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When someone you love is preparing to leave this world, life feels a little funny. Actually, a lot funny.

I’ve been in that funny place for a couple of weeks now and it has made me more acutely aware of what really matters and, on the flip side, what doesn’t really matter. It has also made me realize how precious life is.

It seems so painfully obvious, but incredibly easy to take for granted. The sun rises and sets each day. Every day we wake up and take our breaths. Our hearts beat. We move forward doing the things we do. It can all seem so monotonous at times, but it isn’t really.

It’s a gift. A beautiful gift.

And when you are saying goodbye to someone you love, the reality of the miracle of life and the fragility of life becomes intertwined in a way that is uniquely designated to those moments of loss and grief.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Indiana to say goodbye to my mom’s best friend, my godmother, my Aunt Lisa. Although not an Aunt by blood, she has still been family.

When the reel of my life plays back through my mind like a silent motion picture, I see her. When I was roughly four or five years young, I remember my dad leaving us for a period of time and the pain I felt from his absence. This is one of my earliest memories. I also remember my Aunt Lisa walking into the living room with the most magnificent colored pencil set I had ever seen. She knew how much I loved to color and she knew how much I needed those multicolored pencils in that moment. I remember her handing them to me and the joy I felt when I opened the case. What she brought me in that moment wasn’t just colored pencils – it was so, so much more.

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From one of my earliest memories to now, this is who Aunt Lisa has always been in my life. She has been a quiet, reassuring presence – bringing my family what we needed, when we needed it most.

I didn’t see her often, but that didn’t matter. Every Christmas and Birthday I would receive a card with money tucked inside and a hand-written message telling me to be sure I used the money to “treat myself” to something fun. She has five children, grandchildren, a large extended family, worked as a nurse and yet she still remembered. And the cards always arrived early. Never late.

I tried for a couple of years to send cards to my nieces and nephews on their Birthdays. After sending multiple cards a few months (not days – months) late, I realized this may not be my strength.

But it is definitely hers. One of her many.

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Seeing Aunt Lisa and my mom’s friendship over the years has taught me what true friendship looks like. It shows up whenever needed and stays as long as necessary. It doesn’t ask what needs done – it just does. Friendship of this depth and magnitude arrives with meals and hugs and words and silence. It is a strong presence bringing comfort and joy to anyone around who is fortunate enough to witness it.

Aunt Lisa has been there for the momentous milestones worthy of celebration and for the moments when you realize how precious and fleeting life really is. Birthdays, graduation, showers, weddings. She sat with us in the hospital for hours on end when grandpa was in a coma, after my stepdad had his heart attack, and when mom had her hysterectomy to remove the cancer. And when grandma was at home receiving Hospice care – preparing to, and eventually taking her final breath – Aunt Lisa was there.

And she has been there for the in-between. Playdates with her children when we were young. Meals at Halls restaurant. Parties thrown to celebrate holidays and other special occasions and parties thrown for no reason other than life being worthy of celebrating. Aunt Lisa was there.

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And now, Aunt Lisa is in her home, surrounded by her family – preparing to take her final breath. Every day, I wake up and go immediately to my phone to see if I may have missed a call in the night. When the phone rings, my heart skips a beat.

Is this going to be the call letting me know she is gone?

Life feels a little funny right now – but I guess that’s how it is when someone you love is preparing to go home. I am not sad for her. I rejoice for her. She is going to be with Jesus. She is going to a place with no pain or suffering. For her, I rejoice.

But as it is with death, it is for us that are left missing her that I cry. It is for her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her family, her friends – for my mom. For all of us who have been impacted by her loving, kind, funny, generous and steadfast spirit – I cry.

Thank you God for using Aunt Lisa as a conduit of your love. She is my godmother and has done her job well – with her loving, servant heart – she has helped to lift my eyes to you.

When she does go home to You, I imagine she will have quite the homecoming. When I said my goodbyes to her, I thanked her for showing me the love of God. I thanked her for being there for me. She looked into my eyes and said, “I will see you again” and as the tears streamed down my face, I told her I knew that to be true.

I will miss her presence on earth, but someday – I will see her again.

