Day 4,081

Week 34: I am without an ounce of energy. I can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t walk, and can’t think. Not even really sure how I’m moving my fingers to type or how my brain is coming up with words right now.

All I do is burp. Sometimes I weep softly, like when I’m lying on the couch helplessly burping.

It boggles the mind to think that I waitressed at a busy cafe when I was this pregnant with Mia, or that I walked three miles in the soupy heat of a Florida August one week before I gave birth to her. Pregnancy is definitely meant for the young…

…And for the stupid–I cannot tell you how many things I worry about that never crossed my mind ten years ago. What if my platelets are too low I can’t have an epidural and subsequently die from pain overload? What if I went into labor at home by myself? What if I have to have a c-section and then I throw up, what happens to the stitches? What if my baby is a dwarf? What if my baby is too gigantic? What if she is a gigantic dwarf? Do we need a special car seat? What if we can’t settle on a middle name?

Also, you guys? It’s May and I miss the beach. I put on “Soul Surfer” one morning while I was miserable just so the waves in TV could calm me and then a shark came and gobbled an arm and now Arbor won’t stop flipping out and I’ll probably never be able to get her to the beach again.



Baby’s room is coming together, and by that I mean it is completely cleared out and empty and ready for us to put on the final touches, and all the other touches that come before the final touches. I have discovered online shopping–which is magnificent for burpy couch-ridden humongously-pregnant old ladies–and baby stuff is arriving daily. Things are coming together; my only concern is getting through the next 4 weeks with all my mental facilities in tact.

I’ve never been so scattered or emotional. (Which is saying so much, for real.)

Everyone in the family is awesome. My friends are awesome. Caleb is awesome. The dogs are awesome. We have a hedgehog now and it is awesome as well.

And although I am physically down for the count, life is good. More than good.

Caleb’s mom moved up to Oklahoma last year and has been such a tremendous help and encouragement to us. The past several months have overall been wonderful–it’s nice having after-church family get-togethers; someone to meet in town for lunch; an actual mother-in-law to talk to and laugh with and sit next to in church. The kids love having a local grandma who comes to their games and school plays and science fairs. They think it’s just so cool to stop by Grandma’s little house when we go in town and eat their weight in Dum-dums. She dotes on them–absolutely dotes–and it’s a beautiful thing.

Even more beautiful is the opportunity my husband has been re-given to do what sons do for their mothers. I’ve watched him go from bitter to forgiving; from remorseful and worried to light-hearted, caring, and protective. There has been a strengthening of his faith and a restoration in their relationship; I’m so extremely proud of the changes he’s gone through as a person to get to this point. It’s so good for my heart to know that I have married a man who unselfishly forgives–and asks forgiveness–and who loves and takes care of his family.

I thank God for making possible moments like this.


Joy sometimes

If you know me at all, you know I joke around…entirely too much. I love to make people laugh even more than I love laughing myself, which is a lot.

Humor has also always helped me process and deal with difficulties and hardships, so when I joke about the tough stuff I often run the risk of offending at least one person I love and respect. Sometimes that person speaks to me directly and we reconcile our differences and go on being friends laughing over coffee; but sometimes I hear it through the grapevine that I’m on someone’s “list”. This is sad to me because 1) I assume my friends and I are all adults and we can speak freely to each other and work things out. 2) The amount of which I love to laugh is equal to the amount of which I hate hurting my friends’ feelings–I am more than willing to apologize and ask forgiveness when I have hurt someone. 3) Assuming that everything is fine because no one has directly told me otherwise, I am now onto something totally different and cracking up over the next joke and they’re totally missing it and I have no idea why, which sucks. For them.

And also: I have zero patience for grudges. No patience. None. I don’t even have enough patience to hold legit grudges of my own.

Because I’m too busy coming up with over-exaggerated and hilarious descriptions of real-life observations/brainstorming ways to protect my home from impending alien invasion/cleaning up crap from my 1,009 children/wife-ing my 84% more attractive husband/ snorting fat rails of pure white granulated sugar off the kitchen counter in the afternoon in front of the kids and trying not to have the diabeetus/chasing broody hens out of the woodshed/etc etc etc.

