Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End and The Beginng

Today we celebrate the birth of our second child (and son) 12 years ago.  He's an amazingly imaginative and resilient boy, quirky and sweet when he's not being well, a tween boy. ;)

So we celebrated the end of 1999 with the birth of a baby a new beginning for our family.  It was very cool.

We will celebrate with some gifts and the dinner of his choice (a buffet of the family's favorite appetizers and finger foods- chicken wings, potato skins, mozzarella sticks, other various and sundry heart-unhealthy choices).

It is also a day when I look forward to a new year of new things.  I never did get to sit down and work on that plan of attack for the coming year.  I've thought about it and I've discussed, vaguely, some of it with the Husband but I didn't put it down on paper.

I'm not a big fan of the talk show people who tell us all that if we just put it down on paper we have  more likelihood of making it happen, but I do believe that being intentional and having a plan is going to be more effective than saying, "I'd like to do ____." and expecting it to miraculously happen.  I can't just wiggle my nose a la Samantha Stevens and expect magic.   

I can prayerfully consider and I can ask for God's wisdom and guidance, His intervention and help even, but even prayer requires action on my part.  I have to take that step.

I think, in a nutshell, my main goal for 2012 is to become more intentionally prayerful.  

So if I have to make one and only one resolution, one new beginning, it is to become more intentional about my prayer life, to schedule it and to make it a priority.

Wishing you an amazing day and a blessed New Year!


Friday, December 30, 2011

Planning Ahead...Sort Of

I'm planning ahead, sort of.

I am not huge on New Year's Resolutions (NYR).  I don't need a calendar page to make a change and I think it is entirely possible that the only NYR I have ever kept is, "I probably won't keep this NYR."

However, the new calendar and the 1st day of the year seems like a good time of the year to begin new things, if you like beginnings and need to prepare yourself for the change to come and want a fresh start with the new year.

That being said, I have decided that I need some organization and prioritization in my life.  I have been thinking about it.  I have lamented my new-found disorganization and I think I've written about how I feel that I have been dealing with things last minute, in crisis mode, rather than planning ahead and being prepared.  This is not a good feeling for me and it has prevented me from doing things the way I want to do them.

In the midst of preparing for the second son's birthday (tomorrow) I would like to sit down with a notebook and plan out what I want to change in the coming year, what I would like to do differently and even what I would like to accomplish.  I hope to make a schedule for myself, too.  I spend waste a lot of time being unproductive and time is one of those commodities you never get back.

I'm not going to lie, I also live in the hope that becoming more focused and organized will help 2012 go more smoothly and be more successful that 2011, which while not tragic had some rough spots, found me facing some demons and feeling more distracted and out of sync than I have in a long time.  A. Very. Long. Time.

So today, in the midst of the birthday prep and the children acting their age, I hope to sit down and prayerfully consider what I would like to do to change me in the coming year and to not shy away from setting goals and committing to keeping the ones that are in my control.  Falling off schedule is not a reason to give up but an opportunity to start again. If I prayerfully consider what I would like to, and need to do, if I listen with a quiet and open heart,  if I remember that I can do many things if I let God be my guide,  if I stop letting my old habits limit me, I will make some positive changes.

I am planning ahead for the New Year, hoping to make some positive changes to my life.  I am planning ahead fully understanding (and struggling to accept) that God's plans and mine may not be the same. (That's the "sort of", the recognition that my plan and His may not be in sync, I feel like that has been my life for the past few years.)  If I focus on prayerful planning, perhaps I will be on His page.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I guess it's stereotypical to think the conversation flows when aided by spirits,  tongue loosening agents like "adult beverages".  It's true, that lessens inhibitions.

Today though, I think it was the spirit of friendship and a willingness to be vulnerable which allowed the conversation to flow.  Over latte and hot chocolate, three women talked and shared and laughed and were honest ... and it was good.  Well, it was good for me to be able to say to people, "Sometimes I feel ____" ... and have them say, "I get that."  and I felt supported but not like they were judging or trying to tell me I shouldn't feel my feelings or even how I could fix them.  Instead, they affirmed my feelings and in doing so, they showed me grace and love (even if they didn't realize it :) ).  

We were present and authentic and I am so very thankful for the opportunity to share in that time.  

It started me thinking about how frequently in the past year I have had conversations with women who are reaching out, trying to build connections and close relationships with others.  We're all floating around each other but I suspect never quite sure how to make the leap from acquaintance to friend we can call to chat with on the phone, or have lunch with or to say, "Sometimes I feel like ___."  

I think most of us want the same thing.  Sure there are some who have plenty of friends already and cannot spare a minute for another friend, but I think most of us would love to have a few more people to share this crazy life with.  

My question for you (yes, YOU) is do you feel that way, like you need the connections and cannot seem to get from acquaintance to close friendship?  What would it take for you to be vulnerable enough to say, "Will you be my friend?" or not to say that but to start inviting and chatting and saying, "Hey, want to do lunch or coffee or a movie?"    I've written about this before here.  Obviously, it's still on my mind.  I have made headway, and yet, I still feel awkward about reaching out.  I still wonder why would someone want to be my friend?  

It is a spirit of love that encourages these relationships and this understanding.  It is a spirit of empathy that allows us to sit together and "get it".  It is a spirit of compassion that makes us care about others and want to hear their stories and share in their lives.  I think all of these are born of The Spirit, born of God and the commandment to love others as He first loved us, even when it's not easy or convenient, but gritty and emotional and real. 

This has been a gritty, emotional year for me.  I have learned to reach out and ask for the support and friendship I desperately need.  I hope that I am able to respond in kind; to be available enough and approachable enough that if someone reaches out I respond as a true friend.  I am learning to be vulnerable and it can be scary, but it has also shown me that I can trust other people.  

I am working at being more authentic and I truly believe that if we all could be "real" and honest we could be much better friends to one another.  (Not with, to, big difference.)  It isn't easy and it might not always be safe and I think we need to be careful judges about who we share our "stuff" with, but if we are building a friendship, perhaps we need to let the Spirit be our guide.  


Monday, December 26, 2011

None of My Business.

"It is none of my business what other people think of me."

I've seen it attributed to many people so suffice it to say, I heard it somewhere and I believe they are words to remember.  It's not always easy to fully embrace the sentiment, though.

Recently I heard about something said about the Husband and myself to other people who know us and I felt hurt and incredibly angry.  I found myself wishing I could set the people who heard this adjusted sense of reality straight lest they believe the stories being told.

While there are three sides to every story and perspective changes everything, the way I heard the story and the way it happened (from our perspective) are very, very different and actually paint quite a negative picture.  I imagined the listeners making judgments and thinking badly of us.

And then I thought of the saying, "It's not of my business what anyone else thinks of me." and while I still feel bothered, I realize this is not a battle in which it is worthwhile to engage.  People will believe what they want and they can consider the source....or not.  (shrug)

Calling someone on their adjusted sense of reality is usually akin to banging your head against a wall and I have tried banging my head on this particular wall before and gotten nothing for it but a nasty knot on my head and a splitting headache.

Whether other people know the truth or not, God does.  Sound cliche?  I guess it is, but really, people are going to judge or make assumptions and we are all human and see things through the filter of their own biases and experiences.  When I can accept that I have biases, make assumptions and that some people are better at pushing my buttons, I can more freely accept that, "It's none of my business what anyone else thinks of me."

I pray that we can all find peace in the knowledge that everyone has their own "side" and perception and that the only thing that matters is that we do our best to live out God' commandment to love.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Broken but Thankful

See that broken cookie, yeah that's me.  Not in the broken because I am human and by definition all humans are sinful and broken.

Broken because it's been a rough few years and we've been putting a brave face on but today something happened that highlighted how we're keeping life together with paperclips, chewing gum and the stray piece of duct tape.

I cannot express with words how grateful I am to the friends and family and church family who have been carrying us through this but there are times when it gets overwhelming to not be able to just do things as they should be done.

This morning my oldest boy went out with the car.  No problem. Right?  Until the phone rang and the same boys said, "Mom! I was in an accident!"  Want your blood to turn to ice water in your veins?  Get that phone call.  Thank God he is okay.  Shaken up and the car has some damage and he didn't get a ticket BUT...the kicker, the thing that highlights how we're keeping it together (or not so much) is that the reason for the accident is that the car's tires were unsafe.  The Husband was planning to buy new tires next week.  Now not only do we need to buy new tires, we need to come up with the deductible and... we could have lost our son.

