on the floor, girl can spit. This is a first for us and yesterday at the grocery store you could hear the splat as we stopped to pick up the free sample. I am glad I don’t wear expensive shoes. But she isn’t bothered by it at all, if anything she thinks it is funny. But what else are you going to do besides laugh about it I suppose.

Now that I am back to work, it seems as though she is bigger every single time I come home. Perhaps she is. She now goes to Elizabeth’s and seems perfectly happy to hang out there while I am gone. Who wouldn’t be really. In a perfect world I would be hanging out with Elizabeth a few times a week myself (shout out to loving your sitter-swapper partner!).

In short, happy baby makes a happy mommy, who could only be happier if baby decided to start sleeping through the night. Christian and I make adorable and delightful ginger kids….but not great sleepers. Sigh.