So for the record: Diabetes isn’t a simple diet-curable illness and I’m sorry to perpetuate misconceptions about the disease by laughing uncontrollably at Unicorn frappe jokes. I have never snorted sugar nor have I ever planned a Skittles-n-poptarts party, for crying out loud. If anyone asks for my advice, I shall give it to them prayerfully and whole-heartedly to the best of my ability based on my personal experiences and my understanding of God’s hope for us all. Extreme liberals and extreme conservatives drive me dang near crazy equally, just so we all know. I don’t hate 9-year-olds with iPhones, or their parents. I don’t actually think anyone is stupid, and if you didn’t already know that, you’re stupid. I love our church’s Wednesday night kids’ program. I fully support a parent’s right to homeschool their children. Your dog is cute but I will murder it if it bites me while I’m out walking. I do love all my kids and I am blessed to be able to get pregnant just by breathing. Jesus is undeniably, inarguably Lord of Heaven and Earth.

LIFE IS FUNNY Y’ALL. It is. Especially the tricky parts. I try not to take myself too seriously but it happens. Ain’t nobody got time for anger and bitterness and grudges. Talk things out. Reconcile with your brothers. Find ways to connect with other people. Be joyful in all things; it has been gifted to us. Share that joy.

A mother’s watch

Can we just? For a second?

Parents of middle schoolers and high schoolers please hear me in this: 80% of you are killing me. With the iPhones for 10 year olds, and the phones in the bedroom and the unrestricted access to the internet. And the Instagram and the snapchat. (Shudder: especially the snapchat.)  YOU ARE KILLING ME. I am dying.

I thought we were on the same team here.

My daughter is twelve–12–TWELVE. Know what I was doing when I was 12? Playing with Barbies and drawing pictures of horses, and eating dinner with my parents and sisters almost every night, making lemonade with real live lemons, and learning to sew scrunchies with my mom, and playing catch in the street with my actual dad not a paid private coach, and reading books and traveling and sightseeing and being forced to listen to Kenny G and Nat King Cole every time we drove anywhere.

It was a idyllic childhood for sure, but here’s what all of my friends, including those less privileged than me, were NOT doing:

  • Face-timing boys in our room until midnight.
  • Taking fifty duck-lips selfies per day and posting them on the internet for literally everyone to see.
  • Feeling increasingly depressed as the day goes on because the number of “likes” we got on any given picture of ourselves is not equal to or greater than the number of likes we got on a similar selfie the day before.
  • Being asked by a seemingly nice boy to send a picture through text.
  • No, a better picture than the ones on Instagram.
  • No, a better picture.
  • A better one.
  • So that he can show it to a friend.
  • Or getting dumped by a seemingly nice boy because you’re not available to snapchat on an almost constant basis–while other girls most certainly are.
  • Sending or receiving pictures through social media accounts that your mother would kill you over.
  • Worrying that you wouldn’t be cool or accepted because you didn’t participate in such a manner of online activity.

Hey I could go on–I really could–but we all get the idea. My kids are not perfect, by far: but this internet stuff is friggin’ out of control and scary.

(For time’s sakes let’s not even zero in on all the sickos out there that can super easily get their demonic eyes on pretty much any photo of our child that is sent into the digital universe.)

Prostitution: bad. Sex slavery: bad. Human trafficking: bad. Child pornography: so bad. And if we are genuinely angered by rape culture and violence towards women, and people who prey on children, or women who sell sex and men who buy it–we have to take it upon ourselves to change society, starting with our very own precious children and the way we passively allow them to adopt such casual views towards sex.

We have to actively teach them that a person’s worth has nothing to do with a heavily edited sexually suggestive disappearing photo sent through an Instagram direct message. (Did you guys know that’s a real thing now? Yeah. I just figured it out.)

