Not my town not my town not my town

We say that God is good all of the time. And we say that we believe all things work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. And we say that what Satan means for evil, God uses for good.
And so what happens when the bad thing happens?
It happens every day. To other people. In other places. On those days I can’t pretend I don’t wonder. A lot. The promises of God never change. When evil knocks right on your front door? When he kicks it down and smashes all that safety and warmth. When it sits next to you in a theater and robs a city of beautiful young souls.
What do you believe?
Not my town. Not my town. Not my town. Isn’t that what lurks in the recesses of the mind when tragedy strikes? Sadness and even tearful sympathy when you see the bad thing unfolding miles away and then in that dark place a hint of relief. But, it wasn’t in my town, we say.
Until it is.
Sweet Lafayette. We are not the first. And we will not be the last. But, this place. It’s the place I call home and it feels big.
It feels huge. The bad thing happened right here in our precious city where we take our kids downtown without thinking twice. Right here where every other person has ashes on their forehead one Wednesday in the spring. And where Mardi Gras is a family affair.
A year ago we were named the happiest city in the country.
Today we are crying. Our hearts our breaking. Souls crushed.
Lafayette is not a small town. But, it’s a special place. It’s a microcosm of culture and faith, of tradition and progressive thought. There is no place like Lafayette.
This place has long felt insulated to me. Even when we sit smack in the middle of that “cone of uncertainty” all too often during hurricane season. You know the one they show on the national news and your family out of state is repeat calling and texting … “You’re in THE CONE! COME NORTH NOW!”
It feels a lot like the shooting has left us in a cone of uncertainty.
And I’m going to do the thing I do every year since I moved here in 2005 just months before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita arrived. I will refuse to be shaken.
We will not be shaken.
I will be wise. I will be vigilant. But, I will not live in fear.
I will go to the park. And I will shop. I will go to that Mardi Gras parade. And I will even go to the movies. And I’ll hold Wilder tighter. I’ll remember that much of what is paralyzing me with fear or angers me beyond reason is pretty petty and fleeting in the light of what matters most. And that what happened on Johnston Street is the sort of thing that really should send my blood boiling.
I will love with more intention and less reservation. Something I should have been doing anyway. And I’ll be thankful.
And we will not stop living.
Lafayette is not like other places. This is something the world will see when they peek into our windows even in the midst of tragedy. Tragedy has visited here before. And we didn’t let it stay.
It’s been evicted time and time again.
This will be no different.
Lafayette has a beautiful resilience. A way of turning what is ugly into something beautiful. Of showing the world that we are a community in the ways that matter most even when we are as different as a person can imagine.
The coming days will be living proof that our big hearts make us less vulnerable not more. Because we will not be shaken.
I never have liked being labeled “the happiest city in America” nor do I subscribe to the idea that we should all just do what makes us happy. Happiness feels too fleeting a concept for what I want. And for what Lafayette is.
Happiness feels like something that changes as quickly as our weather. Happiness feels like something that can’t survive July 23.
Lafayette has far too many storms to stand up to the flimsy banner of happy. Instead I find this city to be a joyful one. A deep, abiding joy that lives under the surface of beads and boiled crawfish and plate lunches and properly cooked gumbo.
There is a unique substance that makes up our city and it cannot be marred or diminished by the hand of one man. We may see sorrow, but we will not be shaken. Our hearts may be breaking but we will not be broken.
So, what do we do when the bad thing happens?
We do the things that bring us joy with more purpose. We live each day on purpose. We never forget. We celebrate and we mourn and we love love love on the memory of these beautiful women and we form our own little Lafayette army of comfort around those closest to the victims.
We choose faith instead of fear. We keep living and keep loving with a new sense of intensity.
We will be scarred, forever changed and we will be stronger for it not weaker.
We stay what we were before July 23 and what we will be long after the national news forgets our name again — Lafayette strong.

