Once Upon a Dream


Disney creates an amazing world for any little girl. The dress is blue. The dress is pink. Wings on fairies. Talking to forrest creatures. Endless sleeps. Always a villain. Always a prince. Always a twist and a turn but always, above all the other always’, a happy ending.

I grew up with Disney and so for a season I wanted to grow up to be a cocker spaniel (Lady). Then I wanted to be a mermaid (Ariel). Then I wanted to be a sleeping beauty and in many ways I was. Talk to animals. Dance in the woods. Long naps. A handsome prince. Happily ever after. That’s all I needed.

Then there’s the flip side to all the Disney tales that I believe Disney is starting to pick up on — the world of feminism where true love doesn’t have to involve a prince and a happy ending doesn’t have to involve a wedding and a white dress and a rainbow in the sky. The world changed and so the story changed.

But I wanted my happily ever after. Who doesn’t? It seems so perfect. In every depiction of happily ever after the world is at peace. People only smile. A song is sung. Life carries on under the umbrella of perfection. There is no longer want or desire or a need to overpower one more power factor that pushed back against peace and perfection. The world is there and it is great once upon a dream.

I think everyone has been waiting for me to say something dramatically public or attention-seeking about my divorce or the nature of it — of my husband and where “happily ever after” went awry as if social media were my therapist and I needed to gather unto myself a stealthy group of “followers” who might take my side and offer a shoulder to cry on. I just said the ‘d’ word, yes. I’m getting divorced. However and still, this just isn’t the place and I do, in fact, have a stealthy group of people (not followers) who love and support me and will be my shoulder to cry on. They have been. I know I don’t have to go looking for them. They’re there. For the last 10 months of my life, they’ve been there for me and for Cooper and for Aiden. They are my amazing friends, incredible colleagues, and wonderful family (particularly my father and the presence of my mother in both my heart and who I am). They are the Holy Spirit who’s offered me grace in my own failings, strength when I’ve felt too weak to go forward, and courage to be brave. I have them.

This isn’t happily ever after. It’ll never be happily ever after. It’s failed promises, chapters that are ending abruptly with “sign on the dotted line”, and tugs-of-war in ways I never thought I’d be pulling the rope. It’s not the pink dress or the blue dress, dancing in the woods, singing in harmony as the sun sets and the world is at peace. It’s a death. It’s hospice care. It happens very slowly but still with a lack of ability to mourn as it happens — more like an expectancy that great pain is coming and that it has to come for healing to begin but you never know when it’ll actually get here.

It’s not what I always dreamed, but it is.

Once upon a dream has turned into “we’ll make it………someday………It’ll be ok………..It is what it is.” It is the close of a chapter without a rainbow in the sky and songs of joy or acclaim that the villain has been defeated. It’s not that anymore. And in some ways I wish I could retreat to those days when imagining that I were a cocker spaniel rather than a mermaid was the biggest decision I needed to make, but I can’t because now I’ve been charged with the greatest of all responsibilities (and Disney princesses never really have actual responsibilities): to help develop and keep alive the possibility of a happily ever after for my little princes.

Don’t be a shoulder for me to cry on. There’s no need to take sides. Simply help me write this story and that way, maybe still, it can end with “happily ever after.” That’s my new once upon a dream.


3:00 a.m. :My Soul, Bob Must Die, Doubt, and a Sick Kiddo

It’s 3:00 in the morning. I’m laying here just waiting. Every 25 minutes since about 1:30, poor Cooper has been up throwing up. It scares him and I understand. It scares me for him.

And the worst part is that even if he wasn’t sick, I’d be awake with my mind wandering. It’s done it all week. Doubt seeps in from time to time and takes over making one blind to successes (be they small or large) or words of encouragement (be they small or large) and it’s been a week of blinding doubt.

