Thursday, September 4, 2014

Apparently, I Need to "Let it Go."

"Let it go! Let it go!"

Yeah, I'm singing it too, but this isn't about the catchy tune that is currently pulsing through my head. It's about the message that has been thrown at me today.

You see, I've joined the Crazy Mama Challenge over at hannahhelpme.com. I've also joined Hannah's 7-Day Mom Stress Cure. (See a pattern? Crazy mama? Mom stress? Anyway...) The crazy mama challenge for today was to...let it go. Whatever it is that is holding you back, whether it be clothes in the closet, bad attitudes, a sense of perfectionism, clutter, whatever, you're supposed to let it go. That's it.

Then when I opened my email to see what was in store for Day-4 of the Mom Stress Cure, it was a challenge to...let it go. Let clothes go? Attitudes? Clutter? No, this was more about making a list of external stressors and figuring out which of them can be pulled up by the roots. Many moms have "yesitis" in other words, we can't say no. So, it's time to let go of those things that are holding us back from being the moms we want to be.

Anyone at anytime can sign up for the 7-Day Mom Stress Cure. I just happened to sign up at the same time the Crazy Mama Challenge was happening. It was pure coincidence that these two "Let it Go" challenges landed on the same day.

Oh, wait. I don't believe in coincidence.

So, what is it that I need to let go of? My list of committees, and church obligations was longer than I expected, but not crazy. The list of relational obligations was, well, non-existent. And the domestic obligations were actually shorter than it probably should be.

Nothing was glaring at me in the face saying, "I'm dragging you down, mama. What'cha gonna do about it?" I prayed about it; asking God to reveal what needed to go, and still there was nothing. Or was there?

I have a crippling sense of insecurity. If I'm not somebody's all then I'm nobody...Ridiculous.

I'm going to let it go. Because I am somebody no matter what others think about me (or don't think about me.) I am a child of the most high God and that is something.

Let it go!
I have a major pride issue (which ties in with the crippling sense of insecurity).

Time to let it go. Pride comes before a fall and I don't want that to happen. I also need my children to remember that they must love others above themselves. Low self esteem is NOT the same thing as humility. In fact, it's most likely a source of pride. If you think poorly of yourself all the time, you're thinking of... Yourself. That is pride.

I have a comparison issue. Why isn't my house as neat as theirs, my kids as well behaved, my dog as well trained? Because they're not.

Letting it go. I'm doing what I can do, and while there is always room for improvement, I'm not who I used to be either.

What's dragging you down, friend? Is it physical? Make a plan and start letting it go. Is it mental? Start releasing the strings that keep you tied down.

Let it go. Let it go. Can't hold it back anymore!!!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nothing Says "Crisis Clean" like a Camera Crew Coming to Your House

Why, oh why, did  I say they could do an interview here? I don't know what I was thinking, but now, I feel a little like Bilbo regretting ever inviting Gandalf to tea, but the deed was done and a camera crew was coming to my house. Have you seen my house? Not good.

Let me back up a little...

My phone rang as I was settling in for a mid-morning siesta. The local ABC station called and wondered if I'd be interested in helping them with a story about getting children on a good schedule for the school year. "Of course!" I replied. Coincidently, I had just updated my children's morning and evening routines and would actually be able to supply something of value to the story.

But then, THEN, she asked where I'd like to do the interview. And I said..."How about my house?" I cringed as the words escaped my lips. I had just invited a reporter and a camera man into the abyss of messiness. Oh. My. Goodness. The siesta, my friends, was over.

Frantically, I cleaned up what I could. Areas that hadn't been touched in eight years were vacuumed. Clutter was picked up. As scary as it was to have my house displayed on TV it was definitely a motivator to get cleaned up.

They were waiting for me when I pulled up with the kids and my nerves were pretty shaky. The reporter, Whitney Delbridge, and her camera man were so kind and great to get along with. They made a nerve-racking experience very enjoyable. For the most part, my children were super well behaved. Two of them sat and did their homework and pretended the camera wasn't there. I'd say we have future in reality TV if Lincoln hadn't decided that it was more fun to stick his face right in the camera, and make noises to get noticed WHILE I was doing the interview. The editing team earned their money that day.

All in all, it turned out wonderfully. The camera only added 6lbs instead of the whole 10, and my house didn't look like a hurricane had hit...only a mild fall zephyr.

Let me know what you think! Watch the report here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Guide to a Happy Marriage

My sweet husband and I recently celebrated our 11th anniversary. While I know this doesn't sound like a lot to some of you, in this age of quickie divorces I'm pretty thrilled to have made it this far. So, I got thinking, what advice could I give a newlywed or someone thinking about getting married?

Well, here it is (in no particular order):

My Guide to a Happy Marriage

1. Make Sure You Like the Person You Marry
    You might be thinking, "Duh, of course I LIKE the person I'm going to marry." But do you? Do you really? If you put away the butterflies and the mushy gushy feelings, do you like them as a person? In my opinion, it's more important to marry someone you consider a friend than it is to marry someone who sets you on fire!

2. Be OK With Your Spouse's "Habits"
    Everybody has little quirks that make them unique. Some are annoying; some are endearing, but we all have them. (I totally drool when I sleep) Despite what you think: THEY WILL NOT CHANGE. If your man is not  lovey dovey now, please don't think that he is going to start being Mr. Romantic after the vows. It ain't gonna happen. If you don't like the way your lady leaves her keys laying anywhere and everywhere, chances are that's not going to change. Either learn to live with whatever annoys you or don't take the plunge, but do not go in thinking you can "fix" the other person.

3. The Seven-Year-Itch is a Real Thing
    I don't know what it is about seven years, but I have talked to several folks who say the same thing. The seventh year of marriage is HARD. Really hard. Just trudge through it. Don't get discouraged. It can feel very lonely when you're going through a rough spot in your marriage, but know you are not alone. Seek the godly counsel of a friend who has already weathered the seventh-year-storm, seek couple's counseling if necessary. Keep James 1:2-3 close to your heart, "Consider pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Don't give up.