When my time comes, she will be there for my homecoming.

And as she prepares for her homecoming – I pray for those by her bedside. I pray for her husband, children and grandchildren. I pray God gives them the strength they need and that they feel His loving presence surrounding them. And I pray for Aunt Lisa as she prepares to leave her body and make her trip home.

I love you, Aunt Lisa.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? The earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:23-26

Until we meet again……

 

 

 

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Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the mixed emotions I’m feeling as my baby – the youngest of four – is finishing his final days of preschool.

In response to this post, someone commented:

“Why is your child in pre-school and not at home being raised, nurtured, and loved by you, the mother?”

Okay. Wow. Deep breaths. Don’t reply. Wait. Wait.

I knew responding right away would not do any good. This person obviously had their opinion on mothering and I have learned getting into an all-out Facebook comment war is like trying to walk up an escalator that’s headed down – it’s exhausting and doesn’t really get you anywhere.

I decided my best course of action was to  let it go.

The next day, I came back to the comments and saw some ladies had come to my defense (Thank you kind mama bears for showing your claws.) There was some back and forth between them, ending with him saying:

“Again….it is a simple question….would love someone to answer it.”

Okay. You asked for it. Twice. So now I feel I must reply. And being a writer, I cannot reply with a  mere sentence or two. Oh no. I am much more wordy than that.

You want to know why my child is in preschool and not at home being raised, nurtured, and loved by me – the mother?

Ironically, I read your question after I had spent the day with my son. We went to lunch and shared some sushi. We talked. We laughed. And after a brief period of time, he decided our proximity wasn’t close enough and came over to my side of the booth so we could be extra snuggly while we ate.

After lunch, we went shopping for a Birthday present. We browsed for awhile – picking up items and placing them back on the shelves and eventually ended up with a gift he helped me choose. Should I go on?

Okay. I will.

After successfully purchasing the gift, we ventured to the zoo. We walked, talked, pointed enthusiastically, made animal sounds and managed to keep the geese from eating our Dippin’ Dots.

And then I read your comment. In the car (but not while driving, I will still in the parking lot – we don’t need any more judgment here.)

I am pretty sure he felt nurtured and loved by me, the mother, all day long.

I could stop now, but I know that won’t suffice – so I will go on.

The next day, we woke up and I packed his lunch, dressed him and sent him on his way – to preschool.

Why?

Because I know myself and I know him and I honestly believe this is what is best for him.

Gasp. The nerve. How dare I?

There was a short period of time when I thought about homeschooling. It didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t for me or my children.

I have many friends who homeschool and they are amazing. They are dedicated, disciplined and do an exceptional job teaching. They have been called and they have  answered. Do I believe God calls us all to the exact same things in life?  No. Not at all.

Some moms work full-time. Some part-time. Some from home. Some from the office. Others while on the road. Some stay-at-home. Some send their kids to daycare. Others to school – some private and some public. Some homeschool.

Isn’t that awesome?

I love that we are able, with our spouse or significant other, to make choices we believe are best for our families.

Personal choices.

When my son is at preschool, he is learning. He has friends he enjoys and teachers he loves. He comes home excited to tell me about his day. They take him to chapel and teach him about God. They go over their letters and learn silly songs.

I can hear you now, “Why don’t you do that at home?”

Who says I don’t?

I do teach him at home, but it’s more of a teaching through life lessons than actual schooling. I have tried to do worksheets and other fun educational activities and, honestly, it’s not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, it’s hard for me.

I am the mom who suffers from constant distraction. Do you know the book  If You Give A Mouse a Cookie? Totally me. I am distracted by laundry, beds that need made, a house that needs cleaning, dishes that need washed, appointments that need made.

I know myself well enough to know if I homeschooled him, he would not learn as much as he learns at school. To some that may sound like rubbish or hogwash or whatever you want to call it.

For me, it sounds completely accurate.

I know myself well enough to know I would not plan properly, I would not give the time or attention it needs. I would get distracted and ultimately would grow frustrated and resentful.

Yikes. I know.

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

Call me lazy. Call me undisciplined. Call me uncaring. Call me what you will.