God provides.  He watched over our son and kept him safe. He has provided for us through the tough times and continuing tough times.  I always say God has a plan and we don't always know or understand. I just wish...I wish that His plans were a little more in line with mine, with what I think of as normal.

I am thankful for all God has done for us and I will praise Him through it all.  Can you do me a favor?  Can you just pray for our family?  It would mean a great deal.

Lord, as we prepare to welcome Your son, I am thankful I still have all of mine here with me.  Thank You!

Merry Christmas from one broken but praying mom.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Wish...

On that social networking site which shall remain nameless, I saw a question from  the question was something to the effect of "If Santa materialized in front of you, what would your one wish be?"


Material things are nice but I don't know if even his magical bag is magical enough to hold a new house in the country with a big yard.  The Husband is currently in negotiations for a new (to us) van to replace the one that died on the side of the road Tuesday so that is no longer at the top of my list and I cannot think of anything else to wish for for myself.

I guess the key is that I don't think Santa can give me the things I really wish for any more than I believe that if Santa takes the year off because he has a cold and he's in a snit because he thinks we've all lost the Christmas spirit, Christmas will not come.

There are things I would like. I ooh and ahh over the Williams-Sonoma catalogue.  I wander through Barnes and Noble and sometimes drool over the books I'd love to buy, knowing they would be read in a few hours and then what?  Those are all little things, it seems to me, to use for one big wish.

The big things I would wish for are things that are mostly intangible (other than the house in the country with the big yard... Did you hear that, man in the red suit?!)

I wish for peace, for the world and for those I love and for myself.  I wish for hope, hope that is found in the belief that things happen for a reason and that everything has a purpose and can be used for good.  I wish for love, love that transcends envy and greed and is selfless.

On a night so long a ago, a baby was born to give us the gift of all these things.  Not a man in a red suit, but a helpless baby can and does grant the most meaningful and spectacular wishes...through faith.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crafty Goodness

I don't "do" tutorials. I mean, I don't write them.  I watch them. I read them. I try to follow them.  I love to learn new things.  I like to be creative.  It's fun!

I was planning to knit up a bunch of mini stockings but time got away from me, a migraine put its spell on me and well...I just dropped that ball.  I still needed the stockings so I decided to sew some.  I went to the fabric store intending to buy some felt.  Instead I came away with some cute flannel and coordinating grosgrain ribbon.  

First I drew a pattern.
Why yes, that is an old church bulletin.  It was sitting on the desk and I do like to re-purpose.

I folded the fabric so I could cut them in pairs and then I pinned them together so they stayed together.
Here they are all lined up on on the top of my chest freezer.  (I don't have a dedicated sewing space so I do my homework and my sewing in the dungeon basement between  the HO scale train table and the chest freezer, next to the perpetually running washer and dryer.  It's not fancy but it works.)

I folded the top of the stocking over twice and top stitched each piece before pinning them right sides together and sewing around the edges.  

After looking at them I decided they needed a little "somethin' somethin'" in addition to the green grosgrain hangers.  Soooo, I ran out this morning and found some yellow buttons. Its difficult to tell in the picture, but there is some yellow running through the plaid, the buttons pull that out.


I loved making these because it was something I created from start to finish.  I like making up my own patterns better than following the store-bought ones.  I love it when I have a vision and it works out. I love doing creative, crafty things.  This is a perfect time of year for crafting and for sharing our creativity.  I wish I had been inspired earlier in the season because I have so many ideas but not enough time.  

Next year!  

And I'll start sooner. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One Tiny Bit

If I was a better or different sort of blogger, I would have photo documentation of the carnage.

The carnage that was a tiny bit of dried red food coloring that fell off the flip top and hit the tile floor in my kitchen.  A tiny piece which I carelessly stepped on and than tracked through the kitchen leaving dark red blotches between the refrigerator, sink, oven and trash can.  (It is cookie baking day!)

Thank goodness I did not venture into the living room and its admittedly less-than-pristine oatmeal colored Berber carpet.  (It is not now oatmeal with red berries splotches. Phew!)

When I discovered the spots I started wiping and the spots grew and smeared and it got very messy.  My hands are a nice shade of red and a I threw the cloths I was using in the trash because I was afraid of what would happen in the wash if I tried to wash them. (I imagined a big red mess in the washing machine.  It was very, very scary.)

This is not the first time red food coloring has been an issue.  Two years ago, there was red spreading down the wall beneath the cabinet.  It look like there was blood dropping from the cabinet.  (Great, I'm living in a horror movie.  Cue the foreboding music.)  The red food coloring had gotten knocked on its side at the back of the cabinet and the flip top (who thought that was a good idea?) was ajar...hence, the horror movie effects dripping down the wall.  Lovely.

As I was wiping down the floor (with Miss M trying to help me, isn't she sweet?) I thought about how little things can have big impact.

One little speck made a whole lot of mess.  One harsh word can bring pain.  One word spoken in love can heal. One baby born in a manger...brought a whole lot of Peace.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

God and Santa and Christmas Lists

Yesterday, I was trying to get some Christmas shopping accomplished.  In my purse was a list separated by child and also lists for a few of the children, one had 4 little items, one covered the front and back of a piece of notebook paper and then I had one in between.  Three of the children did not write lists.

I texted and called the Husband multiple times.  The stuff on their lists was more of the same "stuff" already filling the basement, or it was junky or inappropriate or cost more than I could afford. ($400 Lego set, not happening.)  Two hours later I had purchased nothing.  

I was conflicted.  You see, I could buy them some of the items on their lists and they would be happy they got them for a little while.  On the other hand, I could buy them items not on their lists but that in my gut I know they would get more enjoyment or use from.  It was an internal argument and I was so afraid that they would be disappointed. (And who wants to see a disappointed (and obviously ungrateful) child on Christmas morning?) But, being their mom, I know what will have lasting value and what will be a flash in the pan or the piece of junk.  

I wanted to fulfill their lists as best I could because I love them, BUT (why yes, I did mean to put that in capital letters) sometimes what they will benefit from most and even enjoy most is not something they knew they wanted in the first place.  It's easy to get sucked in by great marketing ploys and what the world around them tells them they need and want.  

This morning I thought about how I pray very specific prayers sometimes and God does not answer...not the way I want him to, not with the answer I specifically requested.  Hello?!  The Bible tells us He will.  Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." (NIV).  That's all fine and dandy but sometimes God has a different plan and the desires of my heart are not His desires, at least not right now, and sooooo  the prayers seem to go unanswered.  

But they are not unanswered.  He says, "Not now," or "No," or "Not that way,"  He's not ignoring me or you or any of us.  

Last week I had some moments of feeling as though He had forgotten me.  I prayed with tears streaming down my cheeks, pleading and overwhelmed.  "Please, " I begged.  Now, usually when I pray I am not specific.  I am a "Your will be done" kind of pray-er, but I've been asking for something fairly specific for a long time and it's just not happening.  

Funny thing though, my "Please!" prayer got answered, quite beautifully.  That's the way God works.  He can fulfill His plan and we are taken care of, but we cannot always dictate the way it's going to happen (because I'm still waiting on that specific prayer. He's teaching me some patience, let me tell you!) 

These are opportunities to relax into my faith, to trust and to fully experience what it is to be taken care of, even when things are not going according to my plans.  

So, this morning I was reflecting on the Christmas lists and letters to Santa and how some of the boys' hearts desires will not be fulfilled.  I thought about the fact that just like the Husband and I have a plan for our children which they might not fully understand, God has one for me (and you) that we might not be fully on board for.  

May we all be aware of the ways in which prayers get answered in unexpected ways.  Sometimes we have to open our eyes to see the blessings and answers right in front of us.  I know I do. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

There Are Seven...

Lately I've been going by the days of the week rather than the dates. ("There are seven days, there are seven days there are seven days in a week....")

This should tell you I am not planning more than 7 days ahead for anything.  (Okay, I know that Christmas is coming and I am horribly, terribly unprepared and avoiding it, but that is another story...)

