Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Friendship, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

Did you Know (it wasn’t just a house)?

“She was an adventurer at heart.  But oh how she loved drinking this tea in this mug in this chair.  Oh how she loved to be home.”  (Google Images)

When you hurriedly trekked up the sidewalk with your then 10-year-old in a whirlwind house-hunting trip in August of 2002 and opened the door at 23 Cedar Hollow Drive, DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know…

the neighbor boy that walked through the door the day you moved in would become one of your son’s life-long friends and your son would share the weight of pall-bearer at his dad’s funeral eight years later?

music would fill the living room and your baby would fall in love with the guitar and piano and her playing and singing would be a gift to your soul and you miss these moments terribly?

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23 Cedar Hollow Drive would be brimming with boatloads of love for and from almost every species of animal, from snakes, to dogs, to cats, to hamsters, to fish (that wouldn’t die), to every assortment of lizard and now there is only one left?

your marriage, faltering at best, would become a place of hope and healing for dozens and dozens of young couples on the verge of their own life-long journey of marriage?  (in fact, you are spending time with one of them again this morning)

your nervous decision to construct a pool granted a space for family, friends, teammates, youth groups, classmates, neighbors and even strangers to rejuvenate and be refreshed?  (water gun fights and subsequent peals of laughter did just the trick)

 first days of school and dance pictures and phone conversations filled with both laughter and tears would mark your front stoop (and who knows, maybe some goodnight kisses by young lovers)?

extended family would gather for holidays and normal days, where sports teams would be cheered for, good food would be eaten, games (and some arguments over those games) would be played, and most significantly, unbreakable bonds would be formed?

your young daughter, struggling with severe OCD and the inability to go away even for a week would receive help through counselors and would now be a flourishing wife, teacher and mom?

an actual wedding ceremony would be performed in your living room because the bride and groom thought the church was located in your town and got their marriage license in the wrong place?

annual Easter Egg hunts (or should I say money hunts) created a place for teens and budding adults to still be kids in all the best ways?

endless art supplies and crafts from your artist would be haphazardly strewn over all available surfaces and one of those works would be still hanging proudly in your family room for your prospective buyers to see and admire?

birthdays would be celebrated in all their simplicity and sometimes complexity, giving room for sharing reasons why the one whose day it was to be honored was loved (and even liked)?

every kind of sport uniform would be thrown in heaps on your kitchen floor and not-so-carefully cleaned in your laundry room, providing a place of community and friendship for your kids?  (even as you write this, two of your son’s high school teammates are asleep with your 23-year-old in the basement)

your finished basement would be filled with sleep-overs and left-overs and hang-overs and do-overs and make-overs and probably thousands of humans entered those doors?

your outdoorsy son, content to spread mulch, carefully prune bushes and chop wood with his dad, would be happiest at his job doing the same?  (and he would embrace your sports teams to the full)

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your family room couch would become the healing place for illnesses too numerous to count, unforeseen and planned surgeries, along with the comforting spot to take a mental health recovery day and that you let your kids skip school for only this reason (oh how far you’ve come)?

small groups filled with lasting and abiding friendships would meet, pouring over books and videos, praying through heartache, celebrating joys, living the ups and downs of life and kids and marriage and…and…and.. (one of them still met last night right in your family room)? 

the pony-tailed 10-year-old around the corner and school-bus seat mate would become one of your firstborn’s closest friends, bridesmaid fourteen years later and Auntie Taylor to your grandson?

a baby in your womb would be lost yet your heart would be born anew?

your game-boy playing first-grader would help you to create your new podcast and be a regular and wise guest?

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early Christmas mornings would be filled with children (and even now adults) sitting on your bed opening surprises (and not-surprises) through sleepy, yet curious and excited eyes?

a nervous breakdown would seek to destroy you but a life-long journey toward healing and wholeness would begin and continue today and that a writer’s quest would result?

homework would be finished (or not-so-much), college applications would be filled out, but most important, hearts would be taught to love and hope and apologize and respect and give and continue to learn?

your basement would be the place for a barely sprouting church youth group of eight teens and three leaders that is now hundreds strong?

warm fires would be built inside and out, where stories were shared, sleep was encouraged, s’mores were eaten, and life-giving memories were created?

