Sunday, August 25, 2013

Whining and Shopping and Tears...OH MY!

I took my niece back to school shopping on Friday. At the end of the day my Tribe Counselor, uh, I mean BFF, texted and asked how the day had gone, here is my response. (I'm the BLUE.)

Let me start from the beginning...

I love to shop. I'm good at it. Really good at it. And if you tell me what you're looking for (i.e. work clothes, wedding clothes, a casual outfit), I'll find and put together pieces of clothing that you wouldn't have expected would go together. Cuz I'm just that good. 

But on Friday I learned what I am NOT good at: Back to School Shopping. The shopping trip ended with three girls in the dressing room and all of us were crying. Like huge crocodile tears, snot and sweat kind of crying. 

Karis is my perfect angel niece. I love her. I consider her my first born. She calls me her "other mama" (mostly because I boss her around, but I'll take the "AWE! How sweet." assumptions if you're willing to give them). Karis is six and a half (you have to throw in the "half" at that stage of life). Karis starts first grade tomorrow. I can't believe she's going to be in the first grade. It seems like yesterday that I watched her parents bring her "tiny" 9-pound body home from the hospital where she aptly lifted her head, looked around and smiled. Ten months later this precious little angel looked at me and called me, "Juju." And her Juju I became. 

Karis' Mama is my younger and only sister, Jenni. Jenni hates shopping. Hates it. Like mother like daughter. Karis hates it also. You can imagine how painful shopping can be when the shopping-hating-Mom and the shopping-hating-daughter go shopping together. Someone might kill someone and tell God that someone died. Jenni came up with a solution and called Juju, "Will you please take Karis school shopping? I've got the money set aside, spend whatever, just make her buy clothes that she'll actually wear."  Boom! Juju to the rescue. (Is anyone recalling a Proverb about pride coming before the fall?)

I thought it would be the perfect time to have an end of summer sleepover at Juju's house. Sleepover followed by a fabulous day of shopping and then the girls were getting their hair cut. The sleepover turned out really great. Everybody went to bed on time. Everybody slept. We wake up on Friday and I got a text from my Mom suggesting that we go shopping early. (I should know by now to take those "suggestions" from my Mother as wise counsel, but as usual I ignored it. Pride puffing up...a fall will ensue!)

I thought, hmmm, everyone slept good, we need to eat, and since I don't use my kitchen, why don't we go to McDonald's and let the girls run out some energy on the tubes while they graze a sausage, egg, biscuit and cheese? I called my friend who was sitting her nephew and it was now a date...a playdate. Boom! Best Mom and Aunt EVER. (The fall is just over the horizon.) McDonald's was a hit! The kids ran and played like wild banshees while my friend and I tried to eat breakfast despite the smell of feet and kid sweat. 

Two hours later, I put two sweet little girls into my minivan and headed for the mall. Feeling very proud of myself for maneuvering the morning with such ease while taking care of not one, but two, children, I threw on my iPod and the girls and I began singing "God's not dead, He's surely alive!"  I smiled proudly as I looked into the rearview mirror and reapplied lipstick when, as though everything had gone into slow motion, I saw to my horror that Emery was rubbing her eyes. When my child rubs her eyes it is the tell-tell sign that the end is nigh. Get her to a bed, crib or pack-n-play YASAP (yesterday as soon as possible)! (The fall is now minutes away!) 

Fast forward...we are at the mall. Emery is doing something she never does; she is sitting in her stroller. I am walking so fast that Karis says, "Juju, slow down. My legs hurt." Crap. Don't slow me down, kid! We've got to get this thing knocked out before the little little turns into lucifer! 

I head straight for Justice. If you have a girl from ages 5-12, then you understand that it's the only place to shop. And the entire store was on sale for like a million percent off (I don't do math). So we stroll into Justice, along with 75,000 other people. I start putting outfits together like a BOSS! "Karis, do you like this?" "Yes, Juju." BOOM! Over and over and over until IT happened. Emery turned around in her stroller and yelled, "MAMA! HOLD YOU!" That was it. The trumpet had sounded. I prayed for the rapture, looked around. Dang it. I got left behind! I took a deep breath and yelled to Karis, "GO, BABY! Go grab that dressing room NOW!" Karis's legs took off quicker than her eyes could catch up with where I was pointing, but that baby was running to the dressing rooms and she got the first empty one she saw. I slid in behind her, parked the stroller, locked the curtain in place and said, "Hurry, baby! Put this on!" At this point, Emery is crying and screaming. I prayed during my pregnancy that God would give Emmy healthy strong lungs. Boy howdy, did God ever answer that prayer! This child has got to be the loudest cryer ever in the history of cryers. 