Today I took off a little early because I knew I’d spend part of my Saturday (an off day) at the church with the youth and kids as they iron out the kinks in their Christmas play. I knew there was a prop I was working on that wasn’t finished and it would need my time and attention which would be diverted from my children and family so I took off a little early. With that time Craig and I went on a date. It’s an assignment of ours. It’s no secret that our lives have been tumultuous for the last 3 months and our marriage has taken a terrible hit. It’s no secret that really 2014 has been a suck-sucky year filled with death, pain, and a fast-pace that’s disallowed for the right kind of healing which has only made tonight, 3:00 in the morning, an open door for doubt and discouragement.

I know every mom goes through it. Am I really cut out to be a mom? Can I really still pull a college-worthy all-nighter for a pukey toddler? Questions related to feelings of failure and inadequacy. But then, the mom-magic that every mom is born with. It’s not really a question of “can I”; it’s just something we do. We do 3:00 a.m., he’s on the forth towel, we’re out of clean bedsheets, and instead of blogging I ought to Lysol all of downstairs while they’re maybe sleeping. We “do” being a mom.

The other is tougher, though. Feelings of doubt, inability, and inadequacy in ministry aren’t as easy to combat. My expectations of myself are high — perhaps too high — and of course, mine aren’t the only expectations. It’s far too easy for me to lie awake in bed night after night, and ask a similar question about ministry that I do about parenting. Am I really cut out to be a pastor? Can I really pull a college-worthy all-nighter for worry about being “good enough,” doing “enough,” or being there “enough”? The answer about this one doesn’t come as easily as the one about parenting.

Self-doubt it like a disease. It gets under our skin, seeping into our pores, infecting our vital organs until we are paralyzed or are in full-on organ failure. It is a daunting cruelty of our existence. Call it the devil. Call it conscience. Call it God’s voice of careful warning. Call it my middle-of-the-night unhealthy soul (coupled with my middle-of-the-night sick baby). Call it whatever but do, in fact, name it. I’m going to name it Bob (no offense to Bob’s out there; it’s just the first name I could conjure at 3:17 in the morning) and Bob must die.

You see, God doesn’t intend diseases of the soul. God wants, “it is well with my soul” to be our mantra. Rarely is that our response. This week a clergy colleague of mine asked me how it was with my soul. My response (and I’m not ashamed to share) was, “My soul has taken a vacation to Tahiti because it can’t take it anymore.” It has truly been the worst year of my life. It has and my soul could probably use a stress-free vacation, sure. But if anything my soul isn’t hurting because all I’ve gone through. It’s hurting because of the doubt I find myself fighting with. It’s hurting because I’ve forgotten my courage, neglected my strengths, and tried too hard to be a people-pleaser without remembering that ministry truly brings me joy — ministry isn’t a job; it’s a calling — in ministry I am not doing my work alone — I can, in fact, do this and well.

Leave it to 3:23 a.m. for me to give myself a pep-talk on the shadows of doubt. Meanwhile, Cooper may finally be finished puking.

How do you overcome the shadow? Do you struggle with doubt? What’s your “doubt-theology”? What are your doubt triggers? I’m really learning how to identify mine (and, well, avoid them — remember, Bob must die).

3:25. Maybe I can get 3 hours of sleep. Rest is good for the soul, right?



I have a really contentious relationship with my phone. It’s been awhile since we were friends. I’m not sure when I started to realize this truth but the phone ringing is much like the 6:00 news. The news tends to only showcase murders, riots, robberies, politics…….all things bad. Often, the phone only rings to share bad news. My dad has recently figured it out. When he calls, I panic. If I miss his call, he leaves in the message, “Nothing is wrong.” Bless him. But in all fairness, he’s called with an awful lot of bad news including the news that my mother was dead.

Today was the news that Craig was going to need surgery on his ear. Of course our deductible is paid this year but no one could get him in until January. 1K up front right after Christmas isn’t the greatest news — oh, and, well, surgery sucks too. He’s had 8 surgeries on his ear already. It’s never fun knowing that you’ve got to “go there” again.

Bad news no. 2 came in a text reminder that the temporary childcare that I’ve got for Aiden is, well, temporary and that once again my ability to do my job (while still being a parent) is going to be challenged again and very soon. Duress doesn’t cover it. There was a time when I felt like I could adequately answer a call to ministry and to parenthood (AKA — have it all) and now I’m not so sure. I made a promise to myself that I’d at least stop apologizing for my children because I, all the sudden, realized I’d been doing that, but I am still apologizing…..a lot…..all the time. I guess I’m drowning in the reality that everyone deserves better of me — including me. That is a miserable place to be.

