Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Sheer, Terrible Beauty

One very ordinary Thursday, a precious friend poured out her heart to me about her son’s death by suicide.

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“She’s gone,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the line. “We sang and prayed with her.” His wife had succumbed to cancer on that fall Saturday morning.

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I received a terrible phone call that my best friend from high school’s two daughters were killed in a wrong-way crash by a drunk driver. It was Good Friday.

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“Do you want me to come over?” I asked my close friend as soon as she spilled the ugly news that her brother had taken his own life.

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I could go on and on and on. Loss. Death. Unstoppable grief.

So much sadness. So little understanding.

Each person loved so fiercely.
Each tender one lost too early.
Each story shared bravely with me.

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Nothing is more sacred than to share another’s pain. It brings both great sorrow and surprising healing. Each time I enter into this very “holy ground” space, I count it as one of the greatest gifts I will ever know in this lifetime, the gift of another in their most vulnerable and real and raw place. Sheer, terrible beauty.

For those of you who have wildly loved and lost a precious someone, I pray today that you would find a safe space to share your true heart, the one that might be hurting. I pray that those who listen would dive deep and sit still and share some measure of your grief and suffering, so that you would feel unexplainably loved and cared for. I pray that in God’s vast wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy and love, He brings unfathomable healing to you in the places only He can reach.

We share every part of this life together, including the great sorrows we face, arms and hearts wrapped around each other, each one of us helping the other hobble along toward redemption.

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Please feel free to share the first name of someone you have loved and lost in the comments. I would just like to hold the space for them today.

#grief #healing #hope

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Mommy has canser (#leapday2016)

“Mommy has canser.”

“I went to the Turtle Back Zoo.”

“I like ice cream.”

Leap Day 2016.

Three short thoughts written as part of a letter I had my nine-year-old niece write in a letter to her future Leap Day 2020 self.

My eight-year-old nephew wrote one too.

Four years ago, these two every-day kids came to stay with me for several weeks while their mom was undergoing intensive treatment for “canser.”

Four years ago, they didn’t know if their mom would be here for Leap Day 2020.

Four years ago, they were kids whose favorite movies were Frozen and Star Wars (like every other tween girl and boy).

It’s now Leap Day 2020.

I sent my now twelve- and thirteen-year old nephew and niece their letters 500 miles away.

Four years have passed since those words were penciled on loose-leaf paper.

Four years, where they have endured the worst: the loss of their mom.

Four years, where my brother picked up the pieces and entered in a new normal without his wife to help him navigate the journey without her.

Four years, where my then 17-year-old niece (the “older sister”) gathered her own heart together and plugged away at her future as a nurse one painful and healing day at a time.

Four years, where this little family laughed and cried, played and worked, fought and made-up, just like the rest of us.

Leap Day 2016 feels like yesterday, those two kids sitting at my kitchen counter, their future unknown, penning words to themselves.

I didn’t know if heartache or hope would come before those letters were read four years later.

Yes, heartache came in like an untamed beast, threatening to rip this family to shreds.

BUT that is not the end of the story.

Four years later, I can say HOPE reached in louder as God took extra, tender care of this little family without their wife and mom.

Four years later, there are two budding teens who are smart and kind and full of life, with friends and pets and who still secretly like Frozen and Star Wars. HOPE.

Four years later, there is a man who has fought hard to help his family take their next right steps and love each other no matter what comes their way. He rocks as a dad! HOPE.

Four years later, there is a Registered Nurse, who trusted God and got up every morning to go to school, putting one foot in front of the other. She started her first job this month. HOPE.

Leap Day 2024.

Four years from now. What will life bring?

To my brother and his family?

To me and mine?

Frozen 3? Ten more Star Wars movies?

Laughter? Tears?

Work? Play?

Fights? Forgiveness?

Heartache?

Yes.

But, that will not be the end of the story.

HOPE will reach in louder.

God will take extra, tender care of us all.

#thereisgreathope #leapday2020 #herviewfromhome #hopewriters #dollymamanj

Posted in Celebration, Faith

The Stripping Away

The stripping away.

