We Will Never Forget

Yesterday, my oldest asked me if I remembered where I was when I heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center. She said a teacher had told her there are moments in history when most people can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
 
September 11, 2001, is one of those moments in history. Yes, honey. Yes. I remember. I will always remember.
 
Like most, I remember where I was, what I was doing and even what I was wearing. I remember the fear I felt and the overwhelming desire to get home to be with, and to hug, the people I loved. 
 
We didn’t have televisions in our office, but we had a radio playing. I remember standing by the filing cabinet when I heard the news that the first tower had been hit.
For a brief period of time, it seemed like it was an accident. It had to be an accident. Right?
And then the second tower was hit, and the reality this was no accident struck. Hard. It seemed we were at war.
I remember walking dazed and scared to the cafeteria and seeing the footage play on the television. It was so much worse than I had imagined. 
 
I remember the shock. The horror.
 
I remember watching in dread as people jumped to their death from the smoky buildings. I remember watching the footage and hearing the sound as bodies hit the ground. Tears rolled down my cheeks. These were  loved ones. Moms. Dads. Grandparents. Children. These people. These poor people.
I remember watching as the second plane hit. I remember the images of people covered in ash running. Some walking. It was chaos. It was horrible. But I couldn’t stop listening. And watching. And wondering. And waiting. What would be next? The Pentagon. The crash in Pennsylvania. It felt like it would never end. What else would be hit? I had never felt so unsafe in my country.

That night, my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I drove to a local church. At that time in our lives we hadn’t been attending church regularly, but we knew we wanted to be with others who believed in God. We wanted to be in prayer. It was dark when we walked up to the church. The Priest was getting ready to leave when we walked up. Others were walking up, too. We weren’t alone in our need to be somewhere with others. We didn’t know what to do, but we knew we wanted to do something. Anything. In that moment, gathering with strangers in front of a church seemed like the only something we could do. In retrospect, when I don’t know what to do – gathering with others to pray is always a good start. 
The Priest stood with us outside, held our hands and prayed.
 
Over the next weeks, the images played over and over and over again. And people were scared. So scared. I will never forget the eery silence outdoors when all flights were canceled and the fear I felt when they resumed. I remember hearing a plane fly overhead, looking up and thinking – things will never be the same, again. 

Life did return to normal, but it was a post 9/11 normal. 
We each carry memories and stories from that day. Some watching and listening from a radio or television. Some seeing the tragedy unfold before their eyes from a distance. And others who were there. Those who survived.
Whatever your story, the memories from that day will always be with us.
The images of heroes rushing back into the flaming, smoking buildings – sacrificing their lives for the lives of complete strangers. The images of the heroes lifting the flag to the sky on a mound of rubble. The images of family members crying as they held up signs showing faces and names of missing loved ones. The images of the buildings going down. Knowing precious lives were lost.
Thank you to the men and women who gave their lives for the lives of others. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice. Thank you to the heroes then, and the heroes now.
You will never be forgotten.
 
September 11, 2001. We will never forget!

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Today is a New Day

It’s Monday, folks!

How was the weekend?

Maybe you ate too much. Drank too much. Slept too much (Is there such a thing?). Spent too much.

Maybe you worked out. Went to bed on time. Ate healthy. Used your time wisely.

Maybe you made a giant list of things to do and did none of them. Or some of them. Or all of them.

Maybe you were the best version of you. Or the not so great version of you. Or somewhere in the middle.

Maybe you were faced with tragedy. And your heart was broken. Or something beautiful and miraculous happened. And your heart expanded.

Maybe you woke up today ready to conquer the week? Or wishing it was still the weekend.

Maybe you feel like you are exactly where you are meant to be in life. Or realizing changes are imminent. And necessary.

Wherever you may find yourself on this Monday morning, I wish you joy. I wish you peace. I wish you comfort. I wish you the strength, ability and courage to make any changes that are necessary. I wish you the perseverance to get through the demands of the week. I wish the broken hearts will mend. And that the joyful hearts will explode their joy into the lives of those they encounter.

Whatever you are facing. Whatever your past mistakes. Whatever this week holds – you’ve got this.