I knew that yesterday was Tuesday, all day, except when I wanted to think it was Wednesday.  We spent the day getting the house passable for a sweet friend to come over and watch the younger kids so that we could go with the oldest son to a college interview in the evening. (She is a champ and didn't run screaming from the house when we got home so she has some serious babysitting chops, don't you think?!) 

As I sat in the coffee shop waiting for the interviewer to arrive, I noticed a holiday banner with a picture of cardinals on it. My stomach kind of clenched as I turned to the Husband and said, "Today is the thirteenth, isn't it?"  He and the son looked at me like I was mentally deficient and said, "Yes."  (Remember I'm going by the days of the week like a preschool song right now, "There are seven days, there are seven days in a week..." At least I remember to be in the right place on "Tuesday".)

And then the interviewer arrived and we all smiled and were polite...

The thirteenth was (is?) my mom's birthday.  Yesterday she would have turned 78.   The boy err man who was interviewing with a college alum was 15 months old when she died on the 16th of December.  I forgot the date, just like 19 years ago on the 11th of this month, the Husband asked me to marry him (and I told him to ask me again when he as serious, which was apparently immediately after I said that) and I remembered on the 12th what anniversary was the 11th.  

I remembered yesterday's date when I saw the cardinals and thought of my mom who loved cardinals.  (Why yes, I am living a stream of consciousness sort of life right now.)  

So there are seven days in a week and for right now, I am living in weekly increments.  It's not great for long range planning.  It's not great for things that I have to remember by a number rather than one of those days...But it is where I am right now, at this moment.  

I feel sort of badly that I was so focused on tasks that I forgot the date.  It's not that I forgot her, I just was busy with the life swirling around me.  Does that happen to you? 

Sometimes I feel like I spend my life "putting out fires" and not enough time living intentionally.  I do not love it.  I Try to keep my focus on the things that matter, but I do get wrapped up in the minutia sometimes.  

Any idea where I am going with this?  Come must...  

I have seven days every week to make the most of the life that is right here in front of me.  Sometimes I might forget things.  Sometimes I might be flying by the seat of my pants.  Sometimes...the dates might get away from me.  I do my best.  (My best.)  

"There are seven days, there are seven days, there are seven days in a week..."  I will try to rejoice in each one...which is not always the easiest task (for me, anyway).  

Wishing you the time each day to remember what is most important.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Truth

Sometimes I get messages about this blog and people tell me how peaceful I sound.

I'm NOT!

The truth is, I want to reach out and touch people (not in a creepy way, more like those old telephone company ads, remember those?) and sometimes I hear that I do.  My heart sings to know that I have reached someone, made someone feel better or connected with them.

But the truth is...I am not at peace, I do not have all the answers and sometimes, sometimes I feel like a big fraud. 

Do I believe what I write here?  Absolutely. I believe in a loving, forgiving and grace-filled God.  I believe we can trust God.  I believe we do not ever walk alone. 

Err umm I believe that you don't ever walk alone. 

The truth is, often I feel like I've ticked God off in a major way and He has washed His hand of me. (Picture him wiping his hands together to brush off the crumbs of my messiness.)  I feel it in my heart when I am feeling unlovely and maybe a little bit like everyone else's life is working out and mine is not. so. much.  I feel the envy rotting my bones.  I feel the weight of poor decisions on my shoulders.  I feel... hopeless.

I don't think anyone else should feel this way. I think God is all merciful and loving.  It's just that...I don't understand why things haven't worked out. Clearly my sins, my poor decisions and my own messiness are far worse than yours.  Right?  Because I must have done something...

So when I write, imagine me trying to find the peace through my words.  When you read, know that I am trying to find my way.  I know the Truth, but I cannot always feel it.  I know He is with me, but sometimes I feel like I cannot find Him.  His footsteps are silent, His hands so gentle that I may not notice their embrace. 

At these times, I just know that somehow, someway He will get me through. And He will get you through, too. 

I believe it, but the truth is, sometimes I don't feel it. I pray that you always do. 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Piles of (Mile)stones

One in diapers, one a senior in high school and four in between.

My life is all over the place, quite literally.

I like it but it is a bit like being on an emotional roller coaster all the time.  There is always something going on, and I don't mean games and art projects, I mean the emotional, spiritual stuff of life.  I guess that's part of having six blessings to love and care for.  There is always a milestone or 2 or 6 happening.  Those milestones add up to one emotional mommy.  And FYI, I am emotional to begin with.

So tonight, after an intense weekend of grad school (my peers have said they are emotionally fried too, so it's not just me), I went to the oldest boy's LAST holiday choral concert of his high school career.  What?!  I swear I was just telling the Husband there were two blue lines on the test at this time 18 years ago.  I swear, it was just yesterday he was saying, "Do you have any idea how much diapers cost?"  (Obviously he got over that. LOL)  And my mother was saying, to me, her three-months married daughter, "I thought you were going to wait."  And here I am the mom of a high school senior with college applications submitted.

And the mother of a 6th grader and a 5th grader and a 2nd grader and a 4 yo and a 1 yo...and I have a heart so overflowing with love and gratitude and ...fear.

Every stage and phase is new and different and each child goes through each phase differently too, because they are all uniquely and wonderfully made.  The Husband and I are constantly adjusting and muddling through, hoping we're giving each child what they need to be their best self...because they each need different stuff from us, at different times and in different ways.

The truth is...The older my kids get, and the less I can micro manage their lives, the scarier it gets for me.  You see, seeing them worry and hurt and struggle with anything hurts my heart.

I thought that having 6 kids, it wouldn't be so hard to say goodbye to the stages of my oldest.  News flash:  His last Holiday Choral Concert was a milestone, a last time to sing A Night of Silence.  A last time to see my son process in singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel  a Capella with the other men.  (Men?!)

And on the other end, Miss M is starting to show her spunky personality as she runs through the house doing her impersonation of a tornado, frequently half-dressed.

I can see where he's been and where each of them may or may not be going.  I can see that each phase has it's beauty and excitement and also it's tougher parts, too.

And then there are the balls I fear I've dropped, the ways I think I've let the oldest boy down or the others or the ways I will still fail them.  And my heart aches.  And I wonder, is part of the milestones learning that I will keep dropping the ball and letting them down and being an imperfect parent, no matter How. Hard. I. Try. ?

All of these things were running through my mind today as I watched and listened and experienced His. Last. Holiday. Choral. Festival.

These phases and stages are tough and tiring and scary.  I do not have all the answers.  I will drop the ball and I will let them down.  That's a fact of life.  Want to be a big liar?  Say you have all the answers.  I don't.  You don't.  No human does.  God, however, does.

So tonight after I had my little, "ball dropping, failing my kids" moment, I sat in that auditorium watching all of those teenagers singing and can you guess what I did?  I prayed for them.  Oh yes, I did.  And I just realized, as I prayed I dropped the ball so just now, I prayed for their parents.

Through all the phases and stages and piles of milestones, I can turn to God.  I can talk to friends and the Husband and always, always I can lean on God.  So. Can. You.  I can let the fear and worry take control or I can turn to the One who has the answers and the plan and can use anything at all for good.

That sounds much better than a heart full of fear facing this big pile of (mile)stones, don't you think?

-Peace and Love

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


(Mercy Me- "The Little Drummer Boy")

Last night, I shared with you that I am supposed to be writing papers for school (still not finished, by the way, bad Stacey) and I was struggling.  

I have a confession.  I might be a wee bit of a perfectionist and I might over think things and perhaps my perfectionist tendencies sometimes impede my ability to begin or finish tasks which I feel may be....imperfect.  

The Husband has pointed out that I have modeled this particular trait so well that the oldest boy might be a wee bit of a perfectionist himself.  It is not something I am proud of. 

I wish to be proud of my work and what I produce but this morning as I was driving to MOPS listening to Mercy Me sing "The Little Drummer Boy" I got chill as I always do when they sing, "Shall I play for you? Mary looked at me and nodded, the ox and lamb kept time.  I played my drum for Him. I played my best for Christ. I played my best for Christ."  That lyric gives me goosebumps.  I played my best for Christ.

All at once I was convicted and freed.  You see, at first I started thinking about all the ways I fall short of best, all the things I don't do well enough.   I don't do them well enough in my eyes.  I am not the best at them. Convicted through my faults and failures and less-thans. 

