Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ugly Friday

Finale of The Living Passover at Crosswalk Community Church

Confession time: I am not a fan of Easter. I'm sorry. I know. It's bad. I especially don't like Easter plays, as a rule. I know what their purpose is. I honor the thought and passion and prayer that goes into them. But I don't like them. Now, Christmas? I love. I'll take any Christmas play. I love the sweetness of Christmas. The gift, the joy, the hope, I love it all. It's beautiful.

Tonight I went to an Easter play at the church that most of my family goes to- my "church-in-law" as I like to call it, Crosswalk Community Church. They put on a huge Easter production every year. Beautifully done, really professional, so passionate, with a large, dedicated cast. My dad is always in it, my oldest brother runs tech. So I feel a sort of family obligation to attend, even though quite a few years I've managed to finagle my way out of it (I'm sorry, family! Probably not the best way to confess to you my Easter phobia, but I promise I felt guilty every time!). I'm always really tense. No matter how many moments are in the play, how many acts, how many characters, you know it's all leading up to that one scene. I clench my teeth. I twist my fingers. I take deep breaths. But every time I cringe and cry and look away. I say to myself so many times, "It's almost over. Just a few more minutes. It's almost done." And when it's done, I heave a relieved sigh and uncurl my toes and say, "Okay. It's okay. You made it through." Why do I hate it so much? I don't hate the reason for Easter. I'm everyday aware of the price that was paid for me. I'm everyday grateful for the grace that was given me.

The truth? Easter is ugly. However beautiful the result, the process is hideous. Heartache, betrayal, death- it is most bitter to watch again and again. And I hate all the ugly. Oh, I writhe with it. I twist in my seat uncomfortably, hating myself for hating it, feeling guilty that I can't love the ugly.

Saying all that, confessing all that, leads me to this: Good Friday is not one of my favorite days. I see all over the place the saying, "It's Friday- but Sunday's coming." But I spend much of the day thinking of what that day meant then, as opposed to what it means now.

Can you imagine what they must have thought? What they must have felt? Can you fathom it? The despair. The shock. The numb repetition of, "I don't understand. What's happened? What's happened? I was so sure." Can you comprehend it? What those two days must have been like for them?

Sometimes my life feels like an endless "Good Friday". An Ugly Friday, truthfully. God, I was so sure. I don't understand what's happened here. I was so sure I had heard You on this. I was so convinced I knew what the next step was. What's happened? I'm steeped in the ugly. The death, the bitter. I see the dream, the future, crucified in front of me as I watch in numb confusion. I was so sure.

But tonight, watching that Easter play,  I let myself think of Sunday. Those two days of despair must have felt like an eternity to them. Hiding out, trying to figure out what on earth had happened. But on Sunday, oh, on Sunday! I imagine those two ugly, dark days turned into a dimly lit dream. Can you see it? Can you fathom it? That puzzle piece that was gone, that missing link, fell into place. Everything made sense. My heart leaps just thinking of it. The laughter. The tears. The homecoming. Oh, I bet they were so homesick for Him. Two days of complete homelessness and loss. And then, Sunday. Light upon light. Song upon song. Can you hear it? We're still singing it.

Tonight, my heart is singing over Ugly Friday. My ugly, my confusion, my bitter, my "What's happened?" - it may seem like an eternity now. But when my Sunday comes, it will be just a memory. Seen through a glass darkly. The joy set before me... Sunday. It's coming.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sad Truths

I was driving to work last week, listening to music, singing along, when all of a sudden the words, "God, I'm hurting here", came out of my mouth. Out of nowhere. Just bubbled up, a little bit of sad truth that escaped and fell out of my mouth. It wasn't on purpose. It wasn't a conscious thought before it became words. It was just there. Sitting, waiting.
I am hurting. Always. But what can I expect, when I hold onto all my little broken pieces? Whose fault is it if I cut myself on them? Not the fault of the pieces themselves. Mine. For not letting go. Mine. For hugging them closer to myself like their brokenness will somehow protect me from breaking again. Mine. Mea culpa.

This has been one of those weeks where I'm spending every night staring at my darkened ceiling asking God what it is I've done wrong.
The answer I've been hearing is a resounding "Everything."

Now I know that isn't God's answer to me. More than likely it's my answer to myself. But the sad truth is, usually my voice is louder in my own head than God's is. The sad truth is, most days I don't even know what He says about me. Because the sad truth is, I don't listen.

I've spent all this week rehashing all my weaknesses. Family, friends, hobbies, goals, things I've let go, things I've dropped the ball on, things I've outright given up on. I've stared at that dark ceiling, my eyes as wide open as if I could see every detail of every failure playing in slow motion.
Crying out in frustration and weariness and, yes, let's be honest, since we're speaking the sad truth, anger. Loads and loads of deep, heartfelt, sorry for myself anger.
Crying out in the midst of all those things,
"Somebody!!! God. Please. Throw me a bone here. Just one."

