Surface Ripples

This last weekend, my kids and I ended up -through a series of wild events -parked in a strange city at a strange gas station at night.
How’s that for a creepy setting?

Danny and I planned on checking our oil. Saturday night, he had said, “We can’t forget to check the oil.” But Saturday night was very busy. Sunday was even MORE busy. We were visiting family in Danny’s home city (Mesa, AZ). After church we were heading to the OTHER side of the sunny valley to attend the baptisms of our nephews at which Danny was speaking. Immediately after the baptism, Danny was hopping in his parent’s car to drive to the airport to fly on an 8-hour overnight flight that would span the US of A and eventually end up in Ohio. And I would be driving back to Joseph City with three kids.

It shall here be noted that our car was built almost 20 years ago, and this hasn’t really ever been a problem. It’s been a pretty good nut for the most part, and we praised it to high heaven when we side-swiped an elk a couple years ago and walked away with nothing but a slight alignment issue (and some serious elk fuzz in the siding).

But she has had this oil leak for years. It’s so slight we haven’t been able to even find it to fix it, so we manage with regular oil changes and frequent oil checks.
But on Sunday, WE FORGOT. There was packing and speaking and driving and the thought of flights and anticipating goodbyes, and we forgot.
Until I was 40 minutes down the road and I noticed my oil gauge.
It’s usually at 40.
But it was at 20.

I knew that wasn’t good. If my gauge is showing I’m low, that meant I was OIL BARREN.
I also happened to be driving on a fairly new road where there were no houses, no gas stations and spotty cell service. I finally got through to my Dad, The Mechanic, who told me, “Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go straight to a service station.”
I found one in my smart phone, and drove 10 minutes BACK into the city.

And that’s where we meet again.

The children hadn’t eaten dinner, the sun had set, and I collected all three of them and went into the store to buy oil.
“Two quarts of 10W30, please.”

“Mom, can we buy this?”
“Mom, I’m hungry.”
“Mom, PLEASE?”

“Sir, how much are your corn dogs?” I asked the cashier ringing me up.
“Two for 99 cents, but I’m all out,” he shrugged.
What a jerk of a tease.
“My mom MEED COHN DOGS,” Alice tried reasoning with him. She only said what we were all thinking…

Outside I went in 102 degree heat with my oil, children and paper pouring cone in hand. I opened the car door forgetting that my car is almost 20 years old and the alarm system does it own thing.
The alarm went off, blaring loudly and startling me. I was already on the verge of wild nervousness, and the alarm went ahead and pushed me off that rocky cliff.
I shut it off, put the kids in the car and reached through the passenger’s side (because -NATURALLY -my driver’s side door is broken) to pop the hood.
I walked around the car -all of us still in our church clothes at this point -and tried to unlatch the hood. It was hot, my fingers were shaking, thanks to the fun alarm.
A few minutes went by with me just… moving my flighty fingers back and forth shaming myself for not being able to do something I’ve done a hundred times before.
I prayed my 5th prayer in 30 minutes and that’s when a young man walked over to me and repeated my own prayer out loud back to me.
“You need help?”
“YES!” I then went on awkwardly about how I LITERALLY WORK AT A MECHANIC’S SHOP and how STRANGE this place was and how I LIVED THREE HOURS AWAY.
The alarm had pushed me into that nervous place where I say completely unsafe and irrelevant things. But this guy had a safe feeling about him, and he had his Dad with him. His Dad was an older man who spoke Spanish almost exclusively and had the same twinkle in his eye that I imagine Santa has.
He also spoke to me like I was a child because I don’t speak Spanish.
“You THREE hour? Away?” He smiled big and spoke slow.
“Yes,” I nodded, my entire body was pretty much trembling despite the horrible heat and the fact that my air conditioning was going out.
“Oh,” he nodded and smiled, nodded and smiled.
I felt like I was on the receiving end of one of Paul’s epistles. It was as if this wonderful, twinkly Spanish man was saying, “You can not understand the meat of my language so I will give you milk. You tiny, tiny baby.”
He spoke to his son swiftly and seriously and quietly and then would turn to me and speak slowly and cheerfully and loudly.
“These… children?”
“Yes, my children. They are sweet…” and then I’d turn to my own children and speak swiftly, and seriously and quietly, “GET BACK IN THE CAR AND KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. STOP KICKING HER. I NEED OBEDIENCE.”

Oil was poured in the car by my new Angel friend and it was found that I needed MORE. So I went back into the store, trembling and awkward and bought three more. Four more? I can’t remember. I don’t care.
I never wanted to see the cashier again, and I made the wonderful mistake of telling him that.
“That will be 32.56,” he said.
“Thanks,” I took my receipt, “I guess I needed a lot more oil than I thought. Well… I hope I never see you again.”