I’m telling you – it’s true.

I send my son to preschool two days a week because I believe this is the most loving, nurturing thing that I can do for him knowing his personality and knowing my deficiencies.

I love my children with a fierce love. I tell them daily how much I love them. I hug them. I am available for them. I am trying my best. Some days are better than others – the zoo day was a pretty good one. Not all days are that great, but I am trying.

And do you know what else?  I send my kids to school. I get stuff done. I take a deep breaths. I check some things off my list. I meet with friends. I go for a run. And then I pick them up.

And I am refreshed. And they are smiling. And they are learning. And they are happy.

We all are happy.

This is what works for us.

This isn’t what works for everyone, but it works for us. 

I have four children and not one of them is the same as the other. They are unique little people with their own personalities. Just like my husband and I are unique people. Under our roof, we have six different people who think, feel and respond in their own way to different situations.

Knowing this – it’s up to my husband and I, with prayer and careful consideration, to decide what is best for each member of our family.

And do you know what? It’s okay to start in one direction and end up in another. I have friends who have sent their kids to school and ended up homeschooling. Vice a versa – I have friends who homeschooled and then decided to send their kids to school.

I have friends who have stayed home and decided to go back to work. Vice a versa – I have friends who have quit their jobs to stay home.

And it’s okay to go different directions with different children. One of my children went to preschool for one year and another for three. Why? Because they are different people with different needs.

We are constantly growing and changing and just because we set out on one course, that doesn’t mean we aren’t able to change direction.

And the same goes for me. If at some point I feel called to go back to work full-time, or part-time, or even pull my kids out of school and start homeschooling them – that’s up to my husband and I.

If all parents, children and family units were the same – then they would be handing us a Parenting Handbook for All People and Situations that is Sure to Produce the Same Incredible Results when we leave the hospital, but that is impossible because we are all uniquely created and no two people are the same. No two children are the same.

No two families are the same.

And parenting is hard enough without the judgement of others.

Kudos to the moms who work part-time.

Kudos to the moms who work full-time.

Kudos to the moms who stay home.

Kudos to the moms who teach their children at home.

Kudos to the moms who send their kids to school.

Keep on keepin’ on mamas. You are doing a fantastic job. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always pretty. It looks different for everyone. Don’t compare yourselves to other mamas. Trust that God will give you the tools and the wisdom you need and remember, if you start on one course and it isn’t working for you – it’s okay to course correct. Sometimes that’s necessary.

And to anyone who wants to know why my child isn’t being raised, nurtured or loved by me- the mother – I would say that is an unfair question. You don’t know me. You don’t know my children. You don’t know my heart. If you did, I believe you would say they are being raised, nurtured and loved by both me and their father. I don’t doubt for one second my children know how much we love them. I don’t doubt they feel nurtured and cared for. I clean their boo-boos. I snuggle with them. I listen to them. I answer their questions. I attempt to guide them. And more importantly – they know the ultimate love that never fails comes from their Heavenly Father. My husband and I are guaranteed to mess up in this lifetime, but He is not. So we will just keep pointing them to Him.

And in the future, to those who feel compelled to ask the question I was asked, I would be careful. You never know where someone has come from or what they may be struggling with. I know moms who have lost their spouse. I know moms whose husbands have lost their jobs. I know moms whose marriages have fallen apart. I know moms who would like to stay home, but are not able to and that question may be like a dagger to the heart.

To all of you mamas out there, as I said before – keep on keepin’ on. Keep doing your mom thing. Do what is best for you and your family and don’t let the judgement of others weigh you down.

I know I’m not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moving is hard.

Don’t get me wrong – I fully trust we are where we are meant to be.

I love our new home and our new town. I also miss our old home and our old town.

I have met some amazing people and am beginning to form friendships. I see a lot of potential, but developing close friendships takes time and we haven’t put in the time yet.

I miss the ease. I miss the comfort. I miss looking into someone’s eyes and really knowing who they are. Knowing their back story. Knowing their heart. Knowing their dreams. Knowing their struggles.

I miss the knowing.

I still think of Westfield as home, but I also think of Nolensville as home. Weird. Right?

