Surprised by Hope

IMG_2700 I woke up the other morning surprised by hope. It wasn’t the emotion I thought I would or should be feeling that particular morning. But, there it was. Hope, with hints of joy. It startled me. I knew it wasn’t some sort of forced emotion, conjured up in an effort to cover up what was going on inside. I knew God had given me a gift that morning.

Just that week I was in the midst of days upon days of blood work, ordered up by my fertility doctor. I was 99% positive I had miscarried again, but my doctor wanted to make sure. In one hand I held the practical side of knowing how my body works, and in the other hand I tried to hold onto a sliver of a miracle. At a time when I thought I would be distressed, anxious, angry, and overwhelmed with sadness, there was this emotion of hope.

In my heart, God was calling me to come. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This familiar verse was weaving itself around my heart, inviting me to come. My journey of infertility has been so weary. How did God know? And all I needed to do was to come? To drop the burden, come to my God who is gentle and humble, and He would give me rest? Would that be possible?

That Sunday at church we read a verse from Isaiah 40:28 where it says that God will not grow tired or weary. There was that word again. I am so weary, but God will never weary or grow tired? Could He truly handle this burden I’ve been carting around with me? The following Sunday we sang a song, “Come with me, then let go. Come however you are. Just come. Come with sorrows and songs. Come however you are. Just come.”

This hope, this surprising emotion that startled me awake, was opening my eyes and ears to something simple and profound. All I needed to do was come. Just come. In the midst of my disappointment and sadness, just come. In the middle of unanswered questions and confusing medical advice, just come. In the midst of longing and jealousy of other women’s baby bumps, just come. My God who never grows weary was inviting me to come, to learn from Him, and to find rest. FullSizeRender I don’t always accept this invitation. Most mornings I don’t even remember it exists. In an effort to help me remember, I wrote out the invitation on the chalkboard in my hallway so that I can remember the hope God is calling me to. I want nothing more than to understand and experience this rest that is being offered.

**Thanks N.T. Wright for letting me borrow the title of your book for the subject of this blog post. I’m glad you’ve been surprised by hope too.

On Time-Outs, Bad Guys, and Saying “No”

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There’s been a lot of talk in our house lately about good guys and bad guys. “What happens to the bad guys?” “Why are they bad?” These are the questions that keep my 3-year-old boy up at night. It all started when he saw his cousin perform in a kid’s production of Annie. He still asks me, almost a year later, why Mrs. Hannigan was so mean! Now the conversation is more focused on Darth Vader and the “dark side.” He has yet to see Star Wars, but our kind next door neighbor keeps providing him with an endless supply of storm troopers and yoda figurines which have now becoming friends with his Playmobil Noah’s Ark set.

As we’re driving around town running errands, I’ll hear his sweet voice and questions from the backseat. “Why is Darth Vader so mean?” “Does he need to go to jail?” I’ll typically say things like, “Well, Darth Vader made some bad choices,  one bad choice after another.” Or, “Darth Vader was tricked to turn to the dark side.” Or to keep it simple, “Darth Vader just needs some friends.” To be honest, I’m not sure what would be the most age appropriate answer for my little guy who is trying to figure the world out with an endless supply of “whys.”

When he makes some bad choices of his own like, let’s say, slapping me in the face or pulling his friend’s hair in a WWE hold while banging his head up and down on a trampoline, we again have a conversation about bad choices while he has a time out. I’ve been sitting with him during these time outs and try as best as I can to speak in a calm voice while keeping him in place and helping him transition out of his bonkers state of emotions.

His slapping and thrashing episodes usually happen once I say “no” to him. Just last night when I told him it was time for bed and no, he couldn’t go on the swing in the dark in our back yard, he told me, “Don’t say ‘no’ to me. It’s not nice. You’re going to get a super big time out and then you’ll have to go to jail.” Trying not to laugh, I accepted his words and said that Mommy would take a time out once he was in bed (and I’d prop my feet up on the couch with a handful of chocolate covered almonds and some wine).

