Raw

imageThe last year and a half has been rough on me. I haven’t wanted to fully admit it (even to myself) and I especially haven’t felt like discussing it. I don’t want to go into all the particulars that has caused this. Life is life and it isn’t always pleasant. For someone like myself, there is nothing harder than to watch bad things or bad times fall upon people I care about. I’m not saying this to prove I’m a good person, but I’d much rather have bad things happen to myself than to my peeps. That is the good and bad of the gift of mercy. I presume every gift has a weakness and Satan uses that weakness to try to tear us down.

Sometimes it is all the little instances that build rather than just one thing. A cousin commits suicide, an aunt overdoses and dies, an old friend dies, and the other instances I do not wish to share. My cousin left me hurting due to all the pain he endured and felt he couldn’t endure any longer. My aunt, where do I begin? I have fond memories of her wit and creativity. I also have painful memories of watching someone slowly destroy their life over many years. My old friend left me thinking of what more christians can and should do for those who live differently…those who have been dragged down, beaten, and have made poor choices because of this thing called life. Actually, everything from this past year and a half have left me thinking that.

My life has been rather “easy” compared to most. I know that and I am thankful. Maybe it has made it easier to have the faith I have. My struggles are insignificant compared to some and maybe that has made me “weaker”. I know some whom feel I haven’t truly lived. I must disagree. I believe we live through not just our own experiences, but through others as well. Our lives are connected and our lives have the power to alter the lives of others. Our lives are far from being isolated, that is a fact. Yes, I know no one else truly knows what it is like to live in thine own shoes, but that does not mean it doesn’t give insight and life to those around.

My somewhat easy life has left me raw and has left me stumbling. Last night, Matt and I had a conversation that I was yearning for and didn’t even realize I was. He thanked me for all the sacrifices I have made for our family and others. He told me he notices all I do. He said he doesn’t know how I do all I do. It made me weep uncontrollably. I did not know how much I needed to release. Those cleansing tears have left me feeling lighter today. Crazy what a few words from a loving husband can do for a person.

What exactly is the good?

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As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.

 

The Fickleness of Life

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I took this picture as I was driving one evening. It was New Years Eve to be exact. I know it was a bit risky, but there was something about the sky that night.  It was in the clouds, the sun setting, and it was my contemplative mood. Maybe it was in my contemplative mood that made the sky more beautiful than usual.  Though still, when I look at this picture I am drawn to it.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I would go for drives out in the country when my mind was weary.  I remember some of the moments that led me to grab my keys and go. They were all moments that grew me as a person. Moments I wouldn’t want to relive, but also moments I wouldn’t want to take back.

Nowadays, with kids, seldom do I find solace in the car.  I use it as a time to connect and reconnect.  We talk sometimes about life and faith. I turn up the tunes and jam with my kids. I listen to them converse with each other. We play I Spy. It is fun. Peaceful?  Not so much.

I no longer have the freedom to take off as I please.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.  It is yet another sacrifice I am willing to make as a parent.

I will get my car rides back some day.  The peace and quiet…the scenery will soothe my weary mind. I will think of my car rides with the boys. I will hear the loudness and feel the chaos in my mind. It will then be those car rides I miss.

Funny how fickle we are.

 

Soon You’ll be Forty Years Old…

DSC_0157Matthew,

I cannot believe your fortieth birthday is next week.  When I think of when we first met and then think of our life now it amazes me. I think of all the years in between…everything we’ve been through…wow.  We really are doing this. We really are continuously building a life together, for better or worse. I think we have seen both.  It is inevitable there will be good times and bad.  Life. That is life.

I remember our early days of flirting by tossing pumpkin guts (Is that what you call it?) at each other. Who would’ve thought after all these years that we’d be married with two kids? I’ll never forget the summer we spent at the beach.  We pretty much lived moment to moment.  I won’t share all our memories on here, but those are just a couple that I go back to when life gets crazy.

All I know is that there is no one else on earth who knows me and loves me like you do. Anytime you ask me to write a blog or remind me I haven’t in a while, I am reminded how much you care about me. You are a good person, Matt.  Don’t you ever forget that.

Time seems to speed up the older we get, it really does. It will seem as only a few moments have passed before I am thinking, soon I’ll be forty years old. I don’t like to think about myself as being forty, but as long as you are by my side I will be just fine.

Before we know it, our kids will be grown and forty will seem young.  I cannot wait to see you as a grandfather. Heck, maybe we will even have a granddaughter. How weird would that be to have a girl in our life?