LENT.

A time for giving up.

Chips, chocolate and cheese?

Yes. Those three.

But so much more.

A much bigger three.

FEAR, GUILT AND SHAME.

Three that destroy me from the inside out.

Three that have a stranglehold on my heart.

Three that I want banished from every fiber of my being.

LENT.

A time for giving up.

BUT, also…

A time for making room.

For the biggest three.

FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE.

Three that heal me from the inside out.

Three that bring freedom to my precious heart.

Three that I want infused into every fiber of my being.

LENT.

Posted in Celebration

Redeeming Mardi Gras

Images of Mardi Gras swirl in my head.

Debauchery.  Excess.  Lewdness.  Abandon.  Sensuality.  Revelry.  Beads.  Licentiousness.  Drunkenness.  The pursuit of pleasure at all costs.

I’m not sure about you, but I have a super complicated relationship with pleasure.

At times, I overestimate its value and seek it with abandon at any cost to my own demise, still unsatisfied and longing for more, kind of like what will be happening today in New Orleans.

In other moments, I squelch it, deeming it unnecessary, and certainly not “Christian” and even harmful to my wellbeing.   I swing from feasting to fasting, just trying to figure it out this complex partnership, never quite landing anywhere.

I need pleasure.  You need it.   It’s really good for me, especially when it’s in its designed space, as my kind and faithful servant and not my harsh and self-seeking master.  It’s a straight-up gift from God to remind me of His goodness.

When I think about it, I’ve been given five senses to experience joy and delight for just this very reason, the immense freedom to enjoy the goodness of God.  It’s no wonder the Psalmist says,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

  • I taste delectable flavors (potato chips and milk for me…I know…super strange), savoring each sip or bite.
  • I hear sounds that excite and both calm my soul and levels unreached in other ways (my favorite is the garage door closing when my budding adult is home after a night being out).
  • Through the sense of touch, I know comfort and bliss (warm sunshine on my face after a long winter), and also experience love and intimacy with the people I love (a long hug with my hubby).
  • My sight allows me to capture the untarnished beauty of the world (butterflies fluttering in my garden brings me personal joy).
  • My sense of smell gives me a completely unique experience of the life around me (lilacs in May and peonies in June for this New Jersey girl), especially and uniquely mine, a true gift in a world of billions of people.

I am reminded I am one-of-a-kind and God does some things just for me!  How amazing is that?!?

Today, take a minute to think about what brings you pleasure.  You may have just forgotten because of all the overwhelming “duties” on your plate.  What is your favorite thing to taste, see, touch, hear and smell?

Hopefully carve out just a few moments on this Mardi Gras to experience even one, savoring it as you do, bringing your senses to life and reminding you that “Yes.  God’s creation is good” and He’s gifted it to you to declare to your heart His unending goodness and unfailing love!

TRULY ENJOY.

From My Heart to Yours

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Motherhood

The (Surprise) Gift

As a mom, you get up every single day and plug along, doing all the mom things and wondering often if any of it makes any difference at all.
You get tired. You get cranky. You get angry. You get resentful. You get doubtful. You get guilt-ridden. You get “a little crazy.” You get weepy.
I opened my email on my birthday and found this SURPRISE GIFT written from my adult daughter, Sarah Meassick, a mom herself now (CLICK BELOW TO READ).
It made all the days (10,201 of them so far) morph into some beautiful mosaic of love and light, strength and courage, joy and hope.
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK (mom or not)! All of you! ALL. OF. YOU.
In all the places you are bringing love.
In all the places you are bringing light.
In all the places you are bringing strength.
In all the places you are bringing courage.
In all the places you are bringing joy.
In all the places you are bringing hope.
YOU ARE THE GIFT!
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Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family

Happy Birthday to Me!

When one of your best friends writes you a poem and your love language is words of affirmation, you post it for the world to see.