4. Don't be Disillusioned When it Comes to Kids
  Having a baby will not fix a troubled marriage and it will stress a healthy one. My husband I knew we wanted children. What we didn't know is how much they would change our marriage. We had planned to wait five years before having kids, but three months after our second anniversary we were pregnant with TWINS. Yeah, talk about a culture shock. We went from being basically newlyweds to a family of four. If you want to have kids because you think that precious being will pull your tired, crumbling marriage from the brink of collapse, think again. The stress of raising a family can push it over the edge. Think your marriage is solid enough to weather any storm? Children turn storms into hurricanes. Without a doubt, children are a major blessing, just know, be prepared, be mindful: A BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING.

5. Don't Try to be Their Parent
   You are both grown-ups and while it's tempting to try and parent your spouse when they're acting like a complete baby, don't. It only makes it worse. It also serves to belittle them in the situation. Remember that as ridiculous as they are acting, chances are that you'll act equally as ridiculous at some point in time.

6. Take Time for Yourself
    No matter how much you love your partner or how much you love spending time with them, being around someone 24/7 can get irritating. Find something you enjoy doing by yourself and take the time to do it. Go in a different room and read your favorite book, or go fishing or do anything that allows you to recharge your batteries. I sing in an interdenominational choir which practices once a week. Those few hours away from home doing something I enjoy makes me a better wife and mother.

7. Recognize That Different is Not the Same as Wrong
    When two people, with two personalities, live under one roof, things are going to get done two different ways. That's ok. If he doesn't fold the towels (or the shirts, or the underwear) the way you like them folded, please don't fuss. HE IS FOLDING THE LAUNDRY. Just because things get done differently, does not mean they are done wrongly...wrong...wronger (I dunno). Let go of your perfectionism and allow the other person some breathing room. Men, this goes for you too. If your lady decides to fix the toilet that runs constantly, please don't give her a play by play of how YOU would have done it. Instead, thank her for a job well done by taking her out for dinner. Ladies, just a heads up: men parent differently than women do. In our house that means a lot more TV, but as long as everyone is safe, healthy and happy, I have to remember...it's NOT WRONG, JUST DIFFERENT.

8. Explore Your Spouse's Interests
   Chances are you and your partner enjoy similar activities, but you also enjoy very different hobbies. My husband likes to fish and hunt. While I don't mind doing those things, I can think of activities I'd MUCH rather be doing. I like to sit and have meaningful conversations...my husband doesn't. But if a marriage is going to work, it's important to explore what makes the other person happy. I've gone hunting and fishing with my man; what he remembers is that I got out of my comfort zone to do something that was important to him. My husband is rather socially awkward, but I can't count the number of times he's gone with me to gatherings when he'd rather be at home playing video games. When you do something that is meaningful to your partner, you are saying, "I love you" without having to say a word.

9. Go on Dates
   Because we DON'T get to do this very often, I know how vitally important it is. Consciously setting aside time to rediscover each other helps remind you why you fell in love in the first place. If you can
go out on dates, or away on weekends, PLEASE do it. We don't have the money or the babysitters to do either, but we can still set time to watch movies after the kids go to bed, or play a board game, or just talk. Again, because we're not good at this, I know how important it is.

10. Be Aware of the Seasons
   Winter, Summer, Spring...? No. Your marriage is going to experience seasons. Seasons of plenty and seasons of want. And I'm not just talking money here. There are times when you cannot wait to get home to your fella or your woman. Then there are the times when neither of you are acting particularly loveable and you'd rather go lock yourself in the bathroom with a Hershey's bar than be around THEM. There will be seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow. There will be seasons of sickness and health. (This sounds a lot like marriage vows. Hmmmmm, coincidence? I think not.)  Thing about seasons is that they pass. The good times can't last forever, but neither can the bad times. You've got to walk through the shadows of the valleys to see the sunrise from the mountaintops. You can't give up just because it's hard, and you can't grow complacent because everything is awesome. Seasons change.

11. Marriage is Not 50/50
   Contrary to popular belief, each half of the marriage union needs to give 100%. Enough said.

12. Put God First
   There should be three people in your marriage. God, you and your spouse. If God is the head of the household all else will fall into place. When you honor your spouse with your life and your love, you honor the One who said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18). When both spouses see the need depend on God rough seasons are easier to get through and seasons of plenty are that much more joyous (See #10).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What If?

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13) 
 
What if you didn't know today could be any different than it is?


I mean, what if there was no Facebook or Twitter telling you what was "trending" right now (which makes it painfully obvious that nothing about you IS trendy)? What if you couldn't go straight from your laptop to the beaches where so many of your "friends" are having a fabulous time while you're cleaning up dog pee...again? What if there were no advertisements reminding you that your life is not complete because you don't own this or your looks are lacking because you don't wear that? What if there was no way to compare your way of life to someone else's?

What if?

What if we truly took life just as it is? Life with all its bumps and hills and mountains and valleys. What if we just took OUR road without detours to another's reality?



What if the girl down the street who ran out of diapers (and money to buy diapers) just started potty training or went to cloth diapers? No complaints, no tweets to the world that everything is against her, no "woe is me."  She just did what she had to do because that's what she had to do.


What if the man next door just started taking the bus or riding his bike when his only mode of transportation breaks down? No whining, no self-pity, just a determination to get to work because he has a job to do.

What if the elderly gentleman learns its cancer and immediately starts looking into options because his time is limited and he knows his life is his alone. Moaning won't make the cancer go away, but chemo may halt it.


What if the mother stopped Google-ing every parenting technique under the sun because she thinks her kids aren't measuring up? Because she thinks SHE isn't measuring up. Because all the other mothers parent waaay better than she does.

What if?

What if we started living our lives instead of wanting to live his life, or her life, or that rich couple's life? What if losing was as rewarding as winning because we knew it had the potential to make us better? What if we stopped asking, "Well, why does she (fill in the blank)?" or "Why does (fill in the blank) ALWAYS  happen to me?"


What if everything we do was to the glory of the One who made us? What if He were the only one worth impressing? What if our lives were authentic? Not a show for the congregation, or Facebook friends, or Twitter followers, or mom groups or work colleagues.

What would all of that look like?

