Killing Me Softly With Their Words

I don’t know if you can tell this about me, but I’m sort of a snob about words. I’m very careful about using the right one, and even more careful about not using the right one wrongly. I’ve always been a little weird about that.

But recently I guess I’ve started realizing just how weird that actually is. Here are just a couple of recent examples.

The other night my daughter was fighting sleep. She told me she was not tired. She said she could not fall asleep. In fact, Mommy, she wasn’t going to ever sleep because she was exhausted.

“So wait, you are tired?” I asked.

“No! I am not sleepy. I’m exhausted.”

“But, love, exhausted means tired. It actually means very tired.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Yes, it does.”

“No, it means not tired.”

“I know what it means and it means very tired.”

“No, it doesn’t. I’m not tired. I’m exhausted.”

“You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“[blank stare; giant yawn]“

“Look. You can’t even pronounce it correctly. You don’t even know how to use ‘him’ and ‘her’ properly. You think your armpits are called tickle boxes. I’m right. You are so, so wrong. Now get your finger out of your nose and go to sleep.”

You guys, I got into an argument over the definition of a word with a three-year-old.

My kids are weirdos.

“Look out at the water like you’re really peaceful and serene.”

My son is pretty well-spoken, even if he still has that nine-year-old lisp. Just last night he said this exact sentence: “People’s first impression of you, Mom, is, BOOM. She’s humorous.” (He’s not only well-spoken but SUPREMELY intuitive.)

So I was floored – FLOORED – when I told him to brush his teeth before bed and he looked at me and said, “I done did it already.”

WHATWHATWHATWHAT?

So he repeated himself, carefully, as if he couldn’t quite remember the TERRIBLE sentence he had just spoken.

“We. Do. Not. Speak. Like. That.” My teeth were clenched. I had to remind myself to breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. I think we can all guess how well I’m going to react if I ever catch my son doing something actually bad.

And every now and then the little stinker will use “ain’t” on purpose, usually right after using “isn’t” and before remembering the best way to kill me softly.

Parenting: SO not for the fainthearted or grammar-sensitive.

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JBUTTing In

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been contributing (more or less) to a weekly segment over at NorvilleRogers.com called J Butting In.

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Basically, my blogger buddy Clay Morgan tries to discuss pop culture and I won’t let him finish.

In past articles, we have discussed movies, sports, zombie apocalypses, and fast food. I am much more consistent at that site, mainly because Clay says something dumb like, “Tennessee isn’t going to survive the zombie apocalypse and I think you should know that,” and I have no choice but to correct and/or ridicule him.

So head on over there if you want to read completely ridiculous arguments over things that matter zero percent in anyone’s lives, and stick around. There is a lot of good stuff at NorvilleRogers.com, and I’m not just saying that because we spent almost an entire day JUST designing that logo.

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We Are the Waiting

I wrote this post for Good Friday a couple of years ago, but I’m reposting it here for this Good Friday because Friday is still Good and so is recycling.

*          *          *

It all happened so quickly.

One day the crowds are following Him, flocking to Him, mobbing Him. They cannot get enough of Him. He is magnetic, disarming, surprising. He is authority and tenderness, intriguing and mysterious. He speaks with an ancient wisdom, a direct voice to the darkest piece of the heart.

They are whispering about Him, nudging their neighbor and nodding to the tall man who walks with purpose.

He is something else, something other-worldy, and when He looks out at the crowd, He looks with familiarity, with a recognition and assurance that His story is the very same as theirs.

But His time has run out.

No.

His time has come.

The crowds are soon unimpressed. They are growing restless, thirsty, tired of listening to the words of a prophet, His words hitting far, far too close to home.

A mere five days later, and the fickle crowd is demanding His death.

And so it comes.

Quickly.

Brutally.

His followers scatter, struck dumb and inactive, the One who claimed to be God’s very own son dead. Pierced. Entombed.

And now they wait. But for what, they do not know. They only know they cannot let hope slip through their trembling fingers.