 And then, I realized, God doesn't ask me to be the best He asks me to be my best.  Second confession of this post, I had tears in my eyes along with the goosebumps and the hair that was standing up on my neck.

That friends, is how I was freed.  Freedom to serve as only I am created to serve is doing my best.  

So whether you're writing papers for school or teaching, no matter what you're doing in your life, all you are asked to do, all you are called to do,  is your  best with the big things and the little things.  Whether you're rich or poor, playing a drum or bringing frankincense and myrrh, if you are bringing your  best, He will smile. 

So today, I will focus on doing my best, and bringing my best to all things.  

Praying you can relax into your best, too.  

-Peace and Love

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So I Should Be Writing a Paper..

I have two papers due on Friday.  Two papers which are incomplete right now and which I am having an internal tantrum about doing.  I am struggling with certain logistical aspects of citing and I am just feeling...annoyed.

You see, I would much rather be writing here.  It's like talking to a friend or two when I post here.  I can choose my topic and as long as I'm not plagiarizing, do you care whether I use APA to cite?  Not really.  (And for the record APA is not my BFF).

So, I have been leaning on my friends through this ordeal, via crackbook FB and text, we have been chatting about the assignment, they have been offering words of support, suggestions and commiseration.  I am so thankful to have what Dr. Henry Cloud referred to as "monkeys", those friends you turn to for support.  Ever since we heard that at the Women of Faith- Imagine  event the women I went with and those who have heard the story talk about our monkeys with fondness and affection.

In fact, one of my friends posted "In Christ Alone" on the FB as a shout out to her monkeys and I find myself turning to it when I need to be reminded of all that He has done for me.  The verse that seems to catch my ears every time is: And as He stands in victory, sin's curse has lost it's grip on me.  For I am His and he is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.  

I need to remember sometimes that sin doesn't have the last word.  My bad decisions do not have the last word.  The last word comes from that sacrificial act so long ago which is the most amazing gift.

I remember standing in a conference room with thousands of other women at MOPS convention and hearing Travis Cottrell sing this song and feeling it in my heart and soul, feeling that gift.  It made me get goosebumps.  I am so thankful to be reminded by a monkey of this awesome experience and opportunity to worship together with so many other women.

So although I should be writing a paper, I am babbling to you about this gift which makes me smile, makes my heart sing and makes me just want to stand up and shout, "He loves YOU!"  As I keep telling a sweet friend, "You've got this and He's got you."  He's got you and me and all of us.  Amen!

And as a side note...don't you think I should be published and paid to write?   It would solve this "writing papers for grades" issue!

Praying you find the peace and joy and gifts of grace in your life, that you have friends that remind you (even unintentionally) of what an amazing God we have and that you know that you, yes you, are loved.

(from the girl avoiding writing school-related papers)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's So Beautiful

Those were the words 4 yo *I* used to describe the park today.

The sky was a roiling mass of gray clouds, the trees were bare, the landscape shades of brown and the ground a little bit (or a lot) on the muddy side.  

The Husband and I took advantage of the younger boys' conference day to hit the trail with all but the high schooler who was still trapped in those hallowed halls of learning.

I have to agree with *I*.  I thought it was beautiful.  Much like the song The Colors of My Life from Barnum,
The colors of my life, Are softer than a breeze.  The silver gray of eiderdown, the dappled green of trees.  The amber of a wheat field, the hazel of a seed, the crystal of a raindrop, are all I'll ever need.  Your reds are much too bold, in gold I find no worth.  I'll fill my days with sage and brown, the colors of the earth, and if from by my side my love should roam.  The colors of my life will shine a quiet light to lead him home.
It's true I love the starkness of late autumn, the crispness and even the shades of brown and gray.  The Husband doesn't get my love of this season he sees as one of death.  For me, this season signifies family togetherness, comfort food, crackling fires and calm.  It means knitting and baking, quiet nights at home and...a feeling of home. 

I loved walking through the woods today.  There is something refreshing about bundling up to see the world around me that makes me feel safe and content.  I loved watching *I* talking to the birds.  I enjoyed seeing the cardinals playing chase and thinking of how my mom loved cardinals.  I laughed at *N* running ahead like a bull in a china shop and then yelling at his brothers to be quiet because he wanted to see animals. lol. 

In the quiet of late autumn, I feel in tune with the world around me.  In the quiet, I can prepare my heart and soul and mind in this season of advent for the joyous celebration and gift that is to come.  Maybe that is why the death of autumn brings me introspection and not sadness...there's a baby due in a few weeks, a beautiful savior and I need to be quiet and get ready.

Yes, sweet *I*, it is beautiful.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We Can Work it Out

There seems to be a common theme in my home lately.  

The Husband or I will find ourselves saying to one of the boys (because the princess is too little yet), "Whatever it is, we can work it out."  The "whatever" is different based on ages and stages but they all need to hear this from us.  

Children need to know that we are in their corner and always will be.  They do not have to walk alone.  Sometimes they might choose to walk alone for a while, to be independent and make their own choices.  But, when they are done flying solo, or when they get into a tight spot or even feel a little bit (or a lot) overwhelmed or afraid, we will be hold their hand, hug them, listen or sit silently beside them.  

Here's the thing: it is my job as a mom to do this.  I know it in every fiber of my being, BUT it can be so very hard.  We can't always control their choices, we can't always convince them it will be okay, we can't always fix the problem.    Sometimes no matter how much they need us there, they really would rather we not be there at all.  It is difficult and painful and sometimes just plain overwhelming.  

Sometimes the issues are huge to them and to me, not so much.  For instance, my 7 yo *E* had some overdue books at the school library.  I reminded him daily to return them and this morning I emailed his teacher to ask her to remind him.  Well, apparently he was dragging his feet because the books had an unfortunate relationship with a nasty black banana at the bottom of his backpack (I knew about said incident, cleaned off the books (I tried, at least) and admonished him loudly and sternly to "Never, never EVER" bring home a school lunch banana).  

So today he will be bringing home a "Damaged Book" form and I will tell him we will take care of it (and this is why we should never ever put bananas in our backpacks) but more importantly I will tell him that no matter what he is worried about, he can talk to us and between daddy and I, "We can work it out."  We can't turn back time, the book is damaged and there is the consequence of us paying for the book.  

There are often consequences to our choices and actions, some will be more painful than others and some we can "fix" and others where we can only be present to support through the resulting troubles. Just like the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32...we will welcome them home no matter what and rejoice that they have returned, even if they have lost their inheritance and made poor choices.  (My kids aren't looking at any inheritance, no worries there. ;) )

This story also reminds me that God, The Father, the ultimate parent, always welcomes me home, no matter what I have messed up, squandered or failed to do.  No matter what the situation, God tells me, just as I tell my kids, "We can work it out." 


Friday, November 25, 2011

The Outskirts of Town

The gray sky and biting wind are typical late November.  That's why I told him to bring his gloves.  He wasn't sure he wanted to come with me especially when all I said, was, "Get your shoes on we're going out."  The only answer I would give him about our destination was, "The outskirts of town."  

He wasn't keen on getting out of the car when we arrived at the park but he did and as we started walking his attitude became less grumpy and more talkative. 

10 year-old *N*  has a strong sense of justice, or better stated, his perceived experience of injustice.  He always wants to speak his case, even when he's been told to, "Just stop."

Things were quickly spinning out of control with his mouth and his desire to be right and the disrespect was increasing in direct proportion to my blood pressure.  His refusal to accept responsibility, to see another's point of view and respect our authority was spiralling out of control.  Something needed to change.

Which is when I decided to take him to the outskirts of town.

 "The outskirts of town," is part of a line Binky Barnes says in an Arthur cartoon that the Husband and I joke about.  Binky thinks that they will get dropped off at the outskirts of town for losing a game.  (He is then disappointed because, "I'll never get to see the outskirts of town." which must, in his imagination be a scary place. ;) )

*N* needed to be out of the situation and since he refuses to go to, or stay in, his room, he wasn't getting that reset, change of scenery, time to cool down, in the traditional way.  Our words were falling on deaf ears and since our volume was getting louder, he was very, very listening impaired.

