Author Archives: trulyyoursjen

The Importance of Response

*Sometimes I write things and then realize I hit publish a little prematurely. If you are wondering why the same post is ending up in your inbox again today – this one is a little different. After reflecting, I realized I didn’t quite say things like I had wanted to. Every once in awhile we need a do-over. This is my do-over. 

Oh my heart.

It feels like whenever I turn on the television, open my Yahoo account, log in to Facebook or read a headline somewhere – it’s almost too much.

The words I read, the images I see – they break my heart.

Our country seems a little more divided and a little more angry than I remember in my lifetime.

There is political discord, racial tension, terrorism and nuclear threats – to name a few.

And to top it off, the recent natural disaster, Hurricane Harvey, has wreaked havoc on the lives of many – leaving over 30,000 people without their homes, their communities, their towns – now living in shelters. As the waters recede and they head back to their homes to assess the damage, they are left  to wonder what will happen next.

What do you do with so much wreckage?

Photo courtesy of The Weather Channel

The new statistics that come in daily are mind boggling.

The images are gut wrenching.

The stories are hard to hear and the images are painful to see, but I am watching from a place of comfort – not out my window. I see the images flash by on my television, my computer screen, my device. What about the people who are there? What about the people who watched, unable to help, as people were swept away by the water?

What about the people whose lives have been turned upside down in an instant?

And it’s not just the hurricane victims my heart breaks for.

What about the people who were at the Charlottesville rally? What about the people who stood there watching as the car drove into the crowds?

What about the people who were injured? What about the woman who lost her life?

Photo Courtesy of New York Times

Sometimes it’s just too much to take in.

I wonder how to process it all? What to make of it? What to do about it?

My life may have not been directly impacted by these recent events in our country, but they have still left a mark. My heart feels topsy-turvy and upside-downy and like I want to do something.

And so I am going to do something. Because I can.

Don’t think for one second that how we respond to these events we see on the television, or read about on our newsfeeds doesn’t matter. Don’t think that because you are just one person you can’t make a difference in this broken world. Don’t think that you aren’t able to make a dent, make a change, make an impact. Because you are.

How we respond to these things does matter.

I am learning sometimes the best response for myself is silence. Sometimes the best response is for me to say nothing at all. Especially on Facebook.

Shortly after the election, I posted an article that highlighted some of my thoughts on what had transpired. Within moments, I had responses from people. Some in favor of the post. Others in opposition. I quickly hit the delete button.

Getting into a political debate on Facebook would only create lines of division. I knew that as strongly as I felt about my opinion, there were others that felt as strongly about their own.

Posting an article wasn’t going to change those opinions.

I realized in that moment as I deleted the post, that I didn’t want to get involved with these discussions on Facebook. For myself personally, there would be no benefit.

Only frustration. Only more division. More discord. None of which I want in my life.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t engaged in political debates with people. That isn’t to say that I don’t think people should speak up for what they believe – because I do. I have just decided that Facebook is not a great platform for me to share my political views.

And sometimes the best response is for me to listen. To try to put myself in the other persons shoes. To try to see things from their perspective.

The racism that has been rearing it’s ugly head lately is like a bad breakout. You may not know how dirty your face really is, until all of the pimples appear. Then you know you have an issue that needs dealt with – pronto. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before – you just couldn’t see it.

Now that it has bubbled to the surface, it needs to be dealt with.

All of this racial ugliness has opened my eyes to the kind of person I want to be and the kind of person I don’t want to be. It has made me realize how ignorant I have been to the sufferings and oppressions of minorities in our country.

This has been going on for a long, long, long time. Unfortunately, I was just blind to it.

The recent events in our country have made me want to listen. To learn. To open my ears and my eyes. It has made me want to build more diverse relationships. People tend to be drawn to people who are just like them. It’s what we do. I don’t want to be that way anymore.

As a white woman in our country, I honestly don’t know what the best response is to all of this, but I do know that I want to start having more conversations. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to be a part of the solution in some way.

As part of the majority, if I want to help enact change, then I have a responsibility to listen, to learn and then respond.

And I do believe that while sometimes the best response for me is silence, there are other times when the best response is for me to speak out against the injustice I see in the world.

And when I choose to not be silent, when I choose to speak for justice – I must be sure I am speaking from a place of love. I am learning if I choose to respond to hate with more hate then I am no better than the people I am speaking out against.

There is such a thing as righteous anger. When there is injustice in the world, it is likely to make your blood boil. As it should.

When I saw the images and videos of the white nationalists marching in Charlottesville it stirred up anger and sadness and frustration and the reality of how incredibly ignorant I was to the racism that exists in our country.

A fire had been ignited. And when I heard people defending the actions of the white nationalists in any way – that fire burned bright.

I was angry.

But even in if the anger is righteous, even in the face of injustice, we are not called to respond with hate. We are called to respond with love. We are called to love our enemies.

It is easy to pray for the families of victims. It is easy to pray for the people who are suffering from injustice. It is easy to pray for those who are being marginalized and mistreated. It is much harder to pray for the person who caused the pain.

What about praying for the person who drove the car into the crowd?

What about praying for the other people who were there marching?

It is counter to our natural response – it definitely wasn’t my first response. Or second. Or third even. But over time, as I have thought about this I have realized that if we are called to love our enemies, these are the people we are called to love and called to pray for.

I can make a difference in this world by choosing to respond to even the most atrocious acts in love.