And so we wait.

We wait to see what will happen, we wait to see if He will keep His promise. We wait to see if there is any truth to pour ourselves back into, we wait to see if our lives have lost its purpose, His message.

We wait to see if the dawn will break, because this black night is far too suffocating to last.

For now, we are the waiting.

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Sunday Comes

I’m not entirely sure how I managed to let this season slip through my fingers.

I began Lent with such good intentions and strong convictions. My practice of sacrifice was going to be elegant and meaningful. I was going to rediscover – or discover for real maybe – what it meant to find comfort in God, during a time when we as a church are purposeful to recognize the gathering darkness. I was going to emerge altered, and closer than ever to truth.

“I was going to” is much less elegant and meaningful when it doesn’t become “I did”.

So I failed. I failed more than usual. I failed consciously and while completely unaware. I all but wasted this time set aside to focus more fully on Jesus Christ and His heavy heartfelt journey to the cross.

These last several weeks of Lent were no different than the rest. That all to say I am so much more wasteful with my time than not.

The beauty and the grace and the vividness of this world and of God moving in this world are too often wasted on these dull, blind eyes, too often overcome by the mundane. And when I am awake enough to notice Him, I am always caught by surprise, as if I don’t fully believe that God is here, and that He is present.

So I let all that is worthy slip from my mind. I let all that should seize my heart and spur my hands and feet and stretch my soul become nothing more than background noise. I let myself, created at once and for ever and ever to fall for God as thoroughly as He fell for us, to fall instead out of practice, out of reach.

I need each Lenten season to tell me how to focus more faithfully. I need symbolism and tradition and liturgy, I need empty tombs and rough, rugged crosses, I need ashes and palm branches and the oil that anoints, swelling hymns that reach toward Heaven and broken loaves of bread. I need the earth waking after a long and brittle winter, bursting with color and fragrance and promise. I need a hand of God on either side of my face as He says, “Look. Don’t you see? Here I am all along.”

I need to remember the tomb still sits empty because the promise has been fulfilled. I need to remember Jesus said, “It is finished”; I need to move in this world like I believe it actually really is. I need to remember the grace spilled down that hill, running like blood and water, shaking the earth and tearing the veil and swinging wide the throne room of God.

I need to know even when I fail, when I putz around and waste the time and the space and the words God has given me, Sunday still came for me.

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Fancy Pants Make Me Dance Accidentally

I did a little shopping yesterday because I have three pairs of slacks I can wear to work, and two of them are the same color. And because these new clothes were for work, they needed to be fancy. And when I need to be fancy, I shop at Old Navy, especially if they send me an email promising to give me 30% off THE ENTIRE STORE.

I went on my lunch break. I was able to actually try on a few things AT THE STORE without a small child waving at strangers from under my fitting room door that is literally* six feet off the ground.

I saw the pants on my way to the register with my lunch break drawing to a close. So I grabbed what I hoped was my size (I was being optimistic), paid for my fancy purchases, and was on my way.

I tried them on this morning thinking, “I was really being optimistic yesterday,” and promised not to cry if I couldn’t button and latch them. (What is up with the pants and the latches lately? They’re just giving me more opportunities to not fit into the pants.)

But GOOD NEWS! They fit! And I loved them.

You guys, I LOVE THESE PANTS. I love them so much I’m going back for its sister colors. I love them so much I texted a picture of them at 5:57am to my sister and told her to BUY THESE PANTS. I love them so much I selfied with them.

You have to understand, I have three simple but hard set rules for selfies:

1. Only selfie with the first pumpkin + chai latte of the year.
2. Only break Rule #1 for humor.
3. Only break Rule #1 by abiding by Rule #2 no more than three times in a calendar year.

I love these pants so much I was willing to break all my selfie rules and I was not doing it for humor and I was going to smile and I was not going to make a silly expression and I was even going to hashtag OotD on Instagram and probably even tag Old Navy in hopes of getting a gift card for more of these fancy, fabulous pants.

