Wednesday, February 27, 2013


This weekend, church camp was redeemed for me.

In the past, I have had less than awesome church camp experiences. A lot of this had to do with my own insecurities and anxieties but, nevertheless, I went into the weekend simply hoping that I wouldn't have to embarrass myself by playing football badly or choreographing a dance routine in five minutes. In fact, the only reason I was going was because I got to spend the weekend with my freshman girls group, my "little sisters."

In the last six years, I've been in five small groups and had eleven leaders. I have never felt more loved and more appreciated than I do with my freshman girls and my two incredible leaders. And as surprising as it is to me that the place I finally feel like I belong is with freshman, I can't deny it. Not only do I adore each and every one of the girls that I have the privilege of being a big sister to, but I cannot express how much I love my two leaders. They care about me, about what's going on in my life. But, more than that, they care about my relationship with the Lord. And for that reason, among many others, I will forever be thankful for the wisdom they pour into me.

But the thing about my leaders is that they don't shy away from tough topics. If they need to call you out on something, they will (although nicely and not in front of people). But, this weekend, the biggest lesson I learned wasn't spoken about. It wasn't discussed. I wasn't called out on it. In fact, it barely related to what we were talking about at camp. Which, by the way, was incredible. The majority of the camp was about the power of words, something very near and dear to my heart, and our speaker was the incredible Annie Downs, whose website and book you should definitely check out.

The last night of camp, we had the moving and wonderful opportunity to pray over each cabin at camp as a body of student girls. While I loved praying over all the other girls at camp, it was not the prayers that moved me. It was a glance. A single glance to my right. Where I saw my two leaders embracing their teenage daughters as they held each other up through the high emotions of the evening.

I teared up. And I looked around some more. Friends were embracing friends. Leaders were embracing their girls. And I looked at myself. Embracing nobody. And I realized that I didn't have anyone to embrace. I didn't have someone to hold me up.

And at first, I started gearing up for a pity party. Did no one love me? Did no one think I needed that?

But the real issue doesn't lie with everyone else. It lies with me.

I didn't let myself cry that night. I held it in, as I always, at least, try to. I stood up straight and put on a good face, so as to say to the world, What? What are you talking about? Nothing's wrong with me. I don't need any help. I don't need anybody.

Because somehow, I've lived my life believing a lie, without even realizing that it was a lie. Like so many others.

I was believing the lie that I had to be strong for everyone around me. That I had to be this pillar, this unmovable stone that others could lean on, and it would never fall.

For my parents. For my brothers and sister. For my friends. For nearly anyone I come into contact with.

I have to be strong. And that means no crying, no weakness, no vulnerability. Revealing just enough of my brokenness and my inadequacy to seem real, while holding back nearly everything of substance. All in the name of being strong.

But what it strength, really?

Guarding yourself from being an object of pity or sympathy? Hiding your true nature from everyone around you? Is that strong? No.

No, it's not. It's weak. It stems from a deep-seated fear. Fear of being thought of as "less than". Fear of being pitied. Fear of being known and not loved.

God does not give us a Spirit of fear. Being strong for others doesn't mean you hide yourself away. That you shield your failures, your doubts, your questions, and your brokenness from them. Strength is having the courage to be vulnerable.

Sometimes people will lean on me. And sometimes I won't have any other people to lean on. But God  is a rock, a firm foundation, the cornerstone. He is immovable, unshakable, solid. He will never fall. No matter how hard I lean on Him.

Strength is found not in being a rock, but in leaning on the Rock.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mom for the Week

Dr. Hook innovating new methods in testing blood pressure.
February 13, 2013 --

     Day three of being a pseudo-mom. I'm running completely on leftovers and the iPad. I've gotten taco meat in my hair and had a band-aid put on my lip. Two timeouts. Approximately forty M&Ms given as bribes for good behavior. Running low on patience and kindness. Halfway through.

It sounds like I'm a soldier in captivity.

It feels like that sometimes too.

For the last three days I've gotten just a taste of what it's like to be a mom. Exhausting, infuriating, and only rewarding some of the time. Messy, mixed-up, maze-like.

And I only have two of the kids.

Mom and Levi are in Austin, TX at an Autism center. Levi is being evaluated all week, and afterward, they'll come up with a plan of action for combating some of his behavior problems (hitting, spitting, etc.).