Sometimes, it feels like I am living with one foot in Indiana and one in Tennessee. Go, Go Gadget Legs. That’s a pretty far way to stretch.

Where we live now is absolutely beautiful. It’s hilly and lush with long winding roads and pastures filled with cows grazing and chickens clucking. It’s warm. It has great culture, amazing food, a sweet downtown and music to keep me dancing for days. It’s close to mountains and less than seven hours from the ocean.

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Where we live now is pretty incredible.

Where we live now is also unfamiliar. I still rarely know where I am or where I’m going. I am directionally challenged and trust my internal compass as much as I would trust the Hamburglar next to a platter of burgers fresh off the grill. Consequently, I rely on Google way too much and am not really learning how to get anywhere.

Where we came from is familiar. When we go back to Indiana, I am comforted by this feeling of familiarity. I don’t really realize how much I miss that feeling, until I am feeling it again. I can tell you where I am. I can tell you how to get somewhere. I can envision a map in my head and I can see where the people I love live on that map. If I were to draw out the map, it would show a ton of little hearts marking the houses of the ones we love.

Like I said before, I don’t doubt for one minute we are where we are meant to be. I trust fully in God’s plan. I can see how He is working in my heart. I can see how He is using this. In my life. In my husband’s life. In my children’s lives.

I am grateful for this experience. I am grateful for this change. It’s been good – but is still hard.

We made a quick trip back to Indiana this weekend for our niece’s graduation. It wasn’t well planned and was filled with spontaneity.  The opposite of how this Type-A personality usually rolls.

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It made my heart happy. And it made my heart sad. Whenever we go back home, I wish we had more time. There are so many people I want to see. There is so much I want to do.

And I can’t. We can’t.

There just isn’t enough time to squeeze it all in.

And this is hard for me. I leave with the weight of the feeling that I have let people down. That I have disappointed people in some way.

I am in a space where my main focus is the kids. What do they need? What is best for their little hearts?  And that usually leads us back to Westfield – back to the familiarity. Back to the comfort and joy that we felt in our old town – in our old neighborhood. We can sit in the backyards of loved ones and feel for a minute like we are still there. The kids run from house to house, ringing on doorbells and gathering friends for an outdoor game or two.

It feels like we’ve never left.

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And it feels like we’ve been gone for a long time.

Kids are bigger. Changes have been made to homes. Someone has a new haircut. Or a new car. Restaurants are gone. New ones stand in their place.

It’s the same.

But it’s different.

For those of you we weren’t able to see when we were home, please know it isn’t because we don’t love you. Please know it isn’t because we don’t care. Because we do care – a lot. We are just still in a weird place. We are still figuring this out.

And it’s hard. My heart feels pulled in so many directions.

As we are driving back now and the terrain is changing from flat to hilly – I am ready to get back home. And, at the same time, I feel like I just left home.

If home is where your heart is – then in this moment it feels like I have two homes. Because my heart is definitely in both places. I guess it’s like when you have children. When a new child is born, you don’t love your other children less –

your heart just stretches and expands in ways you never knew possible.

You don’t love less – your capacity to love just grows.

 

 

 

 

 

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When Lockdown Happens

Last Thursday, I pulled into the pick-up line at the end of the school day – as I always do. And my daughter walked to the car – as she always does. But something was different.

Something was wrong.

She opened the car door as the words came pouring out of her mouth.

“Did you hear what happened? Did they tell you?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“No. I haven’t heard anything. What happened? Are you okay?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“The school went on lockdown.”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“Why? Is everyone okay?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

The words poured from her mouth as she explained what happened in full detail. It began with an announcement over the PA system. The words spoken over the PA were few, but the reactions the words caused were swift.

“We are on lockdown. This is not a drill. We are on lockdown. This is not a drill.”

Silence. Movement. Waiting. Silence. Tears.

My daughter went on to describe how the teacher locked the door, turned off the lights and ushered everyone to the corner of the room.

He stood in front of them.

They had been through this before. They knew what to do. Only this time was different. This time it was not a drill.

Kids were crying.