Seriously, you guys, these pants are the shiz. I love them so much I just used the word “shiz.”

I could have woken up my husband and had him take a picture of me.

“Honey, get up. What time is it? No, you’re not running late, it’s only 5:30. I just need you to take a picture of me in my pants.”

But then it wouldn’t have been a selfie. And also the whole cranky husband thing.

So I set the camera timer to 5 seconds. The second option was an EXCESSIVE 15 seconds, and I just don’t have time for that. Surely I could hop in front of my phone, decide on a flattering pose, and SMILE all within five seconds.

You guys, turns out I can’t.

Instead, I end up with an intentional selfie of a 100% unintentional twerk.

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But these pants look amazing.

*Not literally

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Would a Buttram By Any Other Name?

In honor of my husband’s and my tenth wedding anniversary, I thought it would be prudent to lay some things to rest.

I’m talking about the glory of my married name.

I remember when I first found out my husband’s full name. This was back in college and I had caught a glimpse of his student ID. Back then, our IDs had our full name, date of birth, and social security number. (Not joking; we recently found our old IDs while cleaning out our home office and THERE IT WAS, all nine digits. Not an extra wise idea to put that information on a small piece of plastic issued to a bunch of 18-year-olds, but it didn’t include the dashes, which would totally throw off any would-be identity thieves if you ask me.)

So I saw his ID and his full name and I had wanted to laugh, but this boy was really cute and I really liked his first and middle names, so instead of snickering I just said, “Well. That’s a strong name.”

“It builds character,” is what he said.

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So I go to the same dry cleaners every time. There are three extremely polite women who work there, and all three women call me Mrs. Buttram (as opposed to “Jessica,” I mean, not as opposed to Lady Buttram, Grand Duchess of the Dodge Journey who picks up her dry cleaning three weeks late), and all three women pronounce my last name differently.

The first lady I’m pretty sure is just messing with me. She’s younger and a little edgier than the others. And once, I even saw her taking a smoke break in the parking lot.

This lady – this hardened, world-weary lady – she calls me Mrs. Butt-Ram, and she says it SUPER unapologetically. I know I corrected her the very first time she mispronounced it, but only that once. Because I figure, whatever gets her through the day, right? Besides, I can’t really say I blame her; when asked to spell my name over the phone, I would to say, “B-u-t-t (lengthy pause, lengthy pause, lengthy pause) r-a-m” until my husband made me stop.

The second lady is older and really southern and always tells me about their alterations services, and I think it’s because she’s the one who does the alterations. She also says my name about thirty-seven times in our three-minute interaction. She calls me Mrs. Byootrum. Like, “Isn’t she a beaut (byoot)?” Or even, “Let’s race around Willie’s Butte” in the spirit of Cars.

I don’t correct her either, because I really don’t want to hurt her feelings after she’s said it wrong with such enthusiasm and consistency. “Your total is $18.47, Mrs. Byootrum, and Mrs. Byootrum, have I told you about this month’s specials? Well, Mrs. Byootrum, this month we’re offering 25% off all alterations. Yes, we do alterations now, Mrs. Byootrum! Thank you for your business, Mrs. Byootrum, and ya’ll have a great evening!” I mean, correcting her would just break her heart.

The third and final lady pronounces my name one hundred percent correctly.

So, without further ado, how to pronounce my last name: Buh’tchrum. The “u” and “a” sound the same, a short “u” as in, “You can stand under my umbrella (ella, ella).”

So there you have it! Now you know what I’ve known for eleven years, and have willingly taken on for ten. All in the name of luh’ve.

This post is inspired by one of my favorite Jamies, who sent me a screenshot of an honest query from one of her readers showing sincere concern over how, exactly, one should pronounce B-u-t-t-r-a-m.

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Desperate for Grace

There are probably more than a few life lessons I’ve learned from being a parent, one of the most important obviously being how to eat a doughnut so the kids don’t catch me.