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The kids are gonna be all right …

The Kids are Gonna Be All Right

Are they? Are they really going to be all right … One of my favorite Facebook posts in the midst of the war of never ending opinions and soapboxes is this one … “If anyone wants to talk about what’s right with America I’m down …”
I’m not trying to rain on your rainbow parade or silver lining your apocalyptic cloud. But, life is all about perspective. One simple story I’ve clung to on many dark nights is this: Two women in prison looking through bars … one saw dirt and the other saw stars.
Whatever your beliefs are right now … America is a beautiful place to be. Quit shaking your head. I know what I’m talking about. Because I’m here and I’m living it.
The truth is that our lives always have been a series of choices no matter where we live or the law of the land.
Every choice, every word has a consequence. Even when consequence changes, we each still have a choice about what we do with our lives. And that’s what’s right.
Do I worry about the world Wilder will grow up in? No. Gasp. I don’t. Because I know that no matter what this world has to offer and no matter what the world tells us, he will have a choice. That his worth and his future are in the hands of but one — Jesus Christ.
There was a time Christians were thrown into lion dens and arenas for sport. There was a time our African American friends would never have been considered a friend or sit next to me in a restaurant. There was a time I wouldn’t have been able to vote. Or my divorce would have ended in stoning or being ostracized from the church. That being gay meant our friends were modern day lepers.
It’s not that I don’t care about the future of this country. It’s that I know the thing most of you know but likely forgot. The thing about life is this … it goes on until you die. And every single day is in the hands of the Lord. He never says “oops, didn’t see that one coming.” We have free will.
Should every person fight for what they believe? Yes. Here is what sticks in my craw … the wringing of hands and lamenting when someone doesn’t get their way followed by the “but, what if what if what if.”
Recent events are not the cause for concern. The fingerprints of hate, the thoughts residing in people’s hearts have always been there. It’s as though recent events served as a fingerprint dust revealing what always lived within the people we thought we knew so well.
We increasingly are not allowed to have personal opinions, I hear. And that’s a lie. A culture of overexposure and social media has given us a platform and a sense of urgency to announce our personal beliefs on everything from confederate flags and a gay marriage to who has the best king cake (Keller’s, obvi and if you say Meche you’re dead to me.)
Life unfolds like a series of dominos. The catch? We only get to see the one domino in front of us. Do the right thing and let the rest fall where they may.
So, if I was to worry for these kids, what would that worry be? It would be that we live in a culture saturated in disingenuous people, worthless “heroes” and leaders who exploit beliefs for political gain (both sides) and that the next generation would be blind to it. Good news, we’re here to teach them better.
It would be concern that the sexualization of our daughters has reached critical mass and that our boys will think this is normal. Good news, we’re here to teach them better.
It would be that the world has taught us that to disagree with someone in one area is to hate them in every area. Good news, we’re here to teach them better.
It would be that there is no balance between rights, beliefs and personal choice. Good news, we’re here to teach them better.
So, what’s right with America?
We have so much freedom we don’t know what to do with it. We have so much clean drinking water we put it in fountains and just give it away. We have as many kids as we want. Can apply for the jobs that we want. Can worship and sing and praise as we see fit. Can send our kids to school for like a dozen years … for free. We can wring our hands and lament and I can stand in our front yard and read Psalm 62 out loud whenever I want (I haven’t done that but don’t put it past me on a rough day.)
Things were not perfect before last month. They are not perfect now. We live in a broken country because we’re comprised of broken people.
It’s my prayer that in Wilder’s generation #lovewins is a true representation of the world he lives in. That people spend more time being bold but compassionate. That his generation does more than write posts about what’s wrong with this country. That his generation would find a way to do the thing we aren’t getting right right now — to live with both acceptance and passion.

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Blessed in the mourning

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blesses.

He blesses those who mourn. How did I miss that one? How did you miss that one?

Blesses. Not judges. Not pities. Not tells you to get up and get it together, already. Not offers you empty advice. Not tires easily of … He blesses those who mourn.

There are a lot of extremes in this spiritual life. There are those that can’t recite ‘be thankful in all things enough.’ And it’s a good one. I’ve clung to that one in dark days and tear-filled nights. It’s not less true than this verse from Matthew.

This Bible is a big word of truth. We don’t get to pick and choose what’s true. And yet, there is a season for everything and sometimes. Some days. We mourn. And it’s okay.

In the Christian walk there are times we try to skip right over the mourning. We recite Romans 8:28 (I’ve been known to repeat it 545 times in a row in a pinch) and we look at Easter Sunday. There is hope in our mourning. We are comforted beacuase we know He is risen. We are comforted because we have genuine authentic hope.

But, we have pain. Pain and hope can live together. Mourning and faith can live together.

God made us with these fragile hearts. He made us with vulnerable spots and a crave to connect to others. He gave us a body that will not last for eternity. He gave us hearts capable of breaking.

