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 Faith, Family, Friendship, Marriage, Motherhood

The Place Where Love’s Root Can Dig Deep

“Like what I like.”
“Think how I think.”
“Do what I do (and how I do it).”
“Be who I am.”

For years, this was my life’s mantra.

Husband. Kids. Friends. Coworkers. Strangers.

“Make decisions quickly.”
“Enjoy watching football.”
“Be an extrovert.”
“Believe every doctrine I espouse about God.”

On and on the list went, my goal to transform everyone into the spitting image of myself. It wasn’t ill-intentioned, but it was just plain old yuck (for lack of a better word).

I was missing out on the beauty of diversity and the celebration of our mutual differentness.

What a gift when the “scales” fell off my eyes and I could see the truth of this crucial life lesson: these people are NOT me NOR should they be.

WHAT A GIFT of the OTHER!!

It’s where life can be truly enjoyed in all its fullness.

It’s where love’s root can dig deep and blossom into a bouquet of grace.

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It means discovering the life-giving rhythms of silence and solitude from my introvert husband. (This Esthergizer Bunny needs these desperately.)

It means processing math lessons with my teacher daughter, along with unearthing the compassion she has for the struggling student, allowing for my own heart to come alive in ways I would never have known on my own.

It means hearing stories about the latest sales strategies from my second-born and possibly implementing them into my own little life’s goals of writing.

It means asking (and then actually listening to the response) about the latest headphones on the market from my tech-savvy recent college graduate. (The current sound system in our family room is to die for.)

It means getting a late-night text from my California-dreaming daughter about how her dreams are coming true, which means mine are too.

It means allowing each of my friends to be perfectly themselves, right where they are, without an agenda in my back pocket. They bring gifts every single time I am with them, gifts I would never receive if they were just like me.

It means leaning in and learning from all of you beautiful souls who are so incredibly different from me. I thank God for YOU!

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“Like what YOU like.
“Think how YOU think.”
“Do what YOU do (and how YOU do it).”
“Be who YOU are.”

I will be much richer and fuller and happier because of YOU.

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

One Of A Kind

Dear Child of My Heart,

I have met a lot of people during my years and none of them is quite like you. From the moment I met you until today, you have proven to me just how “one of a kind” you are.

It’s not just what color eyes you have or how tall you are or whether or not you have a dimple in the middle of your chin. It’s the parts of you that no one else can ever touch: your “style,” how you love to spend your time, your quirky habits (I’m laughing as I think of them), your laugh, what you don’t like, and what makes your heart come alive.

I am so glad that you are NOT like anyone else I have ever known. I have learned and enjoyed so much getting to know you. What a treat for me! I never want you to think you have to be like anyone other than YOU. You are the only one who can give your true self to the world, and it will be more than enough.

“Be yourself. Everyone is already taken.” (Oscar Wilde)

I know I’m one of your biggest fans, but remember God also cheers for you in your uniqueness. He has made you completely “one of a kind.” He loves that there’s only ONE of you!

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

How amazing that there are people who are going to get to know just a little bit of the gift that only YOU are.

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Faith, Thanks

My Grouchy Lady Bug Self

I went to Zumba at the Y. I was a little cranky when I got there. Okay. A lot cranky.

I stood in the back corner, hoping to just endure the work out and not do any damage to my after-the-holidays body.

The instructor came into the room, all bubbly and shouting things like, “You’ve got this! We’re going to have fun! New Year! New You!”

I stayed a little surly, hoping no one would notice my secret eye-rolling and “hmph”ing.

She continued with her cheerleadery excitement, smiling and sharing about the exploits of her holiday with her grandson while we kept pace (or at least tried to).

My grouchy lady bug self slowly began to become a little less crusty. Layers of irritability peeled one by one as she continued spewing her ever-hope-filled words.

At one point right in the middle of it all, this brown-haired, pony-tailed, encouragement in bodily form asked the 10 sweaty women to form a line with our arms around each other’s shoulders and do a little Zumba stepping in sync.

WHAT? This was a little over the top, even for my not-so-cantankerous, new you” self. I didn’t want to touch anyone else, but what was this people-pleaser to do?

We came together and fumbled our way through her directions, smiles and laughter erupting, along with clapping and high-fives before we went back to our respective lonely corners.