Dad has a bunch of big projects due at the end of this week. He's working late every night.

The result? Tori is in charge for the week. Dinners. Taking and picking up from school. Diapers. Figuring out what to do with Evan all day. Although, thankfully my grandfather has been here to help. He leaves tomorrow, though. And I find out what it's really like being a mom.

My thoughts on all of this? How does she do it!? After spending a day simply taking care of Evan (Jace doesn't really count), I feel so exhausted that it's all I can do to keep my eyes open until 10:00.

Whoever decided that being a mom doesn't count as a "real" job has obviously never done it.

There have been moments in the last three days when I have wanted to leave Evan in the time-out chair for the rest of the day. There have been others when she's made me laugh so hard that tears ran down my cheeks.

But through it all, God has been teaching me what real love is. Real love is comforting Evan when she's crying over something ridiculous. Real love is dancing to Michael Jackson with the blinds open because it's what she wants to do. Real love is following through when I tell her that she will go straight to bed with no books if she doesn't listen. Real love is sitting on the floor playing doctor with her when I'd rather be checked out on my laptop.

Real love is loving people when you don't think they deserve it. Just like God loves us.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Good Listening

I love my sister.

Honest to goodness, I do. But sometimes she can be the most disobedient, saucy little diva that ever walked the paths of Jim Warren Park.

But, nevertheless, I somehow always manage to end up taking her to the park. Yesterday was no different.

We'd gotten our lovely gluten-free Happy Meals at McDonald's and sat outside on a picnic table, enjoying the strangely warm weather. The sky was blue, birds were chirping (Evan: "HEY! Birds, STOP! You 'NNOYING ME!", and we had the park nearly to ourselves.

For the next two hours, she slid down slides, she stood on my shoulders to do the monkey bars, she climbed on the gigantic rocks scattered around the park. In short, she had a blast. And I was thinking that I had won the sister jackpot with this happy, sassy, chatty little girl.

And then it was time to leave.

Somehow during play the socks underneath Evan's shoes had come off. What can I say? The girl knows her loopholes.

Me: EVAN! You need to keep your shoes ON!
Evan: *Roll of the eyes and gigantic dramatic sigh* UGH. Tori...
Me: NOW. *Go sit back on the bench*
-- two minutes later -- 
Me: *Two little pink socks hit head* EVAN!
Evan: *Sassy and defiant in her shoes (but not socks)*

I digress. After Evan came down the slide one last time, I stooped down to put her socks back on. "It's time to go, Evan," I said. I should've seen what was coming.


And for the rest of our outing (which was not long, thankfully) she fought me. She sassed me. Everything I did, she opposed it. And she thought it was funny.

On our way home, I finally snapped. She had her fingers in her mouth. Her gross, nasty fingers that had been touching playground equipment and wood chips for the last two hours. I didn't trust the baby wipe and hand sanitizer I'd used enough to let her be sucking on her hands.

"Hands out of your mouth, Evan."

The fingers stayed in the mouth.

I resorted to trying again. "Evan, I need you to take your fingers out of your mouth. They're dirty."

Nope. So I tried again. And again. And again.

Until finally after about the twenty-third time, I pulled over on the side of the road, nearly in tears, and yelled. "EVAN! Why can't you just do what I ask you to!? I took you to lunch and the park! I just wanted us to have fun together! I just wanted you to have fun! And you RUIN it! Because when I need you to do something, you DON'T! You don't have good listening at all! We could have so much fun if you would just LISTEN TO ME!"

She had a bath when we got home and then I put her straight to bed for a nap. No books. No iPad. Not a happy Evan.

Later, when I'd had a chance to cool down, I regretted it. Yelling doesn't work. I know that. I knew it deep down but I'd just forgotten in the moment.

And it struck me how similar my relationship to Evan is to God's relationship with me.

How many times have I chosen to disobey God because it seems more fun? How many times has God asked me over and over again to do something, and I just continue to disobey because it's not what I want? I, like Evan, even enjoy my own disobedience sometimes. Until the consequences show up, that is.

And it makes me wonder if God thinks what I yelled at Evan when I disobey Him.

"Tori, if you would only do what I asked you to, we could have so much fun! Things would be so much better if only you would listen!"

Good listening, we tell Evan all the time. You need to have good listening.

Maybe I need to have good listening too.