But why do I need to beg God for bones? The sad truth is, He's given me every bone I'll ever need to get through all of this, and I've either buried them, afraid to use them, or thrown them away because they're not what I wanted. Sad truth. I'm full of them right now. I need some glad truth. I don't need someone else to tell it to me. I need to know it. I need to see it. I need to feel it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


It has definitely been a very blustery day today. While Northern Virginia has been getting pounded with snow, we here on the Peninsula have seen our usual counterpart to winter weather: drippy, droppy, dreary rain. Sideways rain, sleety rain, spitting rain, every variety of rain you can think of. Except the nice, soft, gentle rain of spring. Don’t think of that rain, because it for sure isn’t happening on the Virginia Peninsula right now, friends.

The heat just kicked on full blast in my house. Side note- we have a gas heater. Not gas heat. A gas HEATER. One heater, in the form of a grate in the wall in the far right side of our boxy living room. This heater is meant to warm our whole house in the throes of winter. From the bone chilling cold of January to the blustery days of March. I shouldn’t sound so cynical. I actually love that heater. When it kicks on and you stand in front of it, it’s like a full body hair dryer. And, if we leave the bedroom doors wide open and turn the ceiling fans on to circulate air, we get a decent warmish cross breeze that is equal parts comforting and frustrating. There are some joys to living in an old house. The different quirks you learn, placing your feet just so in the hallway to diminish the creak in the floors; putting just this much weight behind your arm to slide the pocket door closed... all these little things that become a part of you without you realizing it, and before you know it, the old house has put down roots in your soul and your steps and your door sliding are as natural as breathing.

A few weeks ago, a violent windstorm blew the handle right off of our storm door. I don’t know how it happened. It was surreal. We woke up the following morning, and ‘lo and behold, the handle was gone. It took us a little while to figure out how to get in and out of the house. At first we just yanked on the frame of the glass, but that mostly resulted in red fingers and muttered cursing. Then, one day, we actually got locked IN. We couldn’t get out the front door at all. We finally found a screwdriver to jimmy in the hole where the handle was, to use as a sort of poor man’s handle (Hey... this is how we do it around here!). The wind tonight has yanked the door from any pitiful latch it may have retained, and is slamming it open and shut repeatedly. Creak. Open. Bang! Shut. I can’t invent a single contraption to keep it pulled to. I need the person who invented handles to come and fix mine. Or, you know. I bet my husband could fix it.

Speaking of husbands, mine is obsessed with Netflix. Our schedules are fine tuned down to a science. He takes the kids to school on Mondays and Tuesdays: my days off. I take them Wednesdays through Fridays: my work days. This makes our bedtime schedules flip flop. On the nights before I work, I go to bed super early. As I kiss him goodnight, I see his eyes stray to the Playstation controller. I know his thoughts are already gone. Lately he’s been getting frustrated with Netflix’s selection. Everything looks “boring” or “lame”. I’ve told him over and over, “You should start watching a series. There are plenty on there! We could pick one and watch it together!” “I don’t want to get all involved in a series!”, he’d reply. Well, the other night I came home from my women’s bible study, to find him lying in bed in the dark, headphones plugged into his phone, avidly staring at the screen.

“What are you doing?”, I asked.

“Shh!”, he responds, his eyes darting back and forth between me and his phone. I watch the blue lights flicker on his face. “I finally took your advice. I started a show.”

“Oh!” I say, interested now. “What show??”

“Sons of Anarchy.”


Um. No. That is not what I meant.

“Babe! When I said you should pick a show, I meant something like How I Met Your Mother. I even SAID, ‘Babe, we should watch How I Met Your Mother’!”


And that was that. I have lost my husband to the Sons of Anarchy. But if he tries to sell my car to buy himself a Harley, I’m putting my foot down.

I’m happy tonight. I’m writing about it to savor the feeling, so that the next time I’m feeling ungrateful and unhappy, I can come back and read this. And remember that I’m happy. Whether I feel it or not, I am happy.

