All posts filed under: Soul

Suck it In, Suck it Up

“Suck your belly in and stand up straight.” “Why, Mom?” “Because that’s how you put on dresses. Come on. Stand taller.” Once she was all zipped up I stood behind her and looked in the dressing room mirror. She was looking straight into my eyes, with the betrayal and wounding of someone who was just slapped in the face. I paused, but then chalked up her sourness to tween melodrama. I looked her up and down in the form-fitting black dress. “Wow. You look beautiful, honey! Like a woman!” She shrugged. “What? You don’t want it? You look fantastic!” “I don’t know, Mom! Okay? I don’t know what I like, or what I’m supposed to like, or what I’m supposed to look like. Just get the dress if you think that’s what I’m supposed to get. I don’t care. Can we be done?” She pulled her school uniform back on and left the dressing room. I held the black dress up over my tired outfit and turned side-to-side. I wished my body was as good …

I Want to Be Her

I am one of the women who unexpectedly cried watching Wonder Woman opening weekend. I fell asleep during every Avengers and X-Men movie for the past three years. I assumed this DC movie would have the same nap-triggering formula, but with Xena: Warrior Princess costumes. Then the beautiful, strong, united, Amazon women of Themyscira descended on the beach to fight invading German soldiers, unafraid and victorious. I didn’t wince, cringe, or worry while they were fighting, because they weren’t victims or reactors. They expected to win and they did. Maybe this is what men always feel like when they watch battle scenes, but for the first time I felt like I just won with them on that beach. Tears sprung into my eyes. What a proud, exhilariating moment! A tiny flame ignited in my heart. Later in the film, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) climbs out of one of the trenches on World War I’s Western Front, determined to charge through No Man’s Land to liberate a village. She doesn’t look scared, make jokes, cross herself, or ask for help. …

Lying is Fun

Everyone at the crowded table was laughing. My cousins could hardly breathe. Their friends were throwing their heads back and clapping. I was beaming, almost standing on my chair, gesturing wildly, telling them all about what happened when a squirrel snuck into my sleeping bag at summer camp. It truly was a hilarious 20-minute story, fill of dialogue, descriptions, character development, suspense, plot twists, and a satisfying grand finale. But it wasn’t true. I had lived in fear of finding a squirrel in my sleeping bag at camp. I obsessed over it all week: imagining all the places he would accidentally bite me, how his fluffy tail would feel on my mud-caked legs, and how his chittering family members would cheer from the rafters. Would I scream and run, or freeze and slowly be nibbled to death? Would the pretty counselor come to my aid, or the mean one? What would my seven bunkmates do? I still worried about a squirrel attack when I got home, ripping back my sheets at night before bed. Then …

Ostinato

“For I have known them all already, known them all:  Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,  I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;  I know the voices dying with a dying fall  Beneath the music from a farther room.                 So how should I presume?” – T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock The stack of purple and blue pill organizers crushed me. Seven doors on seven organizers, each filled with different vitamins and prescriptions. Open the seven doors, drop in the tablets and capsules, close the doors, empty them in little bowls for each person at breakfast. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. Maybe someday we wouldn’t need to take pills. Maybe someday would be different. But not today. I tossed the clothes in the dryer, filled the dishwasher, looked for my wallet, yelled for the kids to get their shoes on, and loaded the car. Maybe someday the kids would empty the dishwasher without breaking anything. Maybe someday my youngest would tie her shoes. Maybe someday would be …

Buried Bulbs and Prayers

[Published at (in)courage May 19, 2017] When I saw the lumpy bags of daffodil bulbs at the store I was skeptical. The eager garden center employee hovered nearby, so I asked her, “Is it worth all the kneeling, getting dirty, and waiting? Are flowers really going to come? Is there any guarantee?” She promised the bulbs would bloom. I bought four bags and rushed to pick up my kids from school. Before she even got in the car, I could tell my daughter was angry, like she always was these days. She saw her classmates doubled over laughing on the school lawn as we drove by. She crossed her arms and set her jaw. When we got home she slammed the car door and followed her siblings into the house. I stayed quiet in the driver’s seat. I knew she didn’t want to talk about it. She refused to pray or be prayed for. She despised my hugs. I sighed. I’d been praying for her for so long. Would it ever get better? I remembered …

Never Alone

Several years ago my sister and I ran away to Florida. We were both reeling from unexpected heartbreaks – my infertility, her disbanded circle of friends. We felt lonely and untethered. We didn’t know what to say anymore. But we could be together. And we could read books. Stacks of books. We read at the airport, beach, bookstores, coffeeshops, and in bed until we fell asleep. Sometimes reading passages to each other. Sometimes swapping books. One late, long drive we took turns reading short stories to each other. We forgot our regular lives and entered into fictional strangers’ new schools, first dates, secret obsessions, trespasses, and crimes. When we surfaced from that collection of stories, on that dark highway, our own lives felt different. I just finished Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives, a collection of essays, stories, and poetry by the Redbud Writers Guild. This would be have been just the right book for that weekend away with my sister. We were both at a crossroads, longing for change, to be in different …