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fights would break out, doors would be slammed, harsh words would be spoken, yet subsequent apologies would be made and forgiveness would be granted?  Love and trust would be painstakingly built brick by brick?

your two-year old would happen upon a friend in first grade and after endless sleepovers, birthday parties and bring-a-friend vacations, their college hearts would be knit together even though hundreds of miles separate them?

your glass kitchen door would be filled with chore charts and yearly memorabilia, bird-feeder and deck-flower views, and sun-soaked floors for pets to relax and sleep blissfully?

seventeen New Year’s Eves would be celebrated, some quiet with tired bodies barely making it until midnight and others loud with friends singing God Bless America on the stoop after a long-night of Bunco?

a new love would come bearing another new love?

religion would be shed over and over and Jesus would rise in its place to become the healer of your heart and the lover of your soul?

you and Allen would be more in love than you thought was even possible?

Did you know…

Thankful tears would flow because this house is a true haven of healing and that as you leave it, your prayer is the same for the next set of feet that trek up the sidewalk and open your front door and make this their home?

Yes.  This you now know.  You know ALL of it.

 

If you’ve made it this far and you like this, I am asking if you could go back out on social media where you came from and “Like” it!  Makes a huge difference in how much it gets read and/or shared.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

Holding Space for Yourself

And that’s when I heard it, “Hold space for them.”

“Hold space for them? What does that mean?” I asked God.

I sat there in my car in the parking lot of the addiction rehab I taught at and knew God was calling me to embark on a journey with these women. As I hung up the phone, I was caught by a sweep of His presence, as I felt the answer to my question settle in my spirit…Just show up every week and be there for them. Be present to their pain.

It’s been almost a year since I heard those words, “Hold space.” I’ve learned to stay present without a response. Without turning away from the pain of others. Loving without saying a word, giving each other space to feel. I’ve learned “holding space” is a beautiful way to sit with them in their pain. It’s finding the depth of love necessary to allow them to feel without judgment, without rushing in to clean it up or fix it. It’s standing beside one another offering hope without saying a word.

A few months ago, the Holy Spirit sweetly asked, “Yeah, but do you know how to hold space for yourself?” 

Hold space for me? There’s no time for that.

I’m learning what this means. In a season of five active kids, a dad fighting for his life, and a husband with a demanding job I’m finding I need more time for me. Often times our own self takes a back seat during busy seasons. The thing is, we can’t afford not to take care of our own soul. This is why David spoke to his soul, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (Ps. 62:1,5). We live unawakened lives when we neglect our souls.

Join as I’m a guest on The Dolly Mama and the Millennials podcast where we talk about ways to hold space for ourselves and why it’s important. Laugh and cry with us for thirty minutes as we explore the need for soul-care and how to do that during this busy journey of motherhood.

–Lea Turner–

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who has someone in their lives called children 🙂

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Guest

Resurrection

I would love to welcome my husband today to this blog.  He is a man lean of speech, hence a beautiful haiku.  This man is the heart of my hearts, love of my life, sharer of my faith and lover of Jesus.

 

Darkness ravages

Radiant morning follows

His true way revealed

 

Happy Easter Everyone from my heart to yours (and now my husband’s heart to yours as well)!

 

 

Posted in Faith, Grief, Sabbath

What do we do with this space in between?

Now Mary Magdalene and another Mary kept vigil there, seated opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:61

It’s not Good Friday.

It’s not Easter Sunday.

It’s just Saturday.  The space in between.

What do we do when…

We’ve lost our job AND don’t have a glimmer of the next?

Our kids are grown AND our hearts wonder what comes after?

Our marriage is over AND we don’t know if we’ll ever be truly loved?

We’ve gotten the diagnosis AND there’s still no “good course of action” from our doctor?

We’ve filed for bankruptcy AND we still can’t give up our life’s dream?

Our Savior is dead AND it’s still Saturday.

What do we do with this space in between?

WE GRIEVE, whether wailing out loud or whimpering into our pillow

WE QUESTION, possibly shouting to the sky or shushing our inmost fears and doubts

WE SIT SILENT, perhaps eyes wet with tears or as a stunned bird gathering strength

WE WAIT, living the tension of the known past but the unknown future

WE WATCH, expectantly yet with trepidation

and mostly…

WE HOPE, for we long to believe that what lies ahead is somehow richer because of what lies behind

We hope in this place of rest.  SHABBAT.

We hope in this place of peace.  SHALOM.

Yes.  It’s just Saturday…still Saturday!  The space in between.

Hear this my soul, my friend:  Rest In Peace today!

SHABBAT SHALOM!

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Thanks

Dear Church of the Ascension (I Have Some Confessions to Make),

“We work out our faith with these other broken men and women around us in the pews.”  (Tish Harrison Warren)

Dear Church of the Ascension,

I have visited your church two times.  My husband and I live in New Jersey, but he works in Pittsburgh three days a week and has an apartment in the Strip District, not very far from you.  About once a month, I make the reverse commute and we spend the weekend in Pittsburgh, a city I have come to love and enjoy beyond what I thought possible.