I believe we are capable each and every day of making small choices that will leave large, lasting impacts.

When we hear about the division in our country, we can pray. When we hear about injustice, we can pray. When we hear about terrorist attacks and international discord, we can pray.

When we hear about the devastation happening in Texas and surrounding areas, we can pray.

We should pray.

We can also make monetary donations. We can find out the greatest needs and send those items. And for some, you may be called to pack up your belongings and travel there to physically help in some capacity.

Whether you donate $5 or book a flight. Every little bit helps. Don’t think for one second it doesn’t.

We can all make a difference in this broken world. Our words, our actions, our response to the small things and the big things that happen in life – they matter.

The more that we choose to respond in love, the more we choose to love our neighbor as our self, the more we choose to listen and empathize, the more we choose to pray for our enemies instead of lashing out in hate – the more we will impact this world for the better.

We don’t have to be paralyzed by the headlines. We don’t have to be afraid of what we see. We can make a difference, even in the face of great disaster.

The remarkable thing is that if everyone does a little something, it becomes a whole lot of something. And that is when change happens. As we can see from the outpouring of love in our country toward the victims of Hurricane Harvey – our response matters and when we act in love, together, we can make a difference.

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Click on any of these links below to make a donation to help Hurricane Harvey victims:

The Red Cross

Americares

The Humane Society

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

The Texas Diaper Bank

Catholic Charities

Direct Relief

Matthew 25: Ministries

The Salvation Army

Save the Children

GoFundMe

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
-Dr. Seuss
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
Proverbs 10:12
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbori and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5: 38-48
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Simple Living

For the past 18 days we have been living in temporary housing. People ask how it’s going and my reply is instant, enthusiastic and authentic.

I love it.

It’s small. It’s uncluttered. It’s cozy. It’s simple.

It’s perfect.

I’ve been talking about decluttering for quite some time. I did 52 weeks of donations. I decluttered for our move. I’ve read about decluttering. I’ve written posts on decluttering.

The idea of living a simple, uncluttered life is alluring. It’s something I’ve been working to achieve.

But, even with all of my working, we still managed to fill an ENTIRE semi (and another small truck) with stuff.

Yep. The biggest truck possible. We filled it. And still needed another truck. (Time to drop the head in shame. I obviously still have lots work to do.)

While all of that stuff is being stored for us, we are living in our temporary space. And I am learning.

In these past 18 days I have learned more about the value of living an uncluttered, simple life than I ever have before.

I am learning because I am living it. And in living it, I am experiencing the value.

We brought few items with us into our fully furnished apartment. The kids each brought a handful of toys. We each brought a small bin of clothes. We brought a few games and a deck of cards. We brought a couple extra kitchen items. We brought gifts that were given to us at our going away party that are being used as decorations. It isn’t much. It’s the basics.

The furnished apartment came with one baking sheet, one spatula, one measuring cup and so on and so forth. Not excess, but enough.

With the stuff gone and our family living in a smaller space, we are engaging with each other more. We are playing games together. The kids are playing more with a couple of toys than they did with a house full of toys.

It’s ironic.

Our time isn’t being sucked up by the management of things. I’m not picking up things all day. I’m not cleaning things all day.

As a family, we cleaned the house together and it took roughly 20 minutes. Total.

It’s liberating.

But out there, somewhere, is our truck. Our semi truck filled to the brim with stuff. A lot of stuff that we don’t need. Some we do, but a lot we don’t.

Thankfully, we have been given this gift. This gift of experiencing simple living  (I realize this is a very First World version of simplicity.)  We have now experienced what it feels like to live in a smaller space with fewer things and we all feel the same.

We love it. Even the kids. They love it too. They are all sharing rooms – and they still love it.

I think there is something inside of most people that longs for decluttered space. Longs for simplicity.

But in our world of excess and consumerism – that is hard to achieve. What our hearts long for is in some ways countercultural. Until recently. It seems that more and more people are choosing to live smaller. Live simpler. Look at the tiny house craze. It all stems from a desire to live more freely. A desire to not be bound to as much stuff and experience more life.

So here’s what I am going to do. I am going to take the lesson learned in this temporary space and put it into practice.

In one week and one day, the truck will arrive at our new house.

Nothing (and I mean nothing) will come into our home unless we love it and have a need for it. If it’s just okay, or maybe we might use it some day – NO. No more rainy day items.

I want to unpack slowly. I want to unpack intentionally.

I want to look at this as redistribution. How can we redistribute the things we don’t need any longer? Who could really use them? I don’t want to just make a trip to Goodwill because it’s convenient. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Goodwill.) I want to redistribute intentionally.

This may be our temporary home, but I hope the result of our time here is not temporary. I hope it is long-lasting. I hope as the boxes are brought into our new home that I remember how I feel right now, in this space, typing these words.

Decluttered living. Intentional Living. Simple living. It starts here. It starts now.

Who’s with me?

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*If the idea of living a simple, decluttered life is alluring to you too, send me a message and let me know. I would love to hear from you.

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A Letter to My Children as They Head to School

To my sweet children,

You are so brave.

I know this move hasn’t been easy. I know at times you find yourself missing your friends, neighbors, classmates and school.

I would imagine life feels a little upside down right now.

It’s hard walking into a school for the first time down unfamiliar halls filled with unfamiliar faces.