True contentment...

Friday, July 11, 2014

What Do You Choose? (Pt. 2)

I sit here still thinking about JOY.  How I have to step out of myself to choose joy. Today, right now, this minute.

It's been a week since we buried our precious Jesse. Sorrow and mourning have outweighed happiness 2:1. There are times when the pain is so raw it feels as though I'm being ripped apart. But then it occurred to me:

Happiness is not the same as joy.

Feeling happy is based on the situation, based on emotion. As much as I would love to, I can not be happy all of the time. It's impossible.

But I CAN be joyful...All of the time.

Why? Because joy is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Joy is knowing God. Joy is knowing He holds your hand while happiness is fleeting. Joy is a choice because it is not based on emotion. Joy is the act of thanking the One not because things are going great, but just because He is.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What Do You Choose?

The rain today matches the mood of most of the family.
Or is it their moods match the rain? I don't really know. What I do know is that dark clouds hover over the house like a potential downpour.
 
Tongues lash like sparks of lightning, and tears fall like the rain outside my window.
 
Me? I feel tossed like a leaf in the storm's wind. Flitting here and there, but not really making an impact anywhere I go and then another crisis arises and the draft floats me over there.
 
The rain, as gloomy as it may seem, pounds blessings into the earth. One drop at a time, the parched ground gets seeped in life giving water.
 
As eager as I am to share the blessings of the day, it seems to fall on deaf ears as the din of life overpower the joyful words I'm trying to give. There is so much negativity. So many complaints. So much anger. Why? There is so much to be thankful for. So much to rejoice over. But there is nothing but complaints. Have I really raised my kids to be so self centered? It's sobering. They can't look past their own momentary discomfort to see the joy that someone else is experiencing. The bad attitudes pour over me and I feel like I'm drowning in them.
 
Joy. Where does it come from? Because it's not abiding here. Joy has to be a CHOICE. Choose joy, choose love, choose blessings, even when the world (the household) is choosing something else. It's not the easy choice. It's easier to fall in the pit of despair with everyone else and wallow in the gloom that surrounds. It's more difficult to throw down a rope of joy and offer a way out. Showing them that a positive attitude brings about more rainbows than rain clouds.  
 
Not everyday is going to have a silver lining. Some days are going to be rainier and stormier than others. It's in those times, when a glimmer of light is hard to find, that we have to choose to be the light.
 
We have to choose joy. 
 
CHOOSE. Joy. Today. Everyday.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

TV is Bad for My Brain...Or is it?

I love my Netflix account.

There are no commercials, I can pick what I want to watch, when I want to watch it, and I have control over what the children are watching. Want to watch the entire series of 30 Rock? Yes, please. Done and done. Does my husband want to watch The West Wing...again? Why, yes he does. Netflix also allows me to watch things I normally wouldn't, like 19 Kids and Counting. A show about the Duggar family who have19 children.

Wow.
God bless 'em. I admire their steadfastness to the Lord. I admire that they manage a family that large with no debt. I admire that the children (all of them) seem to genuinely respect their parents. This is where TV is bad for me.

I have four kids. ONLY four kids. Where Michelle Duggar can manage her whole brood AND homeschool without raising her voice, I yell. Her kids help each other, and help around the house, mine complain and the baby bites when he doesn't get his way. She was honorary duck master at some fancy hotel, I'm...well, my ducks aren't in a row.

This is why TV is bad for my brain. It brings to life all of my fears of failing as a parent. All of these other parents are not only doing a fabulous job, but they're making money at it by having a hit television show.

These ducks are so not in a row
On second thought, it's not TV that's bad for me, it's crippling insecurity. Insecurity that I'm screwing up this parenting gig, or insecurity that I'm not enough for other people. Or insecurity that I'm way too much for other people. What's bad for me is the need to compare all I do (or don't do) with everyone else, and THEN base my worth on what (I perceive) they think about me. It's a very lonely place to reside.

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells me that whatever I do I need to do it for the glory of God. It mentions NOTHING about doing things so that others will praise me, or so that I can feel better about myself. Everything, not some things, not just the "holy" things - everything- should be done for the glory of the Lord.

Paul goes on to rub salt in my wounds by asking in Galatians 1:10, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God?" How do YOU answer that question? I know how I'd answer it and it's sobering. The verse goes on to say, "Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Ouch...

I can't serve both parties. Either I serve man, or I serve Christ.

A conscious decision has to be made today, this hour, every minute. Who am I going to serve? Am I doing what I'm doing for the glory of God or for the accolades of others? I know what I want the answer to be, but putting it into practice is another story.

Philippians 4:13 reminds me that, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."  ALL things. And "all things" include transforming my mind to think about what God wants from me and not about what I think man wants from me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When Things Are Bad...

 
When things are, bad. I mean REALLY bad. Just remember they could be worse...you could have your head stuck up a buffalo butt.
 
Things to ponder...
 
 
 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Finding Time for Me

Right now the house is empty. The only sound is that of The Big Chill blaring on Netflix. All four children have been dropped off at Vacation Bible School and the hubs is at work. There is so much I need to be doing. Dishes need washed and floors need vacuumed, laundry needs folding. The house (as usual) is pretty messy. But, truth is, I haven't had "me" time in so long that I'm honestly not sure what to do with myself. With everything that needs to be done, all I WANT to do is watch movies that can't be on while children are in the house (hence The Big Chill), I want to eat junk food that I don't allow the kids to eat and I want to spend my time selfishly.

That's exactly what I plan to do...but not for long. I was not created to be a selfish being, though that's what my flesh tells me to be. God calls me to loves others before myself. This alone time I have is fabulous, but it's fleeting and insignificant. Soon the movie will be over and the junk food will be gone, but my family and all that REALLY matters will still take precedence.
Me, me, me, me, me!
So, why do I feel so guilty? Guilty about taking "me" time? Maybe it's because I'm not nearly as selfless as I'd like to believe. Instead of cleaning the house so my kids have a comfortable place to live, I'm on Facebook. Instead of making a healthy meal, I'm watching a movie on the computer that's on the counter. Instead of playing cars with my baby, I do...something else.