When we started walking the path at the park, I talked about the scenery, the changes and small talk.  After a few minutes, I talked  to him about what was going on at home.  The first time I brought it up, in typical *N* fashion he just kept talking about his own thing but the boy gets a little of that tenacity from me and I rolled the conversation back around and I think I got my point across.

I emphasized our love for him.  I told him we wanted to listen to him and hear his side, but that hearing his side didn't mean we would agree with him.  I also told him he needed to respect our authority.  I think he heard me.

I don't think I could have gotten that far had I tried to keep going around in circles on the stairway landing.  He needed to come with me to the outskirts of town, to have a change of scenery and to see that I was willing to listen and walk alongside him even when I wasn't feeling warm and fuzzy.

That's all we all really want, isn't it?  To know that we will still have someone walking alongside us when we're on the outskirts of town, when we're not our most lovable.  

Thank You God, for walking with me and Thank You, for modeling that for me, for giving me the patience and wisdom to know that is what *N* needed on that cold, gray day.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Not a Magazine Shoot..Thanksgiving

That's right.  Our Thanksgiving meal will not resemble that on the glossy pages of a magazine.  There will be a tablecloth on the table and the requisite cloth napkins on the table, but since I always use cloth napkins, that's not a big deal.  There will be matching plates on the table. There will be a beautifully sliced turkey, the Husband has a gift with that.  We will have a bountiful feast, but I guarantee you that several of the children will turn up their noses at all but the dinner rolls and the cranberry jelly.

Our outfits will not match or even coordinate.  There was a time when my kids had outfits for Thanksgiving, that has flown out the window to scratch in the dirt with the pardoned turkeys. 

I grew up, I think I have mentioned, in a home where holidays were supposed to resemble glossy magazine pages.  Inevitably, it was a time of stress and rigidity not a time of togetherness and fun.

Maybe one of the reasons I wanted a bunch of kids is so that I could have one of those crazy, hectic joy-filled holidays full of laughter and creativity and LOVE.  I don't want magazine pictures but I guess I envisioned the Walton's or those holiday movies of my youth where the family gathered to play football in the yard and laughed together in the kitchen.

My vision was no more achievable than my mom's.  As much as I would like to, I do not have the gentle, calm presence of Olivia Walton.  My boys have yet to play a game of football in the backyard.

We have to find our own way to celebrate and enjoy each other and to be.  It cannot be found in the pages of magazines or on our television screens.  We cannot model our perfect life on things man-made.

Our life stretches out before us, our choices are our own.  Our experiences are woven together into a beautiful tapestry.  God created a plan and no matter which choices we make or what threads go next to each other, it can all be made into something beautiful.

So, if the house is still messy and the outfits don't match, if the kids bicker and we don't have a centerpiece on the table...we still have much to be thankful for. I am thankful for this crazy, stressful, imperfect life.  It all works together for good.  I am thankful for living and breathing and feeling, for loving and crying and laughing and just being.

Wishing you peace and contentment on this day where we remember that life on this land was fraught with struggles and adventures and that is why we celebrate thanksgiving...because those first givers of thanks recognized that life is hard and unpredictable and we should at all times and in all thankful.

-In love

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemon Drops

I discovered a new band this weekend.  If you are offended by cussing, references to alcohol, smoking or sugar daddies, this is not the music for you.  However, I think Pistol Annies is a fun band and there are some great lyrics on the album.

So what does that have to do with Lemon drops you might be wondering? of their songs is titled "Lemon Drop" and I love the refrain, My life is like a lemon drop. I'm sucking on the bitter to get to the sweet part.  I know there are better days ahead. 

There was a time when lemon drops were my very best friend.  They were, you see, the only thing that kept the morning all day sickness at bay when I was pregnant with *E* in 2004.  I kept an ample supply in front of me as I sat through classes trying not to make a mad dash for the closest restroom.  (I found out we were expecting 1 week after I began seminary, God has an amazing sense of humor...and timing.)

Those lemon drops were a bitter and sweet that helped me get through the rough parts and now *E* is a 7 year old.  I sucked on the bitter to get to the sweet parts..and we still have bitter and sweet parts.

And life is like that.  We have bitter and sweet and sometimes it feels like the bitter lasts longer than the sweet.  Sometimes it looks like someone else got a sweeter lemon drop.  Sometimes we might even feel like our lemon drop was sweeter that we deserved. 

Sometimes our bitter is just too much to bear; the pain too deep and raw.  Sometimes we cannot imagine there ever being a sweet part, cannot fathom the end of the bitterness. 

I confess to you right now, that I could find all sorts of little things to get all bitter about and that bitterness could grow; whether from worry or envy, frustration or hurt. The thing is, I would have to nurture that bitterness for it to grow.  I would have to give energy, time and focus to the envy or worry, frustration or hurt in order for them to grow and then it would be like sucking on the never-ending-bitter lemon drop. 

What I have to relearn over and over again (because I am a cup half-empty girl) is that we have to have faith and hope in the sweet part.  It will come.  It is going to come.  But if we're too busy focusing on the bitterness...we might not be open to experiencing the sweet. 

Sometimes I feel like living in the expectation of sweet parts is naive.  My half-empty cup mocks my hope.  My reality-driven mind makes me question whether there will ever be sweet parts again or if we got the defective lemon drops without sweet parts. 

But then into my mind pops my "go to" verse, Jer 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  I take the plans to prosper, to give hope and a future as the sweet parts.  I hold on to those words of God, He who has a plan for me,  even when others think my faith is blissful ignorance, because that faith allows me to live in expectation of sweet parts. 

Thank you Pistol Annies  for reminding me of my love for lemon drops, how they got me through some rough months and that there are some very sweet parts, too.  They got me to thinking about the bitter and the sweet in every day, how we can nurture the bitter or expect the sweet and either way we'll get what we nurture and expect.  Either way, we'll taste what we expect to taste. 

My life is like a lemon drop. I'm sucking on the bitter to get to the sweet part. I know there are better days ahead.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Special

This morning I was sitting at the counter trying to write a paper for school (and grousing about it. ;) ) and I started craving a little something...or a big something. 

I thought about the bacon in the refrigerator and the potatoes in the pantry.  Then I thought about making bacon, eggs and home fries.  Not exactly a heart-friendly meal.  Not exactly a quick fix but comfort food.

As I abandoned the schoolwork to tie on my apron (all that grease splatters, you know), I thought that maybe I was missing my dad and his signature breakfast, one an old boyfriend used to call "The George Special":  crispy bacon, eggs over easy and home fries soft on the inside and crispy, peppered goodness on the outside, with golden brown toast on the side.  All I am missing is some orange marmalade...and my dad.

My father was never one to say, "I love you."  The first time he did say it was when I was a freshman in college, the day my mom had a triple bypass and I had food poisoning.  It was December 2nd.  I don't hold it against him.  I knew he was always there for me and he was forever driving me and my friends, tolerating the obscenely loud music and waiting for ridiculous amounts of time for me to be ready.  He just didn't express love with words or hugs.  He was far more comfortable with acts of service.

Today as I assemble the greasy goodness in my own kitchen, counters covered with papers and books and stuff, I am far removed from the uber-tidy kitchen of my youth.  It's not just the clutter though, but a feeling of warmth and love and care that I felt sitting at that round table waiting for my plate to arrive; a sense of security.

I wonder, am I creating the same sense of home and love and care here as I felt there, even when the "care" was suffocating and sometimes confidence-stealing it was always there.  I think when I wrote about going home this is the feeling I was seeking.  I didn't find it when I went home, but I pray that my own children feel that safety and security and love (but not the suffocation) at our home. 

That is my goal, for them to feel loved and secure.  And for them to know they are loved by One who is far greater than our wildest imaginations, One who can love more unconditionally and completely than human comprehension.  I rest in that love when I miss my earthly parents, knowing they did the best they could in the ways they could and that I am abundantly blessed to have eaten those "George Specials" for so many years.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hope is..

In college I had a professor who taught me a great deal about finding my voice in my writing and about having confidence in the value of what I wrote.  I'm not sure whether that was her intent as she set out to instruct her journalism students, but in reflection, that is precisely what she did. 