If you live in my town and our kids hang out regularly, I almost guarantee you are the type of parent who wants their daughter to at least develop a healthy concept of self-worth. You want her to take care of her body and her soul, and you want her to make safe and strong decisions one day regarding sex. She cannot do that without your guidance and protection, as a 12-year-old faced with the kind of pressure these kids are faced with these days. I can’t even imagine it.

It is up to us to guard their hearts and minds. It’s up to us to make and enforce rules especially when it comes to parts of culture that have such a potential for spiritual damage. It’s up to us to say “We don’t do that and this is why.”

Let’s promise each other that, from now on, we will monitor and limit our children’s access to the internet. Let’s make rules about their social media accounts. Let’s talk to them about sex and sexual predators and most importantly, let’s teach them to respect themselves and others–let your words and actions set good examples.

Set boundaries because your seventh-grade girl? May not know exactly how to say “No, it’s not okay to ask me for a ‘better’ picture, or any picture at all, and it’s not ok to be mean to me when I say no.” Check your son’s phone. Place restrictions on their browsing and googling capabilities. And keep watch even as they get older.

I don’t want my son getting addicted to pornography any more than I want my daughter to have to compete with it. I don’t want their hearts and minds damaged by it. I don’t want to unintentionally set my kids up for a lifetime of sexual temptation and spiritual struggle. I don’t want their future spouses and children to suffer because of what I neglected to teach them about and protect them from.

Will they face these temptations one day? Will they have tough decisions to make after they leave my home? You bet. But I will not allow them to swan dive into this raging fire while they are still tender and still learning and still growing.

I vow to be a better preparer. I vow to do my job as a parent to raise kind, caring people who love God and others.

Pierce the night

I used to hate spring. Used to think, “Ugh, allergies. Ugh, 2 more months of school. Let’s just skip it and move straight into summer.” Maybe it’s because Florida winters were never really cold and bleak enough to make me long for spring warmth.
And then, Oklahoma: where the wind comes sweeping down the plain and murdering my nerves with 20 degree temps hurled at my face at 80 mph for a solid 4 months. I have never hated winter more. Dark, cold, dead–that’s what real winter is like, and it is literally the worst.

Springtime in Oklahoma, though–that first mildly warm day, those first green buds on bare branches, little green shoots of grass breaking through my crunchy brown lawn–is a welcome and celebrated season for me now. Oh how good that sun feels on my face! Thank you God for this warm-ish day, for these little purple weeds adding color to the landscape, for these extra few hours of daylight. 

And how much more easily I can grasp the true joy of Easter–after a dark and cold and dead three days, a light shoots forth; it has got to be the most beautiful light there ever was. Never is there a more welcomed glimmer of sunrise than after a long, scary, pitch-black night.

Jesus is that light. He is miraculous life after a painful and tragic death.

One of my favorite songs is “O Praise The Name (Anastasis)” by Hillsong. Aside from Hillsong lyrics being like cursive in my mouth anyway, this song is pretty much the most bombest Easter song there ever was:

“His body bound and drenched in tears,

They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb

The entrance sealed by heavy stone

Messiah still, and all alone.

…Then on the third, at break of dawn

The Son of Heaven rose again.

Oh tremble death! Where is your sting?

The Angels roar for Christ the King!” 
Jesus has been God’s plan of rescue and redemption from the beginning. He is God in human form and He is for everyone. The hardest heart. The worst sinner. The most unrepentant unbeliever. He came for the most broken, the hurting, the angry, the vengeful, and the lonely. He came for us, all.

There is no ground too frozen that He can’t break through. No dark corner where His light can’t reach. There’s nothing and no one in this world that is so far gone that He can’t heal and fully restore.

And spring–new life, green buds, purple weeds, warm sunshine–is a physical reminder of this good news: His love for the people He created, and His power over death.