She knew her teacher was scared by the look in his eyes, but he remained calm – as heroes do. Reminding them of the importance of their silence.

My daughter said she knew she had to be quiet, so she let the tears fall from her eyes, down her cheeks, but did not make a peep for fear that someone outside of the room may hear.

Someone accidentally dropped his crutch. More crying. Would this bring someone to their room?

In the middle of her telling me this story, she looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “Mom. I have never been so afraid in all of my life.”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

What do I say? How do I respond?

“I’m so sorry, honey. I can’t imagine how scary that had to have been. Then, what happened?”

After the lockdown was over, she was told there had been a fight close to the school and someone had a gun. As a precaution, the police told the schools in the surrounding areas they had to go on lockdown. She was told the altercation took place in a small, new neighborhood.

She said she spent the rest of the day wondering if that was our neighborhood. Wondering if her brother and I were okay. Wondering if I would be there to pick her up.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

My daughter and I spent the remainder of the car ride home talking about what happened. She vented. I listened.

For a few minutes that day – my daughter, her classmates, the teachers and staff believed there was a chance their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, may be taken from them.

This is the reality that teachers, administrators, students and countless others who work in the school system face.

These people are heroes.

My daughter’s teacher had no idea what was happening. He didn’t know who was out there. He pushed the kids into the corner and stood in front of them. Ready to give his life for theirs.

These people are heroes.

When I picked up the girls from the elementary school, I found out the same thing had happened there.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

Another one of my daughters described how they went into the cubby room and she held the hand of the friend across from her while two friends on each side of her snuggled in. They all grabbed coats and covered their bodies for extra protection.

As she recounted her experience, it took everything for me to not break down.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

For a few minutes that day – my daughters, their classmates, the teachers and the staff believed there was a chance their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, may be taken from them.

And then, on Sunday, I awoke to the news that not far from our house – four innocent people’s lives were taken at a Waffle House.

The killer was still on the loose.

I contemplated not going to church. Not sending my kids to school. What if that drill becomes a reality? What if?

And then I was reminded of what I am reminded of so often, I cannot live my life in fear. I cannot teach my children to live their lives in fear.

I have to be brave. We have to be brave.

We have to remain positive.

There are so many more good people than bad in the world.

I need to remember that. We need to remember that.

Thank you to all of you heroes out there.

Thank you to the school workers who go through these drills with the knowledge that someday it may not be a drill.

Thank you to the police officers who rush into these situations, ready to save lives – and possibly give their own.

These people are heroes.

Thankfully, there are so many more heroes out there than bad guys. This is what I hope to teach my children. This very possibly may not be the only time they hear the words, “We are on lockdown. This is not a drill.”

I hope it is, but it may not be.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

Thank you, God, for these drills so that if the moment comes, these heroes know what to do. Thank you, God, for surrounding us with so many people who are willing to take action. Thank you, God, for those who are willing to surrender their lives to save the lives of others.

Thank you, God, for surrounding us with so many heroes.

Thank you to the heroes in both of my children’s schools last Thursday. You did not know what was outside of your doors and you were ready to protect. To possibly give your lives – for my children.

Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart and with all of my being – Thank you.

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When Fear Takes Hold

Some people are afraid of bees. Others, of sharks. Some, of flying.

Abandonment. Rejection. Loneliness.

Growing old.

Failure. Change. Heights.

Losing a loved one.

Sickness.

Death.

The list is long, exhausting – and varies from person to person.

For some, the fear is like a siren that stops them in their tracks. It’s debilitating. It’s life-altering. It demands their course be corrected before they reach impending doom.  It keeps them locked in their home, afraid to step outside. It keeps them from getting on an airplane. It keeps them from trying something new.

For others, it’s a small whisper in their ear, warning them of potential danger. It comes and then it goes, like a gust of wind on a blustery day.

“Don’t swim too far out in the ocean. You’ve seen Jaws. You know what’s out there.”

“Don’t attempt that. You’ll never succeed.”

“Why would you want to change? Stay nice and comfortable where you are. You don’t know what exists on the other side.”

And for some, it is like a thorn in the side. A constant, gnawing feeling that some type of danger is lurking around the corner – waiting patiently for the right moment to strike. It’s a feeling in the pit that is carried around from day to day and just won’t go away.