I unstrap Emmy. Put her on the little stool, while she claws at me trying to grab my neck so that she can hang from me like a monkey. Did I mention that she is still sobbing and screaming, "MOMMY! HOLD YOU, PWWWEEEEEEASE!" 

Karis is nervous and embarrassed and says, "Juju, Emmy is still crying." Yes, yes she is. I smile weakly and say, "I know, just keep trying on clothes, we gotta get this done. We'll be finished soon." 

Somewhere between eight and ten outfits later, Emery's freak out goes to another level. The level where it finally slices through all the layers of "calm and collected" that I had. I'm trying to help Karis put on very tight, skinny leggings and Emery is about to fall off the little dressing room stool because of her weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, so I turn to Emmy to calm her, Karis begins taking off the pants and I just lose it. "Karis! Put the pants ON! Pull them up. You know how to put pants on. You dress yourself everyday. Put them ON!" I turn back to Emery who attaches herself to me and is now a monkey baby hanging from my neck but she's a quiet monkey. I take a deep breath and turn back to Karis who is standing there, back against the wall, hands raising up to cover her face...her face that is completely scrunched up into the sweetest, most precious "ugly cry" that I've ever seen. I grab her, "Oh, Karis! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to hurt your feelings! Juju got flustered and frustrated because she couldn't help both you and Emery. I didn't mean to yell at you. Please forgive me."

This is the point where I pull Karis on my left hip, Emmy on my right hip, sit on the floor and we all cry. 

(Stay tuned. I'll tell you the rest of the story later...)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Taste & See

We prayed about it. Fought about it. Disagreed about it. Prayed about it some more. Talked about it. Agreed about it. We were going to have a baby. Isn't that what people do? They decide to have one, dry their underpants together and VOILA! They're pregnant. That is what happened to us in 2008. 
It went something like this: 
Jes said, "Hey, let's start trying to get pregnant." 
Brad replied, "Okay. I agree, now is the time." 

One month later we were pregnant...with twins. Two months later we weren't. We had suffered a miscarriage. We found out the day before Thanksgiving. We had our first D&C the day after Thanksgiving. Needless to say, it was a tough Thanksgiving Day in the Phillips house. No one wanted to say the glib, "You'll try again. It'll happen. Just give it time. God has a plan. You'll be pregnant by Christmas." Everyone in my family knows better than to say things like that to me when I'm grieving for fear of getting throat punched. Instead my family gave me what I needed, a hand to hold, a tissue to wipe the tears away, a laugh at my expense (or my Mom's expense, or my Sister's expense), and most importantly, they gave me family time in the kitchen. 

If you know me at all, you'll think that last line was a major typo. "Jessica doesn't cook. She calls her kitchen an "accessory." Like a wallet that comes with a purse, a kitchen comes with a house." Yes, I know I'm no Martha Stewart. I'm more Frankie Heck from "The Middle" when it comes to cooking. But Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays that I like being in the kitchen with my Mom, Sister, Mother-in-Law, and every other person we can squeeze in. Cook. Eat. Clean. Eat. Reheat. Eat. Repeat for the next three days or until the leftovers are gone. 

I didn't eat much that day. My appetite was subpar because my heart was broken. But the time I spent with my family filled me up. It didn't just fill up my stomach, it filled up my soul. 

God is so good. Someone needs to hear that, to be reminded of that. Even in our greatest heartache clouded with grief and questions and doubt, God is still good. 

Psalm 34:8 says, "Oh, Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man (woman) who trusts in Him!" 

I couldn't eat enough of my feelings on that Thanksgiving Day in 2008 to feel good. But I could taste the things of God and be renewed with a sense that He is good and I'm in good hands, even though I was hurt and didn't understand why this heartbreak had landed on us. 