This week is filled with endless possibilities.

Possibilities for new relationships to form. Broken hearts to mend. Restoration and reconciliation to take place. Goals to be met. Dreams to be actualized.

Wherever your past has taken you. It does not define you. You are not bound to past choices. You can only move forward.

Today is a new day. Today is a fresh start.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

*A version of this was originally published on the Truly Yours, Jen – Jennifer Thompson, writer Facebook page

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When Your Nose Ring Goes Down the Drain (and Other Mishaps)

Last week was not the best week for me.

For starters, I dropped my nose ring down the drain. Not a super big deal. It was more of an inconvenience than anything. Thankfully, I had a backup hoop that did the trick for a couple of days (and made me look way more hardcore than my go-to itty bitty stud.)

Next up on the list of debacles, I spilled water on my MacBook. Ouch. The irony that I’m constantly reminding the kids to keep water away from electronics was not lost on me. I had to hang my head down low when they came home and asked why my computer was flipped upside down like a tent on the counter – my unsuccessful attempt to dry it out.

Thank goodness for AppleCare. Even though it was covered, I still had to pay $300 out of pocket. Although it could have been way worse (like over $1300 worse), that’s still a lot of money to pay for some spilled water.

What else went wrong? Let me tell you.

After taking in my MacBook and learning about the cost of the damage, I went to Macy’s to return an item. They asked for my license. I handed it over and, you guessed it, left it there.

When I realized I was licenseless, I was already 25 minutes away from the mall (which had already closed), and there was nothing I could do but wait until the next day. I was starting to get pretty frustrated with myself.

Come on. Get it together. All of these small mistakes were costing both time and money. Neither of which are in abundance right now.

At this point, I was thinking I must be at my mishap quota for the week. I mean how many mistakes can a girl make in 48 hours?

Turns out at least one more.

The next day, I was stripping the beds in preparation for our company who was set to arrive that afternoon. I threw the sheets in the washer, started it up and walked away. About 10 minutes later, I realized I had not seen my phone.

And then it hit me. My stomach flipped and flopped as I was I was hit with a sinking feeling. You know the one that leaves your insides churning because you have an idea of what might have happened (and desperately hope you are wrong.)

I walked to the washer, turned it off and waited for the water to drain. I lifted the sheets and looked down at the bottom of the machine. There it was. Still sitting in the remaining water that had yet to drain. My phone. Submerged.

I washed my phone.

My husband was on his way to pick up doughnuts with my daughter. I picked up the iPad (our only working device in the house because the computer is out of commission, too) and FaceTimed him.

“Hello,” he said.

“I washed my phone. In the washer. With the sheets.”

Silence. “You’re kidding. Right?”

“Nope.”

“Jennnn!!”

I know, right?! Ugh. He’s so sweet. He totally would have been justified in saying so much more than just “Jennnnn!”

With guests set to arrive and the house in need of cleaning, that meant my sweet hubby was now sent on the mission to retrieve my license and get me a new phone. With all four kids in tow, might I add. Not really how he wanted to spend his Saturday morning, I’m sure.

At this point, all of the “Get it together” and “What’s your problem?” thoughts I was having the day before were back in full effect. Like a siren wailing in my head.

At least I had AppleCare for my MacBook. What in the heck was the phone going to cost?

Why was I making all of these mistakes? What was going on with me?

Distraction with a capital ‘D.’ That’s what. Plain and simple.

Instead of being present and focused last week, my thoughts were drifting all over the place. I was definitely not living in the “now.”

The kids recently started school and this means there have lots of papers to sign, monies to hand over and a plethora of dates and deadlines to keep track of on the calendar. On top of it, all four of them have recently started activities which require more forms, more money, Sign-up Geniuses and lots more dates to keep track of on the calendar.

And, it seems that in a moment of my-baby-is-off-to-kindergarten weakness, I may have gotten a little overzealous with the sign-ups. Sure I will be Room Mom and Box Top Mom and join that committee and (wipe my tears) whatever other sign-up comes my way. Sure. I’ll do it.