There are many ways to describe it and many people who struggle with it.

Anxiety.And I am one of those people.

Photo credit: PracticalCures.co

I have always been a slightly anxious person. I have learned over the years how to deal with my anxiety. Usually, I realize I am being irrational and am able to work it out until the fear is gone. I have learned how to take many of my anxious thoughts captive and replace them with something fruitful.

Usually.

But not so much lately.

Since moving, I have found my anxiety bubbling to the surface more often usual.

In fact, in October, I had my second-ever panic attack.

I was at a lovely restaurant enjoying a delectable meal with family before heading to a concert. We had a sitter for the evening. My dad was in town. I had been looking forward to this night for a long time.

My food arrived. I began to eat. And as I was eating, an uncomfortable feeling started to well up inside of me. I found it more and more difficult to concentrate on the conversation (and it was a good one.) I felt sick to my stomach and itchy and was certain I must be allergic to something I was eating. In my mind, it was only a matter of minutes before my throat would close. I told everyone I thought I was having an allergic reaction (and I was convinced that I was.) The food was rushed away and off people went in search of some Benadryl.

I felt awful. And embarrassed.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized what had happened was not an allergic reaction at all, but was indeed a panic attack.

I am still not sure what brought it on, but I do know it was awful.

I know God gave us fear for a reason and that the fight-or-flight response in the proper situation is actually a good thing. Recognizing and avoiding potential harm is what keeps us and those we care for alive. If I see my toddler who can’t swim walking toward a pool without a life jacket on, I should be scared. This fear motivates me to jump out of my seat and save my child from jumping in. This fear saves my child from death. This is proper fear.

But sometimes, this fear – this anxiety – shows up at inappropriate times (like when you are at dinner with your family.) Sometimes, it revs up and gets stuck in overdrive. Sometimes, the fight-or-flight response has been turned on and just won’t turn off. And this can lead to all sorts of problems. Cortisol levels skyrocket. Sleep diminishes. Weight gain. Heart disease. Diabetes. Thyroid problems. Depression. Digestive problems. The list goes on…..

But that list isn’t what I have been worried about. Nope.

I’m not afraid of bees or sharks or flying or the effects of anxiety on my body.

What I am afraid of is a pandemic.

This is why I don’t like anything that has to do with zombies. It’s not so much that they are creepy dead guys who make horrible sounds and try to eat people (although I don’t like that either) – it’s the virus component of the fictional walking dead that scares me most and keeps me from tuning in to the movies, shows and books that so many love.

This is why I have never watched the movie ‘Contagion’, nor do I have any desire to. That plot line terrifies me.

And this fear of mine is what has been plaguing me for the past few weeks. The move increased my anxiety and the flu has kicked it into overdrive. This widespread influenza virus has awoken the anxiety-beast within.

It is a constant battle in my brain. With three out of our four children suffering from asthma and other lung issues, influenza is normally a rival of mine – but this year, it’s my arch enemy.

I keep attempting to turn it over to God. To let it go. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to trust. I need to trust.

But it just keeps popping up.

The only thing that seems to give me peace in these moments of fear and anxiety is if I remind myself that this is not our home. That in this world we are promised pain and suffering, but not in heaven. If I change my perspective from the here and now to the eternal, my anxiety diminishes. If I remember that we all have a time when we will die (this is inevitable) and if I remember that I do not know this time, but God does. If I remember that my children are actually HIS children and that He loves them so much more than even I do. If I remember that same thing about my husband – then my anxiety diminishes.

 

I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to worry about influenza.

I don’t want to be anxious.

I am trying not to watch the news, or read articles as much as possible. We are taking our elderberry extract and Oscillococcinum and a cocktail of other vitamins. When the kids come home from school, they change their clothes and hand washing is our new favorite past-time.

I am praying. Lots.

This is all I can do. The rest is out of my hands.

I trust in the goodness of God. I know He does not want me to be anxious. And I don’t want to be either.