The way that I practically "taste and see" is through gratitude. I write out what I'm thankful for. Or I spend time in prayer or praise just saying out loud to God the things that He's blessed me with. I count my blessings. It's corny, but it really does turn my frown upside down. And when my heart has been so heavy that a smile might just fracture my face, I praise Him, thank Him all while sobbing my eyes out to Him. 

Brad and I tasted and saw that the Lord was good during the first miscarriage, and the second miscarriage and about five surgeries & procedures and fertility drugs...and you know what we learned? The Lord is good. The Lord is trustworthy. And we are blessed!

God gave us a baby in 2011. A little girl, Emery Noel. I often tell my little Emmy that she's so sweet and yummy that I just want to eat her up. She giggles and says, "No eat me Mommy!" And I tell her, "Oh Emmy! I've tasted! I've seen! The Lord is good!" 

Trust Him. Even when your hope is dashed and your heart is hurting, He is good, He loves you and your biggest blessing and miracle is on it's way. Through Him you can KEEP GOING!

PS - Here's a throwback for you! Enjoy. 

Thanksgiving Day 2008

Count your blessings name them one-by-one!

Jenni & Mom 
(two of my life's biggest blessings)
Just a swingin'

Seeesters. Laughing til we cry.

My handsome hubby, Brad. BIG, HUGE blessing!
He was watching us crazy girls on the swing set. 

My niece, Karis Paige. 
She was one of the GREATEST blessings I counted that year 
(and every year)!

Fast Forward to August 2010

3 months pregnant with Emery

So happy!

We sure are puuurty after we've been airbrushed!

February 2011

Emery Noel Phillips

Thank you, Father, for blessing us so richly. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In

One of my favorite Jesus quotes is in John 16:33 when He warns his disciples, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." 

Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. AAAAHHH! (is the song running through your head like it is mine?)

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and the word "trouble" in this verse is the Greek word "thlipsis" which translates "a pressing, pressing together, or pressure." It's the type of pressure that is literally hard on one's soul. Jesus was telling his followers, "The world is going to pressure you. Not the kind of pressure that makes you break out into forehead sweat, but like wreck your life, weigh you down, crush you kind of pressure." When, according to the ancient law of England, those who willfully refused to plead guilty, had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and were pressed and crushed to death, this was literally thlipsis.

And as the great 'theologian' Taylor Swift sang, we know it when it walks in, don't we. We know the trouble, the pressure, by name. It's name is infidelity. It's name is gossip. It's a financial decision that is going to break us. It's a word that someone said that cut us to the bone and we can't let it go. It presses in on us. Often times it's not even the 'big' pressures that weigh us down, it's the little ones. Traffic. Grocery store. Dinner. Homework. Anxiety. Doubt. Fear. The pressure mounts and we feel like we're going to suffocate under the crushing weight of it all. John MacArthur wrote that this type of pressure is like, "...squeezing olives in a press in order to extract the oil and of squeezing grapes to extract the juice." Have you ever felt squeezed by life to the point that you're drained, like you were once a solid and now you're...juice? Me too. 

But Jesus didn't stop with the warning. He didn't give the disciples a big dose of "waaah, waaah" and then go to the cross to die. No. Jesus gave them a warning but He left them with hope. He always left them with hope. Jesus said, "Take heart! I have overcome the world." To say it differently, Jesus told them to have courage and confidence. But His real answer wasn't just that, His real answer is found at what He said in the very beginning of the verse, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." 

When we feel the pressure, we look for relief in all sorts of different places. We eat. We drink. We have girls night out. We teach Sunday School. We arrange play dates for our kids. We go to the gym. We go shopping. But you won't find the peace you're looking for in food or wine or through your girlfriends. You won't find the peace you desperately need in your church work or through your perfect figure or through a new pair of strappy sandals. 

Only in Jesus will you find your peace. Only Jesus can wash away your sin and lift the weight of trouble this world bears down on you from your aching heart. Trust Him. Give Him your trouble today. Say it out loud and ask Him to help you. He will. We don't have peace because we don't ask for it. So ask. 

Jesus said it. Taylor sang it. I'm writing it. 