The other day he asked, “Why do you always say ‘no’ to me?” This deflated me. I told him, “I don’t like saying ‘no’ to you sweetie. But sometimes I need to say ‘no’ because I know what’s best for you.” This conversation reminded me of some hard lessons I’ve learned, and continue to learn, when it feels like God is saying ‘no’ to me as well. After each heart breaking end of a relationship in my single days, I felt like God kept saying ‘no’ over and over and over again. Some wise person spoke some truth to me during that time and altered that meaning a bit by offering that perhaps God wasn’t saying “No” but “Not yet.” Those four extra letters felt like a peace offering from God. God hadn’t forgotten me and my desire to be married. God hadn’t abandoned me. And perhaps, God didn’t even like saying “No” to me. But God did say “Not yet. Oh, not yet Marlene. I have someone even better. Just wait and hold onto me a bit longer. Trust me on this.”

I’d like to think that is what God is saying to me now as I feel like I’m wading through another “No” season of life, a season where things aren’t happening as I thought they should. “Not yet, Marlene. Not yet.” And for my son I do try to find many times to say “Yes” to him throughout the day to buffer the “Nos” and the “Not yets.”

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

gym class

It all began to unravel after I made the presumptuous comment to my friend that my 2-year-old had finally mastered potty training. We were getting caught up while our boys were in gym class – essentially a padded room for toddlers to bounce, jump, crawl through tunnels, and dive without fear of getting hurt. It was at this moment in our conversation when my little guy snuck away to hide in a tunnel and do his business. In his undies. When I spotted him, he said, “Don’t change it. Don’t change my poo-poo anymore.” This is code that he is actually in the process of pooping. There is no warning in his rule-book. He just goes.

I drag him to the bathroom, with a poop load. I get most of it into the potty, with the remainder in his undies. I try scrubbing the undies in the sink, which ends up clogging drain.  As I scoop the poop out of the drain with a paper towel, I assume that this is just a minor set-back and I put another pair of undies on him and we return to class in tact.

After gym class, we head to Toys-R-Us to finish some birthday shopping. As I’m in the game aisle, I start wondering why my feet start feeling wet. I look down and I am standing in a puddle of pee. My little guy is sitting in the cart, smug as a bug. I grab some wipes, pray for evaporation, and wipe the pee puddle with my feet. Not surprised that I can’t find a single employee to warn, we race off to the bathroom and hope Toys-R-Us doesn’t get sued for someone slipping on Aisle 12.

After Toys-R-Us, I decide to swing by my friend’s house for an impromptu play-date with her 3 kids.  We let my chocolate lab, Sutter, take a break from sitting in the car and let him run out his energy in the backyard. He escapes. We catch him. Meanwhile, my little guy is in the backyard pooping in his underwear again. “Don’t change it,” he says. This time I’m borrowing pants and a pull-up (forget the undies… we’ve had a major potty set-back today). I take him to their changing table in the bathroom, and as I pull off his undies, his poo flings across the bathroom and lands on the floor and the cabinets.

It gets worse.

The boys are playing again in the backyard with my friend’s chickens. (Remember that Sutter is still in the backyard.) For some reason, we leave our 2-year-old boys in the pen area with the chickens and go back inside for something. Meanwhile, one of the boys opens the pen, and Sutter starts attacking one of the chickens. We come out, and Sutter has an entire chicken in his mouth and is wringing it from side to side. My friend and I tackle Sutter, and he is covered in feathers… bits of chicken are dangling from his mouth in a foamy mess. The chicken survives (praise God!), but Sutter is lunging with all of his might to go for the kill. I drag him with every ounce of my being to get him back in the car.

My friend and I finally have a moment of peace, we think, to sit on the couch and complete a sentence. Realizing that we haven’t heard our boys in a little while, we meander to the back of the house and find the boys in her shower rubbing all of her good shampoo over the shower doors and on themselves.

Stick a fork in me. I am done. It is time to end this day and pray for a good start tomorrow.

Timing the Tears


I’m finding that as a Mommy I can’t always engage in my emotional state when I need to or want to because I often just need to hold things together for my busy toddler. I can do this most days, but right now it’s an effort. A friend and I were talking yesterday about when to time the tears when we just need to let down, let the stress roll off our shoulders, cry out for help during a trying season. It’s an interesting concept to set aside time to cry and grieve. It’s another reminder that as a Mommy, my time is no longer my own. Well, except nap time. But as soon as I put the buddy down for his nap, it’s not like I can just say, “ok… grab the Kleenex. Let it out.” It feels awkward to be so pre-meditated with my tears. But I know that bottling up emotion won’t be healthy for me either… as evidenced by the lovely zit forming on my chin. It’s easier for me to keep busy, check things off my to-do list than to deal with everything that life throws your way.

