Monday, June 29, 2015

Re-entering the Twittersphere

That's right, everyone. This house mom is ups with the times.

As I have been logged on to Twitter, I am overwhelmed by the amount of people tweeting. Each account you see is probably run by someone who has at least three other accounts. It seems that Twitter is the place where you can be a little snarkier and creative than you can be on your Facebook feed where Grandma can see it, which isn't so different from how I remember it. Also, I think stalking on Twitter isn't as creepy as stalking on Facebook. Is that right? I think that's right.

There was a time when I was like, the Twitter queen. That's a little overstated, maybe the Twitter...door greeter. When Blake and I were in college at OBU, we decided to forgo all social media outlets. It helped us concentrate on our work more, and stare at our phones less. If the world wasn't so enraptured by social media, I must be honest, it would appeal to me about as much as sushi appeals to my five guys: glad you like it, but nope, none for me, thanks.

To be completely real with you, there are a lot of people I can connect to on Twitter that I don't connect with on Facebook. Also, it turns out that these days, if you want to be a real writer, you get a Twitter following. Blake had a Twitter once upon a time with the best bio ever: "Is, {don't follow me, follow Jesus} a Jesus juke?" Follow Jesus, but also, please follow me on Twitter. We can tweet all the things together, you and I.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Best Parenting Advice I Ever Received, Ever, That I Haven't Found in a Book (Yet)

VBS: Vacation Bible School, otherwise known as Very Busy Season. As you can probably tell from the plethora of silly pictures and videos on Facebook, Blake and I, along with three awesome girls from the youth group, were in charge of music for Vacation Bible School this year. We did the music for the worship rally, Blake and I did a skit for the worship rally every day, and we taught all of the kids the motions to the songs all week. Also, because Falls Creek was cancelled for week four, there was a church out at Jacob's Ladder who needed worship leaders for their evening devotion, so we did that as well. When we got home from the VBS family night tonight, our entire family was wiped. We all agreed that we didn't care what we did this evening as long as it didn't involve moving. So, movies and blogging it was.

When we got home this afternoon from the last morning of VBS, Blake--voiceless and exhausted--walked into the door and looked around our house and said, "Our house looks awful."
"Well, we haven't been home to clean it, really."
"I know."
"Do you want to take a shower while I make lunch for everybody?"
"Yes. Then after you make lunch I'm going to clean."
" would rather clean then nap?"
He then proceeded to spend three hours cleaning, and I got to take an hour and a half nap. Ladies, this is the  kind of man you should be holding out for, okay? Don't worry, though, Blake still got to take a nap.

A pretty accurate picture of what most of Blake's week looked like.

I am still thinking through what my next blog post regarding our guys and life at the ranch is going to look like, not because our guys have been difficult or anything, but because summer is just a whole different beast from the school year. However, I still want to keep writing consistently, and being surrounded by children and teenagers all week has made me think about parenting almost constantly. I've had several people ask me questions about what parenting teenagers is like at my age, and if it affects how I parent Adeline. First of all, let me stop you there for a second. Parenting is parenting. Sure, there are different nuances that come into play with different ages, but if I try to segregate parenting our guys and parenting Adeline, it just doesn't work. Whether with my seventeen-year-old or two-year-old, I have the same parenting goals on the forefront of my brain: showing them Christ and teaching them to follow Him, raising them up to be responsible, successful, servant-hearted, kind, welcoming, and honest, all while making sure they feel loved, cared for, listened to, and supported. It might take five minutes to have a guy pick up after himself, and it might take twenty minutes to coach Adeline through picking up her messes, but the same basic principle is being taught. Granted, the guys we work with come from all kinds of backgrounds, and there are things that we have to take into account when we parent them, but we have found for both them and for Adeline that consistency is a big deal and it makes a big difference.

As for some of the best parenting advice ever, there is one book I have read that came to me at literally the perfect season. It's not a Christian book, and I didn't agree with ALL of it, but each page I would just stop and think, "That makes perfect sense." It's called Bringing Up Bebe; it is hilarious and a super fast read. A lot of it applied to Addie, and it still applies to my teenagers. I'm telling you, it's awesome. Also, there's a really easy and delicious recipe for a cake in there.

The best parenting advice I ever received, right after I had Addie--you know, right around that time where everyone is giving you advice whether you ask for it or not--was actually from none other than my father-in-law. It wasn't anything super philosophical or scientific or controversial. This is advice for any parent, whether you are pro- or anti-vaccination, whether sugar is the devil or Happy Meals are your best friend, and applies to little girls, boys, teenage girls, teenage boys--all of the parenting scenarios.

It's a little song you sing to yourself or think really hard while your child is losing it: "I'm more patient than you."