Six Different Ways to Be Beautiful

If you are looking for an article about crunches, the Whole 30, or eyelash lengtheners, this is not the piece for you. This is about being Brave. I bet you’re rolling your eyes. Is this going to be about “beauty on the inside”? Probably written by woman who could benefit from some airbrushing? Is she going to talk about our “good personalities” or how much “Jesus made us and loves us”? No thanks. I really am just going to talk about 6 Brave things I’ve done that make me feel more Beautiful, whole, and strong. I’ve been walking toward this kind of beauty for a long time, with lots of counseling, prayer, and reflection. I was flabbergasted to find my story written out by someone else. Lee Wolf Blum’s new book, Brave is the New Beautiful, is compelling, encouraging, and relatable. I read it cover to cover in one very long bath. I smiled and cried reading stories so similar to mine (and similar to yours, I guarantee it). There were 6 things I learned about being Brave, …

Six Different Ways to Go Home

After being chased all day by work deadlines, kid drop-offs, online and in-person misunderstandings, and perpetual obligations, I just want to go Home. Jen Pollock Michel, in her new book, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home writes, “we are hardwired for place and permanence, for rest and refuge, for presence and protection” (p. 33). That’s how I feel when I pull in the driveway for the the last time each day–it’s like lunging for base in game of tag. I’m safe. I’m Home.  I experience the hardwiring for Home in 6 different ways, some temporary, some satisfying, some internal, some external, sometimes all of them all in one day. 1. Home is Where I Keep My Stuff That’s the first layer – my stuff. It’s the collection of what I need, want, and what’s important to me. My bed. My special pillow. My selected foods put where I like in my cabinets. My wedding album. My books. My boxes of my kids’ keepsakes tucked away in the basement. My guest room where I can invite you to leave …

Love and Loss – a Comparison of Redeeming Ruth and Arrival

[Warning – this post contains spoilers for the 2016 movie Arrival and the brand new memoir Redeeming Ruth.]   Is it better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all?   I finally watched Arrival, the award-winning, thought-provoking alien movie, starring Amy Adams as a linguist who saves the world. In the beginning of the movie there’s a montage of Louise (Amy Adams’ character) and Hannah, her cherished child who becomes very ill and dies. Later we find out Louise is remembering/forseeing her child, and her fate, before she even becomes pregnant. She chooses the relationship that will create her daughter, and to bear and love her fully, even though she knows the the suffering and loss that lies ahead. I had just finished Meadow Rue Merrill’s powerful new book, Redeeming Ruth:Everything Life Takes, Love Restores. I couldn’t help weaving both stories together as I watched Arrival. Redeeming Ruth is a fresh, clear, beautifully written memoir about adoption, courage, special needs, provision, faith, hope, and suffering.  One day a beautiful toddler with cerebral palsy is placed into Ruth’s arms …

Sign of the Times

[Published on Evangelicals for Social Action 4/19/17] “I think I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think we should do this.” I bit my lip and put my hands in my pockets. “Don’t be nervous. Be proud. This is who we are,” my husband said. He’s used to my last-minute jitters. “What’s the point? Are we trouble-makers? Are we show-offs? I don’t know.” I glanced at the sign on the counter, threw my head back, and sighed. “Come on. Let’s do this.” He headed out the front door. That afternoon I had gone to Clarkston, Georgia with a friend of mine and all our kids to Refuge Coffee Co., the place we adopted during our Family Compassion Focus last year. I chatted with our resettled refugee friends working on the coffee truck, tried a new tea, bought some new mugs, and brought home a sign offered by World Relief Atlanta that said in clear black letters REFUGEES WELCOME HERE. But when I saw the sign in my trunk when we got home my stomach twisted. I have …

Home-Grown Liturgy

[Published on The Mudroom on 3/7/17] It all started when the priest’s wife hugged me under the tall trees in my front yard and gave me her secret recipe to make Church of the Great Shepherd’s communion bread. Even though I wasn’t ordained, didn’t have a fancy robe, and didn’t own a Book of Common Prayer, I was invited to be a part of the sacrament and splendor of our young Episcopal church. Unshowered in yesterday’s workout clothes I whisked warm milk and honey together, rolled dough on my floured kitchen table, cut circles with a biscuit cutter, and marked crosses on each round with a serrated knife.   My bed-headed twins followed me to the oven in their footie pajamas. “Mama, is that bread?” “Yep. Bread for Jesus. For communion. We remember Jesus loves us when we eat communion bread.” “Mama, can we have that bread today?” “This bread is for church tomorrow, bunnies.” When the timer went off I held my toddlers back with one hand and opened the oven with the other. …

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

I’m not good at waiting. I rip open the new bag of chips in the Kroger parking lot, love reading spoilers for TV season finales, weave in and out of the fast lane, and almost die waiting for my kids to get to the point of whatever story they’re telling. I’m definitely not good at waiting for big, important things. I writhed, groaned, swore, cried, doubted, and yelled at God in the hard, long seasons of waiting before I finally recovered from a car accident, finally got pregnant, and finally popped the champagne when my husband got a new job. I’m still waiting for lots of things. I’m back in physical therapy for a running injury and back in counseling for heartaches. A beloved friend might be on the verge of finally beating her decades-long illness. My kids pray everyday for me to stop being allergic to dogs so they can get one. We can’t find a church that nourishes and challenges us. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m supposed to change my prayers or just give up …