It’s hard walking into the lunch room amidst the conversations and laughter. It’s hard to decide where to sit and who to sit next to – and when you finally do pick a place to sit, it can be hard to look someone in the eye and say, “hello.”

It’s hard to be in a new place you haven’t been before surrounded by people you don’t know.

It’s hard to be at recess and not know what to do, or who to play with.

It’s hard to leave the comfort of all that is familiar and enter into a sea of unknowns.

Yes, it’s hard. But do you know what?

You are brave. You are so brave. Here is how I know.

To my oldest:

I know it was hard on the first day when you stood alone at recess, but you didn’t let that stop you. The next day, you found someone to talk to. Each day, you will find more and more people. You will figure this out. You will make your way here. Just give yourself grace. Give yourself time.

Some days will be harder than others and that’s okay. Give yourself space to grieve when you need to. It’s okay to miss our old home. Also, give yourself permission to find joy here. That isn’t betraying our old home, or the friends we left. You haven’t lost your old friends, you are just finding more people to love.

I can see the look in your eyes when I drop you off in the morning. I know it is hard, but you’ve got this. Just be yourself, sweet girl. You are more than enough. Keep your positive attitude and before you know it, as impossible as it may seem, all that seems so foreign now will someday start to feel like home. You are so brave, 

To my second:

I know you were scared yesterday at the end of the day when you weren’t sure how to get to the pick-up line. When you walked out of the school with tears streaming down your face I wanted to scoop you up in my arms and run you back to the car, but I knew you wouldn’t like that very much. I knew you were trying to conceal your tears and all that attention would just make things worse. Even though I wanted to run to you, I resisted the urge and walked calmly instead.

That’s one of the hard parts about being a momma as your kids are growing. It’s hard to know when to give space and when to jump in, but I knew in that moment you wanted some space and I tried to give it to you as best as I could.  I’m glad that you felt safe enough to really let those tears come in buckets when we were in the safety of the car, together.

There may be times in the weeks to come when you feel lost or unsure of what you are doing or where you are going. Know that the teachers and other staff in your school are there to help you. They are for you and they want to see you succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. You will figure this out.

You have such a big heart and have already made a long list of friends in just a few short days. In fact, I will never forget when I picked you up from your new school on your first day – how you had to run back to give a new friend a hug. You are a little joy spreader. You’ve got this. Just keep being you. You are so brave.

To my third:

I know you miss home and your friends. I know lunch and recess have been a scary time for you. I see you trying hard to keep those tears in. Remember, it’s okay to cry. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to let those tears stream down your face and jump into the arms of someone who loves you and get lost in their cuddles and snuggles while you cry your heart out. Sometimes, the bravest thing to do is to cry. To be vulnerable. To let someone see your heart is hurting.

Before long, you will be excited to go to school. Just like you were before. It may take a little while to get there, but I believe you will. Look at what you’ve already accomplished!  In just three days at this school, you’ve already figured out how to hang upside down on the monkey bars with NO HANDS!  If you can do that in just three days, I am pretty sure you can do just about anything. You are so brave.

To my baby:

Sweet little boy. Today, when you climbed into the car with your Star Wars backpack and Super Mario lunch box you were so excited. You said you were a little nervous, but you hopped in the car with a determination and enthusiasm that made me excited for you. I hope you keep that enthusiasm and that excitement throughout life. Keep looking for the joy in the adventure. Keep facing new things head on just like you did today. You are so brave.


My sweet children, thank you for showing me what it looks like to be brave. I have been learning from you since the day you were placed in my arms. You teach me so many things about life that I never knew. I will be learning from you all of my days. I am sure of it.

It may be hard to be the new kid in a new school, but you can do this. You are doing it. Do you want to know something? This is hard for me too. I miss my friends and our old house. I miss our neighbors and the familiar streets. Do you want to know something else, even with all of that missing in my heart – there is an excitement too. It’s okay to feel both.

Just remember, regardless of what comes your way in life, always be who God made you to be. Never compromise who you are, or what you believe or know to be true in your heart, just to fit in. Be wonderful, fabulous, unique YOU.

Watching you face your fears has helped me to face mine.

We’ve got this. We can do it. One day at a time.

Together, we can be brave.

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Uplifted

Late Sunday evening, as I was driving in the dark, through the pouring rain, around the twists and bends with tears streaming down my face I thought, “Please. Just let me get there.”

The couple of weeks prior to our departure were exhausting, emotional and by far some of the best weeks of my life.

We were constantly surrounded and uplifted by friends and loved ones.

Friends who stopped by our home in the last days just to hug and talk and laugh and cry.

Friends who came to pray.


Friends who had us over for dinners and going away parties and family celebrations.

And in our final days when we needed places to stay, friends who opened their homes to our noise and chaos and plethora of bags and pillows and all that comes with opening your home to a family of six for the night.

Friends. Friends. And more friends.

Love. Love. And more love.

So much that my heart felt on the constant verge of bursting and my eyes felt on the constant verge of welling up and over into a pool of grateful tears.

We didn’t deserve all of this, but it was being poured on us in buckets. It was a picture of grace.

And then when I thought it possibly couldn’t get any better, that we couldn’t possibly feel any more love than we already had felt in the previous weeks – we walked into the home of our dear friends for our going away celebration.

We spent the next hours in the company of loved ones – laughing, crying and saying, “Hope to see you soon” – which sounds so much better than goodbye.

These days leading up to our departure and our final celebration served as a reminder for me. A reminder of what matters.