Last week, after volunteering to help with an upcoming event, I received an email from the teacher asking if I was sure I wanted to help with this one? She had recently been notified that it may be good for the Room Moms to limit their involvement in some of the other activities because of the large commitment already made to helping in the classroom.

Wait. What? I signed up to be Room Mom for this class, too?

I’m pretty sure any self-help book I pick up on making healthy choices and minimizing stress would advise against putting your name on all sign-up sheets that make their way into your hands during Meet the Teacher Night – especially when you’re in a state of emotional distress.

All of the papers and what-nots had me distracted last week, but that’s not all. I think it was also learning how to operate within my new normal. I am used to having kids home with me, and now I don’t. And it’s different. I am learning how to make the best use of my time, and I am also quickly learning that just because they aren’t home with me – that doesn’t mean there are suddenly an extra 40 hours in the week. I need to pick and choose how to spend my days in the most beneficial way for both myself and my family. I’m learning.

I’m also learning it can feel lonely sometimes. And a bit isolating. But I know that will pass.

And to top it off, my mom and stepdad moved to our small town last Sunday. While this is very exciting, I haven’t lived by my mom and stepdad since college. The blessings will be many, but I do believe there will be a learning curve for all of us – including my sister and her family who live here as well.

And this is what had my head spinning. All of this change. While the change is all good, it’s still change. And it was taking up way too much space in my head.

This week has been better. I have put some systems into place that have helped me feel more organized and less spastic. I have made lists – lots and lots of lists. Instead of having all of those thoughts clogging my head, I have put them down on paper – which for me, is sometimes the best medicine. When I find myself drifting, I am trying to practice something a friend told me about last weekend. I am trying to practice being present in the “now.” Listening to the sounds, observing the sights – paying attention to my surroundings.

These things have helped. This week has been better for my electronics, and our bank account.

The big thing I learned is to not beat myself up. These things happen. Bad weeks happen. Sometimes water gets spilled and phones get washed. It’s all about moving forward and learning from mistakes, right?

This won’t be the last time I have a bad week, but hopefully the next time it happens – I will remember to stop and look before I throw my phone in the wash.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Work in Progress

In college, I spent a lot of time seeking meaning and purpose – in my life. In the world. 

I was curious. 

I had accepted Christ when I was younger, but hadn’t fully given my life to Him. 

I was unsure. 

I knew I had a big, gaping hole in my heart that nothing could satisfy. Nothing. Not personal relationships, material possessions, substances, food. Nothing. 

And believe me – I tried a lot of somethings to fill that hole.

Some of my attempts to fill the hole were healthy and some self-destructive. 

I went to a shaman and had a healing ritual performed. 

I went to an astrologist and had my chart created and read. 

I took college courses on religions around the world. 

I met with numerous counselors. 

I attended the occasional service at the Catholic Church. 

I did body detoxes and juice cleanses. 

I practiced yoga and intentional breathing. 

I numbed my mind and body with substances. 

I binged. I purged. 

I hooked up. 

I read self-help books. 

I followed bands. 

Seeking and searching. Searching and seeking. 

I don’t have time to get into my entire testimony here – and you probably don’t have the time to read it. 

The short of it is this, when I came to my lowest point – the point in time when I wanted it all to be over – the point in time when I was ready for my life to end because I had traveled down a rabbit hole of bad choices and didn’t know how to possibly climb out – at that point in time, I remembered the prayer I prayed at church camp in middle school. 

I clearly saw Jesus. 

I remembered Him. 

And I wanted to live. 

Slowly and surely over the course of the next few years, my life changed. The hole vanished. 

What drew me to Jesus? I knew no matter what I had done – He would love me. Nothing was too big or too awful for Him. He knew me. He saw me. He was with me in all of my seeking and searching. He knew about every bad choice I had made and would make. He was there. Patiently waiting for me to turn my eyes to Him. 

It was His love that drew me in. 

Not shame. Not condemnation. Not a checklist of things I needed to get right before He would accept me. 

I came to Him broken asking for His love to cover me. 

And I still come to Him broken. Every day. 

And do you know what? He still loves me. 

When I accepted Him, there wasn’t a contract I had to sign saying I would have it all together in x-amount of years or else our arrangement would be over. 