I Confess: I Don’t Want Donuts

[Published on the Redbud Post on 4/1/17] Last weekend, I had eleven 12-year-old boys in my basement for a youth retreat. It was chaotic, gross, and perfect. We heard unhindered laughing, chasing, yelling, and body noises through two floors and closed doors. The leaders talked straight about God and good choices. Our doorbell rang at all hours, announcing the arrival of more volunteer drivers, youth mentors, and meal makers from the church. My son glowed with testosterone and belonging. On Sunday afternoon, I pulled on a hazmat suit and headed down the basement stairs to survey the damage. I picked up Slim Jim® wrappers, vacuumed millions of chip crumbs and rainbow Nerds candy, and looked away gagging when it came time to clean the toilet. But the entire time I smiled to myself and thanked God. This retreat was so much better than the last one. * * * When we moved to a new state a couple years ago, we knew we needed to find a church right away. We were deeply invested in the …

Long Days of Small Things – World Changer Wednesday

“Long Days of Small Things is a book that looks at the real life work we do in our everyday lives, and finds God right there in the midst of it. We think of spirituality as something that happens in our minds, in silence. We are taught that our bodies, our mess and complications and noise hold us back from being with God. That doesn’t leave a lot of hope for moms, whose pregnant or post-partum bodies, newborns, toddlers, and van-full of carpool kids have no end of loud, messy, physical, chaotic needs.” – Catherine McNiel

Same Home Different House

“Mom, are you mad?” She handed me another stack of dirty plates. “I just don’t agree, hon. I don’t think it’s true.” I took the plates and glanced up quickly to her earnest eyes. “Mom, it’s who I am. Don’t you see it? It totally makes sense.” She picked up a handful of  dirty silverware. Of course I saw it. In the clothes she wore, the books she read, the memes she laughed at. Her identity had been uncoiling in front of us for months. It scared me. “Honey, you’re in 6th grade! I think it’s, like, a phase, you know? I don’t think you have to make a declaration for your whole life right now.” I scrubbed a platter with anxious vigor. “Mom. Don’t tell me I’m going to outgrow it. This is who I am.” She stopped clearing the table and looked at me. “Honey, please. It can’t be true. Why would anyone choose that for themselves?” I looked down at the sink. “Mom, I didn’t choose it. It’s how I’m made.” I turned off the …

Comparison Game

[featured on Perissos 11/23/16] My first job out of college was at a Chicago homeless shelter. They provided drop-in services on cold winter nights and a year-round residential program for recovering homeless addicts. I did donor relations and lived in a crowded apartment above the shelter. I was invited to hang out with the residents whenever I wanted, including daily breakfast downstairs before work. Every morning, 13 residents would get up from the tables to form a circle in the warm cloud of Cook Lula’s spicy potatoes and onions. The tallest resident would boom, “Hook up the cables! I need a jump start!” We joined hands and closed our eyes. They thanked God for their warm beds and the roof over their heads. They thanked God for Mr. Jay and Mr. Brian teaching them how to stay clean and get jobs. Then one morning one man earnestly prayed, “I thank you, God, for the use of all my limbs.” Everyone nodded, murmured, and moaned their agreement. Never, ever in my life had I passionately thanked …

Crows

Once I was held prisoner in my room for 10 weeks. Preterm labor demanded bedrest if I wanted to give my unborn babies a chance. I lived in fear of losing them. I also lived in fear of crows. ***** Almost every day of my bedrest crows came to haunt me. They curled their talons and straightened their black cloaks on the bare winter branches outside my window. They stared in my room with sinister eyes and cawed menacingly. I trembled. There was no roadkill in my room for them to eat. Whose death were they waiting for? Were they circling over the twins I was desperately trying to grow inside my huge belly? Did they think my babies weren’t going to make it? Did they know something I didn’t? One day I couldn’t take it anymore. I untangled myself from the contraction monitor, subcutaneous terbutaline pump, long white compression socks, and twisted blankets and heaved myself out of bed. I punched at the window with one hand and guarded my babies with the other. “Go …

No One is the Boss of Us

You know how to light a match, don’t you? I looked up at her and lied. She gave me the book of matches and watched me slowly draw the bud against the scratch. She grabbed it back, You’ve got to go fast, see? Boom! Zip! She laughed and gave me the lit match with her brown wrinkled hands. Put it in that hole there. See the flames? You just lit the grill! Now you can cook steakettes whenever you want. I confidently dropped the frozen patties from the butcher paper onto the grate. Little girls aren’t allowed to touch matches. please continue reading at You Are Here Stories [This story was featured at  You Are Here Stories 10/11/16.] Related Posts: The End of Pretending – my secret questions about faith were answered in the Psalms The Waves – 20 Years of Marriage – my secret beliefs about myself threatened to ruin us ©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.

The Home Inspector

[featured on Perissos 10/7/16] I thought we were going to live there forever. But a week after the new windows were finally installed my husband took a new job across the country. After crying for days about leaving our best friends and favorite grocery stores, I focused all my energy on selling our beloved 90-year-old home. We went room by room, writing down 63 things that needed to fixed and finished before we could sell it. The hole in the wall where my son smashed the doorknob every day. The moldy splotch on the ceiling where the tub above leaked. The bent screen door. The missing rungs on the back porch. The peeling paint. We spent our weekends and evenings working on that list. Tacking up pieces of trim, painting over scratches and stains on the walls, replacing mirrors. We couldn’t fix it all, but we tried. We sold the house very quickly to great buyers with no legal or financial issues. All that was left was the Home Inspection. They say that Home Inspectors …

