Month of Misery: The Aftermath


Well, I made it! I know some of you were worried that I might not survive my four-week challenge in my air-conditioned, middle class gated community home, with a refrigerator full of groceries and the rest of my assorted first world comforts. But I did! Whew!

If you aren’t familiar with my little self experiment, you can read about it here. Essentially, I challenged myself not to purchase anything new or eat out for one month. I did have a couple of social engagements that were pre-planned, and purchased a birthday gift for my dad and a friend, but other than those exclusions, I tried to go cold turkey.

Here’s what this experience has brought to the surface:

My nature is to rebel in the face of law and rules. If anyone doubts this aspect of fallen human nature, just try something like this: pick something that is part of your daily lifestyle, a source of comfort and pleasure, and then yank it away. It doesn’t take long for your brain to start building a case against your decision. A darn good case, I might add.

Aww, come on. It’s no big deal.

No one is going to be angry with you.

There’s nothing wrong with it!

You’ve had a hard day. It would be so much easier if . . . 

And then, after some time has passed, the voice gets angrier and more indignant.

I don’t even have to do this.

You’re not the boss of me.

It’s just a freakin taco!

Or maybe that was just me.

It’s my own personal and raw example of the Law. How God let it remain so that we might be constantly aware of our sinful nature, and our total inability to keep it, and rely fully, deeply, and gratefully on the finished work of Christ and His incredible grace.

I am not saying that shopping at Target or dining out are sins. But I have been reminded that they are lesser things. And how easily and frequently I am satisfied with the lesser thing.  In the absence of shopping and dining out, there is always Netflix, Pinterest, Blogs, Twitter, and you know the rest. The take away? How much time do I spend satisfying the gaping yaw of dissatisfaction with temporary and shallow things? Too much.

Even this small, temporary law I did not keep. There were two evenings where circumstances seemed to overwhelm my sense of “control” and I thew up my hands and said, “Burgers. Now.” I don’t feel shame over those instances I was getting through, and there is always, always grace. But thank goodness we’re talking about Taco Bell and Target, and not drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex. I’d like to learn this lesson on these entry level distractions.

I’d be a terrible addict. It would cost me too much.

I wish I had something amazing and profound to share with you about this little experiment. Alas, the angel Gabriel did not appear to me in my living room. (Which is a good thing since I’m pretty sure his wingspan would make a better door than a window between me and The Goldbergs.)

The truth is, there are parts of me that are still toddling along. My body is thirty-nine, and sometimes I think my brain is eighty, but there are parts of my spirit that are still immature. That is the sense I got from the Lord during this process, like the expression on His face was that of watching a toddler spin around giggling and then run into walls trying to recover.

Someday that cute chubby toddler will figure out that it’s the fun spinning part that makes her stumble and crash into things. But in the meantime, Dad watches and winces and baby-proofs the room.

Someday I will figure out that it’s the fun part of shopping, eating and otherwise entertaining myself that leaves me a bit dizzy and running into walls of dissatisfaction. All in due time. I feel His patience, love and grace.

Someday that part of me will be grown up enough to leave those lesser things behind and eat at the adult’s table; to eat and drink of loving God with all my heart, soul and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself. Like, in real time. With my actual body.

And that’s where this month of “misery” has left me–being more aware than ever of my weakness, my dependence, and the ways I self medicate. I hope that is will also leave me more compassionate for others’ versions that maybe don’t involve Target or Taco Bell.

If not, just smack me with a chicken burrito.


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Rest: Why You (Yes, You) Need It!

I would love to hear about your process in realizing you need to “step back” and care for yourself. What happened to cause that? What has changed in the way you go about doing things?

Those lines are from an email I received from a college student we know.

I laughed when I read her email. I’d just been up half the night before having a panic attack. I’d laid in bed, mind racing, breathing hard, every muscle firing. Finally, so as not to disturb my sleeping husband, I went downstairs and walked around, forcing myself to breathe deeply.

Why? Once again, I’d done too much. I’d been home all summer with four young children, shuttling them to various activities. We’d taken two family “vacations,” which involved packing for six and arranging dog care and disrupted sleep patterns. We’d had guests in and out of our house for months. We’d hosted dinners and events. And I’d been experiencing a series of minor, irritating health issues.

All of that (except the health) is good stuff. It was, by any measure, a wonderful summer. But I’d let too much good stuff pile up. I’d said “yes” too often. I’d forgotten that I’m an introvert.

I’d neglected my relationship with myself.

I don’t mean that in a selfish way — and the fact that I feel the need to immediately clarify this explains why it’s so hard for us (everyone, but women in particular) to take care of ourselves. We equate self care with self-centeredness, and nobody wants to wear that label. So, to paraphrase Bono, we give ourselves away.