I know, I know, it sounds absurd at first. But I am telling you, when you are sleep deprived and your child is refusing to fall asleep and is screaming to the point where they look like their face is going to pop like a balloon, and you are about to burst into tears, sing the song in your head. The tune doesn't matter. It's the mantra that matters. "I'm more patient than you, I'm more patient than you, I'm more patient than you..." When your teenager is acting like you're the dumbest person on the planet and you need to hold your ground, give yourself a few quick mental repetitions of "I'm more patient than you" before you go all Beyonce on them like, "YOU MUST NOT KNOW 'BOUT ME." In most cases, when you start thinking of the song, you do not feel even a little bit patient. Forcing yourself to think "I'm more patient than you," though, makes you realize it's true. You are the parent. You are in control. You are the one who decides where this conversation (or lack thereof?) is going. This isn't for the sake of parental tyranny, but parental consistency. If Adeline throws a big tantrum and I react either by giving into the tantrum or, on the other side, having a tantrum of my own, she is in control of that situation. But, if I am to the point of exhaustion that I feel I am going to swing one way or the other, I sing it (even to her sometimes), and react appropriately. As the parent, I keep control and she is a better person for it.

Now, there is a ton of advice I have received and practiced, and a ton that I decided, "Yeah...I don't need that one." There is an overwhelming amount of parenting resources that any parent can have access to at the click of a Google search. I say this is the best advice ever not because it changed anything drastic in my parenting beliefs, but because it is something I use all the time, especially on the days when I might wake up and feel completely incapable of parenting that day. On days when I am sick, or exhausted, or really needing a break, kids aren't aware of that, and their need to be parented doesn't change.

There are no perfect people, and especially no perfect parents. We can't be completely composed or patient all of the time. We can't know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we make all of the right parenting decisions. We can focus, however, on being the best parent we can be one day at a time, and this is a trick that seems to help me do so.

Well, everyone, that's all I have for my semi-weekly blog writing. I leave you with some of my favorite pictures by our church photographer from VBS this week.

Everyone's favorite ridiculous character from our skits, Seymour. Seymour is now a cultural phenomenon, I'm pretty sure.

The song we were singing had nothing to do with rabbits. I can see why our faces would be misleading.

Go ahead and take a guess which child is mine. Oh, the one proudly showing off her belly button. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

We Have a Problem.

Hi, I'm Michelle. I'm twenty-three years old. I have six kids. I have a Sonic problem.

Now, Sonic isn't always a problem. In fact, it's mostly a problem from June to August. Any other time of the year all I want is coffee. All the coffee. Way too much coffee.

The problem probably started as soon as some of my friends in high school could drive. Being poor teenagers and having parents who (reasonably) only allowed us a minimum amount of hang out time without supervision, summer days were spent wasting all of our money on the gas money it took to drag Main Street with the windows down, which was done by whipping through the Sonic parking lot as our turn-around point. And if dragging Main isn't cool enough on its own, it is so much cooler with a big ol' Sonic drink in your hand. The cultural phenomenon of today is to have a grande or venti Starbucks cup in hand, as part of your ensemble, as a fashion accessory (don't believe me? Check out any "outfit inspiration board" on Pinterest). Strutting into whatever place you went during the summer with your cup in hand and being asked "what you're drinking," as if you might as well be delicately swooshing wine in a glass, was the stuff of summer vacation. If you had more than two flavors in your drink, though, you were gross. No one actually likes that, you're just trying to get attention.

I have had the same signature drink since I was fifteen. I have deviated for a time to make sure I didn't get burnt out on my signature drink, and though some were good, they were not the same as my drink. I have gone through seasons of vanilla Coke, vanilla Sprite, raspberry vanilla Sprite (this is a close second to my first choice), and cranberry vanilla Sprite if I had somehow worn myself out on coffee around Christmas time. When I was pregnant I CRAVED vanilla Coke like crazy (but didn't drink it often...if I did, it was usually because it was a better option than clawing someone's eyes out). Green apple vanilla sprite was decently okay when I tried it.

My signature drink is vanilla Dr. Pepper. I am getting to an age when I don't want pop very often, especially something as sweet as Dr. Pepper. Adding the vanilla to it seems crazy, I know. But something about it is just...luxurious.

When my husband got in the car with me today, he said, "...did you buy another Sonic drink?"
"You have a problem. Really. No more pop."

And the unfortunate truth is that he's right. Not just because pop is terrible for you (I have watched a million documentaries about how horrible sugar is and ESPECIALLY soda), because while it has dramatically lessened my general soda consumption, it hasn't stopped it all together. Honestly, Sonic drinks are a luxury that help me pretend my day is better than it is. It's a little filter I can put on my thoughts just like a filter on an Instagram picture.

