Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Health, Sabbath

Hello Darkness, My (New) Friend

I jolt awake at 4:40 am.

My husband’s ride for his early morning flight never arrives.

Flying by the seat of his pants (pun intended), he jumps in his car and is off in the darkness.

I lay eyes wide open.

I don’t want to be awake yet. It’s so dark out. I didn’t plan on this.

“Don’t forget. You have decided to heed the call of the darkness this winter,” the Lover of My Soul reminds me.

I stir, don my cozy slippers and venture to the big room with the big dark windows, turn on the Christmas tree and open the wood-burning stove. I leave the rest of the house quiet. Dark.

“Darkness, what do you have for me this morning?”

My Savior greets me softly and the darkness answers.

“You need me this morning, my friend.”

“You need silence to settle your frenzied mind.”

“You need solitude to rest your weary soul.”

“You need stillness to revive your anxious body.”

“You need Shalom (remember your Word of the Year?) to heal your troubled spirit.”

“You need me this morning, my friend.”

Right outside those big, dark windows, the light will dawn in a few moments and display the freshly-fallen snow.

It will be glorious.

BUT for now, I sit in the darkness.

#darkness #beautyinthedark #whatthedarknessknows #hope

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief

Advent, The Howl of the Not Yet

O ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow…

The past few weeks have been marked by much suffering for those I love.  The pain seems overwhelming: a cheating spouse, soul-crushing anxiety, an ex-husband who seems bent on destruction, an out-of-nowhere heart attack, a teen in the struggle of his life with substance abuse, babies who are stuck in the NICU, my own grief over huge life-changes and financial struggles that seem insurmountable.   You get it.  You might be in the middle of it.  Like me, your thoughts are shouting, “How long?  How much?  Why?  Why especially right now?”

I love the holiday season.  From November 1 to January 1, like many of yours, our house is filled with decorations, food (and way too much of it, as my waistline is currently showing), family, friends, celebration, and traditions.  Along with these external manifestations of the season, there are also the underlying inner emotional expectations of gratitude, wonder, joy, peace, love, hope and generosity, to name just a few.  (A quick confession:  I like this paragraph more than the first one.  I want to live here.  I want all good things, happy thoughts.)

The four-week period leading up to Christmas morning is commonly known as Advent.  It’s Advent right now.  Shauna Niequist says,

“Advent is about waiting, anticipating, yearning.  Advent is the question, the pleading and Christmas is the answer to that question, the response to the howl.  There are moments in this season when I don’t feel a lot like Christmas, but I do feel a lot like Advent.”

Advent speaks about and grieves broken places that are yet to be healed, questions that have no answer today, and yearning that is unfulfilled.  However, Advent ALSO gives a glimpse of hope at the end of a long season of waiting.   Advent says there is suffering and it is real, palpable.  But Advent ALSO reminds us there is promise of healing, just as real and palpable.  Advent says “do NOT skip over the suffering.  Do NOT minimize the heartache.  Sit in it, acknowledge it, and feel it.”  This is not an easy place.  I struggle with Advent.  I have difficulty sitting with the grief, the waiting, acknowledging and feeling it.  I skip right to Christmas morning, the happy place, where the answer is here and salvation has come.  As Emily Freeman says, “I rush to joy.”

Skipping right to Christmas does NOT work in the end.  Rushing to joy does NOT take away the pain.  It does NOT prevent bad things from happening (I was in the ER this past weekend to prove that point…I am fine now).  It does NOT bring true healing.  Advent might be the better place that brings lost-lasting healing.  Advent speaks the deeper truth of heartache and hope, suffering and a savior.  Both are needed in this beautiful, messy life of ours.

God seems to do some of His best work during the seasons of “Advent” in our lives, the waiting periods, the not-yet times.  Especially if we look for those who will “sit with us in the dark,” when we can’t see the light, those who will venture into the not-so-pretty places with us and remind us that we are not alone, Immanuel is coming and has come and will stay with us for as long as it takes until we can see “Christmas” on the horizon.

We still have more than two weeks until Christmas.   Let’s not skip to it.  Let’s stay in the not-yet, the place of anticipation.  Let’s dive into the questions, the grief, the “howl,” the yearning of both ourselves and those we love.  Let’s be okay in the waiting.  Christmas will come soon enough.  A baby will be here.  A Savior will come.  What is empty will be filled.  Heartache will be healed.  Yearning will be fulfilled.  What is broken will be repaired.  What we’ve lost will be found.  But in the meantime, we wait together, not forgetting the howl of our hearts.

Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!

(It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Fourth Verse)

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.

************************************

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.

************************************

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.

 

*****************************

Please feel free to sign up to receive my blog posts directly into your email box!  I would be so honored if you did.

 

 

 

 

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

******************************

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.