I, of all people, shouldn’t struggle with the concept of hope. In fact, it’s Advent season. It’s a season of hope as we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel — God with us. What greater hope is there than God walking alongside us in the struggle!? Right? RIGHT? Yet, I’m struggling with it. Not the reality of it but the little extent to which I find peace in it and that should just be crazy, right? I am a person of devout faith and I’m up to my knees in the “what am I gonna do”‘s (?). I am ever-so-thankful the that lilies of the field isn’t in the lectionary right now because, quite frankly, I don’t know that I could faithfully preach it.

Maybe the good thing here is that I don’t actually know too many people that don’t experience struggles. The “real world” isn’t all flowers and unicorns all the time (ok, well, it’s never unicorns….). It’s rolling pennies, sleepless nights, and tears mixed with joys that, on our hard days, we’re challenged to see. It’s Monday. I’m off. It’s still a hard day and I’m still prepping for the first Sunday in Advent when I get to preach about hopeful anticipation for the coming of the Lord. And there’s my phone…..sitting beside me……bearing the heavy load of the realities of life — my life at least — one in which I struggle.

It’s not a need for control because Jesus take the Wheel seems like a MUCH better idea right now but Jesus taking the wheel doesn’t always mean the path of least resistance. There are more hurdles, downed trees, and deer in my road interrupting a path of “success” than I ever thought possible. I’ve dealt with hurdles before. In fact I’m actually awesome at dealing with hurdles whether it be crawling under them, skirting around them, or leaping over them but these aren’t  like road bumps — they’re like those giant road HUMPS and I just can’t get over them.

Oh, you thought I was going to get to an upper at some point? Nah. Not today. Maybe the “upper” in this is that I struggle like anyone else to find the sunshine for the clouds from time-to-time and today, well, I’ve got my head in the clouds.


Marley and Me

Thought I’d blog my day (today) Marley and Me style. Here goes.

6:30, woke up to disgruntled baby who didn’t actually want to be up but wouldn’t go back to sleep — know what I mean?

7:00, got up, got dressed, brushed teeth, packed C’s bag for school and lunch, dragged a disgruntled C out of bed (he can’t sleep in on OTHER days?), got C dressed and fed, woke up A who did, in fact, go back to sleep, got him dressed and gave him his medicine, ran a brush thru my hair, threw the bags in the car, put C in the car (whining about who knows what), put A in the car (who went back to sleep…..again……jerk), and hit the road at 7:40. #WellOiledMachine

8:08, got to C’s “school” and assumed the position in the drop-off line, realized I forgot C’s juice (sigh*), threw on my make-up (foot on the break), said “bye, bye” to C as a teacher’s aid got him out of the car and took him in (I never pull away until he’s in the door), and headed off (8:22).

8:30, grabbed a chicken-n-waffle from CFA while A fussed in the car. Ugh. I don’t have a bottle with me.

8:50, ran in Walfart with A to grab the last of the things for C’s birthday party (or so I thought).

9:20, ran in Walgreens to pick up A’s prescription and my new prescription from the cardiologist, and get a flu shot (ouch. My arm has felt like it weighs a ton for the rest of the very long day). A fell asleep……again.

9:50, got home, finished Sunday’s bulletin, touched base with my music leader, tried to track down the neighboring pastor who’s preaching the community Thanksgiving service, printed my sermon, fought with the new copier, touched base with the high school principal (we talked all day) to see if they needed me to come counsel at the school, came home.

11:00, finished wrapping Cooper’s birthday presents, worked on a centerpiece for the party, finished the gift boxes, dug out cooking supplies, began to throw things in bags to pack in the car for the party tomorrow, gave A a bottle and put him down for an official nap (not that he should’ve been sleepy since he slept all morning long), put clothes in the dryer.