And so when yours breaks, when the body fails, when the soul feels crushed — it doesn’t make you less faithful. It makes you human.

We were created with an ability to mourn. Our makeup is ripe for hurt. It’s the nature of being human. Without the possibility of hurt, without the risk of pain … there is no possibility of love. Deep, abiding, cuts-to-the-heart love.

And so in this life we will mourn. This morning on my heart is a dear woman of faith whose health is suffering. She is not alone. There are droves of women in my facebook feed battling cancer, in my phone messages fighting the hardships of life and marriage and motherhood.

We bring comfort and we bring hope and we let people mourn. We get right in this messy life with them. We don’t’ walk around the pain. And we don’t fix it. That’s God’s job. He’s got it.

We let people mourn without pity, without judgement. We join them with light-filled eyes and open hearts. We bring them the hope. We sit with them in the dark. We pray for them AND THEN LET THEM KNOW WE DID.

We tell them what we’re going to do for them and then ask if that’s okay. I have friends who know how to do this. They are teaching me. I’m not the best. I ask: what can I do for you? But, do I make a way?

Today, make a way to comfort those who mourn. Right where they are. Without judgemnet of where they’ve been, without that fast forward button headed to thankfulness.

Bless them by being the hands and the feet of the ultimate comforter. He’s already got them.

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If you’re happy and you know it …

We’ve been talking a lot lately about being happy. About if it matters. Happiness is a new pair of those jeans and that bag and that new kitchen counter and those locally sourced organic cupcakes. Turn your ear and you will hear with unwavering conviction from the other side … Happiness is irrelevant. We should show up for God because He is. (You know I agree with the latter.)
The question should not be whether we show up for God because it makes us happy. The question I’m asking is this … Why aren’t we happy?
Jesus died. And rose again. Rose. From the dead! From. The. Dead.
Why aren’t we happy?
We have the freedom to sit in a cushiony pew in the A/C with a perfectly practiced praise team to lead us in music crafted with our Father in mind.
Why aren’t we happy?
Jesus came to this filthy earth. For you. For me. He bore our filthy sins. The perfect lamb was nailed to a cross and beaten and forsaken. He bore our sin. I had to say that one twice. Every sin that I have ever committed or ever would commit and a few I probably haven’t dreamed up yet. He chose death so that we might have life.
Why aren’t we happy?
He has promised us eternal life. With Him. At His side. Forever.
Why aren’t we happy?
He wiped away our sin. As a gift. Without any effort on our part. Without our works or our blood or even our tears. He just gave us salvation that He asked only we accept freely.
Why aren’t we happy?
He has this beautiful plan for our lives. Full of some hard roads because He gave humans free will and this world is broken and full of sin and the inexplicable. But, He has plans. For you. For me. Not to harm us and to give us a hope and a future.
Why aren’t we happy?
He promises to work ALL things together for our good for those called according to His purpose. (That’s all things all the time. All the time. Every single time.)
Why aren’t we happy?
He is. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the creator and the all knowing, all wise. He is love. He is able. He is above all and beyond all. His way is higher than the highest high and He reaches graciously into the lowest low of our lives to pluck us out and set our feet on a firm foundation. He is. And He gives us the blessing of being used for His plan. In His plan.
Why aren’t we happy?
We believed the lie of the world that happiness is a dollar away. A new pair of jeans away. We believed that the picket fence and the doting husband and the beautiful child were the purpose. There is no greater purpose than this — to glorify Him. His grace is enough.
SO why aren’t we happy?
When the storms rage and the picket fence begins to rot and fly away, when the children are sick, when the job is gone and the looks start to go … why aren’t we happy?
Because we believed the world and not The Word.
The word tells us His power is made perfect in weakness. The world tells us the storms will wash away all that matters. The word tells us that in this world WE WILL HAVE TROUBLE. But, HE has overcome the world. Overcome.
Why aren’t we happy?
I don’t mean mindless robots that do not acknowledge the hard. Acknowledge the hard! Embrace it. Let the breaking begin. Happy isn’t 24/7. It’s the spring that comes from a deep abiding joy rooted so concretely in the soul that even the very darkest of days cannot dry it completely. We are hard pressed but we are not destroyed. Our foundation cannot be shaken. Even when the house the world built is gone and all that the world tells us matters fades away, we are still overcomers because we are HIS.