She had won a Pulitzer, so to me it was akin to sitting at the feet of a rock star.  She gave me A's which meant validation and freedom from the high school English teacher who told me I would never be an "A" writer.  (I try not to hold a grudge about that. lol) Maybe I am not an "A" writer, but in Maddie's class I was, and that made all the difference.  She gave me...hope.

It was my first J. class.  I remember reading aloud from what I wrote and feeling naked right down to my soul and here I sit at my counter writing naked from my soul for strangers; something that made me physically ill all those years ago, hands shaking, mouth dry, wishing to be invisible I do willingly though faceless now....and back then I got positive feedback, constructive criticism...and an "A" that gave me...hope that someday I maybe would really be a writer. 

A dream and a hope I still hold tightly in a cautious,closed fist, lest I open it up, toss it in the air..and instead of flying, it falls to the ground like lead.  And then I will again hear those words repeat in my head, "You will never be an "A" writer."

One of Maddie's books is about a girls' high school basketball team.  I thought of the title today, though I've never read it, In these Girls, Hope is a Muscle.  I love the title.  I love what that means.

In me and you and everyone, hope is a muscle.  It is the hope we hold that pushes us forward.  It is the hope which motivates and energizes and stirs us to action.  We can be builders of hope.  We can give false hope.  We can dampen or even destroy hope. 

One of my "go to" verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  (NIV)

Remembering this verse reminds me that my hope does not rest in another person's subjective judgement of me or my abilities.  My hope rests in God who can use all things for good. My hope rests in knowing that I am resting securely in the arms of God, even when things feel uncertain. I can bring the gifts I have to God, and he can use them.

My hope rests in knowing that if it is God's will, I can loosen my grip on my dreams, set them free to fly and I will be okay whether they sink like lead..or fly like eagles.  My hope is a muscle and God is my strength and comfort. 

My prayer is that you have hope in God and in your life; that you may find comfort and peace in using your gifts to reach your dreams, whatever they may be.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Terrific Toddler Tuesday

T is for Tuesday,
and Terrific,
and Toddler.

And while Toddlers can be adorable they can also Test (another T-word) the Tolerance of the mother (no T-word for that) taking care of said Toddler.

The current (and last) toddler in our home is as cute as can be; dancing to the music, clapping, waving....taking off her shirt and waving it over her head, throwing anything she can get her hands on in the garbage can. (Is it any wonder when my keys went MIA that I was certain they were in the local landfill?  They were not, instead they were just keeping warm under the toaster oven.)

Miss M is terrific with a capital T.  She really is.  Terrific Toddlers require a particular amount of supervision, both for their own protection and that of all items in your home not nailed down or light enough for a toddler to drag to a garbage receptacle.  That being said, it is my unscientific opinion that Terrific Toddlers are much like ants and can drag items multiple times their weight to garbage receptacles where they are then able to deposit them when slacking mothers, doing silly things like dishes, are not paying attention.

So on this Terrific Toddler Tuesday...I'd like to tell you that Miss M is Magnificently Marvelous just as she is..even if that means I rescue things from garbage cans and "keep your shirt on" is a literal admonition and not a figure of speech.

Each day I am Thankful for the Totally Terrific Toddler who Terrorizes  Thrills our Tribe with each smile and laugh.

Wishing you a Totally Terrific Tuesday, whether you live with offspring or not.  May each day be seen as a gift.


Monday, November 7, 2011

"Today I Am..."

"Today I am thankful for..."

Each morning this month (except the one I already forgot and had to add in .... and it's only the 7th!)  I have made a status update on fb that began with the words..."Today I am thankful for ___." 

In Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, she makes a practice of noting the little and mundane things that she is thankful for. 

How much in my life do I take for granted?

I know I do it and I am ashamed.  I see the greener grass, the shinier car, the tidier home, the thinner, the more chic, and it is so very easy to forget all my blessings.

Funny thing, I never (or rarely, one should never say never ;) ) take for granted the washer and dryer in my basement. 

We had been a family of five for a couple of years before we had our own washer and dryer.  Before that I was schlepping to laundromats once or twice a week.  Now, with eight of us, I do at least two loads of laundry a day and I am grateful each time I do a load that I can do it in my own home.  I have not forgotten what a gift doing laundry is. 

This weekend at the Women of Faith event, Lisa Harper, shared her analogy of God's love being like a pile of warm laundry which we can relax into.  This morning as I was pulling the soft, warm clothes out of the dryer I thought of that analogy, of how grateful I am to be able to do laundry for my family of eight, how God's love shines through that small task of clean clothes and how great it is to be able to do it. 

Sometimes I take my family for granted.  When the bickering gets out of control, when I step on pointy Legos in bare feet, when all I want is a few minutes to think in peace...I forget that it is a miracle that brought them to me.  You can talk about the science of eggs and fertilization, but let's not forget that you can have all the elements and still not have a baby.  I have friends experiencing infertility and my heart aches for them...and yet, I forget how blessed I am. 

Today, though as I pulled my son's shirt from the dryer and thought of Lisa Harper's analogy, I remembered....

Today I am thankful for warm and cozy, clean and miraculous.  Today I am thankful for reminders to be thankful and grateful and live life in the warmth of God's love. 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Small Things.

I looked at the kitchen floor, I saw spots. 

I looked at the pantry and realized I was out of pasta, the refrigerator had only a small cube of mozzarella.

The bathroom, well, there are 5 boy-children living here.

Little chores.  Little things.  They add up and can make me feel overwhelmed and a little "put upon". I sigh.  I grumble.  I grind my teeth.  I resent the little chores I need to do and I joke about the Cleaning fairy never showing up. 

This afternoon, I had a shift of perspective.  I realized I was not being faithful in the small things in my life and yet, in doing the small things I am serving a much greater purpose. 


That can be seen as a dirty word.  How many times have I thought (or said), "I am not your servant." to one of my kids?  I'm not their servant, really.  But sometimes, I get wrapped up in myself enough to forget that it is in doing these tasks and chores that I am being faithful in the small things, and that even the smallest tasks done with a joyful, loving heart are pleasing to God and that big, fancy tasks done with a bitter spirit are unpleasing to Him too.

Small things aren't just household tasks.  It could be the spirit in which we hold open a door or let someone merge into traffic in front of us.  If we do it grudgingly instead of joyfully, I think we miss out on something.  Let me make that clear.  We. Miss. Out. On. Something. 

In Luke 16:10, Jesus says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little, can also be trusted with much."  This does not mean that we should do things to receive more stuff, more blessings.  Instead perhaps we can look at it like this, when we are faithful in the small things we are open and responsible to handle the bigger things.  I also find that when my heart is right about the small things in life, I can better respond to the bigger things in life, good and bad.  The converse is true as well.  When my heart is bitter about the small things, I cannot see the bigger, better picture.  My bitterness over the little things can blur the beautiful and bountiful things all around me. 

I don't think we should sweat the small stuff.  I do believe we need to see the value in the small stuff.  Babies are little and they are the future.  Diamonds are little (mostly ;) ) and they're a girl's best friend.  Punctuation marks are little and just think about how much they can change meaning of a sentence.  With faith as small as a mustard seed, (Luke 17:6), you could order a tree to uproot itself and it would. 

I am going to re-up my efforts to be more faithful in the small things and to appreciate the small things more too.  I'm also working to grow in my faith.  I think that's an area that can always be nurtured to grow.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Am a Woman


I spent two days at a Women of Faith  event hearing the stories of amazing speakers, sharing the Love of God.  Getting take away words of wisdom from Luci Swindoll, " Don't miss life by waiting for it to change", This is your gift, it's called your life."  From Lisa Harper, " Lean into God like a pile of warm laundry."  Angie Smith, "In the storm, focus on the man who says he is the son of God."  Natalie Grant quoted Max Lucado, " You are not and accident."  She said, "You are a princess."  Nicole Johnson,"God will take our tragedies and if we give him the pieces He will make them something more beautiful than we ca imagine." and Sheila Walsh,"The shepherd knows where to find you.  It's his job to get you all the way home."

I laughed so hard that tears streamed down my face and my stomach ached.  It was good.  I heard stories of such pain and injustice that I bit my lip and one of my friends passed tissues down the aisle.  There was singing and dancing and a little bit of coveting (Please forgive us)...there were some sweet boots on that platform and there was one dress that I am thinking would be very cute in my closet. ;) 

We were ladies together.  8,000+ women; lots of ages and stages and denominations and phases of faith life and of chronological age.  We shared the common experience of being women and there is something about that club, about the expectations and understanding and experiences of being a  woman in this world, that gave us a bond. 