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Today we celebrate
My sweet friend E

The dearest of friends
Who could ever be

You are willing to go
Where many steer clear

To the heart of those
Far and near

Loving to you
Is connection and grace
It’s relationship
At another’s pace

Desiring to connect
With another’s soul
Then sitting there quietly
Soft and yet bold

Wanting to know
What causes others tears,
What brings them joy,
Or heightens their fears

It’s in that place
Esther feels most alive
It’s in that place
We all watch her thrive

She enables others to travel
Where they may have not tried
Because she has gone there herself
Refusing to hide

Leading while being
Right in the tough spots as well
She Touches our heart
Because she’s been there herself

So today I want to lift you up
And acknowledge who you are
The good, the bad, the ugly
Has brought you this far

A beautiful reminder
Where we’ve been,
Is sometimes hard

But if you will embrace life
If you nurture all those parts
You can live life quite bravely
Like my friend Esther’s
Brave heart!

I love you!

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Penned with love
By Maria Pascale for
Esther Goetz

Posted in Faith

HOW COULD YOU…

It was an ugly day yesterday. Yes. It was rainy, cold and gray, but that’s not why it was ugly. It was ugly on the inside of me.

Two days prior, I received a dreaded letter from the DMV. “Your registration privileges have been indefinitely suspended. Your license will be suspended in one week.” (On my birthday, I might add)

The culprit: I had forgotten to turn in the license plates on the car we had sold in the fall. That’s something serious in this little state I live in.

“HOW COULD YOU forget?” my inner voice berated. “You are the one who always has this stuff together.”

SHAME.

My other inner voice tried to sneak in, “You had a lot going on in the fall. You moved and maybe the first notices got lost in the mail.”

GRACE.

I buckled myself up and went with my husband to get all this straightened out at our local DMV.

Needless to say, I was met with a stern woman who was probably just doing her job to remind me about the law as she told me I needed to drive to a full-service DMV 45 minutes away to fix what I had screwed up.

My inner dialogue soaked in her words like a dry sponge.
“HOW COULD YOU let this slip through the cracks? This is now going to cost you a whole day. And your husband to boot. The guy just came to change his address.”

SHAME continued to creep.

I cried. Then lashed out. My husband sat silently on the drive. I needed the voice of GRACE desperately. I asked for it in all the wrong ways. I was met with some truth from my beloved. “You are just projecting your bunk onto me.”

He was right, of course, but SHAME shouted louder.

“HOW COULD YOU not handle this well with your husband. You are only making it worse. You are supposed to have a good marriage.”

GRACE tried to speak clearly in the middle of the mess. “You are NOT a bad person, my friend, even though you’re making some mistakes. You’ve had a tough few months. You are going to be okay. You will learn and grow from this. You are loved no matter what.”

I wish I could tell you that the voice of GRACE won by the end of the day. It’s not true. I was still wallowing as I lay on my pillow and believed all the lies that SHAME had to tell me.

Fitful dreams came. I thrashed around, replaying the day over and over. UGH.

BUT, as I woke this morning, GRACE met me in full force. Too loud not to hear, quieting that ugly monster that destroys.

The sun peaked through the clouds for the first time in about a week. It streamed through my window reminding me that I am NOT the sum total of my wrongdoings or my bad attitude or my foibles. I am loved. I am beautiful. I can start again. I am not alone.

When SHAME says, “How could you?”, GRACE says, “I’m with you.”

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Fear Keeps Me…

Fear keeps me from loving deeply.

Fear of rejection.
Fear of losing myself.
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of pain.
Fear of not being enough.
Fear of abandonment.
Fear of grief.
Fear of failure.
Fear of being swallowed up.
Fear of loss.

If I love deeply, every last one of those fears might come true. Many of them already have.

But, it’s a risk I am trying very hard to take every single day, no matter how afraid I am, because…

If I love deeply, I will also find ALL of these along the way:

Grace.
Life.
Kindness.
Intimacy.
Acceptance.
Tenderness.
Joy.
Goodness.
Empathy.
Peace.
Belonging.
Mercy.
Trust.
Healing.
And ultimately, LOVE.