Relationships.

Relationships matter.


God is relational and He created us in His image. He created us with a desire to be loved and a desire to love. Loved for who we are in all of our imperfection. Pure, unconditional love – like the love God shows us. Gracious love.

People went out of their way time and time again to show us this kind of love. They took a moment from their own busy lives and busy schedules to pour into us.

Looking back on the last weeks spent in Indy, I needed this and my family needed this. More than we knew.

This time of love from friends and family filled my tank and also reminded me of how I want to live my life.

It reminded me of the importance of a text. A phone call. A card. A hug. A shared prayer.

It reminded me of the kind of friend I want to be and one that I oftentimes am not.

It reminded me of the importance of leaving margin, leaving space, leaving room for God to show me how He may want me to spend my day.

It reminded me of what matters.

I often get wrapped up in my own little bubble. My own list of to-dos has the potential to rule every minute of my well planned out, perfectly orchestrated day.

There is nothing wrong with calendars, to-do lists and schedules. In fact, those are wonderfully effective tools for living an organized life.

The problem for me is when the calendar is so full that I can’t see past my plan for the day. I start my day in my bubble and forget to stop and think about what may be going on in the lives of the people God has placed around me.

This kindness we experienced had a profound impact on me and has continued in our first days here.

Prior to our move, a sweet friend from Indy introduced me to a mutual friend of hers from college who lives in the small Tennessee town we now call home. She took the time  to introduce us via email and her friend was kind enough to invite me and the kids over the day before school started for some ice cream.

Her three children are all close in age to our three oldest. She said she was just returning from a long vacation, but she would love to have us.

Again, this made me stop and think.

She made space for us. School was about to start and I had to imagine things were hectic for her. We were complete strangers and she made space for us. She invited us into her home. She fed my children ice cream and she gave me a hug.

A complete stranger.

I want to live my life like this.

I know it won’t be long before our calendars become full again, but I hope to not forget the impact that the love of others has made in my life and in the lives of my family members. I hope to remember the importance of leaving space. I hope to remember the importance of keeping my eyes open to what is happening in the lives of those around me. Neighbors. Friends. Family. Strangers.

Late Sunday evening, as I was driving in the dark, through the pouring rain, around the twists and bends with tears streaming down my face I thought, “Please. Just let me get there.”

I was exhausted. I had cried many tears in the previous weeks, days, hours and minutes.

As I followed my family to Tennessee in the rental van with the Illinois license plate that said AM I found myself looking continually at the words, “I AM.”

It was a beautiful reminder of God with us. God carrying us. God leading us.

I was exhausted, but I was ready. It was time. Time to trust. Time to let go. Time to open my eyes to the bigger picture of what God may be doing in my life. In my husband’s life. In my children’s lives. Change isn’t easy, but I have to believe it will serve a bigger purpose.

I pray that as I begin this journey here I can love a little better. I pray I can trust a little more. I pray I can be the kind of friend that others have been to me. I pray I can live with space in my life. I pray the lessons I have learned in these weeks will be embedded deep in my heart. I pray they won’t be fleeting. I pray God will use me in this new space I occupy.

Please God. Use me.

 

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Summer’s End: A Season of Change

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when I look at the calendar and realize summer is dwindling down to the final days.

The countdown to back-to-school has begun and with it comes the inevitable question, “Where has the summer gone?”

The start of summer is filled with optimism and promise as the schedule clears and makes room for long days of lounging by the pool side, gathering with friends, family vacations and late nights roasting marshmallows by the fire (in an idyllic Norman Rockwell meets Pleasantville type summer, of course.)

In the beginning, there is excitement in the air and the feeling that summer will last forever.

And then, BAM! It pulls a Kaiser Soze and disappears. Just like that. Poof. It’s gone.

And I’m bummed.

Even though it can be chaotic, even though the kids fight, even though we are without a daily schedule, even though the days can be a little crazy with people sleeping in and breakfast being served at 10am, even though it’s far from the picture perfect Norman Rockwell world – I love it. I love the crazy.

I love the sounds of their voices and their feet pounding upstairs. I love the music they play and the dances they make up. I love the sound of my children playing with the neighborhood kids and the constant stream of people coming and going, in and out of the house like a never-ending parade, but instead of throwing candy – the parade scatters sand and other outdoor debris leaving a trail in their wake.

Ok, I don’t always love the fighting. I take that part back. That part can be annoying. And the screeching of “MOM!” followed by the inevitable asking for something – that part can also be annoying. And the trail of sand throughout the house from the sandbox that makes me feel like I must be living on an exotic beach somewhere (without any of the benefits of living on an exotic beach other than the trail of sand) that part can be pretty annoying, too.

The more I think about it, maybe the reason I love summer so much is because it’s a concentrated time when we’re all together, but it does have an end. Maybe the chaos is great because I know a schedule is on the horizon. Maybe summer wouldn’t be so awesome if it really did stretch on forever.

Maybe instead of being bummed, I should just be grateful.

Grateful that we have had these fun lazy days of summer and thankful that we are about to return to some semblance of normal as the daily routine makes its way back into our lives.

To everything there is a season and maybe what makes summer so amazing is that it is a season (literally.) It can be anticipated, enjoyed and then let go – with the understanding that it will be back again in all of it’s glory.

This year, summer’s end feels a little different for me and my family. The end of summer is more than just the end of a season we love. It also marks the end of our time in Indiana – the state where we have lived our entire lives.