Back outside with my oil. One more quart of oil was added.
All was well.
Until the hood wouldn’t shut. I popped the thing again and again. It was miles of smiles because I was in a DRESS, remember, and reaching over the passenger’s seat.
Also, did I mention that my back hatch was refusing to open? Where all of the luggage is?
And that my tranny had decided to give me a few messages to let me know that he’s about to leave this world?

After fifteen minutes, my new friends became aggressive (with my permission) and had their own way with my hood. It shut nicely. I bid farewell to my new friends and promised them that God would bless them for helping me -hey!, I said, He might even fix your washing machine! Because their washing machine was broken. These are the kinds of things we talk about with strangers.

My in-laws called to find out where I was and drove to meet me.
As we waited for them, I played mad libs with the kids and brushed the sweat from my face… and wondered if the A/C would somehow miraculously fix it’s own blower motor.
Lacy’s answers for Mad Libs were pretty… vanilla. I knew something had to be wrong. I asked her if she was okay.
She wasn’t.
She burst into tears about The Twin Towers and Dad! Dad IS ON A PLANE! And we were stuck in a strange place! And she wished someone was there to help us!
Her tears scared the toddler and so began The Sob Train.
I assured Lacy that WE WERE FINE. I pointed to a motel across the street.
“See that? We could stay there RIGHT NOW if we needed to. We could! We are taken care of, we are fine. There is food and beds and water all around us.”
I explained to her that TERRORISTS drove the planes on 9/11 and tried to help her understand by using buses as an example.
“A bad guy driving a bus can crash it into a school to try and hurt people, right?”
“But a normal school bus driven by a normal driver will just pick kids up and drop them off, right?”
“Well, Daddy is in a NORMAL plane.”

My in laws came, they checked my oil again and we went through closing Ye Olde Hood again.
We decided to go back to their house and stay the night. I was eager to get home, but it was late and my mother-in-law couldn’t stand the idea of us driving home alone. She’s a wonderful, thoughtful, aware, in tune woman. When she says, “stay,” you stay.
We drove through the lit-up city, watching the cars pass us.

Lacy was still very upset.

“How are you doing, Lacy?”
“I just very stressed,” she answered, honestly.
I understand what stressed as a child feels like. I remember dealing with pretty crazy anxiety, even as a kid.

When I was little, I worried incessantly about the house burning down. I lost so much sleep over it. I hated when it got dark because that meant BED and SLEEPING and something in my little mind had latched onto this idea of the house burning us all up in our sleep.
My Mom grew weary of my worry, and she arranged a family home evening all about safety and having an escape plan in case of a fire. After she was done, I found myself still completely uneasy.
She had actually suggested GOING OUTSIDE in the middle of the night while the house was burning.
WHAT ABOUT STICKERS?! I just KNEW I’d get stickers in my feet, and the idea of my feet getting poked by stickers made me equally as uneasy as being burned to death. Naturally.
“Put your shoes by your bed at night,” my mom patiently suggested.
Ah. All was well. Each night I refused to go to sleep without my shoes next to my bed. Stickers and fire and bears, oh my!

I had tried so many things to ease my habit of worrying constantly. I rubbed worry stones. I vented to worry dolls.
Hoaxes. All of them! Made by conspiring men in the last days to make a penny!

My anxiety really hit a scary high when I was pregnant with Lacy. It had gotten SO bad. I wasn’t even in my own mind anymore. I was sure the world was on the verge of ending and I put forth all of my efforts into trying to control the situation.
I actually rolled detergent-soaked newspaper into logs because they made great fuel.
I tried convincing my husband to sell my 1/2 carat diamond so we could buy a year’s supply.

The fear was VERY real.
A couple years ago, my Mom brought me a bag filled with the newspaper logs I’d made and left at her house and I just laughed. It felt like in that bag was a scary version of me that was also a very funny version of me.

I’ve found more healing from my anxiety in the last few years by working -and working HARD -in therapy and 12 steps and all kinds of stuff.

Our little house may not always be a house of organization, but it is a house of healing and right now? That’s more important.
Our house is a place where it’s totally normal for everyone to do yoga together. It’s normal for us all to sink our toes in the wet grass. We talk honestly with each other in family meetings. We cry and we let each other cry. We talk about the good the food is doing that we’re eating.
“Carrots for our eyes, bread for our energy…”
We journal, we pray, we talk, we listen to music and lifts us. We all sing out loud, “I WANNA SEE YOU BE BRAVE!”