Nope. 

It was more along the lines of – I will forever mess up and He will forever love me. 

Do you know what else? I loved knowing God called His followers to love me and all of my imperfect mess. That gave me hope. 

And that’s the kind of Christ follower I want to be. Not one with a list of rules and obligations, but one who strives to love others well. Someone who another person can come to in their lowest moment and know they will be loved and accepted. Hugged and not rejected. 

All others. Not just those who are like me. Not just those who voted a certain way. Not just those who dress a certain way or have a certain amount of money in the bank. Not just those who believe just as I do. Not just those who live just as I do. 

ALL others. ALL. 

I will never, ever have it all together. And neither will you. Neither will anyone you encounter on this broken planet. 

Isn’t that comforting? 

Let’s strive to love each other well. Let’s embrace each other for our strengths. Our weaknesses. Our similarities. And our differences. 

Let’s be salt. 

Let’s be light. 

 Let’s show love to the broken-hearted. 

Let’s remember – we are all works in progress. We are all broken. 

Let’s meet each other in our brokenness.  

That is where we see beauty. That is where we see healing. That is where we see Jesus.

 

*This originally appeared on the Truly Yours Jen – Jennifer Thompson, writer Facebook page

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Zero Tolerance Bullying Policy

I can be a bully sometimes.

It’s not something I’m proud to admit. I mean, who would be proud to admit that?

There are plenty of things to be proud of. Like receiving a good grade on a test you studied hard for, completing a home project, running a marathon (or half, or 5K…..or for some, simply running at all), earning a degree, baking a cake from scratch  – the list is long and varies from person to person.

Being a bully is not on that list.

I don’t want to be a bully. It’s not something I intentionally do. Sometimes, it just happens. It doesn’t show up in the form of physical abuse – it arrives in the form of words.

“You can’t do that. What’s the likelihood you will succeed? Slim at best.”

“Why did you say that? That didn’t make sense.”

“You look old.”

“Look at your legs. You should do something about those. You should workout more.”

“I know you want to follow your dreams and do something you’re passionate about, but honestly – you’re not that good. You should seriously consider finding a real job and give all of this up. Who wants to hear what you have to say, anyway?”

“You’re not a good mom. You’re not a good friend. You’re not good at this. You’re not good at that.”

Ouch. Those words hurt.

Who’s the victim?

Me. That’s who.

I would never in a million years think to say these words to another human being. So why in the world is it okay to think them about myself? These words tear down. They are good for nothing.

Yet, at times, this is my self talk.

Thankfully, these thoughts don’t take up residence in my mind as often as they used to. I usually can recognize when I’m going down this path and nip it in the bud pretty quickly. Not so much when I was younger. When I was younger, I regularly fed myself the lie that someone was mad at me, or didn’t like me. That I said, or did, something wrong. That if I could do more, if I were a little smarter, a little more funny, a little more whatever than……what? I really don’t know.

Because I didn’t need to be more of anything. I just needed to be me.

That’s all I’ve ever needed to be.

That’s all any of us need to be.

If you find yourself heading down the path of negative self talk, I hope you can stop yourself and realize how wonderful you are. You are a unique person with special gifts and talents. You bring your special something to the world every day, just by being you. Not by pretending to be someone else. Not by living up to someone else’s standards. Not by trying to fit into a mold that doesn’t belong to you.

Just be you. Embrace the wonderful you that God created. Embrace your flaws. Your weaknesses. Your strengths. Your talents.

Strive to be the best you that you can be. Not the best someone else you can be.

You have gifts to give and people will be blessed by them.

God can use you.

You.

I am determined to silence the bully within. She doesn’t show up much, but when she does it is very sneaky. A quiet little lie being whispered in my ear. A lie I can choose to believe, or to reject.

And I’m choosing to reject.

It is time to replace negative self talk with truth.

I no longer need to be concerned with what others think of me. I am not defined by other people’s definitions of success. Some people will like me and others won’t – and that’s okay. My weight and age are just numbers. The number of likes on my posts or number of followers I have on my page does not define my worth or my talent. The kind of car I drive or clothes I wear doesn’t make me – me.