Which is why...

I adore my girlfriends.  I love what we can share and how we can support and nurture one another.  I love that they can challenge me and encourage me and yes, even give me a firm shove when I cannot get out of my own way.  (I might screech, but sometimes I need a little push to jump off the diving board instead of gazing longingly at the water.)  I love the women I was privileged to share this experience with; to chat and process and grow with. 

As I frequently say, "I love my ladies."  I mean all of my girlfriends, all the ladies I share those XX chromosomes with.  You are all amazing, unique women and I think you're awesome.  We don't have to agree on everything or much of anything, as long as we can agree to just accept each other where we are, it's all good in my eyes. 

I love my ladies.  I love that in a room of 8,000 strangers we all were women united in laughter and tears.  I love that I have opportunities to learn and grow and be.  I love....that I am woman.  Did you hear that?  I roared. 


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Home is...

I love this song but it makes me cry to varying degrees depending how fragile I'm feeling and for  a few different reasons.  

It was popular when my dad was dying and the verse, Be careful what you wish for, cuz you just might get it all and then some you don't want, took on poignant meaning.  I was dreading going home for the funeral because I knew the family drama would be high and I would be trying to play peacemaker or at least try to pick my way through the battlefield keeping myself and my little family relatively unscathed.  Yeah, wish granted since he died the day *I* was born making it impossible for me to make the 10 hour trek for his funeral.  

As I listened to it on the treadmill yesterday, it brought on tears for a new and different reason.  But if you know me, you know that tears are my release valve so, no big news there.  I was just glad no one was downstairs to witness the huge sobs as I chugged along, no one I had to reassure that mommy was fine, because I wasn't.

I realized the truth in the cliche, "You can never go home again,"  recently.  I also realized that home is not always the geographic place where you grow up, where your childhood home is or even where your biological family is.

The kiddos and I took a road trip back to the place where I grew up, where two of my kids were born.  The mountains were gorgeous, the air was so fresh say we were not welcomed with open arms would be an understatement.  


So after little more than a drive by hello to family because we felt so welcomed and loved (not), I showed the kids where I lived, where I worked, we went to the top of a mountain (the picture at the top of this blog) ate some ice cream and came back...home.  

I left my house in the morning thinking I was going home, and I left the place of my birth heading ... home.  

As we were driving out of town that afternoon, I turned to the 17 yo and said, "It's beautiful here but as much as I love it, I don't think we could live here again."  He finished my thought, "We don't have anyone here anymore."  

I had to keep my eyes on the road and bite my lip (Staring out into the night, trying to hide the pain)  because it hurt me so much to hear him say it.  For me to feel it was one thing, for my kids to feel it was a whole new level of hurt.

No, home wasn't in my rear view mirror.  Home is where we live now; (The place where love and feeling good don't ever cost a thing, and the pain you feel's a different kind of pain.) where we are surrounded by friends, people who love and accept us, who care enough to get messy with us when we need them; family by heart.  Even the 17 yo recognized where our people are.  I think that says something. ;) 

I'm going home, to the place where I belong. Where your love has always been enough for me.  I'm not running from, no I think you got me all wrong.  I don't regret this life I chose for me. But these places and these faces are getting old so I'm going home.  

I am learning (over and over...and over again) that I grow through the hard things; the hurts and challenges and mistakes.  I wish it wasn't like that.  Maybe it's just me and I can't learn without some emotional drama/trauma. The gift is that through it, I gain compassion for others.  My heart is overflowing with compassion. ;)  

I hope that wherever you are, you find the people who love and support you, even when life gets messy.  I hope that you are home.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit...

This morning I was joking about my list of Cinderella chores, which usually brings to mind the Disney version with singing mice...

But in her book, Ruby Slippers, Jonalyn Grace Fincher describes the Grimm version in which the stepsisters, so desperate to fit into the tiny golden slippers, slice away parts of their feet and hobble bloodied and mutilated to the prince.  (And in case you missed the end of the story, it's all for naught.  Cinderella still gets the guy. ;) )

Fincher states:

Often the roles we play are like pinching shoes.  In order to fit some role, we squeeze ourselves, contort ourselves, even cut off parts of ourselves...It hurts to wear shoes that are not for us.  It hurts to keep shaving off parts of our souls.  Can we just admit it once and for all?  Our feet don't fit Cinderella's slipper...It's embarrassing-- ugly even-- when we see what we've done to ourselves to fit something that doesn't even belong to us, but until we admit it we can't get out of these silly shoes (pp. 19-20).

Now, part of me is all about shoe analogies right now.  The instrument of torture treadmill is taking a toll on my tootsies.  It's not pretty and a pedi is not going to fix it.  A visit to a professional running shoe fitting type person is in order and I think I know someone who can point me in the right direction.

 So my feet, they are a little messed up, but as I've shared, my soul is a little blistered, too.

People learn bits and pieces about me and they think they can label me.  They squeeze me into a shoe that is not a good fit and I try to hobble around in it...or I try to kick it off.  I have 6 kids.  I went to seminary.  I....have done and said and experienced lots of things, and I still do.  I didn't stop learning and living and growing. I still make mistakes, question, evaluate, change my mind, say and do stupid things...because I am human and humans are a big ol' mess. 

As I was contemplating this, I kept thinking of a Meredith Brooks song. I hate the world today, (The Husband will tell you I utter this phrase frequently.) You're so good to me, I know but I can't change.  I tried to tell you but you look at me like maybe I'm an angel underneath, innocent and sweet...I'm a little bit of everything all rolled into one...

Sometimes we change our shoes to fit our moods or a season in our life.  I love to wear clogs now.  In college I wore penny loafers (as did most of my sorority sisters. ;) ).  In the winter I love to wear my black leather boots. In the summer, a cute pair of flip flops is the ticket. I'm still searching for a pair of heels I can wear without tottering like I've had a few too many glasses of wine (when I'm perfectly sober).  Just like I change my shoes, I have an evolving and growing sense of self. 

Trying to fit into a role that isn't authentically our like wearing shoes that don't fit.  They pinch and blister and hinder our progress. (Like every pair of heels I've tried on lately.) 

Let's agree to not shave off pieces of our souls to fit another person's expectation of what we should be or do.  Let's just be our best authentic selves, in whatever shoes really fit us...and likewise, not try to shoehorn anyone else into the pair we think they should be wearing based on a snippet of what we think we know about them.   

Now, somebody help me out of these silly shoes. ;)


Friday, October 21, 2011

I'm Back.

Seeking.  Looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. 

Do you ever have times like that?  Times where you cannot see the forest for the trees?

I've had a few weeks of that.  That explains why I haven't written.  I've been navel gazing, but not in the right frame of mind.  I'm still hitting the treadmill daily.  I'm still seeking to choose my own destiny and reclaim the awesome I've lost (if I ever had it???). 

The big picture just got a little out of focus for me.

Interestingly, as I was having my own crisis of identity, responsibility, even faith to some degree; the rest of my life was showing the strain from my own cracks.  I was trying to go through the motions and put a smile on my face but my friends (and family) noticed.  I was forgetful, snappish and just not me.  (Well the snappishness might be "me". ;) )

One of my friends said, "You don't have to put a smile on for us, what's going on?"  Another invited me for coffee and then said, "Okay, I'm here, I'm a listening ear.  What's going on?"   I told them I needed to work it out in my own head, because I did.

This week I told a trusted mentor and friend that her comments about the way Satan will find a crack to get a toehold had hit home for me and that I was struggling.  She didn't pry.  She didn't judge.  She prayed and she supported and in telling her I was struggling, I found peace.

I was unable to go to God myself  then because I felt so lost, so separated from Him through my own inner turmoil and while friends reached out to toss me a life preserver of sorts, I was not ready to grab it. 

I share this with you for a few reasons.  1. To share that sometimes even when we're well-intentioned and loving, people may not be ready to receive our help or blessings.  2. To share that even when you feel totally alone and lost, God will bring someone to you, to be His hands and feet and love you when you're feeling unlovable. 3. To share that you can lose your focus and get off track, but through His grace you can find your way back (hopefully none of us get too far off track) .