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#bodyissues

I always have had some body issues. For some of you it’s something that came with motherhood. For that I’m sorry. It sucks. But, for gals like me it’s old hat. While you were worrying about (gasp) the possibility of a C-Section scar showing in your bikini post-baby I was just praying that leggings would still be cool after my baby was born.

The truth is that I’ve been so busy chasing an 18-month-old I haven’t had nearly as much time to think about myself. Time spent in front of the mirror deciding if I look fat in that? Mostly I just check for spit up spots (or now it’s food thrown at me from the high chair), throw it on and roll. In short, I haven’t thought a lot about looks in the way I once did because I’m short on time. That being said, I’m a Style Editor and thinking about looks kind of comes with the territory. I can’t really avoid the pages of Vogue (nor do I want to, although I can throw the Victoria’s Secret catalogue in the trash before it gives me a total complex). And I love fashion too much for appearances to mean little in my life.

And so, as we were perusing the wares at Festival International this weekend I had this weird moment where a little statue struck me in an unexpected way. It is a mother with two babies, sagging breasts and a little paunch belly. My first thought was ‘O, hey girl, I know you.’  She looked like a kindred spirit. She was a reflection of so many of us. And yet I couldn’t help but get a good laugh at her expense thinking how odd she looked. Mothers, we’re told, don’t look like that.

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The truth about motherhood and the body

Mothers who work hard look like Gwyneth Paltrow, right? They walk on Victoria’s Secret runways with less jiggle than I had pre-pregnancy just two weeks after giving birth. They look like Jessica Alba and Gisele Bundchen.

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Just your everyday gal with a post-baby body

 

There are a lot of things people tell you before you have a baby. Some say these little people destroy your body (“but, they are so worth it!,” they exclaim — lest you should think a regretful bundle of stretch marks not worth the existence of their precious child) and others seem to bounce back so quickly and completely it seems a feat of magic. And most of us in the beginning are too tired to really think about it at all.

I think it’s all a matter of perspective. It’s where you allow your mind to live and settle. In parts of the world that little statue wouldn’t garner a snicker at all. It is what it is. It is #motherhood #truth. But, around these parts we’ve seen too much Bundchen. We’ve seen the exception more than the rule. And for many of us the exception has become the rule.

I don’t know what the answer is. It’s a big thing — tackling this world we live in that glorifies the smoothest thighs and leanest hips and gravity defying breasts above most other virtues. I think it starts in our own minds. In a belief that it’s okay. That being healthy is what matters. That taking care of ourselves and our families is what matters. That feeling strong may or may not mean looking like a Barbie — and if it doesn’t it’s more than okay. It’s #motherhood. It’s #truth. And that we don’t have to apologize for being devastated at stretch marks and C-Section scars and say “but, my baby was worth it!” That we put it all in perspective that real life leaves most of us scarred. And stronger for it.

Besides, when they ask you to do the cover of SI Swimsuit Issue, they’ll spring for the full Photoshop package — those scars will never see the light of day.

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Life’s bleachable moments

Things get messy around here. (The messy's what makes it good, right?)

Things get messy around here. (The messy’s what makes it good, right?)

So this morning I’m washing dishes and realize there’s poo on the front of the dishwasher. You read that right. It was like something from a Clorox commercial. (If you want the details I’ll just say that apparently a side blow out while Wilder was cruising in his cozy coupe in the kitchen started it all.)
 It was one of the grosser moments we’ve had as of late, but a pretty easy clean up. (Although the skin on my hands is nearly cracked with repeated washing after our bleachable moment.)

After a soapy wipe down followed by Lysol sanitizing wipes and then a hearty dose of bleach it’s like it never happened.
 If only the rest of the crappy (I hate to pun but sometimes it can’t be helped) could be so easily erased. And I’m not talking about Wilder (although I’d like to forget how he nearly tore my niece’s hair from the roots by the handful). I’m talking about me. About the times I’ve been impatient with a 16-month-old and the many times I’ve been even more impatient with a certain 43-year-old. About how I try to keep my cool in this strange place between baby and boy. Where Wilder looks at me as though he knows exactly what he’s doing … and frankly there are times he sooooo does. When I’m exhausted and still have to pick up eggs off the floor (truly the scrambled eggs on the floor are just the worst). When I have to take a deep breath not to scream when trying to change the diaper of a baby that behaves acts as though he’s being scalped alive — an experience rivaled only by trying to clip his nails (like I’m trying to peel off his nails entirely).