Here is my hard-learned advice: YOU (yes, you) NEED TO REST. Because you do have a relationship with yourself; it’s your job to take care of you. And if you neglect your own mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health, then obviously you’re going to be unhealthy. And that’s going to negatively impact ALL of your other relationships.

All summer, I was ordered to rest — by my husband, a best friend, two doctors, and my pastor. But I had no idea how. My reaction was: “I’m not really that stressed. This is just the normal wear-and-tear of life. So, how can I change that? I mean, I can’t give away one of my kids, right? I just need to cope better.”

Listen to me: Life will never be easy, but we excuse too much in the name of “normal wear-and-tear.” If you are having panic attacks or suffering from a series of illnesses, for instance, that’s not normal. You might step back and assess whether you’re resting enough. Our culture considers busy-ness a virtue; our stress validates us. (I still fight the need to explain myself whenever I’m in public with fewer than my total of four children, because I’m afraid that my life looks “too easy.”)

So, what is “rest?”

When I hear “rest,” I usually assume it means “sleep.” I’ve never loved sleep. I function pretty well on 6 hours of sleep a night, and having children hasn’t helped; what quiet time I have comes after they’re in bed, and because I want to make the most of that time, I drag my feet.

But “rest” isn’t “sleep,” although sleep is very important (and I need to get more of it.) The dictionary definitions of “rest” include: “a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities,” “peace of mind or spirit,” and “something used for support.” I think those all work.

Rest should be something that restores you, something that gets your mind, body, spirit, and emotions into a healthy state. Obviously that’s going to look different for everyone on different days. Read a book. Take a walk. Sit in a cafe. Go to a museum. Write a blog post (okay, that’s mine.) Pray. Paint. Plant.

How do I rest?

That’s different for everyone, too. In my case, I’ve learned that I have to put rest on my calendar. At the moment, here’s what I’ve arranged with my family:

-I get one “mom’s night out” a week. Sometimes I go to my book club, or have dinner with my parents, or go for a long drive. Sometimes I just sneak away to a quiet room in the house. It’s all good.

-I get one “mom’s weekend out” a year. This is really important. A few hours away are great, but they’re quickly negated when I re-enter the house and see Legos all over the floor and dishes in the sink. A weekend away means one or two nights at a retreat center, a hotel, wherever, all by myself. So that I can hear myself think again.

This may sound impossible to you. You may think it’s too expensive, or nobody will watch your kids, or your kids won’t want you to go. In response, here’s a favorite quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea (a great rest-read): “If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they rarely make the attempt.”

Why is rest so important?

I could give you all sorts of reasons, like how continuous stress causes your cortisol levels (that’s the “fight or flight” hormone) to remain elevated, which triggers an inflammatory response in your body, which can make you physically sick. Or how God rested on the seventh day. Or how we should model good self-care habits for our children.

But here’s my favorite: My pastor pointed out that in the well-known line from Psalm 23, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures,” the word “makes” actually implies some degree of force or coercion. Like how I have to “make” my own children go to bed.

I was fascinated by this, so I looked into it a little further. It turns out that sheep don’t like to lie down, because they’re afraid. Only when a shepherd gives them enough security, when they feel safe, will they consent to rest.

When you rest, it’s an act of trust. You’re telling yourself and the universe that it’s going to be okay: The world will go on fine without you for a time. Lie down.

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My Month of Misery

Steph 1
Image via

Alright, alright, that may be the teensiest bit pessimistic. But I assure you, as I write this to you it is only Day 4 of my September Challenge. It is already a major killjoy.

This is my challenge; brace yourselves. For one month I will not eat out, and I will not purchase anything new. Obviously, that does not include groceries and toilet paper, but most everything else. If something breaks or gets lost, that absolutely must be replaced, I can either borrow one from a friend or purchase one second-hand.

Some of you may be impressed with the severity of this challenge. Others are disappointed, saying, “That’s it? That’s all she can do?”

Possibly. It’s possibly all I can do. 

There are Two T’s in my life, and they are arm-wrestling for my affection. Their names are TARGET and TACO BELL.

Target, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . . your scarf section, your housewares, your shoes, your Starbucks and refillable fountain drinks, your Cartwheel app, your clearance end caps . . . it just goes on and on. Usually, twice a week, you would find me pushing my one red cart with one crazy wheel around, crunching ice and browsing while my children toil away for their futures at school. And I would be smiling.

Let’s put it this way: at the end of each year, I still expect Target to send me a thank you card for keeping them in the black.

Steph 2
Image via

And in this corner, weighing in at approximately 150 shredded chicken burritos, is our challenger, Señor Taco Bell. (Live Mas everybody.) While I do love to cook and bake, and generally just be in the kitchen, I do not love to do it for only myself. It’s like going to the movies alone, it just makes me feel tired and sad. It’s far easier and faster to hit the drive-thru in between my daily errands. My local TB drive-thru workers don’t come right out and say they recognize me, but I can see the familiarity in their eyes. “Here comes Shredded Chicken Burrito, Sauce on the side, Cinnamon Twists and a Large Diet Pepsi.”