Feeding wolves

For the record: today, forgiveness is hard. Today, forgiveness just isn’t my world; it cannot possibly be required of me today. Today, I wanna bring up old shit because, know what? It’s all the sudden fresh in my head. I feel beaten and abandoned. Today all my scars are itching, and my head is pounding, and I am tired. And all the wrong doers who wrongly did wrong to me need to suffer, if only just a little bit, because dangit–I suffered. I still suffer. I thought suffering would go away by a certain point, but as it turns out, some hurts will never ever completely fade away.

And I don’t want to pray about it. Why should I? That friend needs to pray. That family member needs to pray. That dang spouse needs to pray. Not me. I want to wallow in my anger and sadness and jealousy and of course, sarcasm:

Today it’s not fair, and bitterness is festering in my heart, and not only am I allowing it to fester, I have been feeding it.

Maybe it’s lack of sleep. Maybe it’s pregnancy hormones. Maybe it’s just, idk, Satan tryna drag me and everyone else down.

You guys.

This day of all days is when I need to pray the most. This day is when I have to read my bible, it is when I must continue to forgive.

This is when my friend, my family member, my dang spouse, needs me to show love and mercy instead of hate and discouragement. This is when doing the hard and holy things is not only at its hardest but at its holiest. I’m not capable in my own strength.

This is when I need to remember that I, too, have been forgiven, and I have received grace and mercy. (Grace: getting good things I by no means earned. Mercy: not getting what I did deserve.) Because my relationship with God is based on these things, so must it be with others. And when I boil it down (well, when it is boiled down for me) forgiveness is required of me every day–it’s a pesky non-option if I expect to be forgiven by my Father in heaven. (Mathew 6:14-15)

Today is when I must put aside my wrath, and bitterness, and strong urges to throw all the shade. Today I chose compassion and gentleness and love. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

And I breathe.

And I keep trusting the One who is always trustworthy. And I keep going.

Doing Life

Here in Oklahoma it’s been spring all winter. I am genuinely terrified of what this may mean for tornado season.

Life for us is moving at a rate of 80,000 times the speed of light. All the sudden my oldest daughter moved away and my little ones are in elementary and middle school; and I inexplicably have a two-year-old and a baby in my tummy. I am classifying my children into subgroups at this point in order to wrap my head around parenting on so many levels. I’m convinced that not only will I drop the ball (which is covered in spikes and on fire), but that I’ve never had the ball to begin with and I’m not even sure where it is or when it’s coming to me. Y’all pray for my children because they’re growing up with Toni at the wheel.

Here I am monitoring subgroup B’s progress in school this past week while we all had the flu and the stomach bug and Caleb was out of town:

Mia: “I need to bring dessert and $10 for our Indian Taco fundraiser dinner by tomorrow.”

Me: “What?! 2 DESSERTS? Did I know about this? I have to make TWO? I can’t bake! I can’t move! I don’t have cash! What do I DO?! This is overwhelming! Catastrophic! What kind of desserts again?! I guess I can buy some. Ok yes. I will buy desserts. I can do this. This can be done by me.”

Mia: “And $10.”


Merrick: “Where is the stapler so I can finish up my science project which I have done completely on my own without bothering you for a single thing up until this moment?”

Me: “Love God and love others, son. The rest will work itself out.”

These are the actual days of our lives.

In other news, money is tighter than it’s ever been in our married life. Something about having 5 kids and medical bills out the yin-yang due to unexpected high risk pregnancies really drains the ole already empty bank account. Our Kia bit the dust hard this week so we are on the verge of becoming a one-car kind of family. You know, harkenin back to simpler times and whatnot. This is fine because of school buses and my husband’s very flexible work schedule. One car means only one car payment, less gas and less insurance. It also means money saved from me not hitting up Target on the regular.

Please keep my husband in your prayers. The past two years have been gut-wrenchingly difficult for both of us, but he in particular has been fighting demons left and right.