But when I heard this song, it almost made me drop to my knees. It’s my heart’s cry right now. The words pierce me to a point where I need to stop what I’m doing, open my hands, and surrender yet again. This has been my nap-time song lately. As awkward as it is, this song has helped me time my tears, and remind me of the eternal hope I have, even in the midst of a difficult season.


Being a Mommy is Dangerous


When I lived in San Francisco, my parents often worried about my safety. If we were ever chatting on the phone while I was driving, circling the neighborhood for a parking spot, they would often ask to keep talking with me until they new I was safely inside my apartment with the door locked. And, I admit, there were times when I got a little sketched out while walking home on Geary in the dark, and opted for running in the middle of the street until I made it to my destination.

So, now I live in the “burbs” where people don’t lock their doors and neighbors hang out in their front yards and bring over freshly baked blueberry scones. I feel pretty safe here. But, no one prepared me for the dangers of living with a 2-year-old. Have I ever gotten into a fist-fight? Nope. Have I ever taken a self-defense class? Thought about it. Have I ever gotten a black eye before? Well, not until my face got in the way of my toddler’s stick whacking. Serious Mommy danger. You should have seen the looks I got at the grocery store. If anyone asked, I was prepared to say, “You should see the other guy!”

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The Wedding Dress Housewife Chronicles: All in a Day


Do you remember that time when you used to take long, hot showers, you washed your hair regularly and had uninterrupted time to straighten it? Wait… let’s start over. Remember when you used to brush your hair? I know Moms don’t get much “me-time” anymore, but when you do get that rare moment, I suggest changing out of your bathrobe and slipping into your wedding dress once again. You don’t even need to brush your hair or take off your slippers, just lounge in your dress. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and reminisce back to a time when people were waiting on you (yes, YOU!), doing your hair, your make-up, holding your veil, giving you sips of Perrier, touching up your lipstick.

And… end scene. Nap time is abruptly over.

waking up Waking up in your wedding dress is another great option over the typical sweats and baggy T-shirt.

IMG_3870Thus concludes the Wedding Dress Housewife photos for the time being. Thanks to my good friend Lori for being the photographer, and for her creative genius. We are collaborating on more photo locations and wedding dress appearances. If you have ideas or requests, send them my way!

The Wedding Dress Housewife Chronicles: Doggone Doggies


Dearest Sutter,
How I love thee and loathe thee and love thee some more.
You silly, anxious, snuggly, crazy, playful, barking doggie.
Our chocolate-eating, squirrel-chasing, stink-bomb evacuating lab.
How your hair sheds and floats around, ending up in the most peculiar places
(like our dinner plates).
How you dance in speedy circles after depositing your “gifts” in our back yard.
Oh, how you bark and jump when we have a dance party in the kitchen.
How you cock your head, and plead for more, more, more.
Oh, loyal, sweet-loving pup.
Our second child.
Our Sutter Butter.

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The Wedding Dress Housewife Chronicles: Diaper Duty

baby 4

Nothing says “fancy” quite like a dirty number in your babe’s diaper. So, why not get dolled up for the occasion? Color coordinate with your babe’s ivory Pampers, champagne-colored Seventh Generation, or snow white Huggies. I assure you, it will make this task seem all the more charming.

P.S. I apologize for the delay in this series. Note to self. Never start something right before the holidays.

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The Wedding Dress Housewife Chronicles: Yard Work


Wedding Dress Housewife!
Night and day it’s Wedding Dress Housewife
Make the bed, change the diapers
Wash the dishes, do the laundry

And the yard work and the mowing
They always keep her hopping

She goes around in circles
Till she’s very, very dizzy
Still they holler
Keep a-busy Wedding Dress Housewife!

We can do it, we can do it
We can help our Wedding Dress Housewife
We can make her dress so pretty
There’s nothing to it, really
We’ll tie a sash around it
Put a ribbon through it
When dancing at the reception
She’ll be more beautiful without exception
In the lovely dress we’ll make for Wedding Dress Housewife
(Lyrics adjusted from Cinderella’s “The Work Song”)

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