I just finished packing the kids’ lunches for tomorrow. Now. I’ll be honest. I detest packing lunches. I don’t know why. There’s no reason for it. It doesn’t take even 10 minutes. It just seems like such a chore to me. On Sunday we made a ham for dinner, a good sized ham that would never have gotten eaten in one sitting by our family. I’m not really what you would call a Ham Fan. I wouldn’t wear it on a t-shirt or anything. Jeremy and Ashton are Ham Fans. Every day this week, I have sent in Ashton’s lunch huge, man-sized, thick slices of ham in a Ziploc baggie, along with a hot dog roll, for him to make huge, man-sized ham sandwiches. He is in heaven. Manly, Ham Fan shirt wearing heaven. Maybe it gives him bragging rights among his peanut butter sandwich friends. Maybe it makes him the Alpha male. Maybe he beats his chest and hollers in his protein high. I don’t know. I only know, I have ended every evening smelling like ham, and he has gone to school every morning glorying in the riches of his ham filled lunch box.

Chloe is the opposite. I love that girl. I really do. She is so winsome, and sweet, and full of life and love. She often reminds me of my very own little Anne Shirley, living in her own world, skipping to her own tune. I just love her. But. She is the world’s pickiest eater. Well, maybe not the world’s. But definitely our family’s. Chloe eats very little meat. She’s been known to eat Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets. I’ve watched her eat an occasional slice of bacon under extreme duress. But she doesn’t enjoy it. She doesn’t like fruits or vegetables. She likes carbs. She loves spaghetti. Bread. Macaroni and cheese. Mashed potatoes. And she’ll eat eggs, yogurt, and drink milk. That’s it. We’ve tried everything. Bribery. Threats. Trickery. Nothing works. So, in the end, we feed her. She would eat cinnamon toast for every meal if I let her. Here is what Chloe will accept in her lunchbox: Spaghettios. Chef Boyardee Beefaroni (as long as she can eat around the “meatballs”, which we all know aren’t even real meat, so she needn’t worry), and her favorite: “Chocolate Sandwiches”. This consists of none other than two slices of bread smeared with Nutella. I know. I’m so ashamed. I know that it’s basically like letting her eat a cake sandwich everyday for lunch. “Here you are, my child, have these two thin slices of cake slathered in chocolate icing, and let’s call it lunch.” But, the fact is, she eats it. And at this point, that’s all I’m going for. I finished packing lunches tonight reeking of ham and Nutella. Meat and chocolate. That is so gross. It’s like... Willy Wonka meets Sweeney Todd. Which, I guess, they kind of did, if you count Johnny Depp as the true Willy Wonka.

In closing, here is a list of the music I listened to today (and yes, some of them are listed in my previous blog. You can check out my Spotify playlists under my username, mbsmoot--- I think. If that doesn’t work, let me know) :

The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond (which has lately left me with a burning question: With the impending approach of Catching Fire, is there any way possible that the second soundtrack can live up to the first? Opinions, please.)
Sleeping At Last: Atlas
James Vincent McMorrow: Early In The Morning
Wicked: Original Broadway Cast
Death Cab For Cutie: Codes and Keys

If you happen to see on my profile that I’ve been listening to the Sons of Anarchy season one soundtrack, IT WAS NOT ME.

Happy Winds-Day, friends.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Marching On

There have been so many times over the past three months (three MONTHS? How is that even possible?!)  that I’ve sat down at my kitchen table, or on my couch, or on my bed, opened my laptop, and stared at the cursor blinking accusingly back at me, challenging me to write. Blaming me for backing out. Stupid cursor.

I could list a million things that have kept me from writing these past few months. The hectic pace of the holidays, wretched sicknesses just being passed back and forth between my kids for 6 solid weeks, extra hours at work. While all of those played a part, the truth is, I’ve been suffering from a massive case of mental laziness, which lead to a massive case of writer’s block. I’d stare at the screen, all these thoughts swirling around in my head, and nothing would translate into words. I can’t even tell if it’s going to work this time.

So, that said, here are some of the things I’ve been up to this winter.

Like I said, all the kids have been sick. Chloe started it all, with a stomach bug two days after Christmas. After about 5 days with no one else catching it, I figured we were in the clear. I even told my mom, “It’s been almost a week, I guess we’re safe now.” Wrong. That night, while the two older kids were at Awanas, Atleigh comes meandering down the hallway saying, “My belly hurts...” I barely had time to turn around before she puked all over the carpet (she couldn’t make it the extra step onto the kitchen tile, I suppose), all over her dress, jeans, skirt, and socks - Yes. She was wearing all of those items at the same time. Don’t ask me. Then Ashton came home later, saying he had thrown up all over his shoes at church. Two days later, Chloe had the bug again, forcing me to cancel her birthday party and sit at home with a very depressed little brand new 7 year old. Then she got impetigo. Then Ashton got strep. Then Chloe got a sinus infection. Then I got a cold. This went on for the entire month of January. The entire month.