I recently heard Toby Mac's "Made to Love You" and few verses spoke to my heart: Check my reflection, I ain't feelin' what I see, It's no mystery.  Whatever happened to a passion I could live for?  What became of the flame that made me feel more?  And when did I forget that...I was made to love you?......I feel the haters spittin' vapors on my dreams, but I still believe. 

This and I hear a seminary professor saying, as she so frequently did, "Remember who you are and Whose you are."  Wiser words I may never hear.  Because even as I seek "me", my Creator already knows.  Being authentically and awesomely me is a fulfillment of that creation.

I have said many times this week that I feel abundantly blessed to have amazing friends.  I do.  They bring me peace and joy and love, they pray and laugh and cry with me. 

God knows who I am when I do not.  God leads me where I need to go when I am lost.  God brings me people to show me love when I am feeling most unlovable.  God has blessed me with amazing friends because God knows how much I need them.  My prayer is that I can be that kind of friend to them too.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Jack Welch on the Wall

When I was a junior in college, I found a quote by Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE:

Control your own destiny or someone else will.

I wrote it down and pinned it to the bulletin board that hung above my desk next to photo collages of friends, magazine cutouts and a life we all thought we wanted (and would have).  I wanted to embrace controlling my destiny, perhaps because I knew I was not in control, but controlled; whether it be by my fears, my family, peers, boyfriends....think of me as a leaf in a stream, carried by the current, sometimes gently, sometimes getting a little "beat up" in the process. 

Yesterday I was searching for a quote or saying to put in my oldest boy's senior yearbook patron ad and I found Jack Welch's quote.  We decided to go with something else, something that will mean something to him..and make him laugh, but I can't share it here yet.  (Not that he would ever read this. As if!)

Anyway, coming across that quote made me think...who is controlling my destiny?

If we want to go theological the answer still isn't clear cut.  Some believe that God started the world and now it's running on momentum and God is hands-off, watching.  Some believe that God has a hand in every little thing that happens.  Most believe that God has a plan for each of us and that God can use for good everything our free-willing selves choose to do.

So if I'm reclaiming my awesome, I need to start thinking about controlling my destiny.  But controlling my destiny may have consequences, some you expect and some that are unanticipated and may not rear their (ugly ?) heads for quite some time. I don't live in a vacuum; I have a family, friends, obligations...I can't just decide I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and beat feet, you know?  (No, I really have no desire to do that, it was an example.)

Yesterday one of my friends posted a quote on crackbook   fb, "...if you get a chance, take it.  If it changes your life, let it..."  Hmmmm.  Ms Medium isn't a chance-taking, acceptor of change.  Remember the leaf in the stream, getting carried by the current?  And now I'm thinking about controlling my destiny and taking chances.  It's a lot to think about, at least it is for me. 

I'm taking baby steps and one of them is realizing that finding my awesome depends on me controlling my own destiny.  How I feel, who I am, what I do cannot be based on another human, no matter how much I love them, respect them or want them to accept and love me.

Baby steps.  When the Husband's response to a new outfit I choose is, "I [meaning him] don't have to wear it." (which means he hates it), and I loved it, I will still love it.  (And my dark purple nail polish.)  To be fair, I don't think he's trying to control me or my choices, just voicing his opinion.  It's my problem that I internalize his opinion and don't trust my own.

Controlling my own destiny (and finding my awesome, cuz it's all about me.;) ) is about trusting myself to be rational and practical but it doesn't necessarily mean just going where the current takes me.  It's not going to be easy and sometimes my outfit won't work.  (Let's hope that's the worst consequence. ;) )

That handwritten quote from all of those years ago might still be kicking around in a box (doubtful), but I'm glad I was reminded of it yesterday and I want to embrace it again.

To loosely quote Martin Luther, "Sin boldly, and trust in the Lord bolder still."


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Go Out Walkin'...Errr

This morning as the beads of sweat trickled down my cheeks I focused on not hitting the wall.  Literally. 

It was great to have a treadmill in the house so my exercise wasn't dependent on anyone else's schedule.  I know that every day I can hop on and walk/run and get it done.  Eye on the prize.

Usually I walk at the park.  On days when the parking lots are sparse, I admit I am a little anxious in the wooded areas and I look over my shoulder more frequently.  (The Husband gripes about how unsafe it is or me to run/walk with ear buds in because it makes me less aware of my surroundings..."It helps me keep my pace." I argue.) 

"Keeping my pace" was a figment of my imagination.  That is lesson one learned from the treadmill (which I plan to name...).  You see, setting the treadmill, I had to stay at the pace or admit defeat and lower the speed. 

Have I mentioned my prideful nature? 

In line with keeping my pace is hitting the wall...I can walk and search for the right song on my ipod at the same time, adding in a motorized walkway however, adds a new skill set which I will have to master.  I have to focus on keeping the pace more on the treadmill so when I got distracted I found myself slipping back and dangerously close to hitting the wall, the literal one.  That just doesn't happen at the park.  I guess it's a good thing I don't try to chew gum while I'm on the treadmill, that might max out my multi-tasking abilities. ;)

Positives to sweating with the instrument of torture?  I do not have to worry about childcare because they were still snoozing, except for Miss M who watched from her high chair with amusement as she ate her cereal.  That means I can exercise every day, rain or shine regardless of when the Husband leaves or gets home.  I did not have to side-step dead frogs (happens more that you'd think), avoid attack grasshoppers (apparently there is some sort of grasshopper plague?  Wait!  Frogs and grasshoppers, that's two plagues.), and I didn't have to wait for any gaggles of geese to finish crossing the path. 

I did miss the park though.  I missed watching the steam rise from the pond, the wildflowers waving in the breeze, the changing leaves, the breeze and even the older men walking dogs that can fit in my purse.  At the park, I can get lost in thought more which makes the time go faster (though probably not my pace).

The treadmill will help me reach my fitness goals.  I know I have the discipline to hop on every day and I don't have to go anywhere (like a gym) to work out (which is good because I have hermit tendencies) and as I explained above, walking on a treadmill and adjusting my ipod is not as easy as you might think so I don't have to embarrass myself in public as I master that new skill.   

Tomorrow I will sweat again.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.  Most of the time, I will use the torture device, but when time allows, I think I'll go back and visit the geese and the grasshoppers and sidestep the frogs. 


Monday, September 26, 2011

One Perfect Word

Four letters. 

People struggle to define it because it has so much baggage attached. 


If it is so difficult to define, why do I call it perfect?

We give it, we take it, we fake it, we make it...L-O-V-E..

Love God, Love your neighbor.  To love is the greatest commandment.  Yet, somehow we lose that in translation, in reality, in humanity.  We forget we are called to love (whatever that is) and we say we are showing love by trying to teach, encourage comformity, share truth (often "in love", which so often is instead beating someone over the head with what one believes another "should" do or be.)

It is perfect because in the words of the Beatles, (and God) all you need is love.  1 Corinthians 13 was a reading at our wedding...  4"Love is patient.  Love is Kind... 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  and then 8 Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect will disappear.''... 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 


Not my knowledge or understanding or belief system. 

Everything else can fall away and all that really matters is L-O-V-E.

I am guilty of being less than loving.  I make snarky comments.  I lack compassion at times.  I think harsh or judgemental thoughts.  I confess it to you today and I will surely commit these same sins again.  I don't want to, but I forget to just L-O-V-E sometimes. 

Casting Crowns sings a song, Here I Go Again (and they may not agree with the whole sentiment of this post but they don't have to...), "Father hear my prayer.  I need the perfect words, words that he will hear and know they're straight from You...So Maybe this time, I'll speak the words of life with Your fire in my eyes...But this might be my last chance to tell him that You love him..."

This morning I realized the only words of life I need to speak with fire in my eyes...are words of love.


Not "Woulda, shoulda, coulda."  Not "Be like me."  Not even, "Believe what I believe."  Just love.  I love you because you are a human being.  You are beautifully and wonderfully made.  You are loved just as you are. 

It's the one perfect word and the love doesn't come from me.  I am a vessel, the hands and feet.  Whether you believe in what I believe or not.  I believe it and so that love can pass through me. 

and that L-O-V-E passing through perfect.