At the moment, Caleb is taking heat from loved ones for doing what he knows in his heart to be the absolute right thing to do. Following Jesus in a literal sense is so hard. Forgiveness is not a theory–it’s an action and a decision. The devil throws everything he can at you when you’re on the right track, and this has never been more evident for us as it is now. I am so proud of how Caleb has handled himself over the past several months despite how much heart pain has come from actively doing the crazy crap Jesus commanded–loving the unlovable and forgiving the unforgivable; living as an ambassador, as a beloved son; shining like a light in the dark places. He isn’t perfect, but he is trying.

And I have never admired my husband more. He is truly a brave light. I hope one day he is able to share his amazing story with those that can only understand their own anger and hurt right now. There is so much good to come out of even (what may rightfully be considered) the worst offenses.

God is at work, and we are happier than we have ever been.

The Problem with Church People

Lemme tell you about some church people. You guys, seriously: they are some of the most hyper-critical, selfish, greedy, gossipy gossipers that ever gossiped.

For real: Rude. Conceited. Prideful. Vengeful. Big-mouthed. Bossy. Immovable. Unbendable. Cold. Calloused. They are all about themselves. They are always angry over something. They are super-sensitive. I cannot even with church people most days.

They have their own culture and their own songs and their own language, dress codes, and secret signals. They say they are the hands and feet of Jesus–and that’d be believable, if Jesus was a backstabbing hypocritical gluttonous know-it-all who never helped anyone but himself.

They are jumpy and judgmental. They are grudge-holding and unforgiving.

And I? Am one of them.

The trouble with church people is that–wait for it–they’re people. People are so incredibly flawed and there is not one person–NOT EVEN ONE–who is even remotely righteous in his own power.

But church people, like non-church people, are trying.

We are trying.

Truth is, following Jesus is much, much harder in practice than it is in theory. We want to love and serve and give and be and do–and then, life. Anger. Confusion. Hurt. Sickness. Not every believer has the strength at every time.

We strive towards living out Jesus’s teachings, but we still seek validation and acceptance and approval out of our human nature. It’s a tough habit to break.

We worry. We know what the Bible says about it, but we still fight the very physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.

We criticize. We feel so unsure sometimes in our own knowledge of biblical concepts that we pick apart another believer’s words and actions–we hold each other to impossibly high standards. Deviations from script, or sometimes even questions in general, are intolerable.

But we are trying.

The early church loved Jesus. They devoted their entire lives–their families, careers, assets, everything–to serving Him and serving others in His name. Here’s a verse I have grown to love because it shows how Jesus works through the Church:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to fellowship, the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those that were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

It sounds like a bunch of hippy dippy brouhaha to the modern ear, but can you imagine how amazing it would’ve been to be a part of something so simple, but so powerful? All because the apostles whole-heartedly believed in and loved Jesus.

Worthy of notation: Jesus freakin’ LOVED the church. Loved. It. Died for it, actually. It was part of the deal from the get-go. Jesus planned to be with us as a church through the work of the Holy Spirit.

To hate church people is to hate the church, and to hate the church is to hate what Jesus died for.

So lemme tell you about some church people:

A few key mechanically-inclined members have kept me in a semi-safe, and running, vehicle over the course of the last seven years. 

Three friends prayed me out of (or physically restrained me from) what would have been some nasty alcoholic relapses.

A group of no less than ten stone-coldest of believers loved me and my husband straight through the darkest, ugliest parts of our marriage.

Half our church is at least partially responsible for the thriving health of our currently-baking baby (and my husband’s sanity).

A small army of Godly men and women continue to disciple me through all my faults and mistakes with a genuine desire to simply heal my heart and help me grow closer to God.

These church people have welcomed me, loved me, fed me, clothed me, nursed me, educated me, forgiven me, cheered me, supported me, trained me, apologized for me, moved me, comforted me, and they did so faithfully and willingly.

I mess up–half the time I mess up accidentally on purpose. I second-guess myself constantly. I’m far from perfect and I assume this is how it’s gonna be til I die.

We don’t have all the answers, but our faith is strong because our God can move mountains. Our love is deep because we have experienced unconditional love. Our hope is high because our God keeps His promises.

And He promised to build His church with ordinary people, to do extraordinary things.

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