Fear may win a few skirmishes here and there on the battlefield of my heart, but deep LOVE will win the war. That’s a guarantee from LOVE HIMSELF.

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Remember Our Fridge?

Dear Kids,

Remember our fridge? Not what was on the inside (as yummy as that was), but what was on the outside. I loved displaying all your works of art, your photos, a good grade, all the things you were proud of. It was like our own little shrine to your awesomeness.

When we took things down, you would have a little freak out. Sometimes, I would sneak things into recycling or the garbage when you weren’t looking. Yes, I was THAT mom.

Other things stayed up there for a super long time just because it made both our hearts do a little dance when we passed by. You felt important and loved and knew how proud I was of you.

You know what? I’m a little sentimental and gushy because we aren’t putting things on fridges anymore.  But I don’t need that dang fridge to tell you I am proud of what you accomplish, the things you create AND especially the person you are. That hasn’t changed and it never will. That little shrine moved from the big fridge door to the inside of my heart (no garbage or recycling needed)!

You know what else? Which just blows my mind!?!? God’s “fridge” is even bigger than mine. He loves you (AND ME) more than I ever can or will. You (AND ME) infinitely matter to Him. You (AND ME) are intensely valuable to Him. He is extremely proud of all the hard work you (AND I) have done and more importantly, the person that you (AND I) are. He’s filled with joy over you (AND ME).

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.
He can live anywhere in the universe and He chose your heart.
Face it. He’s crazy about you.
(Max Lucado)

Soak these words in! Let them settle deep down inside, where you can reach for them over and over any moment you need them! You are SO loved!

From my heart to yours,
Mom

P.S.  You out there reading this…guess what???…all this applies to YOU too!  I hope it puts a skip in your step for your day!!

*Picture from iVillage*

Posted in Childhood, Family, Motherhood

Fighting For Your Child’s Heart

Sweet Mama,

When you took your child home for the first time, I bet you felt like I did: nervous, excited, already exhausted, wondering if you would be all the things that were expected of you and that you hoped for.

It didn’t matter whether your child was chosen by you through adoption or born out of your body. Whether you went home with your first born as a single mom or with your sixth child as a married, older mom, this was a big undertaking, one filled with anticipation and trepidation (and maybe a little freak out).

This whole mom thing has been “quite the ride,” filled with quarrels and hugs, tears and laughter, heartache and hope. It feels a bit like you have been in some kind of battle together, sometimes fighting against each other (I know that all too well), but really fighting FOR something bigger than either of you: your child’s heart.

When he has bummer days, you fight FOR him not to become bitter. When she in on top of her game, you fight FOR her to become grateful. It’s an every-day kind of fighting and it doesn’t matter if your child is 2 or 52. P.S. You’re doing great!!!

I’ve got some BIG NEWS: You are NOT the only one fighting FOR your child, even in those moments that tell you the opposite. You are not in this battle alone, even for a minute.

God goes in front of your child, swatting down all the “spiderwebs” and low-hanging tree branches.

God hangs in the trenches with your child, especially for all the minutes that you are not able to be there.

God brings up the rear too, so that your child feels all kinds of safe inside.

God fights fiercely FOR his or her heart. YUP He does!! And He never stops!!

Believing this is one of the only things that holds this fraidy cat mama heart together many days.

Now I’ve even got some BIGGER NEWS: In the midst of the mayhem, God hasn’t forgotten about you. He also battles FOR your beautiful, precious, mama heart, your confused, grateful, anxious, sad, hopeful, kind, trusting, vulnerable heart.

He doesn’t just want your child to thrive. He wants the same FOR you.

He doesn’t just want your child to be free, He wants the same FOR you.

He doesn’t just want your child’s life to be full, He wants the same FOR you.

You are His beloved child after all.

I pray that today, your mama’s heart will both calm and bask in this truth and at the same time, be excited for all the victory that’s ahead on this crazy, never-ending motherhood adventure.

From my heart to yours.