CAC – World Changer Wednesday

Are you compassionate? I’m not. My heart doesn’t naturally bend toward suffering with other people. My heart bends towards whatever is going to make my life better in that moment. For me, compassion is an often hard choice, that through years of slow practice, I’m learning to make more often. I started making these choices after a long season of reflection, contemplation, and yes, counseling, under the big fat umbrella of God’s grace. Because only there I can bear to see the true state of my own heart, and my own aching need for others to be compassionate with me. My friend Sam recently completed an official program for spiritual formation. Once I heard he graduated I pounced and asked if he would share some of the things he learned, and how they could help us all be more compassionate. I’m so thankful he was willing to do it. In the interview below Sam generously and bravely shares the who, what, when, where, how and why of his journey toward contemplation and action, and how that might help us …

The Waves – 20 Years of Marriage

One hot night in late July, a few weeks before our wedding, 20 years ago, I could hardly look at my handsome fiancé at dinner. He was happily talking about our new apartment, new jobs, and our honeymoon. I was trying to keep my food, and my long-held secret, down. He grabbed my hand, rubbed it with his calloused thumb, raised his eyebrows, and said, “You okay, Aim?” I felt the waves crash hard. Me:  “I don’t think I can do this.” Chris:   “Do what?” Me:  “Get married.” C:  “What do you mean?” Me: “I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to get married. I’m a lot of work. I don’t take very good care of myself, so I know I wouldn’t take very good care of you. I really don’t think I should get married.” C: [Silence] His face went gray and slack, he searched my eyes and then the floor. He listened to me repeat sorrowful variations of “it’s not you, it’s me.” After a couple minutes he said he …

My Body Tells the Truth

[featured on Perissos 7/11/16] My oldest friend was my biggest fan. She ran ahead to prepare the way for me. She’d say, “Have you seen Aimee? She’s so skinny!” Or “Isn’t Aimee cute? Those freckles!” Or “You can’t make red hair like that in a salon, you know!” She made people want to like me before I even met them. She made life easier. Then she got mean. I heard she gossiped and turned people against me. “Have you seen Aimee? She looks pregnant!” And “Why is Aimee so shiny? Is she sweating? Ew.” And “She definitely doesn’t look like someone who runs a lot.” I kept my head down in shame. I hated her. I wanted nothing to do with her. I cringed and curled into myself. I’m a rational and forgiving friend. When problems come I’m not afraid to address them, get the bottom of them, seek forgiveness, and extend forgiveness. But betrayal is different. This terrible old friend is My Body. She betrayed me. I believe it’s My Body’s job to defend, …

Por Que Parei de Orar por Meus Filhos

Algumas pessoas oram como um poeta. Se expressando radiantemente todas as grandes coisas que o Amado de sua alma tem feito. Seu amor é mútuo e glorioso. É dramático e florido, com gemidos e suspiros. Eu já orei assim, quando meu bebê bem gordinho sorriu para mim, e quando eu flagrei meu marido dando uma olhada em mim enquanto estava do outro lado da sala. Algumas pessoas oram como um inquilino, deixando ‘recadinhos’ na porta da casa do proprietário. Eles “reviram” os olhos quando algo não funciona, sabendo que sempre que o dono chegar ao problema, vai ser tarde demais. Eles o espera vir com cheiro de cigarros e com um rolo de fita adesiva, mas normalmente, no fim eles acabam consertando o problema sozinhos. O que imaginam ser o que o proprietário estava esperando que eles fizessem. Eu já orei assim, quando o câncer da minha amiga não se curou, e quando o divórcio do meu amigo foi finalizado. Algumas pessoas oram como uma criança, pedindo coisas grandes com grandes olhos inocentes. Eles pedem …

Being the Best Blessing EVER

[featured on Perissos 7/6/16] I distinctly remember walking into a dentist appointment thinking, “I want to be this hygienist’s favorite patient ever.” I already flossed and brushed my teeth, gargled, and blotted my lipstick. I smiled broadly, asked and answered questions, complimented her technique, and thanked her for her hard work. I left with a new toothbrush and a sense of accomplishment. Before I went home to cook the best dinner ever for my husband and friends, I interacted with the cashier at the store, tollbooth attendant, and neighbor the same way. I did everything I could to be the best customer, toll-payer, and neighbor they ever had. I wondered if they would go home and tell their families, “You’ll never believe how great this lady was today!” For my husband’s birthdays I would brainstorm a million ways to show him lavish love. I’d cover all 5 Love Languages – big gift, very long letter full of loving words, celebratory physical touch, sacrificial service, and lots of uninterrupted quality time. There could be no doubt I was a …

I’m Batman

[featured on Perissos 6/22/16] I really wanted to be Wonder Woman. I dreamed that I would have (and fill out) that shiny, patriotic bathing suit, use a magic lasso on bad guys, and marry Superman. I would pilot my invisible jet over the ocean or just ride on my super husband’s back through the sky. We would stop all evil and look good doing it. Then I outgrew my underoos, went to college, got married, and got a job. My husband is fantastic, but he cannot fly. I pilot a minivan instead of a crime-fighting invisible jet. My kids are obsessed with comic books. About 50% of our conversations are about superpowers, supervillains, ridiculous scenarios, and epic battles. Their favorite characters are mutants, stars of ancient mythology, aliens, or lab experiments gone wrong. But my favorite is Batman. It’s not just because he’s an introvert with depression (like me). Or because he has a dark anger that sometimes makes justice look like revenge (like me). I like Batman because he has zero superpowers (like me). I tell …