12:00, ate lunch, got super-frustrated because I couldn’t find one of my cupcake tins (that turned up later…….after I was finished with the cupcakes).

1:00, passed A off to Craig to watch so I could bake.

1:30, baked 3 dozen cupcakes, 2 dozen chocolate-chip cookies, and one batch of something called “crack crackers,” practiced decorating the cupcakes, packed the cupcakes, crack, and cookies, cleaned the kitchen, and ran the dishwasher. (1:30-4:00).

4:00, found the missing cupcake tin, said a bad word.

4:45, A and I went to Joann’s because I had a late idea to make a yarn-wreath for the door for C’s birthday that looks like Mickey Mouse, ran to Walgreens again to pick up a photo of C I had printed for a table decoration for tomorrow’s party, ran to Kroger to grab THE last of the things needed for the party (Tahini….I needed Tahini), grabbed a bite and headed home.

6:25 loaded Coopers presents and all the serve-ware in the car, as well as a dozen other things.

6:45 gave A a bath (he liked it).

7:00 started the yarn wreath and juggled A, made some door signs that match the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme (“Come inside…..It’s Fun Inside”).

7:50 put A to bed a little early.

8:00 grabbed a shower (exhaustion kicking in).

9:00 finished wreath while watching Grimm, framed photo, packed diaper bag, printed recipes, packed un-refridgerated ingredients, balloons, Coopers clothes (birthday “suit”), and locked up.

10:30 laid my clothes out, painted my nails, prepped A’s middle-of-the-night bottle, and wrote this blog.

11:00 decided that I’m too tired to even proof this before I post it. Oooo look! Jay Leno on Fallon.



Surprised by Covenant

The following is a bit general and relatively cryptic.

Back when I was in college I made a pretty big mistake. Actually, it wasn’t a mistake. The way I understand mistakes is that they’re much like accidents. They are things beyond our control. They just happen. This “thing” didn’t just happen. I was very well-aware of it. It happened. It was. It sucked (sorry, but it did). I hurt for a long time over it and sometimes I still do. I’m still not ready to talk about “it,” but I’m very well-aware, finally, that something good came out of this very intentional, very stupid, very wrong thing I did. Here’s what came of it: I realized that I am human.

It’s not that I ever thought I wasn’t human. It might’ve been, however, that I was all-too aware of the spark of the Divine by and through which I was created. I never stuck my nose in the air (that I can recall) but I can safely say that before this crappy thing I did in college, I was pretty much lilly white. I was really, REALLY good. No blemishes — nothing by or for which to be ashamed. I was a good, good, good person.

But, there was this thing that happened, that was, and then wasn’t and because of it I began to see myself as a real human being with abilities I didn’t realize I had — abilities to hurt people, abilities to hurt myself, abilities to fail and fail hard. Where those things don’t sound all that appealing, they are really good things. Why? Well, let’s see….

When we’re aware of our humanity we’re aware of our need for the Divine. Never did I hit my knees as hard as I did the moment that I realized I could royally screw up. Never did I cry in such a cathartic way and find God in my tears. Never did I realize that while I’m beloved I have a big responsibility to not do harm and how easy it was, truly, to do so.

When aware of our humanity we become more aware of our need for others — others to uphold us — others to show us the grace and mercy we may not be able to show ourselves in that moment — others to love us with an agape kind of love — others to remind us to love ourselves despite ourselves.

When I was deep, deep, deep in the valley of regret and pain and fear, I did not (not at all) love myself. I’ll go far in the other direction and say that I really hated myself. I despised who I’d become and held out no hope for my future. I was done with myself. I needed others to remind me that redemption and resurrection is a real and tangible thing even for the biggest of screw-ups (not that I want to try and gauge that).