As we are about to pack up our home and move five hours away, I really have no idea what our new normal will be.

Usually at this point in the summer, I have received the School Pak (I refused to shop for supplies after our oldest child’s kindergarten year, but that’s a whole other story).

Usually at this point in the summer, we have opened the boxes and labeled everything in anticipation for the upcoming year.

Usually at this point in the summer, the back-to-school clothes shopping has begun.

Usually at this point in the summer, the dates for the ice cream socials and meet-the-teacher nights are on the calendar.

Usually at this point in the summer, there is a buzz and excitement in the house as the kids eagerly await their postcards notifying them of who their teachers will be.

I know how the end of summer goes here. I know what to expect. I know what’s coming next.

But the end of this summer isn’t usual.

To everything there is a season. I am learning to appreciate and thank God for the gifts each season brings. I am learning that life is a constant ebb and flow. Things are always changing. I am learning how to not hold on too tightly. I am learning how to let go and embrace this change.

Sometimes things can’t be buttoned up and put together. Some seasons won’t allow it.

I may not know what it looks like to live in Tennessee, but I have to trust it will be good.

Back-to-school is a little different for us this year and that’s okay. We will figure it out when we get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Was I Thinking?

A few weeks ago, I signed up to help tend the courtyard at my daughter’s school. Through an inspiring class project called Seeds of Change, my daughter’s triad transformed a sad looking courtyard into something beautiful and magnificient.

With the guidance and encouragement of their teachers, the children saw something that needed fixed, came up with a plan and then took the necessary steps to turn their vision into a reality.

They raised money. They met with school officials. They met with landscapers. They put their hands in the ground and helped plant flowers. They got dirty.

And they did it. The transformation was remarkable.

In order for it to remain this way and flourish over the hot, summer weeks – families were encouraged to sign up for one week to help tend the courtyard.

This was our week.

Last week, as I was looking at my calendar, I thought – “What in the world was I thinking?”

I couldn’t believe I had signed up for this week.

What. Was. I. Thinking?

I obviously was having a major brain malfunction when I signed up for this week.

This week is the last week before our house goes on the market. This week my husband is out of town all week. This week is the week I need to finish decluttering and painting and organizing.

And we are preparing to go out of town.

I know you aren’t supposed to say that in a public forum for fear that someone is going to come into your house, but I’m saying it regardless. We are going out of town. And I need to pack. And packing for an entire family takes a lot of time.

Did I mention our house goes on the market next week? Did I mention my husband is out of town ALL WEEK?

What. Was. I. Thinking?

Regardless of what I was thinking – we were doing this.

We arrived on Monday and I told the kids this would take around 20 minutes. Water. Pull a couple of weeds. Finished.

In and out.

That was the plan. Until we actually saw the courtyard. The beautiful courtyard was in a sad state of dehydration and was slowly being overtaken by a colony of weeds.

20 minutes was a pipe dream and I was feeling annoyed. Very annoyed.

But what was I going to do? Complain about it? Be a whiny baby? No. Not an option. I was trying to teach my kids the importance of volunteering with a joyful heart. My grumpster, harried, undesirable attitude could not surface.

I forced a smile and got to work.

And as my hands repeatedly went into the dirt pulling up weed after weed and as I looked around and saw my children tending to the plants and the flowers and running through the sprinkler, something in my heart began to change.

A feeling of joy began to bubble up. I was removed from my problems and my stress and my long list of this weeks to-dos.

With my hands in the dirt, my heart changed and the smile I had plastered on in an attempt to mask my true emotions changed into a genuine smile of gratitude.

For the rest of the week, the highlight of my day became tending the courtyard with my children. It was a reprieve from the daily grind. It felt good to be caring for nature and to take part in this beautiful project the kids had worked so hard on all year long.

It was a wonderful reminder that oftentimes the best medicine for my soul is to remove the focus from me and my issues and my problems and to turn it to something bigger, something better.

Serving with my children this week brought my family joy. Hopefully, as this courtyard flourishes, it will continue to bring joy to all who stop in to enjoy the flowers, have a meal at the picnic tables, or read a book under the shade of a tree.

It was medicine for my soul. I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed up for this week, but it worked out in the end. Better than I ever could have imagined.

God’s timing is amazing. It is perfect. He is good. This was just what I needed.

My soul, my heart, my mind really, really needed this. This was a rough week. I needed this – way more than that courtyard needed me.

I thought I was going to serve and instead – with each weed that was pulled, with each flower that was deadheaded, with each plant and flower that was watered and each time I looked up and saw my children participating in the care of this courtyard – my spirit was ministered to.

Isn’t it funny how that happens?

Thank you God that when I’m not thinking, when I don’t know what is best – You are and You do. Thank you that oftentimes medicine for the soul comes from the most unlikely places. In the most unlikely times. 

 

*click on this link to view the Seeds of Change Courtyard Dedication video and see all that went into creating this lovely courtyard – courtesy of the Crist, Franz and Robison triad (the best triad ever!)

 

 

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Life Lessons from House Staging

Part of getting ready to put our house on the market is staging it for buyers. We were told to remove anything personal, make rooms and closets look spacious and take away any reminder of work.

In other words – hide the trash cans, remove the paper towels from the countertop, move the laundry detergent out of sight and on and on.

This is what they do in model homes. They want people to feel like the house is a place where you kick off your shoes and put your feet up. A place where work is minimal, at best.