The last several minutes whizzed by and my crabby heart melted into a completely new form. I felt like the transformed Grinch of Christmas lore. Yes. A “new you.”

As I skipped out of class to meet my weight-lifting husband and son to venture back to our home in the woods, I stopped and expressed my thanks to this beautiful soul, “You just MADE my day.”

I will be back at the Y for that class and this time, I might arrive with a spring in my step instead of a pout on my face.

#encourageoneanother

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

TODAY, It’s Your Turn (My Fellow Mamas)

All You Sweet Mamas out There!

Take heart TODAY!

You know all those times you have blessed your child?

You know all those times you have worked so hard to create an environment for happiness and well-being?

You know all those times where you loved when it was hard, sacrificed when you were depleted, exhibited kindness when you were angry, and showed patience in the midst of difficulty?

You really have been a blessing. Sometimes a double one! Even triple!
There is no doubt. And you will continue to bless your child every day until you take your final breath! That part is never over no matter how old they get or you feel (haha)!

TODAY, it’s your turn. I pray that you would be encompassed by those who speak goodness to you, those that bring blessing, not only with their words, but with their lives.

TODAY, may you be encircled by love, sacrifice, kindness and patience the way you have shown these in abundance to your child over and over and over (and then some).

Of course, you haven’t done this perfectly. None of us have (me especially). Don’t let that voice overshadow you at all TODAY!

Listen to a kinder, gentler voice, the one straight from the heart of God! He fills in the gaps of your (and my) lack. He does this perfectly even when you (and I) haven’t and can’t.

His Spirit, the truest voice of encouragement and hope, is right there right now with you. He longs to tenderly share the message of love, grace, mercy, goodness and blessing that you (and me) need to hear, especially TODAY.

From my heart to yours, my fellow-Mama.
Esther

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Friendship

Soak THIS Deep Into Your Soul Today

Each of our souls need blessing, someone willing something very good for you and asking God to grant it. Here is mine for you today!

May you awaken refreshed with peace and hope for the new day.

May your heart receive the gifts that have been prepared by God’s hand, especially designed for you.

May your time be expanded so that you are never rushed and you maintain a steady, hopeful spirit.

May God’s words of encouragement be loud and life-giving.

May God give you wisdom as you work and may you reap an abundance of good fruit from your labor.

May your day be filled with laughter and joy, cooperation and kindness from others, especially those you live with.

May your relationships blossom and bring much-needed hope and love to you.

May your body flourish in the secret places so that you can live your day to the full.

May you only hear words of comfort, understanding and encouragement from others.

May any and all critical and unkind mouths be shut and your heart be carefully guarded if they are not.

May you know when to work and when to rest, when to speak and when to be quiet, when to give and when to take.

May the enemies of fear, shame and guilt be banished from every fiber of your being so that healing and wholeness can overflow for you and from you.

May your mind turn to peace, joy, contentment and thanksgiving as the day ends for the gifts that were so freely given to you by God Himself.

May your thoughts turn to what went right during the day and may your heart be cheered.

May all discouragement be banished and may you turn to Christ, who has sustained and provided for you.

May your dreams bring you joy, recreation, laughter, hope, love, peace, kindness, encouragement, restfulness and even creativity.

May your sleep grant you the full and daily restoration that your body, mind, heart and soul so desperately need.

May you be able to see, feel and receive the love and grace that God has for you in abundance.

From my heart to yours,
Esther

Posted in Word of the Year

How To Choose Your Word of the Year (helpful reminders and simple steps)…Find Out Mine

A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of us during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads).  It’s a friend that accompanies us during our journey.  (The Dolly Mama)

When I was a young girl, I had the New Year’s resolution every year of reading through the Bible.  On January 1, I would read 40 chapters of the book of Genesis and then by January 8, I would be on Genesis chapter 43.  I’ve made that same resolution about 20 more times at points in my life and guess what, I have never read through the whole Bible no matter what I’ve tried.  It’s been the same for me with exercise plans, diets, organizational goals, etc.  You know what I mean.  You feel the same pain.  The bottom line: resolutions rarely, if ever, work.