Lately I’ve been reminded of my humanity again. This is so very important when one is a pastor. Though I’ve been given much authority and spend most of my days avidly seeking ways to act on behalf of God for the sake of others, I am not God. I can be dragged onto and strapped upon a pedestal and raised high but I’m still a very human, human-being. I’m fallible. I’m wrong. I trip. I plummet deep into my own valleys from time-to-time. I even get stuck there — there in those valleys that I dug myself. I am human. If I stump my toe (Sunday morning before anyone else is in the sanctuary on a pew), I cannot promise a 4-letter choice word won’t spew forth from my imperfect mouth (yep….spew). I cannot promise I won’t have a self-righteous moment of angst in objection to one thing or another. I cannot (CANNOT AND WILL NOT) profess that I am the perfect mother, daughter, granddaughter, wife (OH WIFE), or friend. I’d be lying and lying a terrible lie worthy of the flames of Hell (if Hell really has flames) to say so. In fact, I can say very truthfully (because anyone reading this knows they’re getting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God), I have experienced the negative reality of all of those things in just the last 8 weeks.

Here’s what I’ve found to be true, though. It’s ok for me to remind people that I am human. It is. Dear church, I am human. Dear Bishop, I am human. Dear husband, I am human. Dear kiddos, I am human. Dear dad, I am human (though dad’s probably the first one to tell me, “Um, yeah, Sara…..yeah you are). I am human and it’s going to be ok. Why? Well, I already said why.

When we realize we’re human not only are we more apt to remember that we need God, we’re also more apt to remember to lean on God. It’s not God that throws us into the valleys; that’s not how God works. It’s God who meets us in the valleys and either carries us or drags us along until we can find our way out again.

The other thing is more systematic. When we realize we’re human we’re more apt to lean on others. Until 2 months ago, I thought the covenant community of the United Methodist Church (specifically within the clergy community) was an illusion or some misguided attempt at care and accountability that’s always failed or done more harm than good. Oh but have I seen differently lately. I’ve watched the concept that is covenant — love, care, concern, faith, encouragement, accountability, HELP, guidance, and the list goes on for miles, be a real and honest active entity within the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ and on my behalf. I’m floored, really. I’m surprised. I’m glad.

I’m amazed, actually, at what happens when both the covenant relationship we have with God and the covenant relationship we enter into with one another, are both active when we’ve bought property in the valley. It’s this novel idea that goodness and mercy aren’t just God’s to give and what amazing things can happen when we actively seek ways to live into a covenant modeled after our relationship with God, with each other. It’s salvific in the here and now. In this very second, it is my saving grace.

Maybe the next Christian novel to fly off the shelves should be this one: Surprised by Covenant.


Are you there God? It’s me, Sara.

I haven’t written since my mom died. Mom died. And still it just doesn’t slip off my fingers (off the tongue) without a fight. It doesn’t taste right. It’s just as wrong as it was yesterday and just as cruel was it was 6 months ago.

I’ve written a thousand posts since then in my head — “blogs” that rival Lamentations and half the Psalms — writings that put Job’s misery and bipolar faith to shame because, folks, it has been a particularly miserable year. When I say that 2014 has been bad…….bad just doesn’t cover it. Generally when I say that out loud someone rebuts with, “But the birth of your son!” Yes, I had a baby and there’s nothing I would change about that. He’s perfect. He’s beautiful. He’s amazing. My heart beats for him. He takes my breath away. But this isn’t a game of tally-marks as if the ultimate joy could blot out the terrible pain, the stress, the illness, the brokenness, the loneliness, the failure, and the crisis of faith that has developed in 2014. I want a mulligan on this year. Oh but if God could work in a one-time mulligan into life. I’ve got a whole lot of life yet to live (God-willing) but I’d go ahead and use it. I’d use it on this year.

Apparently I forget to knock wood. You know — that superstition that if you knock wood after you’ve said something, nothing will change that inevitable something. For example: “This year couldn’t get any worse, ” and then I forget to knock wood and then it does. Murphy’s law. Bad luck. All those things I don’t “really” believe in but I can’t help but think of right now. And then there’s that….