Our closets are very small, so we were told to remove about half of the stuff. This would give the illusion that they are bigger.

It feels a little like I’m selling a lie. We do have small closets! Of course we work here! There are dishes to do, clothes to wash and carpets to vacuum. We are a family of six and we live here – and living gets messy and those messes need picked up. Just because I hide stuff doesn’t make that go away.

But it works. They do this in model homes because, on some subconscious level, it works.

But here is reality – you can remove the items and make people feel like the house comes with less work and less stress, but that doesn’t make it true.

You will still bring your stuff and your work and your life and your stress with you from your old space into your new space – even if you don’t see a single trash can in the house when you walk through. It still exists.

I am learning some valuable lessons from the house staging process.

Lesson #1 – Like I said before…..Just because I hide stuff doesn’t make that go away.

Like with the move.

Maybe if I don’t talk about the move…..maybe if I don’t think about the move…..maybe if I avoid it all together……maybe if I do everything physically necessary for the move without really dealing with the emotion of it……maybe if I just have a glass of wine tonight to turn off my mind…..

I have been trying really hard to focus on the positives of the move and not be sad about leaving yet. I will have time to be sad about being gone once I am actually there. Why be sad now? I’m still here after all.

But sometimes, I wonder if I am just stuffing it down somewhere deep?

Yesterday, I looked at my calendar and realized how little time I really have left in our home, in our community, with our friends who have become like family. I thought of all of the people I want to hang out with and all the things I still want to do here in Indy and realized I have run out of time to do all of those things.

In an attempt to be positive, I reminded myself I can always come back and visit. Which is true, but it isn’t the same.

I really can’t imagine being gone. It all feels so surreal. I try not to think about it. I’m getting my house ready to put on the market, but it still doesn’t feel real.

But it is real. Even if I don’t talk about it. Even if I don’t think about it. Even if I avoid it.

Just because I hide stuff doesn’t make that go away. 

But, I need to continue to think of the positives. For my children, for my husband and for myself. I know God has a plan in this and I trust in that plan. I may not be able to imagine my future there, but just 8 years ago before I moved from our home that I loved in Irvington into my home I love so much now – I couldn’t imagine my future here either.

I’m not sure if it’s healthy to try not to be sad right now? I’m not sure if that’s just avoidance?Maybe it’s just like me putting the paper towels under the counter so that it all seems less complicated than it is. Maybe it’s less work to focus on the physical aspect of moving and not the emotional.

I really don’t know how to deal with all of this. I don’t know how to say goodbye. Is there some type of protocol?

I need a manual on how to do this.

What I do know is this – I don’t want to spend my last weeks here sad, so I think I will just enjoy each day as it comes. I will take each good bye as it comes. I will try not to dwell on what’s on the horizon and not get lost in the thought of moving, but at the same time not pretend like it isn’t happening – because that’s not healthy either.

But how do I do that? Will someone please write a manual.

Some moments will be sad. Some moments will be happy. Some days will feel like a regular day in our home and others will feel like a sad reminder of our departure.

I think I just need to take each day, each moment as it arrives. That has been the nudge I have been getting from God time and time again for the past few years. Be in the moment. Take each moment as it arrives. Tomorrow is not promised. What you have is today.

I need to keep breathing that thought in and breathing it out. Daily.

Lesson #2 – Less stuff really does bring more peace

Hiding trash cans and removing all signs of work isn’t realistic in a house that is actually being lived in, but I have come to appreciate the peace that comes with simplifying.

A year and a half ago I embarked on a 52 Donations project where I donated something (time, money or material objects) every week for a year. It was a wonderful, life-changing project.

During that time, I simplified our home and got rid of a lot of clutter (or so I thought.) Getting the house ready to move has taken that to a whole new level. I have had to get rid of so much more and it feels good. Really. Really. Good.

I don’t think we were meant to live with so much.

When I walk into a room and there is more open space, I seem to breathe a little better. When drawers and closets and cupboards aren’t overflowing – it just feels good. It feels right.

Honestly, why in the world do I need multiple can openers? Or 20 coffee mugs?

I don’t. I don’t need that much.

Somebody else could probably really use some of my excess and getting rid of the clutter has felt wonderful and necessary and freeing.

I do hope when we move we can continue to keep things decluttered and organized, but…..

Lesson #3 – As it has been said before, “No matter where you go, there you are.” 

When I think of moving, I do get excited about the idea of simplifying our lives. Not just the clutter, but also our schedules. I do look forward to the idea of more time together as a family. I know there are things to look forward intertwined with the sadness of leaving.

But to keep our home and our schedules decluttered will take intentionality. If we aren’t intentional about making changes, we will slowly end up exactly where we are now.

We will still take our habits with us. A new house in a new place doesn’t make us new people. We are still us, in a new location.

If we want to make life changes, we will need to work to make those changes – just like we would have to work to make those changes here and now.

 Lesson #4 – Take nothing for granted.

We have limited time left in the home we love, with our friends and neighbors we love and I don’t want to take a second of the time we have left here for granted.

We have been blessed beyond measure to live in such a wonderful, loving community. I am grateful for every second we have had here. For every memory we have made. For every friendship formed.

I may not know how to deal with the move, but I do know that I am blessed. Very blessed to have experienced all of the kindness, love and depth of relationships my family and I have experienced during our time here in Indianapolis.