(The secret is you can’t hide when you eat one. It’s like they can sense sneakiness. I think it’s related to the fact that I can announce with gusto and clapping and eye contact, “Time to clean your room!” and they one hundred percent don’t hear me, but if I communicate to my husband with sign language and lip reading and the occasional mime, “I’m going to go take a bubble bath,” Bean is all like, “BUBBLE BATH?! I WANT TO COME!”

Life Lesson: Dance like no one is watching, and also eat a doughnut like you don’t mind sharing.)

But then this whole parenting thing catches me by surprise, somewhere in between hiding the chocolate covered cherries (they were in my Christmas stocking, okay?) and willingly saving the last two Reese’s cups (I MEAN…organically grown apples?) for my little buggers.

It’s surprising because I mean, who shares Reese’s cups?

But it’s also surprising because, all of a sudden, I am pressed against the earth, crushed by the sheer weight of raising this young man and young lady, crippled into stillness by the magnitude of what it all must mean to be their mother. I build them with my trembling hands and uncertain words, hoping they will become Kind and Compassionate and Thankful, Well-Rounded and Well-Educated and Well Aware.

But this is what you miss: I fall short, daily and knowingly, filling in the cracks with all good things from teachers, friends, and fellow parents, my palms poised and ready to smooth in the rough spots whispering “grace” like a prayer.

photo 2I am tougher on my Bug than anyone else. And I grow tougher still with every inch notched higher on his doorframe. His size and his wisdom and his intelligence fool me, convincing me he is very nearly grown, and should certainly start acting like it. I find myself panicking, watching the clock and the days crossed off on calendars, worried and aware my time to teach him is short, that he is already halfway out the door toward adulthood. I am running out of time, and I know this, I know this, so I speak louder and faster, and I push harder and firmer, and maybe one day all the tears and tired muscles will be worth it.

But the thing is, at nine (and a half) years old, this boy is already better than I’ll ever be. He is witty and quick, comfortable in his own skin and spiky hair. He loves without apology and laughs without reserve. He has baby cheeks and bruised shins, every inch of his body moving a hundred miles an hour.

I cannot fail at this. And knowing I do anyway? It paralyzes me.

But then he sleeps, cocooned beneath the blankets and twisted around action figures, and I sneak in to kiss him goodnight. I hold his hands tucked under his pillow, and in his sleep he holds mine back. I run my fingers along his lashes, his nose, his jaw, and that is when I feel it. Somewhere inside my nine-year-old is a man with a strong chin and stronger convictions, and I feel it in his bones and in his grip.

I have failed. I do fail. I will fail.

photo 1My daughter is full of beauty and spunk. I often wonder if these two things together won’t make her too terribly difficult on the world. And I worry this world might break her of it. So instead, I try to teach her when to yield and when to stand her ground, but the balance is fragile and to her everything on earth is a challenge to be won.

But where she is good at fighting for her way, she is even better at figuring out when she was wrong. She will run away and pout, shutting me out while she mourns. Sometimes I let her go, less because I am honoring her decision and more because my lack of attention is a kind of punishment in itself.

But other times and not often enough, I get it right. Those times I scoop her up and hold her, letting her know in language she understands how life can be frustrating and difficult, but I am constant. Those are the moments it won’t take long for her small, sweet voice to say, “I’m sorry, Mama, do you forgive me?”

The answer is of course, baby, always of course, because this little spitfire has shown me what it means to swallow pride and let loose faith, and just like that my anger or annoyance or sense of Manners or Rules or Appropriate Behavior is insignificant in the face of such great grace.

And it’s the thing for which I am most desperate in this calling of mine. It is grace spun into a silk fine and feather-light covering over the multitude of my sins. And even though I do not parent them perfectly, oh, how I love them fiercely, and the grace my children wear so well is eager to stretch across that gap.

And at the end of the day, it is grace that wins us all.

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