I am defined by God. I am His child. His daughter. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. He has created me to do good works that He has prepared in advance for me to do. He knows me. He has a plan for me. He loves me. Always.

It’s time to start living more for God, and less for the world. It’s times to start being less concerned with my own personal agenda, and more concerned with His.

Not only am I going to pay more attention to how I speak to myself, I am also going to pay attention to how I speak to others. I am going to try to use my words to build up, and not tear down. To encourage. To compliment. To love.

The more we use our words for good. The more we let people know how special and important and valued they are. The more we share the love of God. The more these things happen – the more I believe the internal bullies will be replaced by something beautiful and wonderful and good.

Words matter. To myself. To others.

I can be a bully sometimes, but you know what I decided? Not anymore.

I am developing a zero tolerance bullying policy.

Starting today. Starting now.

Who’s with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Silencing the Joy-Stealing Monster Within

Last week, my baby started kindergarten. This means not only has my son started a new chapter in his life, but I have as well.

For the past 12 years, I have had someone at home with me the majority of the time. Suddenly, I find myself living in the land of freedom. In this new space I am experiencing things like: quiet, the ability to run errands with zero mommy-guilt, freedom to choose how I will spend my day and, amazingly, when I pick something up and put it away – it stays there.

It’s all very foreign to me.

At first, I was lamenting that time had flown by and my babies were no longer home with me. My internal dialogue was more my enemy than my friend. Did I play enough? Read enough? Explore enough? Teach enough? Take advantage of our time together enough?

I quickly silenced that joy-stealing monster. Going down that path leads to more questions and a heavy feeling of guilt. Doesn’t sound very beneficial to me.

And I hope if that joy-stealing monster is knocking on your door – that you refuse to answer, too.

For the past 12 years, I have tried. Honestly – that’s what matters. Right? It definitely wasn’t perfect – not even close. There was room for improvement – as there always is. And I’m sure anybody who is in the business of judging others would have found plenty to say about my parenting.

But, as I said, I tried. And I’m still trying. I will continue trying for as long as I am given the gift of breathing in and breathing out.

And above all – God is with me. I have Him. He knows my flaws and weaknesses and He loves me just the same.

And that is more than enough.

As I begin this new chapter in mamahood, I thank God for the blessing of life’s seasons. I thank God for the time I had with my babies and I thank God I am able to now experience this new space.

One of my hopes and dreams for this time in my life is to be more consistent with my writing. I hope this blog becomes a daily source of inspiration, creativity, affirmation and a reminder that we are all humans – destined to make mistakes, dust off and keep trying. I pray God is glorified through my writing and that my readers leave my page feeling like they sat down for a cup of coffee with a friend and left receiving a little hug.

Thanks for supporting me in this journey.

It really means a great deal more than you will know.

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If you enjoy my ramblings or know of someone else who may – please feel free to share this blog. You can also find me on Facebook @Truly Yours, Jen – Jennifer Thompson, writer  and on Instagram @TrulyYoursJen

 

 

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When the Morning Turns F-Bomb – Disney Style

Have you ever had a moment when you are slightly (or fully) ashamed of how you reacted to something? A moment when you look back at the wellspring of reactions you could have chosen from and think, “Really? That was my choice response?”

I have had that happen. More times than I care to admit. In fact, it’s happening right now.

Something really got to me this morning and instead of deep breathing and putting things in perspective, I was slamming my hands on the counter and throwing F-bombs at my computer.

Yep. I totally was. Thank goodness everyone in the house was still asleep and didn’t have to witness mama going completely off the rails.

Anyone who knows me well, knows profanity doesn’t flow from these lips. Not that I am vehemently opposed to it. In fact, it seems cool to throw a little spice in my vocabulary every now and again (you know, for emotional emphasis), but it just doesn’t come naturally.  It’s not my thing.

Except for this morning. This morning, it was totally my thing.

So, what happened? What went so awry that I felt the need to slam hands and throw F-bombs? Must have been pretty bad, right?

Right? No. It wasn’t bad. Not at all. And that’s where the “Seriously?!” comes into play.

