Posted in Charity

Sometimes Generosity Looks Like…

Sometimes GENEROSITY looks like…

…putting a coin in a red bin at the grocery store with the bell-ringer looking on.

…saying yes to your young teenager’s request for a ride to the movies (both ways).

…ringing your neighbor’s doorbell with a tin full of home-made (or even store-bought) cookies.

…texting a hurting friend and saying, “I’m here for you.  No judgment.  Only compassion.”

…allowing a hurried mom with four kids in tow to go before you in the checkout line (#thatmomwasme #thankyoukindstrangers).

…sitting with ten first-graders on Sunday mornings reminding them how crazy God is about them.

…sharing a “Go Fund Me” page on your social media network for a desperate soul.

…standing up on the train and gently whispering, “Please, take my seat.”

…reading one more book at the end of a long, exhausting day with your I-don’t-want-to-ever-go-to-bed toddler.

…writing that Google review for your hard-working, but not-perfect contractor.

…giving your spouse permission to sleep in when littles are up at the “most ungodly hour.”

…granting someone access to your beautiful, messy, sacred, broken, healing heart.

Sometimes GENEROSITY looks very different for each of us. 

That’s a wonderful thing.

#dontcompare #keepupthegoodwork #generosityheals #bringhope

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood, Thanks

It’s Strange Here

I sit by my fire alone.

It’s strange here.

A year ago, my third-born was bursting through the door, overstuffed college laundry bag in hand, ready for a week of “rest” in the “best bedroom ever,” along with eating the ultimate “Taylor ham and egg on an everything bagel” sandwich every morning of his time with us.

This afternoon, I was driving him to the airport.  He is off to see his younger sister 2,726 miles away on the left coast.

A year ago, I was picking up my exhausted college baby girl up at the same airport, joy filling my heart as we chit-chatted on the way back to a house filled with family.

Today, my phone buzzes. “Can you send me Josh’s flight info?  Also, can I have the famous jello salad recipe?  I’m going to make it for Thursday.”  She is headed to buy the ingredients to make her favorite Thanksgiving dish at a grocery store I don’t even know the name of.

A year ago, my oldest fed her baby our family-secret sweet potato casserole in the same booster seat we used for her, surrounded by oohs and aahs from cousins and great-grandparents.

On her commute home from teaching second-graders earlier, she chatters away on the phone.  “When do you leave, Mom?  I’m hoping to get my grad school papers done on Friday.  We are just going to eat out with my mother-in-law on Thursday.  I might make the family-secret sweet potato casserole just to have leftovers.  ”  Her two-year-old babbles in the background, “I want to go that way.  I have a raccoon sticker.  I see a tractor.”

A year ago, the second child of my heart was on his way home from a land far away, new puppy in tow, ready to cuddle up on his favorite sofa, eat his favorite NJ pizza, and see his favorite friends.

“Just landed in Florida.  I hope you have a wonderful week” lights up across my laptop screen on Sunday morning.  He’s with his girlfriend spending the holiday with her family.   I can’t even tell you what town he is in.  Maybe somewhere near Palm Beach.  Not sure.

I sit by my fire alone.

It’s strange here.

Feelings bubble to the surface, unlike any I’ve had before.  I’m not sure what to make of them.

Thanksgiving has been together for 27 years.  The three of us.  Then the four of us.  Then the five of us.  Then the six of us.  PLUS, a whole bunch (and I mean a WHOLE BUNCH) of other family and friends and anyone who wanted to join the mayhem.

Pies.  Parade.  Mashed potatoes.  Dog show.  Family-secret sweet potato casserole.  Puzzles.  Turkey.  Football.  Ham for those who hate turkey.  Cousins.  Gravy.  Games.  The famous jello salad.  Beer-tasting.  Pictures (the one at the top of this website being last year’s).

I sit by my fire alone. 

It’s strange here.

No overflowing shopping bags filled with cranberry sauce and giant foil roasting pans.  No beds being prepped for guests.  No Costco runs for last-minute hors d’oeuvres.  Not even one decoration in sight except a pumpkin candle burning slowly behind me.