Truth be told, I take a lot of "me" time.

 More than I want to admit.

Why do I feel so guilty? Because I'm NOT created to be a selfish being, but that's exactly what I've become.

Praise God, His mercies are new every morning. Tomorrow can be different. Tomorrow there is another chance to truly put others before myself. God's still working on me, and I'm glad He is. I'm glad the Spirit gnaws on me enough to face the (ugly) truth. Through Christ, I can do better.  Tomorrow when the kids go to VBS, maybe "me" time will be that much more sweet.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Day Set Apart


The week is filled with busyness. Busyness caused by jobs or home or of our own design. The Lord found the need for rest. It says that he had finished the work he'd been doing and on the seventh day rested from all his work (Genesis 2:2).
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest
Matthew 11:28

Sunday is a day set apart. It is a holy day for rest.
 
"You don't understand. I have to work on Sunday."
 
Oh yes, beloved, I understand. My husband works a second job on Sunday. My PASTOR works on Sunday. My nurse friends work on Sunday. But God calls us to a higher rest than one that is just physical.
 
A rest from worry? Yes.
 
A rest from burdens? Yes.
 
A rest from turmoil? Yes.
 
Stop cultivating the thoughts that bring about worry. After all, "can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:27) Drop the cares that create a burden so heavy you falter under the weight. Hand over the turmoil to the one who already sees it. He may not stop the storm, but He'll walk you through it.
 
Rest.
 
Slow down and recognize the presence of the One who is holy. Seek His presence in your jobs, in your homes, in yourself. If the creator of the universe, the Alpha and Omega found the need to rest, who are we to stay busy?
 
Finish your work, lay down your burdens.
 
Rest.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

There Are No Words

I'm being a lot more patient with my two-year-old lately.

Nothing has changed. I haven't read some awesome parenting books that teach me how to remain calm when he's screaming at a pitch that could break glass. I haven't figured out how to make him stop his tantrums or his hitting.

From what I have read, (which is A LOT) this is all normal for him. He understands, comprehends, and takes in so much, but is not able to verbalize what he wants or needs. Or sometimes, he is verbalizing it with a "no" and a sibling does not recognize or respect what he says. As he doesn't have much self control yet, a series of screams, or hits, or tantrums lets the world know that he's not happy.

He doesn't have the words.

The reason I'm being more patient with him is because I'm right there too.

There are no words.


The lack of words leads to
an abundance of frustration
My emotions are so jumbled and my heart is so heavy and situations around me are so confusing that there. are. no. words.

In the absence of my means of expression, there is the urge to scream and cry and hit and stomp and slam.

When it's all bubbling up and words aren't coming or they're not adequate to what I want to say, the tears start flowing. I want to jump and hit and yell because the pressure welling up inside is so great that if I don't do something I'll explode.

So much that I want to say, but again the words aren't there. And even if they were would anyone want to hear them?

There is One who hears the groaning of my heart. One who knows what I need without me uttering a word. I am so grateful for this, because I have not even the words to pray.

Scripture reminds us (me) that "the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (Romans 8:26) That is all I have: wordless groans (and a tantrum or two).

This feeling of helplessness is not something I'm used to, but I'm sure my son understands. I'm being more patient and kind with him for we share a nonverbal kinship. I may even join in a scream or two. Right now, I'm just trying to work through feelings- awful, painful, confusing, mixed-up feelings- with the trivial amount of self control that I have.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth!

Nothing says independence like homemade bottle rockets at the Science Center. 

Be safe and God Bless America

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Five Reasons the Kids Had Meltdowns Before 8 a.m. (And It's All Good)

This morning has been a zoo around here. Everyone is whining and complaining. My husband has already dubbed it a nap day, but the bad moods don't bother me.

Here is a list of why the kids' crankiness is totally worth it:

1. They were up late catching fireflies

2. After catching said fireflies, they stopped for homemade chocolate chip cookies

3. During the late bedtime, the twins were listening with rapt attention as we near the end of their first Hardy Boys mystery

4. The princess read "Hop on Pop" to her daddy and it took a loooooong time

5. We spent time as a family

Normally, I (and the kids) strive on routine. Bedtime, though later in the summer, is early enough to give everyone plenty of rest, so we can avoid the unpleasantness of the next morning. Sometimes, however, it's important to let the schedule fly away with the fireflies and just enjoy the time that's chocolate chip cookie sweet.

This summer will never come again. Soon my five-year-old will be reading to herself and we'll miss her patient little voice, brimming with pride as she reads Dr. Seuss for all the world to hear.

School starts in five weeks. There will be no time for tandem twin bug hunting and shouting for jars when the twinkling prizes have been caught.

Schedules are guidelines, not straightjackets . Run with it. Grumpiness can be alleviated by a nap, but the memories will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An Ordinary Day That is Anything But

We were hanging out at our favorite state park, swimming, enjoying family time, but my mind wasn't really there. Every time I got up to get something from our bag, I'd check my phone, fearful I'd missed the call.

While my family was laughing and splashing and basking in the warmth of the sun, another family was gathered around a loved one, wondering if this breath would be his last. The contrast of the two scenes startled me as it seemed like something out of a movie. It was like I was in both places at once though I was physically in one and mentally in the other.

On the way home, my phone rang with a number I didn't recognize. My heart dropped into my stomach as I answered. It hadn't happened, but the time was drawing near. Very near.

Our beloved Jesse Miller
June 21, 1949-July 1, 2014
The news finally came a little after 8pm. "He's gone." I looked at my husband, repeated the same words and called the children to let them know their beloved Papa Jesse had gone to be with Jesus. They knew the time was coming. They'd seen him lying in his hospice bed numb to the pain by so much morphine.

No one cried. Everyone looked deflated.

This was just 12-hours ago and yet it seems a lifetime. I had imagined how I would react when I'd finally get the news. I figured I'd double up with a pain that was more than I could manage. I figured I would cry, weep even. Just two nights ago I was gathered around his bedside with his wife and son and was overcome with such emotion I was nauseous and had to leave.

Right now there's nothing.