It’s on these weekends that we have walked through your bright red door, been greeted by your people, sat in your pews, listened to your choir, watched your children gather at the feet of your rectors, opened the scriptures, kneeled in prayer and shared bread and wine.  It’s on these weekends that we have been outsiders peeking in on how you navigate this complex world of “church” in the new millennium.

I have some confessions to make to you this Palm Sunday morning, a day where I will be entering into the doors of another church, one where my view is from the inside out, not the outside in, one where we’ve loved and served for many years, one that is also maneuvering the mosaic of “church” in 2019.

Back to my confessions.

Today, I confess that I only visited your church because I was mildly obsessed with Tish Harrison Warren, having soaked up her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, not only once at a cursory level, but in depth with my women’s group.  When I found out that she had moved to Pittsburgh and was a writer in residence only a mile away from my husband’s apartment, I was determined to visit you.  I felt a little like the paparazzi, as I recorded her talk with the children, received communion from her and talked her ear off as she was greeting parishioners.  It was not my finest moment, but as she reminds me in her book, we are all “limping to redemption,” and I am included in the “all.”

Today, I confess that something changed inside of me that first day.  I wanted to come back.  Not just because of Tish, although her talks that day fed my soul the love that it so longed for, but because as I watched and wondered about this community that “practiced” very differently than what I am used to, it seemed kind and gracious, filled with love for those on the inside and those on the outside (me included), the kind of love Jesus talks about every chance He gets.

Today, I confess that I came back with my husband, this time my motivation not to see Tish (I didn’t even see her that day), but to be filled again with this love you have to share.  I confess that as I sat there, tears welled in my eyes as the message of God’s love for me was communicated from beginning to end, almost as if it was a calculated move on your part.  Here is just a glimpse of the words that leapt from the white booklet and the hymnal I held in my hands:

We started here…
“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.”

“Come down, O Love Divine, seek thou this soul of mine.”

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside His crown for my soul.”

“Jesu, my love, my joy, my rest, Thy perfect love close in my breast…”

The middle was filled with this:

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And we ended here…
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”

Whether it was deliberately planned by your leadership, God knew what I needed that day, my heart was more open to receiving the love and goodness of God, or ALL of those in sweet combination, my “outsider” self felt beautifully connected to you and your people, and especially to the loving heart of God.

Today, my last confession is one of thanks to you.  Thank you for being a beacon in the middle of my beloved adopted city of Pittsburgh.  Thank you for giving this outsider a place of belonging.  Tish reminds me in her book that “God loves and delights in the people in the pews around me and dares me to find beauty in them.”  I have found the beauty in you.  Your beauty is one that has given me inspiration for my inquisitive mind, daring hope as an anchor for my soul, but most of all, deep, deep love for my longing heart, a beautiful and firm foundation that I carry with me into this Holy Week ahead.  Thank you.   We shout HOSANNA (“Come Save Us!”) together today!

Godspeed, Church of the Ascension!  I will be coming through your red doors again soon!

Esther Goetz

*If you liked this, please go onto social media and give me a thumbs up or a like.  It would mean a lot to me.*

Posted in Faith, Family, Guest, Marriage

NEW CHAPTER (maybe a whole new book) #thisis54

Just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way you thought it would or think it should.

EXCEPT.

WHEN.

IT.

DOESN’T.

What happens then?

Is all hope lost?

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My friend, Maria, newly divorced, unpacks this better than I can today with a poem she’s written to herself on her 54th birthday, one where she is vulnerable, raw, truthful and filled with hope (and I am all about all of that)!

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This is 54

In all my imperfections
In all my power
In all my insecurities
In every way
I cower

Owning every blessing
And every good gift
Owning every wrinkle
My 54 year old self
Could use a lift 

Better late than never
Better off now alone
Better to be alone and lonely
Than lonely in my home

I’m not sure what happened
Not sure why
I waited so long
But know my children mattered more to me
Their peace
more than my own

I move on in power
I know its not too late
To have the love I long for
With the one I can relate

But first I love myself
I walk in all my truth
Owning my need for more
Unrealized in my youth

Time has passed by quickly
Many ways a blessed life
I thought all the answers
Were in being someone’s wife

But fairytales and stories
The things our people make us believe
While they tried their best
Did not
see the need

The need to guide in honesty
That love is more than what is seen
Its deeper, it is constant
There is passion
you can believe

The knowledge of your whole heart
Being touched and nurtured
Sweet and raw
The wisdom of its purity
That’s what will last for long

So I give this to myself now
I love myself in all my truth
I love that I am fragile
I love the wisdom without youth

I own my insecurities
How I need to feel valued and be seen
I own my need for time, connection,
Affection
Want the dream!