With this in mind, I said a few words to my worried, anxious daughter.
I told her I knew what she was feeling.
“Daddy hasn’t gotten in a plane crash, but your body and mind are putting you through all of the bad feelings that come anyway, right?”
“Right!” I could hear the tears rising up in her again.
“Can you do anything about it? If Daddy crashes? Can you change it?”
“No,” the tears began coming back, “And I don’t know what I would do! And you’re going on a plane next week WITH Daddy and if you guys BOTH die, who will take us? Will we live with Grammy? I don’t WANT new parents!”
Ah, the Anxiety Tornado. Familiar territory for me. Remember the Fire Sticker Tornado of 1990?

“That’s right, Lace. Dad and I COULD die. Dad COULD die on his plane tonight.”
More tears.
“Lacy, bad things WILL happen. Bad things will ALWAYS happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it. I promise you that bad things are going to happen to us. And I also promise that GOOD will happen to us as well. Here’s the thing… can you DO anything about the future? Can you change it or anything like that?”
“No,” her voice was scared.
“You can’t. Why not?”
“Because that’s impossible…”
“And what about the past? Can you change it?”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s already happened and gone.”
“That’s true. There is nothing we can do to change the past. We can’t change the past and we can’t try and fix the future. The only thing we CAN DO is BE RIGHT NOW.”
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“Well,” I thought for a minute, “If you only worry about Dad and his future, you’re missing out on what’s going on right now. What’s going on RIGHT NOW? This moment is the only time we really, truly have.”
“There’s lights…” she offered.
“City lights! We don’t have those in Joseph City,” I said.
“There’s stores…”
“There’s a roller coaster!” My son joined in.
“How do you feel now, Lacy? Do your shoulders and chest still feel tight and heavy?”
“Not as much, but still some.”
“Let’s keep playing…”

And so we learned about This Moment which gift has been my greatest these days.

By the time we pulled into Grammy’s driveway, Lacy was laughing and quoting her favorite Studio C skit.

This Moments is all we have, really. This is the moment to breathe, rest, see, soak. This is the moment to eat something nourishing to thank our bodies, to send that text, to listen to our intuition tell us THE NEXT THING TO DO.

This Moment is all we have to kiss a cheek that may not be with us tomorrow, to hold a hand that may need holding. This moment is when we see God and we will miss Him if we’re too busy living in the shadow of the past or the looming unknown of the future.
What good is a life if it passes by unrealized?

Life isn’t about the money, the clothes, the hair, the cars, or weight. It isn’t about events or vacations or even accomplishments.

It’s about love.
God loves us, and we see it when we’re still. We see it in the sun, the song on Pandora, the way a butterfly glides through our path.
We love ourselves, and we feel it when we’re still. We feel it when we make our bed, wash a dish with gratitude, or bathe our able and perfectly capable body.
We love others, and show it when we’re still. We can hear God tell us who needs a text, a message, a call or maybe even dinner. God loves them as he loves me.
Others love us, and we feel it when we are still.

Be still in the moment.
Listen to God, listen to yourself, and you will truly, truly hear others.

To love another person, to love yourself, is to see the face of God. For God is within every living thing.

So sink your feet into the living earth, open your arms to the living Sun and as you walk through today… release the tension in your shoulders, release yourself from the shackles of the past and the future and chomp down on the moment in front of you.
Absolutely devour it.

God has the future in hand. Trusting Him is so hard for me, but when I’m able to let go and trust God, I feel so incredibly free. I am catching glimpses of what it’s really like to LIVE for the first time.

And I sing this those at the top of my lungs as I blow dry my hair in the morning. I understand what she means.

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off.

As I drove down that stretch of new highway with my oil gauge faltering and my cell phone failing, I took a deep breath and told myself there was a reason Danny and I forgot the check the oil. There was a reason I was stalled. God was taking care of me in His own meticulous way.  Maybe there’s an accident ahead or a pack of elk waiting to obliterate my vehicle, out to finish what they started all those years ago.  I could feel the surface waters in my life rippling and reeling and I made a conscious decision to dive deeper into my lake -to a place where the surface didn’t matter, the place where God sings peace to my heart and reminds me that All is Well.
Then I looked up, and there He was.
So I took a very irresponsible picture while driving.
11921839_988161591204166_4096692869831172319_oI regret nothing.


  1. Reading your inspired ways of helping Lacy deal with her anxiety made me cry–yet again. You are an amazing woman and an in-tune mom. Thank you.

  2. This is the best blog post I have read in many a moon. You’re a great mom to talk Lacy through all that with such detail. Thank you for sharing. I will remember this lesson in a future date.

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