And the crazy thing is that one of our daughters already tested positive for influenza this year. We all were put on Tamiflu  prophylactically and nobody else caught it. If someone else gets the flu, we would do the same thing again. God answered our prayers and Amelia was fine. My rational mind goes back to that and remembers there is nothing to be afraid of. And then I see something scroll across my newsfeed, or hear someone cough and the anxiety creeps back in.

If you get a chance, will you say a little prayer that my anxiety will dissipate? And if this year’s influenza virus has you all topsy-turvy and what-iffy, let me know and I will say a little prayer for you and your family, too.

I’m not afraid of bees or sharks or flying. And I’m hoping to add influenza to that list too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Imperfection and Half-Eaten Birthday Cake

Sometimes it feels like too much.

There is a constant list of to-dos running through my head. Items that need checked off.

One. By. One.

For example:

The girls need new eyeglasses. That prescription has been in my wallet for a couple of months. I hope it’s still there. I’m sure it’s still good. Those things have a year before they expire, right?

My daughter needs to visit the orthodontist. I’ve had to call and cancel three times already because of sickness. Why do people always seem to get sick when someone needs to be at the orthodontist? Now I’m embarrassed to call again. Do I pick a new one? Or make the call of shame? Is it three strikes and you’re out?

I think we’re almost out of milk. I hope they have organic. The last time they were running low. And they need to drink organic, right? Aren’t the hormones causing all of this early-puberty nightmare? We have three girls and a boy. Three girls. We don’t need anybody entering puberty early. Not if we can help it.

 

My daughter’s Birthday party is tomorrow. At our house. And I haven’t cleaned a thing. Or set up anything. In fact, I am serving half a frozen Birthday cake that is leftover from when we celebrated her Birthday a few days ago. How embarrassing. What mom serves half a cake? And it doesn’t even say her full name anymore. It just says “lah.”

I hope everyone drops off so nobody has to witness this, but honestly why would I let all of that cake go to waste? It’s good cake. And it was expensive. I’m not throwing it away and I’m not taking the time to make a new one. That’s just crazy. Definitely not a Pinterest party AT ALL. The shame.

My daughter needs new basketball shorts. I’m so glad she made the team. Oh yea – I need to write down that schedule. We have to be at all of the games. Have to. All of them. And sometimes we should bring signs. But maybe that will embarrass her….we’ll see about the signs.

Thanksgiving is next week. Time to think about what to prepare. Remember what happened to the last turkey? Total National Lampoons Christmas vacation. Can’t do that again. Must. Not. Overcook. I should YouTube how to make a turkey. Or Pinterest. Or something.

I haven’t purchased any Christmas gifts yet. Oh no.

When I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw how my friend reads lengthy wonderful enriching classic novels to her daughter at night. I’ve always wanted to do that. But I am so tired at bedtime. I fall asleep during the snuggles. But it would be so good for them if we read together more. I will work on that next week. It needs to be a priority.

 

And it’s time to have “the talk” with my daughter. Ugh. What if someone else beat me to it already? What if she learned about it on the bus? The horror. Need to Google some good books and come up with a plan. Definitely a priority. As long as the plan isn’t for me to read with her at night – because then I will fall asleep. Better come up with a different plan.

But what about the laundry and the cleaning and the doctors appointments and when someone is sick and just needs snuggles? What about making meals? What about the errands that need run? And helping at the school? And working out? I can’t forget to take care of myself.

What about?

What about?

Time for deep breaths.

Breathe.

 

Let’s try again.

What about just trying my best?

What about knowing that I will not get everything done today that needs done?

What about understanding, expecting and coming to peace with the fact that the list will always be there?

It’s part of living.

It’s part of raising a family.

It’s about priorities.

It’s about balance.

It’s about knowing when to work your tail off – and knowing when you need to spend time playing a board game or snuggling on the couch with your little one.

It’s not about perfection.

Nobody is perfect. As parents, we WILL mess up. It’s inevitable. It’s okay.

To all of you parents who could relate to this post in one way or another – keep up the tremendous work. Some days may be harder than others. Some days are Pinterest days and others are serve half-eaten Birthday cake kind of days – and that’s okay.