I need to be honest with you all. The truth is, I didn't write this post because I care deeply about my Sonic drinks. I wrote this post because it was easier to write about then what has happened in Charleston, and McKinney, and all over our country. There have been so many articles and Facebook posts and what not that are so eloquently written that I have "liked," but haven't been able to come close to even trying to echo.

For nine months I raised a black child and couldn't believe the blatant racism I encountered. It wasn't as news-worthy as open firing on a black church, but it shocked me. Maybe we are all still trying to find the line where racism starts and ignorance ends, but I think Jen Hatmaker said it perfectly on her Facebook page: "...when we see evil racism in front of us, we name it, we expose it, we condemn it." We can't sweep it under rugs or ignore it where it grows into the senseless violence we have been seeing.

I'm not going to pretend as if I know the answers to this world's racism problem, and especially this country's racism problem. There are days when I look at the world and just think, "Please, come, Lord Jesus," because it is truly beyond fixing, at least by us. I am also aware that if me, a privileged white lady, can see the problem, how much more have my brothers and sisters without the benefit of white skin seen? When are we going to start seeing the value of people in spite of color, gender, or culture?

I have read a million Facebook statuses (stati?), blog posts, Buzzfeed lists, etc. I know this post may just feel like one more to read. In less than 48 hours, the Charleston shooting is probably starting to feel like old news, and the McKinney pool incident was like, forever ago, right? No. It was last week.

I do have a Sonic problem; but, really, I have a filter problem. Most of us do. We want to believe racism isn't something we encounter, and we shake our heads at the racism we see online as if it is distant. I wish it were distant, but I know it's not now. I'm not sure that adding my voice will make a noticeable difference in the racism problem, but adding our voices will change our personal worlds--our communities, our children. God has given us stewardship over this world, and as long as we silently watch his people being abused and mistreated, we aren't taking our responsibility seriously.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Let's (Not) Get Cynical.

There is a phenomenon that has been going on in my life for a while now. I'm not sure if this is a virus that is spreading to my generation, or if it is something that happens to all people around this age or stage of life. I do know that sometimes it has felt completely in my control, a useful weapon keeping me from falling into a pit; other times it has snuck in and seemed to infiltrate down to my blood vessels until it felt like I was spending my days trudging through fog and...peanut butter. Or something that would be equally difficult to walk through to accomplish anything.


Cynicism is a tricky line between discernment and despair. At least in discernment there is wisdom. At least in despair there can often be a thread of humility, a sense of relinquishing control. Cynicism is right in the stoic, immovable, and invisible middle of these two things.

If you have ever known me well, you most likely wouldn't associate this term with me. Most of my life has been spent in bubbly optimism, probably to the point of annoyance for some. I would wear my JESUS shirt to concurrent classes at SWOSU and preach to the smokers before class and go to Falls Creek and cry on Friday night harder than anyone else. Hope for the future was my lifeblood. It oozed out of me the way we ooze out carbon dioxide. The problem with being too hopeful is that when you are let down, it cuts a lot deeper. The fallen world we live in is practically constructed of disappointment, and for even the bubbliest, it doesn't take long to be worn down to a misanthropic stump.

In case you didn't believe me about the JESUS shirt. Or the bubbly optimism.

I've been sticking with a summer devotional through the book of Psalms set up by Reaching Her (you can like them on Facebook here). Yesterday I read Psalm 74, and these two verses immediately jumped out at me:

"Yet God my king is from of old
working salvation in the midst of the earth." 
Psalm 74:12, ESV (emphasis mine)

"Yours is the day, yours also the night."
Psalm 74:16, ESV (emphasis mine)

And today, right on the brink of tears and begging God to help me not give up on people, I read this:

"We give thanks to you, O God, for your name is near. 
We recount your wondrous deeds. 
'At the set time I will appoint
I will judge with equity.
When the earth totters 
and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its pillars.' "
Psalm 75:1-3, ESV (emphasis mine)

We can't have hope or faith in the world. We can't, and shouldn't. However, we can have faith in God, the king working in the midst of it. We can have faith in God, without beginning, who has been keeping steady our tottering earth and people since He spoke it into existence. Whether the day is bright and shining or dark and hopeless, it is His. God doesn't need my unrealistic elation or my pouting doubt, but He does expect my obedient trust in Him.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we can wait expectantly for the redemption of all things that is happening, and will reach its fullness soon. Do not hold too tightly to hope. Do not hold too tightly to despair. Hold to our King of old, who holds all like it weighs nothing. I can't promise that everything will be all right in this lifetime, but Christ has promised that everything is going to be perfect, because He is.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Best Marriage Advice I Ever Received, Ever.