I do not take that for granted.

Thank you, God. Thank you.

 

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My Near Death Sandwich: The Final Chapter

On our way to Hawaii, I had moments when I honestly wasn’t sure what would happen. I knew there was such a thing as too hot and I knew we did not have air. I did not know how hot our plane would become and I also knew we were over the ocean with nowhere safe to land. All I could do was pray.

In the hours leading up to our flight home from Hawaii, I honestly wasn’t sure what would happen. I knew I was very sick and was becoming dehydrated. I was not in the comfort of my home and I didn’t know if I would be able to tolerate the plane ride. All I could do was pray.

As you know, because I am sitting here typing this, I made it home safely from Hawaii. I drank a ton of (yes, you guessed it) Gatorade and I slept a lot. Eventually the pain subsided. Patrick finished my packing because he is a wonderful, sweet man and I rested until just moments before we had to leave for the airport.

Thankfully, because we were taking the red-eye home, I had time to start feeling better before take-off. It’s funny how that happens. When we initially booked our flight, I wasn’t sure about taking a red-eye. Now, I was incredibly grateful we were.

I didn’t feel the best on the flight, but I made it. Thanks to lots of prayers and more Gatorade than I had ever consumed before, I made it.

I had the most remarkable time with my husband in Maui –

and this remarkable time was sandwiched between two of the more nerve-racking days in my life.

Two nerve-racking, scary, bunch my stomach in knots and cover me in sweat days. These days both had the same end result – gratitude. 

Immense gratitude. The kind of gratitude that blankets your insides and makes you stop and breathe deep breaths and just be present with all of the thankfulness. That kind of all-consuming gratitude.

Gratitude to be on vacation.

Gratitude to have made it to my next destination.

Gratitude to have my feet on the ground.

Gratitude to be feeling well.

Gratitude to be home with my children.

Gratitude to be alive.

Gratitude.

Deep.

Deep.

Gratitude.

Sometimes, to fully experience gratitude you have to be taken to a place of discomfort. A place of unknown. A place of pain.

People wonder why bad things happen to good people. I know they aren’t talking about scary plane rides and food poisoning, but maybe sometimes you have to experience the bad to recognize all of the beauty in the good.

Maybe those moments that aren’t so great, those moments that drop us to our knees, those moments that have us crying out “why?!” as tears stream down our faces, those moments when we can’t imagine taking another breath because we are so tired and weighed down by the heaviness of life, those moments when we feel alone or scared or weary, those moments when we aren’t sure what our future holds, maybe those moments are the moments that draw us closer to God. Maybe they don’t always feel that way in the moment, but maybe that is the end result.

I know that was my end result.

Gratitude. 

Deep. 

Deep. 

Gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Short Story About My Near Death Sandwich – Part Three: The Other Slice of Bread

I was scared, but like so many times when fear creeps in and threatens to take hold – the thought of what may happen was much worse than what actually took place.

What took place was nothing more than a breathtaking, exhilarating car ride around an island covered with the most lush, picturesque scenery I ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes upon.

As we bumped and jerked and raced the sun around the twists and turns and eventually saw it drop below the horizon, and as the stars started to twinkle one by one in the night sky creating a blanket of sparkling lights covering us from above, I no longer felt afraid. I felt grateful. Oh so very, very grateful.

We left the road to Hana and headed for our dinner reservations at the very popular, highly acclaimed Mama’s Fish House. And it completely lived up to the hype. It was beautiful and delicious and peaceful and everything you would hope a meal at a restaurant sitting on the beach would be.

After stuffing ourselves silly with delectable fresh seafood, we headed back to the hotel with full bellies and full hearts. We went to bed that night with the knowledge that our vacation would soon be coming to an end, but that was ok. We were beyond happy.

Our next day was spent lounging around the pool and ocean and doing all the other great things you do when you are in Hawaii for the day.

Our evening ended with another exceptional meal at a restaurant down the beach from our hotel. We walked back from dinner once again with full bellies and full hearts. We were content. We were joyful. We were breathing in fresh ocean air. We were together. It was bliss.

We began to pack our bags in preparation for our flight home the next day. We laid our heads on the pillow. And went to sleep.

And then it happened.

The pain. The horrible, awful, feel like you must be dying pain. It felt like someone was stabbing my stomach with a small knife.

What was happening?

I was so sick. So. So. So. Sick.

With each of my children I suffered from horrible “morning” sickness. You know, the kind that lasts all day that makes you wonder why in the world anyone was ever cruel enough to name it morning sickness when it should have been called “all day every day” sickness. I was used to feeling sick. I was used to throwing up. I was not used to this.

This was like something you would see out of a movie. I’m not even sure the word projectile does it justice.

After a couple of hours of the pain, vomiting and other unmentionables – I finally woke Pat up and told him I must have Gatorade. Now. Fast. My legs were starting to lock up and I was starting to feel like I was on the verge of being really dehydrated really fast.

It may have been far from reality, but I was wondering if I would ever get up from that bed. I had never felt so bad.

He called the front desk. They asked if Ginger Ale would do, I politely responded with a faint, “No, it must be Gatorade.”  (This is starting to sound like a really long Gatorade commercial, isn’t it?)

The kind man arrived in the early hours of the morning to bring my beverage of choice – I don’t have to tell you again what it was. For the next few hours, I continued to be sick and drink as much as I possibly could.

And as I lay there in all of my pain, I began to wonder if I would get home.