Oh my and then before we know it, we will retire. I’m seeing us as snowbirds for sure.  A nice condo on a beach somewhere? We’ll be walking along the beach and I will turn to you and say, “My dear, soon you’ll be seventy years old.  Where did the time go?” You will lean down, kiss my forehead and say, “I don’t know, babe. Did I take me medicine this morning?”

XOXO

These Two Faces

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If you ask why I do certain things, then just look at these two faces. If you ask why I don’t do certain things, then just look at these two faces. Becoming a parent has made me more selfless than ever before. It has brought out a side of me I never knew existed. Parts of me that had lain dormant since my own childhood have reemerged. These two have brought me more life and joy than I can ever describe.

When either of them tell me I am the best mom ever, I know without a doubt they actually believe it. That is why I will never stop trying to live up to those words. Yes, I forgive myself when I mess up. I use those as teachable moments to let them know to forgive themselves as well when they mess up. I brush off my mistake and try try again. It is all a part of the deep love I have for them.

If anything, I pray my kids will look back on their childhood and know I never gave up on them…

As of late, we have gotten swept up in the busyness of life. It shows it every detail of our family life. I think we all realized it last week, even my four-year-old. This past Friday, Matt took Oliver up to his family’s cabin for the night. I decided to have a date night with Luke. It seriously could not have come at a better time. We all needed it. It was a reminder of how much we need to do that more often.

So it is with life. We must stop and take breaks before life gets the best of us. I tell my kids that all the time. They don’t totally get it yet, but hopefully they will one day.

Anyway, these two faces are why I have more peace in life. God gave me them to open my eyes to what life is suppose to be about. Guess what? Life is not about me. It isn’t about you, either. It is not about winning an argument. It is not about outwitting someone. It is definitely not about competing or one-upping anyone.

Life is about loving God. It is about the love you hold for others. It is about what happens as a result of the love you hold. Ain’t nobody got time for anything else…at least I know I don’t. (Yes, I know ain’t is not a word.)

Drugs and a Well Traveled Baby Blanket

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I remember one summer as a kid I stayed a few weeks at her house.  We began sewing clothes for a little stuffed rabbit. I admired her wit and her creativity. She enjoyed writing at one time…just like me. My grandma and my mom always referred to her as being so very intelligent. There were a few times they said I reminded them of her when she was younger. There was a time when I liked hearing that. That was before drugs took her life.

You know, drugs take a person’s life long before they take their last breath. It can be a slow decay. Years later you don’t even recognize the person they once were. All you see are the lies, the anger, the stress it has caused those you love.

Drugs seeped into my life although I have never done drugs. Drugs seep into so many innocent lives and it just sucks! I’ve seen the trickle down effect it has on a family.  It infuriates me.  It infuriates me even more that I kept my mouth shut for so many years over it.

Maybe it seemed inevitable because those with mental illness seem to have a higher incidence of drug use. I cannot help but wonder where accountability falls into play. Then, that seems insensitive because mental illness is not a made up illness. Maybe the insensitivity behind mental illness is partly to blame. Which means I am partly to blame–most of us are partly to blame.

We don’t hesitate to feel for and want to help with those who have physical ailments. You have someone who is diagnosed with bipolar and it is different. We get mad at them when they once again have made a bad choice. It is hard not to be upset when someone else’s bad choices hurt those around them. I get it. Oh do I get it because I have lived it.

Up until this very moment I never realized how much drugs changed even my own life. 

Somewhere in time, I almost forgot I had an aunt. I would see her on Christmas and a few other times throughout the year. I guess there were a few times I actually saw the real her. One time was at my baby shower. I was opening up the present she got me. It was my baby blanket. She knew my mom would lose it (which is so true)…so she saved it all those years for me. I cannot help but think of the countless times she moved. Every time she carried along with her my baby blanket and I had no idea. I wonder if my blanket brought her any comfort. Was it some reminder to her of who she once was?

Mental illness and drugs are indeed a horrible combination. The insensitivity and ignorance toward them are as well though. I know it is hard to think of the person they once were. It is hard to think somewhere under all the gunk the person still remains. Maybe we are playing God when we feel the person is beyond hope; when we forget the person is still in there struggling beyond what we can ever imagine.

Oh, how Satan want us to forget that person…

And I did. I forgot she still existed. I forgot the person who still remained deserved grace, forgiveness, and love. Just like we all deserve those things. I pray the last moments of her life she called out to God. Oh I pray…