My husband, away on business, calls in the middle of all the feelings.  “You’re alone.  How are you?”

“I’m okay.”  I say.  “I like it in many ways.  I am glad for tonight.  But I’m glad I will see you soon.”

Tomorrow, I hop on a plane myself to spend a few days with my parents.  My man hops on his own plane the next day to join me.  I won’t be alone for long.

But right now, this alone thing gives me space.  Space to sit with my Savior and sort out this new normal I find myself in.

This new normal filled with sorrow that I am not seeing ANY of my four children.  To shed the tears that need to flow.

This new normal filled with thanks that I am seeing my parents, my groom and a grieving childhood friend.  To allow a warm smile to curl to my lips.

This new normal filled with bewilderment that this is actually where I find myself on the journey (I think Costco might send a search party).  To sit quietly, a questioning “hmmm” filling my thoughts.

This new normal mostly filled with hope that I might have just done this mom thing okay.  To embrace the idea that my kids are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing:  building lives of their own, going on new-found adventures, loving those they are with and best of all, making family-secret sweet potato casseroles and famous jello salads.

I sit by my fire alone. 

It’s strange here.

But it’s really good. 

I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Be on the Lookout

I have four children. There are many days it’s been hard to be their mom. It’s been a lot of work. But there are times when I catch myself sitting back and asking God why I was so blessed to have them in my life, to get to be their mom. In those moments, my heart almost feels like it’s going to burst with thankfulness. This mom journey has been beyond my wildest dreams, far harder, but also far better than what I even believed could be true.

God tends to do that in our lives. He has surprises for us that are beyond our imagination: something in nature that just boggles the mind, a kind word from a stranger exactly when you need it, a random text from your child that they love you, a job promotion that you did not dare to hope for, and so on. He always has something up His sleeve.

He is much bigger, kinder, more generous, stronger, more loving, and smarter than we can even begin to wrap our brains around. He extravagantly loves us as if there is only one of us. No matter what we face or what we need (you might be in the middle of something that seems beyond fixing and desperately hopeless), soak this in:

God’s limitless, tireless, unbounded, lavish power that transcends our three-dimensional world is able to provide and work far beyond what our limited selves can envision.

This God can do anything and everything. This is not “pie-in-the-sky,” magical thinking. It’s a hard fact. Don’t be afraid to dream big and ask big, but be prepared for even bigger, above-and-beyond bigger.

Be on the lookout today for all that He has for you. Be prepared for more than you can even think up. It will change your life. It has changed mine! There is great hope!

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Celebration, Family, Grandparenthood, Motherhood

Grandmas

Grandmas drive two hours for a birthday party.

Grandmas wear their only “flannel” shirt for the festivities.

Grandmas stand in line for half an hour for twelve balloons to be blown up and then spend half an hour untangling them.

Grandmas ask “Alexa” to play the Blippi tractor song and then ask her to play it louder, singing along just to hear “again, again.”

Grandmas eat chicken nuggets and Rice Krispie treats and halves of grapes smashed onto plaid plates.

Grandmas wear left-over tractor Halloween costumes toddler refuses to don with headlights placed ever-so-perfectly (#seepicture #hahahaha).

Grandmas learn how to capture Boomerang Instagram videos and put it all out there for the world to see.

Grandmas can’t believe they’re a grandma already, watching their daughter’s eyes sparkle with that indescribable mom love, as candles are lit and then blown out (I mean spit on).

Grandmas just can’t handle how cute that little face is and want to kiss it a million times, especially when it’s covered in green icing.

Grandmas clean Amazon out of every miniature tractor, truck, police car, backhoe and excavator and every shirt, pajama set and book with pictures of said things.

Grandmas give “see you later” hugs counting the moments until the next time, which can’t come soon enough.

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

My World Changed Forever

My world changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on my child. More importantly, my heart changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on them. From the moment I saw them, I knew something that I would never be able to “un-know,” the anchoring feeling and experience of unconditional love.

It’s a love that’s hard to explain with words. It’s a love that doesn’t lessen even if I am hurt, angry, sad, weary, panicked, exhausted, confused, frustrated, afraid or despairing. Nothing is able to fully quench it.