Sadly, these excursions are on top of the dining out we do at other restaurants as a family; once or twice on the weekends and probably one weeknight.

Now, this challenge is not specifically about saving money, or even calories, although I expect both outcomes to some extent. As a family, we have a budget, and for the most part, we live within our means, with designations for both savings and giving. The heart of this challenge is just that–my heart.

These two things, with very little, if any, long term value, have taken up disproportionately large amounts of my life; my time, my focus, my resources. Most of us are familiar with the Matthew 6:21 that says, “where your treasure is, there also is your heart.” When I took a good look at how many dollars and hours and emotional and mental energy I was offering up to not just the Two T’s, but the many ways of satisfying a craving, either for a new taste or a new belonging, I was not impressed. I felt ashamed. I did not think of myself as an impulsive, materialistic person, yet my treasure was suggesting otherwise.

I do not have anything profound to say about this yet. Except that when I meet my girlfriend at Panera tomorrow morning to catch up I will have nothing but a drink cup and a tear in my eye. But I hope that in sharing this brief journey with you, I will be able to share what God has used this experience to show me next month. If not, I will post a list of the first five places I will be going when I throw off my mourning clothes on October 1st.

Pray for me.


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Worth It

Harrison Clara BW

At the moment I smell like about four different perfumes, and each time I get a whiff of one, my heart stirs and I get a little teary. They are from the friends I got to hug at an adoption finalization this morning. People who, like myself, came to court to support a family that we all love who were officially and legally and forever-and-ever-amen welcoming a sweet little three-year-old girl into their family. I could not possibly be more proud of them. They opened their hearts in a way that many never even consider, and now this adorable, playful, lovable little girl’s life is changed for the better FOREVER.

Adoption is not for the faint-hearted. At least so goes the adage. But through my own experience, and by watching others like our friends in court today, faint-heartedness is probably going to be part of the package. In the end, not only is that not a disqualifying factor in choosing to adopt, it ultimately doesn’t really matter.

My husband and I adopted our two little ones, Harrison and Clara, just this year. We went from nine years of every-night-is-date-night to terrible twos and spit-up on all items of clothing at all times. We became parents overnight, and the faintness of our hearts was exposed on a regular (read: moment-by-moment) basis. There was ugliness and tears. A lot of them (on my part). We felt faint-hearted. Ill-equipped. In WAY over our heads.

There was pain–a lot–of it, if in different ways than we expected. But ultimately, none of that mattered because they are 100% worth it. And even though those two little words (“worth it”) seem a very feeble and almost anecdotal summary, it is simply true. Anything worthwhile—really, truly, eternally valuable—comes with trials. And for those things/causes/people we will suffer all things necessary without a second thought about it to make sure they happen. Because they are that important.

Harrison and Clara are that important to me.

But of course you expect me to say that. I am their mother, after all. But at one point, I wasn’t their mother. I didn’t know them. They were strangers belonging to another stranger. Their plight wasn’t known to me, nor was it my concern. And yet they needed me. And thank God we found each other. Thank God.

Okay, Lyndsay, what are you getting at? is probably what you’re wondering. Here it goes: it doesn’t matter if you’re faint-hearted, strong-hearted, or any other kind, it’s likely you have what it takes to love and care for children who need a forever home. It’s likely you could. Maybe even should. And it’s also likely you’ve never really considered it. At least not seriously. Or if you have, you’ve easily dismissed it because of the difficulties adoption presents.

True, as I’ve already discussed in broad terms, adoption is HARD. And, as I’ve also previously mentioned, it’s still worth it. Because the children are worth it. That said, there are a few concerns that I hear fairly often that I’d like to try to rectify, in hopes to ease your mind a bit.

1. Adoption is so expensive.

First, ahem, can we really say a child is too expensive? Yikes. But, yes, some adoptions cost upwards of $40k, which is not really what most of us have sitting around in our pockets. Usually these are international adoptions, and if you feel this is the absolute right route for your family, there are LOTS of fundraising options available. It may take a long time—years even—but the child waiting for you is absolutely, no questions asked, worth it. Additionally, there are far less costly options. For instance, you can adopt directly through your county’s foster system for little-to-no money at all. My husband and I adopted through the foster system, but chose to use a private agency to take care of all of the details. It cost us around $2000 when all was said and done.

2. Adoption is a terrible emotional rollercoaster.

Well, yes, it can be. There can be lots of risks involved that open the tear ducts and cause the heart to bleed. And while there are adoptions that are lower risk (ours was through an agency that only dealt with low-risk situations, meaning, very basically, that there was almost no chance our children could be removed once placed with us), the rollercoaster is part of the worthwhile process. Keep in mind (and maybe create a pep talk for yourself) that you will not die from this. I would exhort you to keep before you the child who is in a far more emotionally tumultuous situation than you and is far more vulnerable than you who is waiting. You can endure for their sake. You can find courage for them.