This lack of feeling frightens me. When I was in labor with my little girl, the epidural made my legs go numb and it made me panic. I need to feel. Even if it's pain - I need to feel.

My heart is heavy. So heavy, in fact, it feels as though it's encased in lead. This lump in my chest is the only reminder that emotions may be present. If they're there, they are buried under something so deep that when it erupts I fear I may be empty.

My kids are up, life is going on as normal. But it's not normal. It seems ordinary. It's anything but ordinary. We are going to have to learn to live a life that is void of an extraordinary man. A wife has to learn to live without her husband, a son has to learn to live without his father. Friends have to learn to live without a man who was joy itself.

For me...I have to learn to live without a man who taught me what living was. He showed me what a loving husband should look like (my parents are divorced). He showed me that loving and supporting your kids doesn't stop when they graduate or turned 20...or 35. Jesse loved his friends and family with such fierce abandon. He loved his church.

He loved life and showed it with everything in him. Now, the rest of us have to figure out how to live life without him.

Right now that's a pain I don't think I can bear.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Fun (for cheap!)

We're a one-income family and with four kids, we have to get creative when trying to find fun things to do. In the summer, or anytime really, heading to a state park is a wonderful (and frugal) activity for the whole family.

Lots of room in the Olympic size pool for my boys to play
Today we travelled less than an hour to Staunton River State Park. Completed in 1936, this state park was one of six that opened simultaneously in Virginia and thus launched the Virginia state park system. With the introduction of Staunton River, Douthat, Hungry Mother, Fairy Stone and Westmoreland State Parks, most Virginians were within an hours drive of nature and all that she had to offer. There are now 36 state parks in the Commonwealth and each offers something for everyone.

Fun times!
What keeps us coming back to Staunton River year after year is what my babies have affectionately nicknamed, "the frog pool." While the park offers an Olympic size pool, when we started going there, none of my kids were big enough, so we spent many lazy hours in the Pollywog Pond, a wading pool with toys and a slide geared towards the littlest guppies. My three oldest are now too big for the baby pool, (which is rather sad) but the baby is learning to get his feet wet on the same froggy slide they did.
My son took this, and you can juuuust see
 the Pollywog Pond in the background

If swimming really isn't your thing, most state parks offer hiking (some on paved trails which are handicap accessible), guided programs and lots of other stuff to do. There is usually a nominal parking fee ($3 is what we paid today), and if you're hiking or picnicking, that's all you pay. Swimming and some activities have other fees, but it's incredibly reasonable.

See you soon at a state park!
The next time your kids say they're bored, or you feel like the school year can't come soon enough, pack up the family, pack up a lunch and head to a state park near you. Make the most of these long lazy days and make some memories.

Monday, June 30, 2014

When the Voice Becomes an Echo

I can't hear her voice anymore.

When my grandma died, I replayed her saying my name over and over again as if hearing her one more time would lessen the pain, would bring her back. Maybe I just didn't want to forget.

But now, 14 years later, it's silent. I see her in pictures but the voice is gone. Her house is still so real to me, even down to the smells. But the voice is gone and I feel somehow removed from even knowing her by not being able to hear her.

A person's particular sound is an interesting thing. My twins are identical, but their voices betray their identity. We can pick up on emotions or lack thereof by the subtle changes of a voice. It's the telltale sign that a boy is becoming a man when his voice changes.

Oh, how we take the sound of someone's voice for granted.

Right now, a man who, over the last decade, I have learned to love, admire, and appreciate is dying. Cancer is taking his life. Minute by minute he's growing weaker and is only a shell of the man he was even six months ago. His words are silent as he is pumped with morphine for nothing more than comfort from the rages of the disease.  When I kissed his head yesterday, I knew I would never again hear him utter my name. I will never again hear him yell at the TV when his beloved Yankees are losing. I will never again hear him tell my children how much Papa Jesse loves them.

So may memories and yet I can only retain snippets of his voice. The way he would say, "Hey Sweetie," when I'd walk in the door. Or the way he'd call his grown son "honey," which I always found amusing, but so Jesse. I hear him calling out to his granddaughter (who happens to be a 110 pound chocolate lab). I smile I hear him reminding me again and again to call and let them know I've gotten home safely. I can hear him pray to a God who will soon welcome him through the gates of Heaven. Leaving us here, wounded, broken and ever vocal in our weeping.

Though I knew this time would come eventually, it's come too soon. I'm trying to grasp the reality of it all and though he was not my father, I loved...love... him as one. I'm desperately trying to recall conversations so I can bury his sweet voice in my brain only to retrieve it when I'm lonely for him. Which will be often.

As I sit in the quiet of the day, I can hear him. I want to hear him. I don't want to let him go. I don't want his voice to fade into nothingness. So while I can, I remember. I hear. I smile and I mourn. I pray the voice, his voice, will always ring loud in my ears.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Truth

I hear the voice speaking so clear and so strong.
“My Grace is sufficient.”
But I choose to argue.
It doesn’t feel sufficient.
When the house is a mess. When the kids are wild.  When the bank account is empty. When my life seems not enough and yet too much.
Grace does not feel sufficient.
“My child, the air you breathe cannot be felt, but does that negate the truth of it?”
“No, but…”

I have no answer.
Sufficient is defined as “enough to meet the needs of a situation.”
In this age of excess and indulgence can we recognize what is sufficient? Can we stop and be ok with enough? Not too much, not too little, just enough.
What is enough? God’s grace is.