It’s a love that doesn’t increase just because I’m grateful, happy, rested, proud, peaceful, hopeful, confident, content, or optimistic. It’s a love that dwells in the secret, sacred space of my heart that’s reserved just for this one person, my child.

The experience of this inescapable kind of love for my now mostly grownups gives me a powerful, albeit limited glimpse into God’s unconditional love for me.

Nothing is able to make God’s love expand or diminish in any way. It’s steady and enduring, permanent and unfailing. This continuing peek into God’s heart for me (and thankfully for them) has the power to radically change me in only all the best ways. It’s a mighty force that brings life and healing the way nothing else can. For me and for them.

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  May you have the power to grasp how WIDE, how LONG, how HIGH and how DEEP His love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge.  It will fill you with the richest experience of God’s presence in your life, completely filled and flooded with God Himself.”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

From My Heart to Yours

P.S.  The pic above is one of my favorite ever!!

 

Posted in Faith, Health, Sabbath, Word of the Year

We All Need Permission for This

Life is noisy. Everywhere. There are televisions in elevators shouting the latest news-worthy crisis. There are horns blaring from impatient people in the cars behind us. There are children throwing tantrums in grocery stores (I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying that with my grandson just this week). And then there is the constant noise inside our own heads.

There’s something about getting away from the hustle and bustle, the noisy world we live in, to a place of respite and refreshment. Maybe it’s the silence that allows our minds to breathe. Maybe it’s slowing down to hear God’s gentle whisper of love and care for us, placing our burdens only meant for His shoulders. Maybe it’s the surrounding simple beauty that soothes our hurried souls and draws us to Beauty Himself. Maybe it’s the intangible peace we receive and feel in our very bodies when we give room and space for quiet.

Constant. Noise. Drains. The. Life. Out. Of. Us.   Jesus invites us to something very different.   He rarely tells us to hurry up.  He often spoke the opposite to his friends when He was living in this “speed-it-up” world.  He knew (for them and for us) that we humans desperately need self-care and replenishment, restoration and renewal, places that GIVE LIFE.

“Come away to a quiet place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

This place of withdrawal is a gift Jesus so longs to give us, not another “should” on our endless list. He wants LIFE for me and for you, for us in our collective humanity, the most full and abundant life that we are designed for. He knows what we need to be WHOLE and WELL. Rest is not selfish, lazy, or impractical. It is truly freeing and life-giving, a present straight from the tender heart of God for us to unwrap.

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Where is this place of restoration for you? Is it a simple walk around the block listening to your favorite music? Is it laying down for a much-needed nap on a Sunday afternoon? Is it sitting alone in your car watching the sunset from your favorite overlook? Is it putting your phone on “do not disturb” mode for a few hours, giving yourself a break from the constant buzzing and dinging?  Whatever it is, do it often and regularly. Make it a part of the rhythm of your day, your week, your month, even your year.  In the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, give yourself permission to retreat, withdraw and rest.

The noisy world will be calling to you soon enough.

From my heart to yours.

P.S.  I am heading horizontal this afternoon.

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For other posts about my journey toward rest, check these out by clicking HERE.

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Marriage, Motherhood

I Looked In the Mirror

I looked in the mirror and what did I see,

I saw an older woman looking at me.

Not a young mom who hasn’t had sleep,

But a grateful heart whose love runs deep.

Not a girlish grin that laughs at today,

But a strong soul who still longs to play.

Not a budding wife still in a hiding place,

But a life-long partner who lends a safe space.

Not a stubborn spirit who’s boxed up her God.

But a settled self no longer a fraud.

Not a sprite face with delicate lines,

But warm eyes with a smile that’s mine.

I looked in the mirror and what did I see.

I saw a tender warrior looking at me.