FREE Family Tool Kit

Change takes time. I love watching turn-around shows because they give the satisfaction of a total transformation in less than an hour. It skips most of the slog and waiting and indecision, highlights one problem, offers a valiant solution, and then ta-da! The house, kitchen, hoarder’s room, bride, or dowdy dresser is now brand new. It’s addictive. I want that quick change everywhere, and get mad when it doesn’t happen. I went to counseling hard core for 9 years and still have flaws. My kids still think toothbrushing is optional. My marriage is still the safest and hardest thing I know. My faith is full of gaps. It’s even harder when I think about the world. Will refugees ever stop dying at sea? Will ISIS ever be thwarted? Will homelessness end? Will there always be orphans, dirty water, jails, and sex trafficking? I can’t take it. My kids can’t take it either. And that’s why we started having a Family Compassion Focus every year. We want to be World Changers. We want to “defend the weak and the …

New Girl

[featured on Perissos 6/3/16] I think I finally found a new church. I’ve been searching for a long time. I need a place where people accept me unconditionally, even when I make huge mistakes and have bad ideas. And thank God I found it. Right in front me. Right here on Hulu. It’s the TV show New Girl. One night my husband turned on a show with some woman in little girl/old lady dresses talking dramatically to three/four really immature guys. They all lived in a big loft together. I rolled my eyes. “Nope. This show looks lame.” He said, “I really think you would like it, but okay.” He turned it off. A couple months went by. The only things left in the queue were some documentaries we’re never going to watch. So my husband suggested New Girl again, and I relented. I laughed so hard. My husband smiled knowingly. We watched all five seasons. It is the story of the “adorkable” school teacher, Jess, and her three or four male roommates. Nick is the unkempt bartender …

Legion

[featured on Perissos, 5/18/16] The story of Legion gives me nightmares. It’s about a naked, bleeding, demon-possessed man with super-human strength, who lives in a cemetery, intentionally cuts himself with stones, and haunts the region with his screams. I think Legion looks like Sasquatch, the Hulk, and Satan all mixed together. In my dreams I walk toward the hillside at night, and I want to help him. I want to take him to a homeless shelter where he can get a shower, a meal, and a bed. I want to drive him to the ER and have someone look at his open wounds. I want him to get transferred to the Psych Ward. I want to give him a fresh start. I walk up the hill in the moonlight driven to find him. When he jumps out from behind a stone my adrenaline surges. I see his crazed eyes, long, matted hair, and gray teeth. I see his naked skin smeared with months of dirt and blood. I see deep scars from all his self-harm, …

Literally?

[featured on Perissos 5/9/16] Every morning before I went to the bus stop, my mom would walk me to the front door in her zip-up gray robe, smelling of coffee, and start this conversation: Mom: “What can you do, Aimee?” (big smile) Me: “All things.” (sigh and eye roll) Mom: Through who?” Me: “Jesus.” (another sigh) Mom: “That’s right! You can do all things today! Do you have your armor on?” Me [?] Yes. Mom: Do you have your sword and breastplate? Me [?] Yes. Mom: Good! Love you! Have a good day. (big hug) Me: Bye. I didn’t understand any of that. I knew I couldn’t do “all things.” I couldn’t speak French or jump rope. I didn’t have x-ray vision or know how to make the flying carpet I ached for. There were dozens of things I wanted to do every day that I couldn’t. Poor Mom, she didn’t know what she was talking about. For years when she asked me if I had “my breastplate,” I thought she was asking if I …

Robins

Greta called out “Mama?” from her crib in the back of the house. We greeted each other with smiles and outstretched arms, like long lost lovers, before I carried her out to the front porch. She felt warm and soft and smelled of apples. We looked for our early morning creature friends from the white rocking chair. She stood on my thighs, squealing. I could feel her toes through her footie pjs. She pointed and I called out the animals: “That’s a squirrel: zip-zip! That’s a dog: hi puppy! That’s a bunny: hop hop! That’s a robin: God is Good!” I felt intense attachment to those round mama birds hopping in our dewy grass. I couldn’t believe they could stand up with the heaviness of the babies they carried. Most days I could barely stand up either. The robins made me feel like God was on our side. We heard the twins come downstairs and went inside. The robins moved to the backyard while we ate breakfast. They were on the branches, fence, patio furniture, and …

I Stopped Praying for My Kids

Some people pray like a troubadour. Beaming about all the great things the Lover of their Soul has done. Their love is mutual and glorious. It’s dramatic and flowery, stomach flips and sighs. I’ve prayed like that, when my chubby baby smiled up me, and when I caught my husband looking at me from across the room. Some people pray like a tenant, leaving post-its on the landlord’s door. They roll their eyes whenever something breaks, knowing that whenever the scruffy, absent ex-con gets to it, it’ll be too late. They wait for him to come over smelling like cigarettes with a roll of duct tape, but normally end up fixing it themselves. Which is what the landlord was hoping for anyway. I’ve prayed like that, when my friend’s cancer didn’t get healed, and when my friend’s divorce was finalized. Some people pray like a child, asking for big things with big innocent eyes. They ask from the safe place on their daddy’s shoulders. Daddy is always patient and trustworthy. He can fix anything, and he …