I was on an island and had not seen a hospital, or a clinic for that matter. While I am sure they existed, at that time I felt very. Very. Far away from home. I wondered where I would go to get fluids. I wondered how I would get on the plane. I wondered how I would endure the long flight back. I started to think about how Pat would have to leave me there and how I would have to come home later. I had never felt so bad.

My flight to Hawaii had been a sauna over the ocean and my flight home was about to be a whole different beast altogether.

*This is part three of a now FOUR part blog series….oh my…..I just can’t stop…….

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A Short Story about My Near Death Sandwich – Part Two: All the Good Stuff in Between

After an unbearably hot plane ride where I thought I may not live to see another day; a 10-hour lay-over in San Francisco; an hour wait on the tarmac (they originally told us it would be two hours, so one seemed pretty awesome) and a bumpy second flight that may have been scary at any other point in my life (but because of what we had just been through seemed like a walk in the park) – we finally touched down.

Yes, it was 3:30 in the morning Hawaii time and yes we were supposed to be there at 1:45 in the afternoon the day before and yes we had been traveling for over 24 hours, but who cares? We made it.

We had arrived. Maui. Paradise.

My husband and I were about to experience the vacation of a lifetime and we were beyond excited. And exhausted. Excihuasted.

We made it to our room and I would say we slept like babies, but I have never understood that analogy. My babies woke up every few hours, cried, wanted to eat, needed their diapers changed and sometimes refused to go back to bed. We absolutely did NOT sleep like babies. More like rocks. I get that analogy.

When we woke up the next morning we were greeted by sunshine, fresh ocean air and a breathtaking view. Our harrowing trip to the island was well worth it.

That evening, we went to a luau and saw people move in ways I never knew possible. They danced with fire and told beautiful stories about their culture and while their hips were shaking and fire was flying, we ate….and ate….and ate some more – and I realized as I looked down and saw the deep purple hue on my plate that even the sweet potatoes in Hawaii are prettier – and I was giddy with happiness.

We rode aboard a catamaran on a bright, sunny day and went snorkeling with exotic fish and gigantic, graceful sea turtles  – and I was sure if one of those sea turtles were to talk they would sound just like Crush – and I was giddy with happiness.

We went whale watching and saw two enormous humpback whales breech and then a smaller, baby whale followed suit a second later. And even though it was only a baby, it was still one of the largest, most remarkable creatures I had ever laid my eyes upon. The whales flew into the air and landed with splashes that were so ginormous it seemed as if they could surely be seen for miles. The captain of the ship told us this was the first double breech they had witnessed all year (and we saw a triple!) – and I was giddy with happiness.

GOPR0888.3gp  (Click here to see some whale breeching footage)

Nearly every morning, we would wake up and go for a jog on a path that wound around the coastline. We ran with clear, baby blue skies above and the ocean beside us. We watched the waves roll in and crash against the rocks, spraying the air with glistening drops of salt-filled water. We ran and we talked and we laughed and we eventually would stop talking and laughing because we were tired from all of that running. My heart was full, my legs were sore – and I was giddy with happiness.

We rented a car and drove along the narrow Road to Hana with its bends, twists, 617 hairpin turns and 59 one-lane bridges. The road to the quaint, isolated town of Hana is roughly 52 miles. Seems as if you should get there in no time. Right?  Think again. This trip took us an entire day. Close to ten hours to be exact.

Part of the reason the trip takes so long is not just the hairpin turns and 25 mph speed limit, but because of the many stops made along the way. On more than one occasion, we stopped to hike and we hiked and hiked and hiked some more and saw the most beautiful sites  –

waterfalls,

lush green foliage,

painted eucalyptus trees,

a black sand beach,

a red sand beach,

and on and on.

God’s great beauty as far as the eye could see –

and I was giddy with happiness.

We stopped at shacks on the side of the road where local food was being prepared with great love and care. The conditions were questionable and I am pretty sure they weren’t being regulated by the Department of Health, but that was fine. It was all part of the experience.

At one location, our food was handed to us inside of a hollowed out bamboo shoot with small bamboo sticks to use as our utensils. It felt as if we had left our country and flown around the world to have our meal.

It was delicious – and I was giddy with happiness.

And finally, after traveling and hiking and eating and just being present with each other and God’s glorious creation – we arrived at our destination, the town of Hana.

We were told that tourists are supposed to drive to the town of Hana, turn around and drive back because past Hana the road becomes more dangerous. We were told some rental car companies make you sign a paper saying you will not drive past the town. Ours did not. We spoke with some locals and they encouraged us to keep going past Hana, saying it wasn’t that bad. Being the rebels we are, we decided to go for it. We had already faced danger along the way.

Driving past the town of Hana did make my heart skip a beat on more than one occasion. The guard rails on the ocean side of the road were rusted and crumbling apart. The volcano side had a flimsy net that was supposed to serve as some sort of protection from any falling rocks. I am pretty certain it would protect us as much as the guard rails. The road became very narrow and unpaved. We bumped and jerked and shook along the way.

But the beauty. Oh the beauty. It was breathtaking. We had left early that morning, but found ourselves racing the sun on the last leg of our journey. As the sun was going down, we were both painfully aware of the plethora of twists and turns on the unpaved, unlit road. We could not go faster, we could only hope for the best. The race was on –

and I was scared.

*This is part two of a now three part blog series.

 

 

 

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