Dear Trouble, 

I knew who/what you were when you walked in. Because Jesus told me so. And I'd like to tell you that you're a no good, big fat jerk-face liar. I'm breaking up with you. I'm sick and tired of you weighing me down and holding me back. Don't call me. Don't text me. Don't facebook me. We're done. I've moved on. You've been replaced in my heart with PEACE! 
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brings me self-worth, value, confidence, a calm mind, hope, love, know, all the things you could never offer me. 
So I'm riding off into the sunset with my Prince. And I'm gonna live happily ever after (in this moment with my resolve). And when I notice you walking into a room, I'm gonna turn around and go another direction and then I'm just gonna KEEP GOING! 

Asta La Vista, 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Me Too, Part Two

I had a second "me too," moment through a brilliant woman who spoke at the Catalyst conference. Her name is Dr. Brene` Brown. She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. She gave a TED talk in 2010 called "The Power of Vulnerability" that changed her own life and she goes into detail about it in her second TED talk from 2012, "Listening to Shame". I suggest you take 20 minutes for each talk and give an ear to her. She'll make you laugh as you identify with her vulnerability. 

Brene` says that shame, in women, says, "Do it all. Do it perfectly. And never let them see you sweat. this web of unattainable competing, conflicting expectations about who we are supposed to be.  It's a straight jacket." 

A straight jacket. Do you ever feel imprisoned by your shame? Me too. 

Brene` says there is a remedy to shame. Something that makes it go away. And I want it. Here it is, "Empathy is the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words, when we're in struggle, "Me Too.". 

There is nothing that brings me into community with other moms better than when they look at me, with my three-day-old dirty hair, yoga pants stained with ice cream and my ten-year-old-too-small t-shirt that says, "I'm too pretty to work" and they smile and say, "Me too, sister. Me too." 

We've used (and over-used) a word in our culture in recent years, especially in the church world that I'm immersed in. The word is "community." It's what we call the group of people we do life with. Our people. The ones we identify with. The ones we go through the trials of life with, laugh with, barbecue with, workout with, scream to, cry to, pray for. Our posse. Our cronies. But a new word has emerged that I love better than the word "community". The new word is really an old word; a Biblical word. The new descriptive for "my people" is my "tribe." TribeIn the Old Testament when God chose Israel to be his people, His beloved chosen nation, He sovereignly placed the people into twelve tribes all stemming from Jacob (the leaders of the twelve tribes were Jacob's sons Genesis 49). The twelve tribes were a band of brothers and sisters who made it through tough times together. And they partied like rock stars when things went well (okay, maybe not. But they definitely knew how to celebrate a win together). 

Tribe. Sounds fierce. And my people are fierce. I don't surround myself with wimps. I ain't got time for that! My tribe is made up of people who have suffered everything from death, divorce, adultery, suicide, infertility, the pains of adoption, cancer, anxiety, depression, despair, alcoholism and any and every other "ism" there is. And yet, my tribe doesn't walk around with open wounds covered by bandages; wounds that still bleed and need healing. And my Tribe doesn't walk around hiding the places where they've been wounded. My Tribe doesn't pretend to be above it or over it. Nope. My tribe walks around with scars. Their scars tell the stories of how their wounds have been healed by God the Great Physician, the Healer, the Giver of Life, the Almighty. The glue that holds my Tribe together is vulnerability. We share our scars with each other. We share our pain, our weakness, our neediness. We are honest about where we just can't seem to get it or hold it together. We look at each other in the eyes, we listen and we reply, "Me too". 

Brene` says, "If we're going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. It's seductive to think, I'm gonna go in there and kick some ass when I'm bulletproof and when I'm perfect, but the truth is, that never happens...and that's not what we want to see. We want to be with you and across from you, and we just want the people we care about to care greatly." 

Me too, Brene`, me too. 

Find your Tribe. Share your scars (share your scars even while you're wearing those ice cream-stained yoga pants). Your Tribe will take you places you could never get to all by yourself.  

I know what you're thinking, "But this is hard. I want to give up." 

Yeah, me too. 
But instead of giving up, let's put on a new pair of shoes and get ready for the walk ahead and after you start...KEEP GOING