The more half-eaten Birthday cakes that are served, the more it takes the pressure off the other parents.

I will look at this cake I am serving as a contribution to other parents. Now they can say, “Well at least my cake was a whole cake.”

And do you know what? In the long run, our kids aren’t going to remember every small detail anyways.

What our kids will remember is we were there. We tried. And we weren’t perfect.

It’s time to embrace imperfection.

We all have our strengths and things that come naturally to us and we all have our weaknesses.

And when the time comes for our children to raise their own families – they will hopefully find peace in knowing we messed up. We weren’t perfect and they aren’t perfect either.

And they don’t have to be.

Nobody is.

And that’s okay.

In fact it’s more than okay – it’s liberating.

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I would love to hear from you. Tell me about your half-eaten cake moment. Post pictures. Let’s encourage one another to embrace our beautiful imperfection.

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In the Face of Tragedy

I had a plan. My plan was to share a fantastic cookie recipe on my page today. I sat down to write and couldn’t find the words.

One of the ways I process and deal with things is through writing. Before the days of internet and blogging and typing out thoughts on the computer, I would take my pen to paper and fill pages of journals with words.

Sometimes it felt like my hand wouldn’t move fast enough.

My deepest thoughts and feelings would materialize on the lined pages and then be tucked away in a secret place with hopes that nobody would find them.

 

It’s funny how I went from hiding journals to publicly sharing my thoughts.

The computer has become my journal and because of this – I couldn’t share my cookie recipe.

Not today.

My heart is too heavy.

Another shooting. More innocent lives lost.

Again.

It feels like the world is it’s own special brand of crazy right now.

Charlottesville. Las Vegas. Antioch. New York City. Sutherland Springs.

Violence. Tragedy. Loss.

 

Horrific.

Senseless.

Over the years we have seen violence unfold in places that inherently seem safe.

These are the places I imagine people going when they are in need of help. Places where Safe House stickers would rest on the window – letting people know this is where they can flee for protection in the face of harm.

These safe havens – these places of warmth and safety and comfort don’t seem as safe as they once did.

When I kiss my children and wave goodbye in the morning as they head out the door to school – it does not seem that I should fear their lives be taken.

When I arrive to church on Sunday morning and stand to worship the Lord in song – it does not seem that I should fear our lives be taken.

When we go to the movies or to the mall – it does not seem that I should fear our lives be taken.

When we are walking the streets or playing at a park – it does not seem that I should fear our lives be taken.

But that fear is slowly starting to creep in. As I watch the news unfold, I can feel it bubbling slowly in my pit.

What if?

Photo credit: BBC

Yes, what if?

And then I realize – if I live my life with this ‘what if’ ruling my thoughts then I will become paralyzed. This fear will rob me of joy. This fear will keep me from living the life God intends me to live.

This fear has the potential to seep into my children’s lives if I am not careful.

The reality is, we all have a moment when we will take our final breath. It is inevitable. I don’t know when or how that moment will arrive for myself, for my family, for my friends. I don’t know. Only God knows and I cannot be afraid of the ‘what if.’

If I am letting fear control my thoughts and my actions, then these few people who have committed these horrendous acts have won.

I will not let them win.

I will not let the enemy win.

I know the battle is so much bigger than what we see.

I believe the words of the Bible to be true and I believe that every battle that takes place is really a battle in the spiritual realm.

Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I believe in good and I believe in evil.

Even in the midst of these tragedies, God is at work and I will not lose faith. I will not lose faith in God’s goodness.

I will not be afraid.

My heart breaks for all of the people who have lost loved ones to these senseless, horrible, cowardice acts.

I pray for the families and friends of the victims whose lives have been forever impacted.

I pray for the lawmakers – that in the face of these tragedies they will see where change needs to be enacted and that they will be brave enough to make the necessary changes.

I pray for God’s protection over our country.

I pray that fear will not take root in our hearts.

I pray that this senseless killing will stop.

I pray it will stop now.

I sat down to write a cookie recipe and I couldn’t do it, so I typed this instead. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t what I intended to write, but it’s from my heart.

And really, if I think about it – that’s the best way for me to write anyways.

 

 

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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.

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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