That. Man, there’s a lot of really good hopeful, peaceful, wonderful “stuff” I totally and completely, with all that I am, believe firmly in. I preach it and I teach it. I love it. It’s good stuff. It’s Gospel stuff. It’s all things good about a God that loves me — all things work for good for those who love Him…..know Him….. I don’t just believe these things, I know them to be true but OH MY GOODNESS. Oh. My. Goodness folks, I do NOT feel them right now. And that’s quite possibly the suckiest thing about our makeup. Anytime we go a good period of time without some carnal response to “truth” then you better believe the crisis of faith is on the way. I don’t “feel” God’s goodness. I can’t “see” God’s grace. I don’t “hear” God’s voice (and, for that matter, I doubt God hears mine.) Therefore everything I know to be true is teetering on the edge of a cliff named doubt, despair, danger.

There is not one pocket of my existence right now that isn’t some sort of challenge and nothing, NOTHING, is happening on a small level. I DO think of Job. He didn’t invest in stock and have one drop a few points here or there followed by a car hitting his beloved dog, and great Aunt Lucy had a fender-bender. All of Job’s crisis’ were HUGE. He lost his family, his farm, his money, the clothes on his back, and, in some ways, his friends who attributed what he did to some sort of fault of his. His pain wasn’t over small things and neither is mine. Family. Church. Health. Faith. Folks, that’s everything. That’s big. It’s constant. It’s sun-up to sun-down. It’s a lot of grief and only a little healing. It’s a lack of hope — not something I reccomend. It’s contrary to everything I believe and maybe that’s the hardest part. It’s blow after blow after blow and tears that rival the Nile River. It’s searching for joy and feeling like I’m wearing blinders. That is painful. That is Lamentations painful.

A friend recently put it into perspective for me. He said, “You’ve had a hell of a year. Pending a serious illness, you’ve had it all.” Ok, so, knock wood.

I’ve always thought that when you hit the bottom there’s no other way but up. I’m relatively certain that sometimes you hit the bottom, find a shovel, and are just expected to dig.

My mom was super-supportive of me reading when I was a kid and, like any good mom in the 90’s, she sent Judy Blume books my way. “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret.” Yep, I’ll never forget. I’m certainly thinking of that prayer right now. Are you there God? It’s me Sara. I’m still here….in a ditch…..digging. If digging is what you’d have me do right now, I’ve got it. But God, I’m up to my knees in dirt. It’s cold. It’s wet. There’s no food here (for my soul). There’s no joy here because it’s dark. But I’m faithful, still, and I know that though it doesn’t feel like you’re here, you are. And I’ll keep screaming to you, though I don’t feel you. And I’ll keep reaching for you, though I can’t grab you. And I’ll still beg you for grace, though I know I already have it. And I’ll still listen for guidance, though I can’t hear you. Are you there God? It’s me, Sara. Practicing faith until it’s ‘real’ again.

Maybe 2015?



Or, what the obituary could’ve and should’ve said.

There’s this beautiful picture. I found it two weeks ago today. It’s 8×11 and a sepia tone, appropriate for the time in which it was taken. In it there is this beautiful woman. I don’t at all say that partially. She is gorgeous. She’s slender — like something off the cover of a magazine more apt to exploit her beauty today than to stand in awe of it like I did when I found the picture. She has the most genuine smile on her face. She is standing there in the photo with her dress “hiked” up so far your first thought is to look away, so that the even happier looking man at her feet can take the garter off her leg. The dress is white — some kind of chiffon — from New York. I remember the story. She didn’t even pick it out. A friend of her father’s was going to New York and she asked him to pick it up — never even realizing what it looked like and still it was perfect. I lament not wearing it. It fit her like a glove but it was she that made it as beautiful as it was. The excited looking man is my dad and she’s my mom. She’s perfect and I hope and pray that I look just like her.

She’s also dead. She died 15 days ago at 55 years old almost 37 years after the photo was taken.

I was talking to my dad on the phone last night — it’s something I think we’ve begun to do at night though I’m not sure we need to. For some reason, right now at least, I just want to. I told him that I’m trying my hardest right now to do all the things I “have” to do. I’m getting by. He validated that and said that I need to do what I have to do right now and then simply do the things that make me happy. Writing makes me happy when I have the time and capacity. I’ve written this over and over again in my mind the last 15 days.