God’s grace is always enough to meet the needs of the situation. Whatever your needs, my needs are, He's got it. Not too much, not too little, just enough.
But then again, it doesn’t feel enough. I want to feel His grace changing me and changing the kids and changing my situation. I want to put His grace in a box I can control and manage and dish out as I see fit.
 But God doesn’t work like that. Plus, his grace doesn’t always bring change in the situation as much as it brings change to an attitude or a thought or perhaps there’s no change at all, but the mere acceptance of His holy presence is enough to provide peace while the storm rages.
It is sufficient. 
I can’t always feel the love of my children; does that mean they don’t love me? I can’t always feel the warmth of the sun. Has it refused to shine? I can’t feel the earth as it turns under my feet. Did it stop?
At some point truth has to overcome feelings. In our time of multisensory, attention grabbing excess what we feel and what we know to be true aren’t always one and the same.
Truth is God’s Word. Truth is the voice in the chaos reminding me that His Grace IS Sufficient. Truth is messy and beautiful and scary and overwhelming. And God’s grace will meet all needs. We are limited and small. He is all. He is the beginning and the End. What is happening in our corner of the world is not foreign to Him; He sees our struggles and our insecurities and He is very present to help.
The question becomes will we choose to believe the truth over the noise? Will we choose truth over fear? Will we allow the still small voice to invade our very marrow?
Because the truth is that God’s grace is enough. It is enough when life seems too much. It is enough when life seems to be lacking. It is enough.
God’s grace is sufficient. It is enough.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, June 20, 2014

Come Home


The land is calling to me. Its voice has been growing louder as the confines of the city have begun to strangulate. Blocks and boundaries have started to feel like balls and chains.

Normally, the call of mountains and rushing rivers beg my ear to listen, but of late, the murmur of the prairies grow louder.

In the waving of the corn, I hear it.

“Come home.”

In the blue sky that goes on for miles.




“Come home.”

In the rich, black soil that so readily nourishes the crops.

“Come home.”

In sunsets that are saturated in reds and purples and deep oranges, I hear it calling.

“Come home.”

In the rolling thunder as it pours over the prairie.

“Come home.”

My soul longs for a place as wide as imagination. My heart yearns for a parcel of land that is just mine, but then again, you can never really own the land - the land owns you.

The land calls to me as it called to my ancestors who have lived off of it for generations. Some people aren’t meant for cubicles and mile-high real estate. Some souls aren’t meant for city blocks and harsh pavement.

I can hear it in the lonely silence of the night and in the howl of the coyote.

I hear it whispering in my prayers.

“Come home.”

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Are You Missing?

I love my cell phone.

I love texting and Facebook and geocaching apps. I love mobile coupons and paying for my coffee with the scan of a screen. I love the tidiness of it all and yet I love how far the capabilities of my phone can reach.

Then it was stolen.

My darling little black phone with the worn FFA sticker on the back was gone. And so was the ridiculously expensive waterproof case (my phones have the propensity to go swimming). Suddenly 1985 didn't seem that distant as the landline with the cord was now my only connection to the outside world.

Without the vital piece of technology I was afraid of how much I'd miss. I was worried I'd now become a hermit, devoid of human contact.

 
But instead I became PRESENT for my children and my husband. My attention was no longer divided between an "important" text and the call from my kids to do a puzzle. Conversations happened. Books were opened-REAL books- and consequently devoured. Mother's day was spent on the porch playing basketball and eating snacks and building LEGO's and never once did I say, "Hold on, honey. Mommy needs to answer this." Because I didn't, and frankly very few texts are of the "NEED to answer this" nature. Facebook seemed a lot less important and a lot more fake.

I was also ignored. At times, I was the only one at the table who was looking up. I stopped talking mid-sentence to see that my companions were both on their phones, not listening to me at all. I left the room and no one noticed. I have a couple hundred "friends," yet only two called me at home after the cell was taken.

What are you missing by turning off and tuning in? I can tell you it's a lot less than what you're missing by living a life in social isolation with only Facebook friends and Twitter followers to keep you company. When Siri is considered a fantastic conversationalist, it might be time to unplug for awhile.

I'm not against technology. It totally has its uses and I'm looking forward to having a phone again, but I will not be a slave to it, or social media, or really cool apps.

I will turn it off. Sign out. Log off.

Will you?

What are you missing?

Friday, May 23, 2014

PSA- Acetone: The Must-Have for Your Home

Ladies and Gentleman, if you keep one handy dandy household product around, make sure it's fingernail polish remover WITH acetone. My husband demands this type of remover not because it gets the lovely ladies of the house sparkle polish free, but because it dissolves all manner of adhesives...like super glue.

So, my mother came for a visit and brought me a super sweet travel mug. Within five minutes I had broken a small piece off of the lid of aforementioned super sweet travel mug. Being the pretend fix-it type person that I am, I busted out the super glue and got to work. Moments later, I had a sticky (but still broken) lid and two fingers on my left hand glued together. Not just sort of glued together, but straight up bonded, adhered, STUCK kind of glued together.

For those of you who know American Sign Language,, my hand was permanently in the letter "F" position. Or you could say I was giving the "A-Ok" sign, OR if you happened to live in some Mediterranean countries, I was insulting you.  

I called my husband to let him know his awesomely capable wife had glued her fingers together. All the while I'm on the phone with him, I kept trying to pick stuff up with the afflicted appendage. It didn't work.  And my fingers were starting to cramp.

Thankfully, we always keep acetone in the house. I poured some and started to soak my fingers in it. Mom saw what I was doing and yelled at me because this stuff can be caustic to my skin. (I kind of thought that was the point) Anyway being the nurse that she is, she found a Q-tip and used it to slowly, sloooowwwly, sll-ooooo-wwwww-lllll-yyyy, dissolve the glue from between my fingers.

Free at last, free at last...

Lesson learned: Don't try to fix things, just wait for your husband to come home.

Ok, totally just kidding.

The REAL lesson is to always, ALWAYS keep acetone in the house. That way when you're being super independent and start fixing things, but glue your fingers together (or to whatever you're fixing), you don't have to go to the store to BUY the acetone. Because while you're at the store buying the stuff, the cute Greek salesperson will think you're calling them a mean name and refuse to sell you the acetone. That is just a bad situation all together.

So, if you don't have any nail polish remover with acetone, go buy some. Right now. While you're fingers can still wiggle.

PSA over.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Workin' It


Exhausted and covered in bug bites, I collapsed into bed with a sense of accomplishment that can only come from hard work. Circumstances have dictated that I mow our lawn with a push mower. I mean a PUSH mower. No motor, no electric or gas driven parts. Just some well-oiled ball bearings and man power gets this baby going. Might I add the date “1906” is stamped on this gorgeous, if a bit rusted, machine. I’m pretty sure it is that old.