The End of Pretending

[featured on Perissos 4/25/16] I was a cynical child. I read the encyclopedia and analyzed comic strips in the Sunday paper. I observed adults and memorized their conversations. I typically spoke out of the corner of my mouth in what relatives called my “ventriloquist voice.” I didn’t like church. The sweet incense and sticky pleather olive green kneelers were annoying. I didn’t like how the priest did that half-singing about communion at the altar. I didn’t want to read a public prayer about loving God when I didn’t even know him. What was so great about God anyway? Then my mom started talking about Jesus all the time, like he was her best friend or something. I couldn’t believe we had to start going to church twice on the weekends – Saturday night mass to keep our grandmas happy and Sunday morning megachurch to keep our parents happy. I didn’t like Kids Praise and Music Machine always playing loudly at home. So much smiling in those songs. Those happy bible verse lyrics invaded my best ideas. I tried to block them by …

A Wrinkled Mess

[featured on Perissos 3/23/16] Yesterday I decided to Spring-clean our bedroom, which included stripping the entire bed and washing the king sized duvet cover. When I pulled it out of the dryer it was a wrinkled mess. I declared, “I’m going to iron the duvet cover.” My husband looked up concerned and said, “You’re going to iron? Are you sure?” It’s been a long time since I ironed. Years. I don’t think my kids have ever seen me do it. Ain’t nobody got time for that. We send my husband’s shirts to the cleaners and buy wrinkle-free clothes for everyone else. I pulled down the squeaking legs of my ancient ironing board and blew dust off the bottle of starch. I turned the iron on. I looked for the seams hidden in the yards of fabric. The geometric pattern was all jumbled under the long wrinkles. Slowly I laid a section over the board and ran my hand over the cool fabric. I felt the heat from the iron. I shook and sprayed the starch. …

The Buoy

[featured on Perissos 3/14/16] I’m hiding in the bathroom. Everything is too hard. Again. My child’s big doctor appointment was a disaster. Again. The note from school was embarrassing. Again. Big changes at my husband’s work. Again. Texts about a long death, a baby in the hospital, and a broken deal all dinging on my phone. Again. Wrinkled receipts, unopened mail, sticky cold medicine, half-filled lunch bags, and late library books cover the counters. Again. Off-key piano and bass practice take up all the air. Again. No bread or milk in the fridge. Again. I rushed into the green guest bathroom to try to hide from the tidal wave of anxiety. I heard its distant roar when I was clearing the table. Again. “God? I can’t. I’m not going to make it.” Continue reading here… Related Posts: Bullies  A Little Note About Anxiety ©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.

Scabs and Scars

[featured on Perissos 2/29/16] At eight years old I overheard a woman say an Arabian prince could only choose a woman with no scars to be his princess. I was devastated. I had scars from mosquito bites, chicken pox, bike accidents, and scraping my feet in Gramma’s big cement pool. I also had a belly button, and wondered if those princes were smart enough to realize that everyone had at least one scar. Did the holes from getting our ears pierced count? I’m an almost albino redhead. I’ve had eight suspicious moles removed. The first one was near my right breast. I was 20, and the plastic surgeon named, I kid you not, Dr. Scarzella, said he didn’t want to do the surgery because the scar might hinder intimacy with my partner. I was not even close to being sexually active, but I somehow had enough sense of self to say, “well, I don’t think I’m going to be intimate with any guy who couldn’t handle a scar on my boob.” He laughed and patted my …

A Kiss or An Ambush

[Originally published by Perissos, 2/5/16] I’m not sure when I started feeling sorry for Judas. Surely not as a child, when we’d boo and hiss at his betrayal in the colorful Bible storybooks. He hurt sweet Jesus, who always smiled and healed sick people. Judas was definitely the bad guy. Not in high school, when my personal relationship with Jesus entailed memorizing bible verses, confessing my sins, and listing my concerns about other people’s sins. I would have been able to help Jesus see where Judas was headed. In college, at the height of my legalism and perfectionism, I felt impatient about Judas. I didn’t want to discuss free will, God’s sovereignty, or any nuances. He was a selfish double agent, going after wealth and his own version of justice. It was unfortunate he hung himself, but it made sense. During that time I did a seven-week intensive study program in Greece, Israel, Egypt, and Italy on the archeology, history, topography, geography, and artistry of the Bible. Even though we sang sweet worship songs on …

Running Away

[Featured on Perissos 1/27/16] Last summer we moved to Georgia. I wanted to run away. As soon as the buses took my kids, I ran hard toward the dark canopy of the trees near our new house. My anger matched the summer sun and my fear matched the thick humidity. I would remember my kids crying about school, getting lost on the way to the store, and all the love we left behind. I would pound that pain into the winding path. Forsaken and alone I didn’t pray anymore. But the trees sheltered me with leaves larger than my face. I would run panting across the intersecting roads to get back under their generous covering, grateful. From the very first run I felt the woods offering me friendship. I was enchanted. Ducks and dogs rushed to greet me. Shiny laughing crows teased me. Deer and sparrows tiptoed in the periphery. Spotted red mushrooms smiled. The lake sparkled. The trees were my favorite. The short one with blue flowers at her feet cheering me on at the start, …