The beautiful woman in that picture wasn’t always so. In fact, I never saw her that way. In fact (as well) I truly always wanted her to be something she wasn’t. Of course, now, I regret that. I wanted a mom that would sit down and watch movies with me — who’d never act like she was too busy to do so. I wanted someone who I could talk to about boys. She wasn’t really that. I wanted to be able to come to her and tell her I had a problem with someone at school without her asking what “I” had done. Please mom, it wasn’t me. I wanted a lot of things my mother never was without ever realizing all the things I had.

Mom’s death was a process. Really her sense of suffering was much deeper than I could’ve realized. As I spent 3 days in the floor of my parents home in Jackson going through thousands of photos I’d never before seen, my dad began to share amazing stories I’d never heard. I couldn’t believe the woman she was — the woman I never knew — the woman before the suffering and depression and, well, other debilitating things she suffered. I heard about my adventurous mom. I heard about the woman my dad fell in love with. I heard about her contentment in becoming a mom and her joy. I heard about their trips and their friends and the brief time they shared before they were married. I heard about this amazing woman, the beautiful, slender woman off the page of some magazine, full of life — the woman I never really knew. And, oh, in hearing…..I loved her. I wanted to be her. I wanted to be the woman who, for most of my life, I didn’t want to be a thing like — I was afraid I would become.

Dad can’t exactly pinpoint when and where it all started to change. You can see it in the pictures though. She begins to look sad. She begins to look worn. The energy in her stance and life in her eyes begins to dissipate. She’s in less photos — doesn’t want to be seen. You can truly see the struggle begin and, despite all she did, despite all my dad and brother and I had done, it all ended 15 days ago. My mom didn’t struggle and lose a battle with cancer or with heart disease and I don’t begin to lessen the intensity to which those diseases haunt us. My mom had a disease that I really can’t fathom though for about 15 years I tried. My mom was an alcoholic. She knew it. She didn’t want it and she fought it and she battled it and she lost. She was the strongest person I’ve ever known and was hurting so badly inside because no matter what she did, she just couldn’t win.

I lived in denial, really, that we’d ever be where we are and many days I still am in denial. I also lived in fear that I would become “that” without really understanding what “that” was. I was 24 years old and engaged to Craig before I ever had a drink and frankly that was out of an overwhelming desire to be anything and anyone but my mother. At 24 I was pretty sure that perception of alcohol and its power wouldn’t change when Craig picked out the most disgusting, dry, bitter, awful red wine to be my first drink. It burned on the way down — symbolically a not-so-gentle reminder that this wasn’t who I wanted to be — a first impression only cured by the margarita I chased it with. Magically I’d survived my first two alcoholic drinks without becoming an addict. Well, there went that lifelong fear until I realized that becoming an alcoholic really is more of a process for most people. It was for her. It was through the photos. It was through the stories. It’s simply something that grew beyond control, beyond choice, beyond want.

My mom was this fearless mother bear type. No one crossed her children. Even when I was in college, only two blocks away from home at Lambuth, if I had a problem with a Kappa Sig (it happened) or someone in the administration, she’d pose for the attack. At the same time she was as proud as they came. Sara made the Dean’s List this semester (apparently my grades had come in the mail — nice to know, mom). She was there for my first testimony to my calling (age 14), my first sermon (age 22), and bought me my first stole (age 24) though she never had the chance to see me wear it (I’m not ordained….yet….we hope). She was there for my commissioning, there for every graduation, there for the birth of my son. In all the being “there,” there are obvious glimpses of her pride, her mother-bear mentality, and her abject stubbornness that only serves to illustrate her drivenness and passion. And so, 15 days out, it’s hard for me to fathom her failing. It’s hard for me to believe in her weakness. It’s hard for me to imagine a yield sign in her existence, let alone a stop sign.

But there was, and everyday I’m reminded that there is. Everyday I get this haunting phone call and hear my dad’s voice say, “Mom’s dead.” Everyday I think of what she’ll miss and all that I missed in her. And everyday my heart breaks. I love her. I loved her but not nearly enough. And, yes, I want to be just like her.

She’s my mom.


Oh, and she loved animals.