Earlier in the day, while I was mowing, and sweating, and itching, I got to thinking. (Thinking is easy when your body is moving and there is silence except of the swish-swish of the ancient blades.) My mind started turning at the same rate as the mower about all of the work that needed done in the yard and how, when they get home, my twin sons would be drafted into service. Complaining and grumbling were in the foreseeable future, which sent my thoughts in a whole new direction.

My kids are afraid of hard work. (Insert embarrassed vocalization here) My grandparents and their contemporaries were hard workers; they knew it was a part of life. A part of life that we now consider “simple” or “the good old days,” In reality, things are simpler now than they ever have been. We drive cars with automatic shifting, get food from drive through windows and connect with “friends” through tiny hand held devices that can also text, email, play movies, and call your mother. Things have never been so easy. But that’s the root of the problem. We have become so simple there’s no depth to living.

Life in the ‘30s and ‘40s, when my grandparents were coming up, was hard. Really hard. There was still no electricity in many places, no running water (my mom has not so fond memories of the freezing outhouse at HER grandparent’s house in Minnesota). My family has always been rural folk. Establishing roots in Nebraska and elsewhere around the mid-west, I’m not sure what life was like in the cities during this time, but I can guess it wasn’t any easier just different. If kids wanted money, they sold newspapers or shined shoes, or helped at the grocers. There was value to a dollar and value to a day’s labor.

There was also a beautiful routine to life. Farm families got up before the sun to milk the cows or feed the animals, then breakfast, then school for the youngsters and more work on the land for the adults. After school, there were chores suited for the children and then dinner preparation, then bed. City families got up early as well in preparation of the hustle and bustle of the day. Idleness was not in their blood as it is in ours.

We want everything to come so easy for us. Unfortunately, we’ve passed that on to a whole new generation. When I was growing up I can remember singing at the top of my lungs from the monkey bars. Knowing, KNOWING, a talent agent would be walking down my street in Scottsbluff, NE (that was my first mistake) and immediately book me for a leading role in a Broadway musical. I didn’t want to work for my dream. I wanted it handed to me in a New York minute. Where did this come from? And sadly, it’s something I’ve inadvertently passed down. I don’t know how to change what’s going on, but I know it needs to change.
 
Fast forward to present day. All three big kids pitched in to help me remove the massive pile of sticks and limbs that had recently fallen. There were few complaints and one child found his own work gloves without being prompted. Only one gave up a wee bit earlier than the others. Hard work is rewarding work. If I can teach them that, maybe there's hope for them after all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bruce

I'm honestly not sure why he caught my attention.

Our street is busy and people are always walking by. In fact, he was half-way past my house when I heard myself yell out, "May I offer you a soda?"

The young man's body visibly relaxed under his heavy backpack. A backpack laden with, well, everything. He smiled and said that would be great.

Will you leave the porch light on
for the visiting stranger?
I ran inside cursing myself for not 1) having bottled water and 2) not keeping soda in the fridge. I handed him three drinks and an icy pop while apologizing for the sodas not being cold. He smiled and said they were colder than this warm air and that was cold enough for him.

His bright blue eyes were piercing under his mop of unruly, sandy hair. There didn't seem to be a wrinkle on his face, but there should have been smile lines for as often as he grinned. Tattooed on his finger was the word, "happy."

Turns out, this young man was travelling from Vermont to North Carolina. Soon, he'd be celebrating his 29th birthday and was meeting up with friends in Winston-Salem. He'd already walked to New York then taken a bus to Danville, VA (where I am). Now his feet would be carrying him the rest of the way.

He expressed his concerns about turning 30 (though that was another year away) and how he felt that after that milestone year, everything started to go down-hill. He had a lot of life to live and wondered if he was having the "loss of my twenties doldrums." We talked of his walking up the west coast and how different San Francisco weather is from Las Vegas weather, and how Virginia weather is different from Vermont weather.

Surprising myself again, I heard my own voice asking if he needed food. He seemed taken aback that I'd asked that. Even saying, "Do I NEED food?" Not wanted to offend him, I quickly asked if he would LIKE some food. He smiled and replied that he was a fat kid on the inside and ALWAYS liked food.

Me too, my friend. Me too.

I ran inside for the second time cursing myself (again) because I really had nothing to offer this young man. My cupboards and fridge are pretty bare, but what if this was my son, and he happened past a home of someone claiming to be a Christian?

He couldn't carry much more as his burden was already heavy, so canned goods were out. Besides, did he even have a can opener? (I have no idea what I'm doing. Would he like a bag of hot dog buns? What? That's so dumb!) I grabbed the last of the fruit snacks (which my husband had refused this morning), heated up a bunch of frozen nuggets, grabbed some oranges and dried cranberries, and headed back outside. I was preparing to apologize for the meager fare, when his eyes widened and he whispered, "Wow."

We chatted away like old friends. I'm fairly outgoing, but around strangers I'm more reserved and afraid I'll say something stupid or that there will be that uncomfortable lull in the conversation. It wasn't like that with him though, and I was grateful.

Though he looked young, he had a ruggedness and a confidence about him that reminded me of a mountain man. I felt I was witnessing the pioneering spirit that was so prevalent long ago, but has lost its luster. He wanted to get to North Carolina and no lack of money or transportation was going to stop him.

He said he'd been off the road for three years and, as he pointed to his head, he felt that he's lost it a bit. I knew intuitively what he was referring to. It's wasn't his mind that he'd lost, but the instinct of the open road. The pull of the destination. Some folks are just born to wander and I believe he is one of them. But he was back to it. It was good, he is happy.

He said how much he appreciated everything I'd done for him. In 1,700 miles only one other person had spoken to him. Now, it was my turn to say, "Wow."

I wish I could say this is just the sort of person I am. That I always keep extra food and drink at the ready for the needy passerby. That hospitality is in my blood. Yeah, it's not. In fact I probably would have let him walk past had I not read a blog post this morning on Christian hospitality. It talked about how hospitality nowadays is reserved for those we know. Those who can give something back to us. Those who can offer us THEIR hospitality. That is not what hospitality is supposed to be.