Okay, so I wrote a little blog post a while back inspired by a few things I have learned in the almost five and a half years Blake and I have been together. Some of this advice was taught, some was learned from that toughest teacher, experience. You can read that post here if you like (warning: if you don't like snarky,'s snarky).

There have been quite a few friends and acquaintances who have gotten married since Blake and I have, and others in my life who have had questions about weddings and marriages and doing life with the one you love. In the moment, I often feel the room and try to offer advice or just something I wish someone would have told me when I was in their position based on the person or people asking. I especially offer advice I received that I actually applied successfully to my marriage: praying specific things for your spouse and for their walk with Christ, not just "la la la help my husband in traffic today" (not that I'm saying that isn't valid, I'm just saying you could also pray that revealing billboards be miraculously blown away by an extremely well aimed tornado to protect your husband's eyes from the blatant sexuality forced onto our culture--you know, like, really specific), looking for the things your husband cares about and making a point to do those things for him (if Blake just spent an hour cleaning and mopping our floors, and I drop food, I will pick it up and throw it away and not kick it under the fridge like most of us would do), look in their eyes and tell them you love them or that you would still say "I do" today, every single day (it doesn't have to be those exact words, just validate them every day).

All of these and so much more are great advice, but it was advice that I heard from several sources. If and when someone asks for advice, I think they are hoping for an "AHA!" piece of advice that is going to work as a force field for their marriage for the rest of their lives. Or, at least, I hoped that some nugget of wisdom like that existed somewhere.

When Blake and I got engaged, we were doing youth ministry at Faith Baptist Church in Harrah, Oklahoma. Once a week, before Wednesday night activities, we would meet--Blake with our pastor, Dan, and I with his wife, Gayle. She gave me so much great advice that I will often flip back to in my mental Gayle-wisdom flash cards. One Wednesday, she gave me literally the best marriage advice I ever received, ever. While hers was especially directed with the underlying pressure of being a couple involved in ministry, this applies to even the most atheist of couples if you want to protect your marriage from bitterness.

Do not speak badly about your spouse. Even if you're "joking." Even if someone else started it. Even if you're really mad at them. 

Now, don't be fake or weird about it. Sometimes that just means not bringing your spouse up in a conversation where you know you could easily derail into a vent session that goes way too far. She said I should find a person that I could talk to about hurt feelings or what have you that could serve as an unbiased source--someone who cares for both Blake and me, who can listen without blindly assuming all of the things I would probably be assuming.

But here's the part she didn't tell me that I learned after applying this lesson: if Blake did something that hurt my feelings, and I followed this advice, pretty soon I found out that if I wanted to express those feelings in a way that honored Blake, I would have to find a way to talk to him about it. The catch was that, though there were people in my life I could probably trust with my feelings, I couldn't necessarily trust them to be unbiased. It also made me realize that whatever I felt was often so reactionary that by the time I sat and thought through who to talk to or where to start, I wasn't very upset about it any more. Once the drama of the moment had subsided, I could go to Blake and express my feelings sincerely but in a way that was clear and not condemning. So, we got to the whole kissing and making up thing a lot faster, which everyone knows is the best part about "communicating."

Another piece to this lesson reminds me a little bit of that old Native American parable about the two wolves that live and battle inside us: good and bad, and the one that you feed wins (Tomorrowland totally ripped off Native Americans on that reference, by the way)(or maybe it isn't Native American and the internet just happened to say it was Native American but it actually originated somewhere else). If you don't allow your bad feelings of your spouse free reign over your conversations, the bad feelings starve, leaving room for the good feelings to thrive. To me, this isn't living in denial of real struggles and conflict in relationships, but choosing to act in love toward your spouse rather than reacting in contempt.

I have tried applying this advice in other areas of my life besides marriage as well. I can say with certainty that I need more practice (sometimes you just call your mom or word vomit on whoever happens to ask how you're doing at an inopportune moment because you are kind of an open book and have a lot of feelings and WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE SOMETIMES?). Being a "giver" personality type often translates to giving too much information. Speaking of giving too much information, I have another favorite piece of advice, but it isn't exactly blog appropriate, so you will just have to ask me in person. Also, I reserve the right to withhold this advice from you if I deem you unable to responsibly handle the information.

I hope that, for some, this could be your "AHA!" advice that helps you enter your marriage more readily, or turn a corner in a marriage that has maybe had a hint of bitterness in it lately. When marriage gets tough, it's okay to be hurt and need help. It isn't okay to get resentful and give up on intimacy and tenderness--you might be surprised to know that some of the most loving and flourishing marriages have been dragged through some really ugly stuff. And please, if you are having marriage issues that involve any sort of abuse, ignore everything before this sentence and find help (City Rescue Mission, National Domestic Abuse Hotline).

Thanks for reading, everyone!