You see, I woke up this morning bright and early with a plan – and when things didn’t go my way, I reacted like a tantrum-throwing toddler. Except, hopefully, most toddlers aren’t throwing F-bombs. Unless that “F” happens to stand for “Fart” – then I could totally see that happening. At least with my kids.

So, what was this plan that went awry?

Well, it started with a spreadsheet. A beautiful spreadsheet carefully laying out all of our vacation plans for a week at the most magical, happiest place on earth. Where? You guessed it. Disney World.

Now here is where I may gain some supporters for my mama meltdown. Any of you who have planned a full-blown Disney vacation with meal plans and Fast Passes know this is no joke. It’s serious business.

And for those of you like myself, this is a far stretch from the typical vacation. Disney is in a league of it’s own.

When I travel with my family, we prefer to wing it. We arrive at our destination with a few ideas of where we may eat and some attractions to check out, but very little other than arrival and departure are solidified. We like to go with the flow. Planning out every detail of a vacation is absolutely NOT our style.

Unless that is – we are traveling to Disney.

Sure, it is possible to go to the most magical place on earth and fly by the seat of your pants, but I just can’t do it. For the amount of money we’re spending, I want to be sure we squeeze out every last bit of magic.

And that was my goal when I woke up this morning – coffee in hand, computer open, phone on the counter ticking off the seconds until the Fast Passes would be mine. I was eager and ready. Come on Disney – Do your magic.

I chose the first date. The little circle spun around and around. YES. This was happening.

Or was it?

Nope. It sure wasn’t.

In the place where my park selections were supposed to be was a single sentence notifying me that there were no available passes at any of the parks for that day. What the?!

I tried again. And again. Each time with the same results.

I will spare you the details, but for the next couple hours I spent a lot of time hitting refresh, trying to get my app to work (to no avail) and an hour listening to Disney park advertisements while I sat on hold waiting to talk to someone – only to find out when they finally did answer that they are not able to help with Fast Pass selections. Who knew?

Finally, it worked. I was able to get my reservations, but it wasn’t without a lot of under the breath muttering, rubbing hands through my hair and various other indicators that I was less than happy with my current circumstance.

What was that circumstance again?

Oh yeah. I wasn’t able to get my Fast Passes when I wanted them. And there, my friend, is where the reality check comes into play. After the Fast Passes were secure and all was again right with the world, I was left with the sad reality of my attitude and behavior. And sad it was.

I mean, come on. Seriously?

This is the definition of a First World problem. And for a couple of hours this morning, this First World problem of the Walt Disney network being down consumed me.

The aftermath? I have my Fast Passes, and if I said I wasn’t happy about that – I would be telling a full blown lie. I’m super stoked about that.  What I’m not happy about is the sorry attitude I had when things didn’t go as planned. Instead of putting things in perspective, I became engulfed in my personal desire to secure these passes for our vacation. Instead of having a heart of gratitude for all that I have, including the ability to go on this incredible vacation, my sole focus was on what I didn’t have.

And this is not how I want to live. This is not where I want my heart to go in those moments. It’s okay to feel frustrated. It was a frustrating situation. But I got lost in my frustration.

My reaction this morning reminds me of the importance of starting my day in prayer and meditation. When I do this, the focus shifts from myself and all of my wants and desires to God and what He may want for my day. When I do this, I am much more apt to say, “Thy will be done.” If I start my day with quiet time, instead of jumping right into my plans –  I am much more apt to roll with the punches.

My reaction this morning reminds me of the importance of keeping a heart of gratitude – regardless of my circumstances. It reminds me  to be grateful for my many blessings and not get so lost in my wants and desires that I lose perspective.

I lost perspective a little bit this morning when things didn’t go my way.

Thankfully, I have it back.

And I hope not to lose it again. Especially not in the “My Disney plans aren’t working out so I’m going to drop F-bombs and throw my hands in the air repeatedly” kind of way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saying Goodbye

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.

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.

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.

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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Someone Wants to Know Why My Child Goes to Preschool – Here’s Why

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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If Home is Where Your Heart Is…….

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.

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.

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.

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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