Before leaving, I asked this young man if I could pray with him, surprising myself for the third time this morning. I asked the Good Lord to please protect him, give him the physical strength to make it to his destination, and that He would show Himself along the journey. I told him praying like that is not something I normally do, but something (someone) was calling me to it. He replied, "It felt good. Thanks; it's just nice to know someone cares."

I told him he was welcome back anytime he found himself walking by. I held out my hand and introduced myself.

"Emily," he said with a smile. "I can remember that; it's my sister's name. I'm Bruce."

Bruce never asked for a single thing (except directions to 29 south), and that's so often the case with those who truly need our hospitality. They're not going to ask because they aren't what we consider "in need."We must ask God to open our eyes to those people. It's not always that obvious. There will always be people who need food and shelter and clothing, yes. But the majority of people need a smile or a handshake, or, like Bruce said, just to know someone cares.  Charity is different from hospitality, though they are intertwined. He was not in need of charity, he had everything he "needed." All he was lacking was some hospitality.

If you happen to see Bruce walking through your neck of the woods, stop him and give him a drink. Engage him in conversation. I'm sure he'll be happy to tell you about his travels.  He won't ask you for a thing (except for maybe directions). Pray with him, let him know you care. Those blue eyes and wry smile will stick with you. He's someone's son, brother, friend. Treat him like you'd want your son, brother, friend, to be treated.

Maybe someday you'll be walking through the woods of Vermont and see a lone house. You might just be in the need for a drink. Perhaps a man with unruly sandy hair will open the door and return the hospitality he was offered once upon a time.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Imperfect Progess

Hey you!

Yeah, you!

The mom with all those kids running around while I'm trying to Zumba.

Do you have any idea how distracting it is to have your munchkins yelling and whining while I'm trying to cha-cha? It's hard enough to not complain while my thighs are burning from all those squats and now I have to listen to your kid whine and moan about how bored he is. Not cool, lady. Not cool.

Oh wait.

Those were my kids.

I was that mom.

At that moment I pretty much wanted to crawl under a rock and hide my face in shame. When they act out like that it draws attention to every inadequacy I have as a parent. Obviously, I don't discipline because they wouldn't act like that. Obviously, they're spoiled otherwise, they wouldn't whine like that. Obviously, they rule the roost because they got what they wanted when they left Zumba early.

On the flip side of that neurotic coin, I promised the children they would go to a play room during class and thus none of the little ones brought anything to keep them occupied...not even a stroller for the baby. They were bored and mom had misled them.
Maybe we should have cut back on the caffeine
(don't worry, it was empty)

BUT, then again, don't they see how absolutely inconsiderate they were being?

When I take a step back from myself, I see that they are well disciplined children (usually), who were tired and bored and did NOT get what they wanted by leaving Zumba early. In fact all were sent to their rooms for their behavior. While I'm not making excuses for them, it helps me to see that kids (especially bored twin boys, a rambunctious little girl, and a fidgety baby) don't see outside of THIER circumstances to see how their behavior affects other people. I don't believe they had any idea they were being distracting, rude, and generally bad behaved. But they were.

And I was calm(ish). We left early and I explained to them how I was disappointed, how I was embarrassed. Embarrassed not by THEM but by their actions. I knew it was God's grace because my flesh wanted to cry and blowup and act the fool, but I didn't. In fact, I made imperfect progress. I'm still not the peaceful calm mom that breeds peaceful calm kids. What I did demonstrate was grace in the time of frustration; something I may not have done in the past. And that was a step forward.

My body may not have gotten the workout it wanted, but my heart did.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 is on like Donkey Kong!

Let me first say Thank You to those who joined my pity party encapsulated in my last post. Thank You for leting me rant, and thank you for the words of encouragement. But mostly Thank You to the ones who called me out on the selfishness of the post and that I needed to get my head out of my backside. Well...I have. Watch out 2014... Here. I. Come!

I am so excited to report some big things going on in 2014. I've made resolutions and so far, I've basically kept them. Yes, I know we've only been crossing out the "13" on our checks for one week, but baby-steps friends, baby steps. One week is better than no week.

My resolutions, or challenges, or commitments for the new year are:
  1. Get closer to God through faith
  2. Become more organized
  3. Become a better Mommy
What I've found is that they are all working together. As my faith increases, I'm noticing I'm not afraid to fail at my organizational challenges. While it's not in my nature to be tidy, it's in God's nature to change me as He sees fit, and he's answering my organizational pleas. As I grow in faith and become more organized, I'm less stressed. I've got more "free time." Thus, I'm becoming a better Mommy. I can play with the kids without guilt because there are piles and piles of laundy, because dishes are overflowing the sink, because nothing is vaccumed or swept.

I love it when a plan comes together. (Yes, I can even watch A-Team on Netflix).

To get closer to God, I reached out to Him and said I needed help. I wanted to hear His voice. I wanted needed Him to prove himself real (see, total lack of faith. I have seen His works in the past, yet still doubted). He IS proving himself faithful.

 
First I recieved a beautiful prayer journal from my sweet friend Britta over at Britta's Banter. It was such a lovely and thoughtful gift and right up the alley of my plea to God. Then, the Bible app on my phone suggested I find a verse for 2014. A year verse that will envelope what I need 2014  to be. (I chose Isaiah 41:10, if you're curious) Next, many of Beth Moore's books were provided for FREE on e-readers. I downloaded as many as I could on my NOOK and started reading Believing God. (That's exactly what I need: to believe God at His Word.) Shortly after that. I came across Scripture Memorization for the Rest of Us: The Jesus Project at A Holy Experience. Everything fit together like a well made puzzle. Praise God!

 
Believing God, is believing His Word. It's believing He is who He says He is. It's believing (not just knowing) that He's there and He's got me in the palm of his hand. He's making Himself known to me and I am so grateful. My life is only victorious when I know the Victor. If faith was easy, we'd all have it, but we don't, and it's not. I'm working on it and He's working on me.

Did you make resolutions? I'm super curious: What are they and how are you doing so far?

 
(Perhaps you noticed I didn't touch too much on my other two resolutions. Well, stayed tuned. I see a series in the making. Happy 2014!!)