Holy Outrage

[Featured on Perissos 1/18/16] Our world is terrifying. I can find something to be upset about every day. I open the computer and see in the headlines that ISIS beheaded more people, more refugee bodies washed on the shore, more homeless died in the cold, more kids were sold for sex, and more time was granted to Trump. Evil is smoldering, glittering, and snickering all over the world. Lord, what do you want me to do about evil? Sometimes I read the articles and watch the videos. Sometimes I like, comment, and share news posts. Sometimes I pray about them while I’m driving or running. And then they’re often forgotten, or at least pushed back a row in my mind to make room for the injustice I’ll surely read about tomorrow. Lord, what do you want me to do about evil? When I saw the pictures of the dead refugee baby on the beach last fall I was outraged. I wrote my elected officials and asked them to do more. That felt good for a few hours. But it didn’t …

He Already Did

[Featured on Perissos December 14, 2015] I said goodbye, closed the front door, and crumbled to a heap. My friend had quietly driven over to gently tell me she was having her fifth baby. I’d been trying for years to have one baby. We were now at the stage when people whispered apologies when they were pregnant. This is why I have a soft spot for the old barren couple who open the story of Advent. During the time when Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife’s name was Elizabeth; she also belonged to a priestly family. They both lived good lives in God’s sight and obeyed fully all the Lord’s laws and commands. They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old.” – Luke 1:5-7 Zechariah and Elizabeth were a ministry couple. They did everything right and yet somehow didn’t get to smell soft baby necks, play catch, or brag about grandchildren. They knew …

Church is like the Gym

When I was young I was smart and skinny without trying. People thought I was funny and I had enough friends. There was no need for exercise. Certainly not competitive sports. When I was older, aside from not being skinny, I was always in pain, and I didn’t have experience, tools, or muscles to help me. I had to learn to exercise. One gray day during my captivity as a mom of toddler twins, Chris came home smiling and announced that we were getting gym memberships for Christmas. I glowered at him. Was he saying I was fat? He explained that the gym had free childcare for 2 hours a day, so I could go do my physical therapy, or I could sit in a lounge chair and read a book. I kept giving him the stink eye but ended up going to get my picture taken for the membership card and bribing the babies with jelly beans to go to childcare without screaming. Oh, how I loathe the gym. The PTSD from Jump Rope for Heart …

World Changer Wednesday – You

I’ve been getting lots of tips for 2016. Why is everyone on facebook, instagram, email and text telling me how to be healthier, kinder, more stylish, more mindful, and more productive next year? If I knew how to do all that transforming I would already be doing it. If I had that self-control and discipline I wouldn’t need your planner, juicer, diet, questionnaire, accountability group, or membership. My defenses are high. I don’t feel like a World Changer, especially now, exhausted, surrounded by leftovers, cookies, wine, and noisy kids on Christmas break. I bet you don’t feel like one either. How can I possibly be a World Changer when I gave the kids my fearsome Alligator Face an hour ago? How can they be World Changers when they can’t remember to change their own underwear? Maybe we should all just go back to bed. 2015 was rough for Team Fritz. Chris and I just reviewed the outlandish list of goals and hopes we made during our great date on 1/3/15. We were shocked. Never before have we crossed …

World Changer Wednesday – Jesus

I can’t count how many times I’ve begged God for Rescue in my small life. Chronic pain keeps kicking me. Infertility taunted me. Kids test me. I say and do so many things I regret. And even when I’ve done everything right, I sometimes get lost or mistreated anyway. I can’t fix any of it on my own. I call out for “Help!” and I want a Rescuer to come running. When I call out to God for “Help!” I’m usually wanting Magic. I want the people I’ve hurt to get acute amnesia about our last conversation. I want the drunk driver to swerve a different direction and miss my car. I want my kids to be 100% compliant. Other times when I want God to “Help!” I’m asking for Power. I want to be Right and influence others to agree and act. I want to Perfect and avoid all mistakes. I want pain and suffering to end for me and everyone else. I want “Help!” right in the moment. I want a concierge and team of experts …

Moms – World Changer Wednesday

It’s still pitch black when my alarm goes off. I roll out of bed with a heavy head and prop myself up at the counter to brush my teeth. I sometimes pray for grace and joy in the morning, but sometimes I forget. Nine times out of ten, Greta bursts in my room with crazy hair, a scowl, and the declaration that she is NOT going to school. Sometimes she melts in my hug, other times she stomps away and slams a door. At 6:04am. In the next hour and a half I butter toast, wake 11 year olds, put ice packs in lunches, ask about deodorant, break up fights, clean up spills, try to shorten 30 minute showers, check backpacks, brush snarly hair, try not to look at my phone, and ask my kids not to touch each other. Some days I rush them. Some days I avoid eye contact. Some days I bark in frustration. Some days I sigh loudly. Every day I give all three of them full body hugs. Every day I pray …

Not Yet (Thanksgiving)

The best Thanksgiving I ever had was in 1994. I’d finally been kissed by the man of my dreams the night before. After months of writing letters overseas, he flew home and invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. I met his whole family, his closest friends, and his grandma who forlornly asked, “she’s not Norwegian at all?” My heart raced when I caught him looking at me across the room, and when he held my hand under the table. I was falling deeply in love. I was thankful. Several years later, the man of my dreams cooked a huge Thanksgiving dinner for our friends. We had a great time laughing, drinking, and admiring Chris’s culinary skills. After dinner we all went around the table to share what we were thankful for. One friend drew a tiny circle on a piece of paper, pointed to it, and said, “I’m thankful for our baby, who’s about this size in my belly right now.” We all clapped and cheered. Then 5 minutes later another couple announced their pregnancy. We clapped and cheered …