 

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Posted in Childhood, Family, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

Long Hill, Of Course (A Tribute)

“Where we love is home. Home that our feet may leave.  But never our hearts.”  (Anonymous)

Where can you pop into the local grocery store and run into your children’s gym teacher who ended up being their middle school soccer coach and one of the most influential people in their now budding adult lives?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you walk through a church’s red door anytime of the day to pray, drop off books, go to a giant yard sale, and even have your animals blessed (it’s also where your youngest experienced the best nursery school of all time)?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you find a community that bands together, cares for one another and truly lives the definition of good neighbors during the literal darkest of times? #nomorepoweroutages

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you visit a rehab for raptors, hike in a 12-square mile swamp, and purchase gorgeous mums and poinsettias the size of Texas?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can your kids make friendships that stand the test of high school, college, and stand up for them in their weddings, reminding them of all the goodness this little town has to offer?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you call your landscaper (#durso), your tree guy (#danstreecare), your chimney cleaner (#huffandpuff), your dry cleaner (#gillettecleaners), your contractor (#monettibuilders), your mechanic (#valleyauto), your HVAC company (#c&dcoolingandheating) and say “I need you.  It’s an emergency” and they help you pronto and give you their own personal cell phone numbers?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you meet someone named Fawn who takes care of your packages and your mail and your stamps and your address change, at the same time asking about your family?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you watch your kids play soccer, basketball (REC basketball being their favorite childhood activity of all time), field hockey, lacrosse, baseball, tennis, you name it, complete with a home-grown fireworks show?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can a friend and wife of your son’s lacrosse coach turn into your ever-hopeful realtor and make leaving just a little more palatable?   Thank you Christina Roche!

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you eat a healthy smoothie or a train-station omelet for breakfast, gluten-free muffin for your mid-morning snack, pizza for lunch at three different places, have a giant cookie with amazing coffee in the early afternoon, topping it off with “Dublin style fish and chips” while watching your favorite band, all on an otherwise boring Monday?  (not to mention rice pudding at midnight at the local diner)

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can your child take horse-back riding lessons, learn karate from experts, pick an apple from a tree farm, sit on a life-guard stand protecting little ones from the “lake” and join the “police explorers” to discover a passion they might not know they have?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you discover Leo the MGM lion buried, hop on a train to New York City in under an hour, get much-needed recovery at a famous shrine that longs to bring healing, and kayak down a river?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you move with four children and immediately find life-long friends who still love your kids and want to know all about their “out of Long Hill lives” when you bump into them at said grocery store above?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you buy cards at a discount, a buttered-roll, your prescription, the Echoes-Sentinel, lottery tickets, the best dang deli sandwich with more deliciousness than should be allowed, the place your middle schoolers went every single day after school for three straight years for their candy fix? (#dorsis)

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you order a champion Taylor ham, bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel (with salt, pepper, and no ketchup for me) that your grown kids still eat every.single.time they are in town?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you get your teeth fixed (#drgarafalo), your nails fixed, your spine fixed (#drrossi), your pets fixed (#drcoleman), your hair fixed at the same time you get a listening ear (#lisaatzizzorz) and your heart fixed (#everychurchintown)?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can a local mom of four boys turn into the very crucial “town” mom (#lisatherecdirector) who provides awesome Easter Egg hunts, yoga for stressed-out Long Hillians, a tree-lighting complete with the middle school band, summer camp, a concert series, and the best lake dance this side of the Delaware River?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you join the Elks, the Rescue Squad, the Knitter’s Club, the Girl/Boy Scouts,  the PTO, the Meyersville Grange (complete with a soup cook off), the Fire Department, the Knights of Columbus, the Senior Citizens club (there’s a whole building for that), the Historical Society and the Lion’s Club?  #enoughtokeepyoubusyforalifetime

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you pay your taxes (#ugh), peruse books and take one home for yourself, play tennis, watch a sporting event, remember and pay respect to a great hometown hero, take a beautiful walk with a friend, and enjoy an outdoor birthday party, all in the same place?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Lastly, where can you raise your family in the best-kept secret in all of New Jersey, and in the process, raise yourself?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

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Author’s Note:  We have lived in sleepy little Long Hill for 17 amazing years.  We are moving this week and my heart is broken and thankful all at the same time.  I love you, Long Hill Township.  You have been one of my very best friends.