3. We don’t have fertility issues, so we don’t need to adopt.

While adoption is a wonderful option for those who struggle with fertility, the inability to biologically parent is not the qualifying factor for adoption. Whether you have biological kids already or have the ability to do so mean absolutely nothing to the child who already exists in this world with no adult to parent him/her. Wyley and I do not have infertility problems that we know of. And while our choice to adopt first (and maybe exclusively) is perhaps less common, it is an option for anyone.

4. I can’t love a child that isn’t “mine”.

The bonding process is different, yes. Can you love a child that didn’t come from your loins? Of course you can. You can make that choice. You can open your heart. You can do it. Because that child will be “yours”, just as much as the little tiny bundle was that you carried home from the hospital. Will it be exactly like it was with your biological children? Maybe. Maybe not. While I haven’t personally experienced both sides, I know a good number who have, and I think that they would all agree that it is, in fact, possible/probable/definite. In the end, the love that you can give them is infinitely better than the love they’re not getting in their present circumstance (something I had to remind myself of many times while I was beginning to bond with my kids).

I realize this isn’t a comprehensive list. There are likely countless objections swarming around and doubts and insecurities that are worth addressing. The important thing is that they get addressed, and they aren’t just used as tools for dismissal. Lay them out on the proverbial table (or literal table) and really look at whether or not they are good reasons for not choosing adoption for your family at some point. Talk to people you know who have adopted and get their input about some of your hesitations. Call an adoption agency and get more information.

I am by no means insisting that adoption is for everyone. I am insisting that it should be prayerfully, solemnly, seriously considered. As in, sit down with your spouse and have the conversation that starts with: “Let’s talk about adopting,” and then go from there.

Lastly, bear in mind that Jesus is our ultimate model. This is precisely what He did when he became a man. He made adoption possible by means of His suffering and death. While we were still sinners, Christ did this for us. While we were still strangers, He bled on a cross so we could be family. What amazing love!


*Photos by Sarah Maizland Photography

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How to Be Sneaky with Kale!

My husband and I eat a LOT of kale . . . pretty much every day. We eat it as salad, we eat in tacos, we drink it in smoothies. We eat it wherever I can sneak it in because it’s healthy, yummy and it has texture.

Of all my seven Boston winters, this was definitely by far the worst. Then “spring” came, and it warmed up to above freezing and blessed us with even more snow and sleet storms. I thought it would make me feel better to make summer-like recipes like pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches. One night, I had everything I needed to make it, except the cole slaw. My husband isn’t a big fan of cole slaw anyway, so I started to wonder if there was something in my fridge that I could use to replace the cabbage when suddenly I realize I could use diced kale and carrots to make KALE SLAW. For less than a second, I thought I was pretty smart until I realized I’m sure this has already been invented. But I tried it anyway.

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches & Kale Slaw
Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches & Kale Slaw

First, I diced the kale and carrots (and purple cabbage if I have it), put them in a bowl with greek yogurt, salt and pepper and a dash of something vinegary. You can get creative with ingredients and try your own version of this. Recently, I have enjoyed adding hummus instead of greek yogurt and something vinegary. You can add a bit of olive oil so that your hummus is more mixable. Be sure not to “massage” or toss the kale too long, so that you don’t lose the crunch.

Serve on a toasty bun with pulled chicken and a squirt of Sriracha! You’re probably thinking, this girl’s pretending to be healthy, but I see that pile of Mac & Cheese on that plate. You would be correct. Occasionally, we like to splurge with a side of Trader Joe’s Diner Mac & Cheese.

Tacos are another great way to sneak in kale. My husband and I agree that this is best for chicken or fish tacos (not as good with ground beef).

Chicken Tacos with Avocado Kale

First, I make chicken tacos. I prefer Trader Joe’s Corn & Wheat Tortillas (steamed/heated), YUM! Then, I sprinkle some diced vine-ripened tomatoes and a bit of shredded sharp white cheddar. The kale mixture is something like this: diced kale & shredded carrots, mix with a small dollop of hummus and a dollop of plenty-of-lime guacamole. There should be enough salt in your hummus and guac so that you won’t need to add more. Your kale mixture might look or feel a little mushy, but it will be crunchy and taste great! Add some fresh cilantro to make it look pretty and taste even better.

You’re probably thinking that I need to paint my nails and, again, you would be correct.

I could go on and on about ways that we use kale in this house. It’s amazing how kale can be a healthy replacement to other ingredients, and taste great. Have you found any great ways to use kale? Share in the comments below!

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