Fighters

I hate The Walking Dead. Many very smart, sensitive, and spiritual people love the show, like my husband, but not me. It’s not the haunted house make-up or the constant gargle of zombies that bother me. It’s that in order to survive, you have to kill. I hate it. We now live 15 minutes from where the series is filmed, so I’m trying to watch this season. I’m also trying to win Best Wife Ever. I ask about 35 questions per episode, but Chris still invites me to join him every freaking time. A couple of weeks ago I groaned, “I cannot take it. If the zombies come, honey, just kill me. I wouldn’t want to live like this.” Chris set his jaw, clenched his fist, and looked at me as if I just confessed an affair. He said, “Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that. We are fighters. We are survivors.” We told the kids about the attacks in Paris on Friday night at dinner. They asked if it was ISIS. I reluctantly told them …

This is What I’ve Got

I started running again, here in the Georgia woods, and I love it. Mushrooms, moss, flowers, and spiderwebs sing quiet songs. Ducks, deer, and dogs accompany me. My favorite trees feel like friends, and the familiar curves in the path are a comfort. It’s where God and I have most of our talks. Me: This is so beautiful, God. Thank you. God: I’m so glad you like it. I love you. Me: I love you, too. Me: What do you want from me, God? God: I only want what you have. Me: I feel like I don’t have much at all. God: What brings you joy? Me: I don’t know what brings me joy. God: I know it’s hard. Me: I’m trying. God: I know. I love you. Joy is hard for me to find. It’s not what anxious, depressed people are known for. I found it when I started surrendering. It’s different, almost rebellious, and I like it. This entanglement of surrender with joy is changing how I see God. God isn’t mad at me, and he isn’t mean. While …

You Gotta Be You (Halloween)

I am known for being a Truth Teller. I give it to you straight. I cannot hide my emotions or tolerate too much crap. I’m not good at pretending. So Halloween is not really my scene. This has always been the case. According to family legend, I was a strong-willed child. This story is one of my favorites: “When you were four you said you wanted to be Princess for Halloween. Your Mom didn’t buy you a plastic costume at K-Mart, she was going to make one for you. She stayed up all night to sew you a beautiful princess costume. It was shiny lavender with gold rick rack. You woke up the next morning on Halloween and hated it. You stomped and said, ‘I don’t want to be a Pretty Princess! I want to be Aimee Paulson!’” Here I am, fourth from the left, hanging out at Montessori that day. Screw you, Halloween. I’m Aimee Paulson. I played along in the future. I remember only two costumes. In 4th grade I was a gypsy – lots of blue …

Seeds

They handed me this box with teary smiles: Remember, we love you. It felt like an urn, full of things dead and over. I couldn’t look at it. I carried it home and packed it away, quickly. Many weeks and miles later we found it at the bottom of a storage container. Greta: Is that a treasure chest?! What’s inside?! Me: They said it was full of love. Greta: Can we open it? Me: I’m not ready. Many guests came to visit our new home, Sweet River. They roamed into my office, scanned the pictures and books on my shelves. Guest: What’s in the box? Me: I’m not sure. It’s from my friends. They gave it to me before I moved away. Guest: You haven’t opened it? Me: I’m thinking of keeping it shut, like a time capsule, until I’m in the nursing home. Guest: Really? Me: I’m not ready. The kids started their new schools. My big house and little heart felt painfully empty. An old friend called, concerned. Friend: It’s time to open the box. Me: I’m not …

Wrecked

Our first child was born October 3, 1998. We had been married 2 years. It was an unexpected, terrible birth. She was an ugly, horrible baby. She’s an awful demanding 17 year old. And while we’ve made peace, most days I fear her. My first baby’s name is Pain. She was born the night I was hit by a drunk driver. That day, my sister and I were hit from behind, pushed into oncoming traffic, and crashed into a second car. The guy who hit us side-swiped 3 other cars and sped off. My sister was covered in sparkling glass, we had some cuts, headaches and big bruises, but the paramedics couldn’t find anything severely wrong with us. But there was. Pain had arrived. She was an insufferable colicky newborn for 2.5 years. She demanded my full attention day and night. It felt like a steaming hot iron was being dropped on my tailbone every 10 minutes. To keep her quiet, I carried a pillow and ice packs to client meetings. I tried 8 different pain meds. We saw …

Bullies

I was bullied mercilessly as a kid. It started in 3rd grade, when I suddenly didn’t understand the fast multiplication in blue pen on the overhead projector. I got moved from smart math to regular math. My bully taunted, “Ha! You thought you were smart and you’re NOT! You are STUPID.” I walked through the halls with my head down. On the bus my bully would point and laugh when I moved my book bag over for a neighbor to sit down and she’d walk past ignoring me. “You have NO FRIENDS! You are LAME!” she shouted. I would sink in my seat, cross my arms, and try not to cry. We moved away after 6th grade. My new school in California was totally different. I was offered drugs on the bus and jr highers were having sex under the trailers instead of going to class. It didn’t take long for a bully to find me. “You don’t smoke POT?! You’re such a goody goody. NERD! LOSER!” I don’t think a boy talked to me once and my …