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Sabbath, Uncategorized

Giving Up Normal (Part 2)

***HERE’S PART TWO OF THE PODCAST I AM A GUEST ON…20 MINS…CHECK IT OUT…HERE’S THE BLURB…DON’T MISS IT***

Do you sense the need to create and maintain a life-giving practice of sabbath but not sure where to start? In part 2 of Giving up the 24/7 Life, Jen continues her conversation with writer, podcaster and leader, Esther Goetz. Esther shares what she has learned on her journey, what her sabbath looks like now, challenges that may come our way and tips to creating your own rhythm of sabbath.

Two life-changing questions to ask yourself:

What do you need today?

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!

Posted in Celebration, Family, Grief, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

Kitchen Table, I Will Miss You Most of All

Kitchen Table,

Here I sit on one of your chairs, spending some much-needed time with you today.   What a mess you are, strewn with apples just bought at the farm stand, my purse, books I am reading, an open cereal container, a dirty plate filled with the remains of eggs and toast, my phone, some unpaid bills and a piping hot cup of tea.

You couldn’t be more perfect.

I am so sorry that I am not bringing you with me next week when we move.

You have been such a strong, yet inviting friend to me.  Out of everything I am leaving behind, I will miss you most of all.

I will miss choosing you at the furniture shop over 28 years ago, my thoughts of the future with you swirling in my head.

I will miss decorating you for every.single.reason.  From apples to pumpkins to snowflakes to birthdays to easter eggs to whatever tickled my fancy.

Josh 4th Bday_0004

I will miss babies being pulled up in their high chairs next to you, surrounded by faces of those who love them.

I will miss the spinning lazy Susan in your middle that holds napkins, salt and pepper, the standard balsamic vinaigrette, butter and some spicy seasoning I refuse to try.

IMG_1017

I will miss dogs licking up all the crumbs off the floor beneath you.

I will miss spaghetti-faced toddlers “coloring” you with red sauce.

I will miss sheets turning you into a fort for Dad and his little ones.

Making Fort_0001

I will miss the small missing piece on your leaf where one of us dropped something hard and you paid the price.

I will miss your chairs where each one of us sat in our “assigned” places.

I will miss dishes being set on you for large family gatherings where you became the “kid’s table.”

I will miss laughing and crying, listening and talking, whispering and yelling, all of it.

I will miss nails being painted, pumpkins being carved and homework assignments being mostly finished on top of you.

I will miss the dreams shared, the scoldings given, and the “you have to try it” mantra being repeated every single night.

I will miss friends throwing purses on you and coats on your chairs as hearts were shared in another room.

I will miss birthday parties with cupcakes crumbled in your crevices and balloons tied to your chairs.

Jared's 7th Bday_0004IMG_5672

I will miss Thanksgiving soup being prepared as veggies and turkey were chopped into tiny pieces on your very sturdy, formica (but wood-look) top.

I will miss the way you endured beer-sampling, game-playing and appetizer-eating on all those crazy extended family holidays.

I will miss arguments, raised voices and quieter apologies with you right there in the middle of it all, holding us together.

I will miss how you held Easter baskets, babies, fondue sets, games, legos and gingerbread houses, displaying for everyone to see.

I will miss flowers, invitations and decorations scattered all over you as showers and weddings were being prepped.

I will miss normal family dinners when someone got trouble for poking the person next to them.  (NOTE:  It was never Dad.)

I will miss how you watched from afar as silly pictures were being taken on the computer only a few feet from you.

I will miss Friday pizza nights when you were sprinkled with paper plates and plastic cups filled with everyone’s favorite drink of choice.

BUT what I will really miss is the way you stayed with me through six kids, four houses, one marriage, lots of hellos, many goodbyes, and all the celebrations and sadness that made up our family.  You stayed with me.

How good and precious for me to be alone with you right now, just the two of us, saying our goodbye to each other.  Thank you for being with me as tears sneak down my cheek, a lump forms in my throat and I not-so-secretly hate leaving you behind.  I couldn’t be more grateful to you.  Thank you.  Thank you.   You have held my heart well.

You have been a mess in the past.  You are a mess right now.  But you have been perfect.  You couldn’t be more perfect.

I will miss you most of all.

Esther