On the flip side, I’m all about HOPE.  I love a fresh start.  A new day.  A new week.  A new month.  And especially a NEW YEAR.  Hope is what “rocks my socks.”  And God knows this about us.  That’s why we have fresh starts every morning, even every moment.  I don’t know what I would do without the place where I can begin again, take a first step toward change, growth and healing, and then come to that same redemptive position again and again.  HOPE.

Hope, my first Word of the Year (hereafter known as WOTY) in 2015, is the main reason why I opted to throw away all New Year’s resolutions and choose a WOTY.  I need hope.  Hope is an inner, gracious guide that allows room for us to change and grow.  Resolutions are harsh external masters that heap shame on us when we “fail” to keep them.  Here’s why:

  • A resolution concentrates on “DOING.”  A WOTY values “BEING.”
  • A resolution instructs.  A WOTY inspires.
  • A resolution is mandatory (“work out three days a week”).  A WOTY allows for room to go at your own pace (taking the next baby step).
  • A resolution is limited in possibility (“lose 10 pounds”).  A WOTY is expansive and limitless.
  • A resolution can be “broken.”  A WOTY cannot (it is a gentle friend).

I am so thankful that my husband stumbled upon the idea.  It has been life-changing as we approach the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one.

If you’ve never done this, it’s a lot of fun.  While you hopefully have some “time off” from your regular duties (unless you are a mom, of course), today or tomorrow might be a good day to spend the time.  Or any time in the next couple of weeks.  I know people who spend an hour (me) and some who spend a weekend (Allen).  (Click HERE to understand why that’s the case.)  It’s not a race.  It doesn’t matter when.  But it might matter if.  It might seem overwhelming.  It’s not.  It’s just fun.   Give yourself the treat.

Helpful reminders:

  • Concentrate on who you want to BE(come) this year, not what you want to get done.
  • Cup your ear to your hopes and dreams.  Be mindful not to listen to your doubts and fears.
  • Be true to yourself.  You want your  word to represent your unique needs and desires.
  • Remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. This isn’t traditional goal-setting.  This is grace-filled friendship-making. There is plenty of room to change your mind.
  • It’s intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads…I call that “shoulding” all over yourself).  It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.

Simple steps:

  1.  Ask yourself a simple question:  What do you need?  Many times, we concentrate on improving ourselves instead of being kind to ourselves.  This is a huge starting place.  Don’t skip this step.  Write down all the random things that come to your mind.
  2. The next question can be (after you haven’t skipped the first one) who do you want to be(come)?  Write down a few of the most important things that jump into your head.
  3. Make a list of words that come to mind.  Write as many as you want.  It can be a noun, verb or adjective.  If you need help, click on this printable alphabetical list I put together for you for some ideas. (Word of the Year Ideas)
  4. Cross out the words that don’t work for you.  Narrow your list down to at the most 10 words.
  5. Check out the definition of each of the words, its origin, synonyms and antonyms.  You might just be surprised at what you find out!
  6. Give yourself some time to process the list.  Allow yourself to “try each one on for size.”
  7. Take a deep breath and choose your word.  Take a few minutes to write your thoughts about how you hope it might play out in different areas of your life and relationships.
  8. Write your word down on something and post it on your mirror, your car, your computer, wherever you will see it every day.  You can even buy a customizable bracelet by clicking HERE (I don’t get anything from this.  Just thought it was a cool idea.)  I found a picture and put it as the background of my computer (it will feel weird to change it out).  Look at it each morning and remind yourself about this friend who is with you today.
  9. Give yourself permission to change your mind.  If you want to, take the time to reflect and re-evaluate your word at any point in the year.

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An Update From Yours Truly:

My WOTY for 2019 was “Shalom.”   I don’t want to give up this friend.  I love her.  She’s been a kind, yet forceful voice in my life, the best of the best.  I have a long way to go in my friendship with “Shalom.”   She means “the presence of true human flourishing in all areas” and I want that for a lifetime, not just one year.

The good news is that just because I make a new friend does not mean I have to give up my old one.  “Shalom” can come along with me into 2020 and who knows, maybe my new word will stand hand-in-hand with her.  When I think about all my WOTYs since I’ve started, it makes for one wonderful Dolly Mama posse (HOPE, BECOME, DEPTH, TEND and SHALOM).   That makes me super happy.