My rational mind knows he’s just a baby and yet I find myself frustrated trying to figure out the right thing when he feels far too old for some things yet too young for others. And then it all gives me a little twinge of mommy guilt. (Things they don’t tell you: babies come with a Jiminy Cricket that haunts you after their birth trying to make you feel as though you could always do something more/better/different on behalf of this child you love so much.)

If I’m honest I think it all comes down to this: I’m not perfect and Wilder knows it. In fact, he probably knows me better than anyone else and that’s a scary thing. He’s watching everything I do. And I’m increasingly aware that he will have a mom that makes mistakes. But, I’ve also realized two things: there’s always a chance to improve and more importantly he doesn’t need a perfect mom. My mom wasn’t perfect and I couldn’t love her more.

Perfection may be touted as the goal but truth is that there’s something disingenuous about perfection. It doesn’t exist. I’m a messy human momma full of flaws that can’t be bleached away. And that’s as it should be. I’ve learned from some epic mistakes. There are things I can’t ever take back. And I wouldn’t be who I am, wouldn’t know what I know now, had I not made them. I pray daily for wisdom. And I’ve added patience to that list.

I know that had God intended Wilder to have a mother who was less mess and more robot, he wouldn’t be mine. And that I will try and try and try to do right with the extraordinary task of motherhood. And that when I feel not so perfect at it, I’ll give myself a little grace, wash my hands and try again.

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Hi ho hi ho it’s off to work … err vaca … we go

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So here’s the truth about vacationing when you have a baby — if you take ‘em it ain’t one.

We just returned from Disney World (you can quit judging me now for taking a 16-month-old) and this momma is tired. Overall it wasn’t what I’d call an epic fail. It is what I would call the cold hard truth of parenting — being one is hard. I’m not complaining. I speak the truth!

We actually took it easy the entire time. That was part of the deal with doing the thing we swore we’d never ever do — take a one-year-old to Disney. My husband is a self-professed Disney freak. Such a Disneyphile is he that I don’t know the man can truly count how many times he’s been. (If you know him you may think I’m lying. It’s bizarre but true.) My sister wanted to take her daughter (who is turning three in just days) and so we couldn’t pass up the chance to join them.

We’ve been to Disney twice in the last eight or so years with my sister and brother-in-law. Each afternoon as well skipped through the happiest place on earth on those carefree trips we would see the meltdowns. Epic screaming fits. Parents holding wailing toddlers promising them new cars or threatening spankings in an attempt to calm them. And in true BB (Before Baby) form we’d be all judgy — “that’ll never be us.” (eye roll)

But, that’s the thing about being a parent — you’re destined to befall all things for which you were judgy. So, if you haven’t taken your kid to Disney or tried to negotiate with a one-year-old in public you better quit judging or you’re so next. (BTW, never negotiate with a one-year-old. They are terrorists. If you pay the ransom once, you’re going to have pay it again … and again … and again …)

So, our plan was to just go with the flow. We made no plans (who am I kidding? Planning vaca is about as likely as me agreeing to eat Spam before the apocalypse.) per usual and we took turns sleeping in. We waited until after nap a couple of days before we even went. We reclined his stroller, popped the hood and meandered through the quieter portions of the park to let him get a little rest.

The greatest problem was the simple truth that our boy likes to walk and loves to run. He wanted out of that stroller. But, the crowds were thick and even a monkey backpack (aka kid leash) wouldn’t have done with that many people milling around. (And if you’re judging about kids on leashes I’d dare you to attempt a crowded mall or airport with a small child.)

So, he spent more time in the stroller than he would have liked. But, here’s the truth about it all. I’m glad we went. He danced to techno house music like it was Discovery on a Saturday night with glow sticks in his hands at the Magic Kingdom. He was in heaven in Disney Junior where huge puppets of Mickey and Donald put on a show that had him and my niece on their feet rocking out like it was a Stones concert.

He may never remember we went, but we have the memories (and the photos). In my overly analytical brain I decided that Disney wasn’t a waste because these are, indeed, his formative years. These are the experiences that shape who he will become. People claim far too often that this or that doesn’t matter because their kids won’t remember. But, if they don’t remember this age, why bother doing any of the extra stuff at all?

If he enjoys it and it’s a stimulating new experience, I count it in the win column. And while it would’ve been cheaper to just go to a techno club or a puppet show, the pics wouldn’t have been nearly as good. And he wouldn’t have gotten that super cute new stuffed Mickey Mouse.

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