Towards the end of the month I tried to take Chloe out for her birthday pictures. We had a warm day that I wanted to take advantage of. I picked her up from school, rushed her home to change and grab my camera, and rushed back out the door, only to have the temperatures drop 20 degrees in the 15 minutes it took us to get to the location. We tried to take the photos anyway, me being the cruel mother/photographer that I am, telling her “Just one more! Try not to look so cold!” (I feel like I should add that she was no longer sick at this point. And that she didn’t get sick again after.) We were out there all of 20 minutes before I finally took pity on her and gave up. In that 20 minutes, I took 57 pictures. Of the 57 pictures, only 8 were worth keeping, I only like 3 of those 8, 2 of those 3 she wasn’t wearing her Rapunzel wig (which was the costume she wanted to wear) and one of those 3 she wasn’t even looking at the camera. All in all, a mostly dismal failure. It isn’t her fault she was born in January. Maybe next year we’ll embrace the cold and go a snow bunny route.
Here are "The Three" pictures.

February went by in a blur, with a short visit from my aunt and cousin who live out of state, dental appointments for the kids, which led to scheduling an ortho consultation for Ashton (let’s not even open that can of worms this time), an absolutely hellacious eye appointment for Atleigh in which she refused to read the picture charts and kicked and thrashed and screamed during the eye dilation portion, then spent the next 40 minutes breaking my heart with her confused whimperings about not being able to see even when she had her glasses on. Good news on that front though: Her eyes are no worse, and if she continues as she is, she’ll be able to go to yearly appointments by the time she’s 6.

March is a new month. And in many ways, a new season. Winter is petering out (I hope), spring will come creeping in sooner than later. The cold, dull drudgery of January and February, my two absolute least favorite months of the whole year, has been gotten over. March is the month of hope for me. The month of letting out that breath I’ve been holding, of peeking around the corner and catching new life and fresh air unawares. I’m so ready. So ready.

In the meantime, I’ve been keeping myself sane in various ways.

I read a lot. A lot a lot. I probably can’t even count how many books I’ve read just since the last time I blogged, but two of my favorites from the past three months are Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, and Austenland by Shannon Hale.

I’d wanted to read Les Mis for years, and never gotten around to it. With the movie being released at Christmas, I knew I had to read the book first (pet peeve of mine). It took me 5 weeks. 2 of those 5 weeks I didn’t read at all because of general Christmas busyness. I finished it on New Year’s Day at 5am. I sat on my bathroom floor sobbing into a towel for 10 minutes after I read the last page. I’m not kidding. As I said, I read a lot. And not just fluff books. Les Miserables is hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read. Ever. The depth of the characters, the thread of redemption woven through the whole book is a miracle. I’ve never read anything like it. It has gotten so much under my skin and into my heart that even now, two months later, I still find myself thinking about it. Crying about it. Applying its principles to myself.

On the other hand, Austenland is the complete opposite, in that it’s a light, quick, easy read, but it’s so fun. And again, I can say I read the book before the movie came out.

Another thing getting me through has been music. Last summer I subscribed to Spotify Premium, and I’m not kidding when I say it was the absolute best decision I made in 2012. So, so worth my $10 a month. For a confessed music junkie, there is nothing better. I’ve been getting reacquainted with old favorites, and making some new friends. Here’s a [long] list, in no particular order, of some of the music that I love and loves me back.

Glen Hansard: Rhythm and Repose
Benjamin Gibbard: Former Lives
The Avett Brothers: The Once and Future Carpenter, Emotionalism
Twenty-One Pilots: (Self Titled)
James Vincent McMorrow: Early in the Morning
Lamb: II
Sleeping at Last: Atlas
The Lone Bellow: (Self Titled)
Mumford and Sons: Babel
Iron and Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days
Les Miserables Live: The 2010 Cast Album
Gungor: Ghosts Upon the Earth
The Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls
Emile Pandolfi: (Just pick an album- they’re all breathtaking)
Keith Green: So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt
Death Cab for Cutie: Plans, Transatlanticism
The Lumineers: (Self Titled)
The Sound of Music: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Birdy: (Self Titled)
Fun: Some Nights
mewithoutYou: It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All A Dream, It’s Alright
Lana Del Rey: Born to Die

The list could go on, I’m sure. If you love music, and are willing to give up Starbucks twice a month, there’s nothing I can more highly recommend to you than Spotify. Check it out.

I’d like to end this blog saying that I’ll do better. That it won’t be another three months before I’m back. But even as I typed that my eyebrow quirked of its own accord in a “yeah right” motion. I didn’t make any goals this new year. I won’t lay groundwork for guilt if I don’t meet standards. So, I’ll just say this: that I’ll keep marching on.

Happy [Almost] Spring, friends.


If you miss me so very much, you can always check out my life in pictures on Instagram and Twitter @mbsmoot.