Now, that I’ve welcomed them all, I would like to invite another new friend into my life for 2020:  my Word of the Year is HYGGE!

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Hygge is one of those words (it’s a Danish word) that encompasses an idea that’s hard to translate, because it means so much more than any one thing.   In essence, it’s the “feeling of coziness and well-being.”  I even bought a little book about it that I’ve been reading the last month or so.

Here is what it encompasses:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Connection to Nature
  3. Companionship
  4. Relaxation
  5. Comfort

You can find out more by checking out this article HERE.

We even bought a house this past year that is the definition of a Hygge Home.  It’s a house with huge windows with a big wood-burning stove and surrounded by the most beautiful gardens and woods that I’ve ever seen.

We want it to be a place where both we and others find comfort, companionship, simplicity, connection to both Creator and His creation, where we are able to just “be” instead of “do.”  Ultimately, a place of healing for our truest selves.  A house filled with hygge.  We hope many of you can join us for real and in person here!  It would be our greatest joy to share a little space of hygge with you!

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Back to You:

Consider joining me on this journey to find out what word can come along side you and be your gentle and kind friend throughout this new year that we are embarking on.  When you do, please please send me a note letting me know what your word is.  I love to remind you every so often throughout the year about your new-found friend.

Happy New Year from my heart to yours!

**ALSO PLEASE DO ME A FAVOR AND GO BACK AND LIKE THIS ON SOCIAL MEDIA**

 

 

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

Reflections on the Bittersweet of Motherhood (from a Mom of a Dozen)

As the year ends…..and the New Year begins.

…reflections on Kahil Gibran’s “On Children” 31 December 2010 at 20:52 @ Copyright 2010 by my friend and fellow mom, Mary Cypher

I’ve always thought that Janus, the Roman god with two faces was an appropriate metaphor for this time of year.  It is good to look back and then forward at the same time, to take stock, to adjust expectations, establish objectives. This can be a time of celebration, of sadness, a taste of the bittersweet. It is so for me.

My Facebook status early last month was “My youngest greeted me with the words ‘This is your last day with a 6 year old!'”  It struck me that I’ve been a mother for 30 years and I am at the end of a season in my life.

I smiled as she spun and danced celebrating growing older, as only the very young do.  Quickly, a lump formed in my throat as I grasped that she really was quite big!  My baby was no longer so little.

In an age in which most people have 2.5 children, I chose to have a dozen.  I had tots and teens for a long time, and truly reveled in the experience; the delight of their discoveries, the pleasure of their innocence and guilelessness.

It has been my unadulterated joy to give my children love AND to share my love of knowledge, of language, literature, history, art, music, & nature with them.  Because, thank God, they too developed similar passions, we have had wonderful conversations and I am awed by the depth of character and the understanding that they have.

Now, I am forced to acknowledge that part of my life is over. Having shoved that realization to the back of my mind, even though it was still there percolating, Kahil Gibran’s poem,”On Children” came back into my thoughts during a quiet moment.

I smiled wistfully as I remembered how, as a 17 year old, I read these words with such a wash of relief:

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

I remember feeling justified in pulling away from my immigrant parents and seeking my own identity, indeed, my own nationality.  These words particularly resonated within my 17 year old Self:

“You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

” Yes!” I thought then.

How little I knew at that time that I would need the traditions, the values (if not the identity) of the heritage for which I had little use.  Little did I realize how sad it must have made my parents.

It’s a painful part of parenting, releasing the son or daughter that your heart still calls “my child”.  As a mother whose children range in age from 7 to 30 now,  I think how true the words from Gibran’s poem really are.

Their souls DO dwell in the house of tomorrow. As much as I love them, they stretch their wings, reaching for the sky, seeking to go forward, upward — to a place I cannot go.

Half of my offspring are young adults now, and I have come nearly full circle as I truly begin to understand the last stanza of Gibran’s poem:

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

The sheer pleasure of having very little ones in my home is now a thing of yesterday.  A wonderful, special season, that I will always remember, but which belongs to yesterday.  I look at my youngest, who looks so much like me, and think,

“I must still be a stable bow for her and the rest who are still in the nest, that they may grow to be men and women who also will freely bend to the Archer’s Will.”