I call it the trifecta
Emotional, Mental, Physical
For now I give it to myself
My love tank
It is full

As “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Plays on the radio
My childhood song still resonates
My soul and heart
They know

Know what I desire
Is more than a fairy tale
Know what fuels my fire
I will have it
Without fail

So today
I wish myself a Happy Birthday
Treasuring every good gift
that’s in my life
My family and friends
Who value me
That’s the love
I can’t deny

My journey’s just beginning
My heart remains so full
So thankful it’s not broken
But open and vulnerable still

I share this in transparency
To encourage others in their way
I want to live authentically
Boldly, wholly, deep.
In every way

Those who know me best
Love me as I am
The good, the bad, the ugly
As only good friends can

I walk into my second half of life
With so much more to give
What matters
is my goal now
There’s only one life
here to live

My faith it keeps me grounded
My God
Shows me the way

His Love and mercy
Sweetly
Filling me each day

My thoughts they keep on coming
As my heart
It overflows
Thankful for love and grace
Thankful that it shows

Staying open
Is my gift
I give myself today
Remaining
Authentic
Until my dying day.

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I love this!  I love the picture of Maria’s and her daughter’s tattoos on their wrists they got a few years ago!  How beautiful the reminder that there is always sunshine on a cloudy day!  How beautiful that those words of hope ring true for her and for my own heart today!  The sun always shines above the clouds, even when I can’t see it or feel its warmth!   When my own life is not going the way I thought it would or think it should, this poem will gently remind my heart that there is ALWAYS GREAT HOPE!!  Thank you again Maria!  You are a gift!

 

Posted in Faith, Health, Word of the Year

Calling a Truce with Self-Care

“Beloved one, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you physically, just as your soul is getting along well.” (III John 2)

For the past seven weeks, my body and I have been in a fight!  The “conversation” has been going something like this:

BODY:  “Hey!  Can you help me?!  I’m not okay.”

ME:  “Pipe down!  You are messing things up!  I have a lot going on!  You need to get your act together!”

BODY:  “HHHEEELLLPP!  I’m not doing very well.  Can you please take care of me!?”

ME:  “I am not happy about this!  You are supposed to help me live my very important life!  You’re just being a loud-mouthed, trouble-maker!  I have people to see, places to go, things to do.  You are not being very nice at all!”

The battle goes on and on!  UNTIL…

MONDAY.

When I decided to wave my white surrender flag.  Call a truce.

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I am normally a very healthy, rarely-sick human being.  (Confession:  I’m a little proud of that fact.)  I’m a minimalist when it comes to taking care of myself.

Most mornings go something like this:  hair in a ponytail, minimal eye makeup on, teeth brushed (sometimes), and super simple pull-on clothes and slip-on shoes.  Top that off with nothing physical “going wrong” and I am able to get out of the house in about seven minutes flat from the time I wake up.  I don’t even know if I look in the mirror again until I am brushing my teeth at night before bed (I do that for the most part unless I fall asleep watching a movie with Allen – I cannot go horizontal on our couch after 8:00 pm or I never make it past the first 15 minutes).

I get amazed at those of you who spend lots of time plucking your eyebrows, carefully applying makeup, diligently flossing, shining your shoes and choosing just the perfect outfit.  (Confession:  I secretly wish to be you and often wonder why I don’t take care of myself better.)  It’s been a lifetime battle to do any of those things, one I have asked God about quite a bit (I’ve never plucked my eyebrows)!  Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because I’m a third-culture kid or if it’s just me.  Probably a little bit of both.

I guess God heard my plea and decided the age of 53 was a good time for me to practice what I preach.  “TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF (and your stuff)!!” is one of my big mom mantras!  I’ve shouted it from the top of the stairs, the front of the car, the texts on my phone and here on this blog!  I know in my head it’s the right thing to do.  But living this out day-to-day-to-day-to-day is another.

Having a body is tons of work.  I have to get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, floss, take a shower, primp, eat, take vitamins, exercise, drink, sleep and then do it all over again.  The amount of energy and time my body needs to keep on ticking borders on ridiculous (at least according to this underachiever).  It’s a lot of my day.  Add in some (ahem) parts screaming at me for lack of care and my day feels consumed.

I am not lost on the irony in all of this.  My Word of the Year is “shalom,” which means true human flourishing (BODY INCLUDED)!  I spend lots of my time and energy on other flourishing (mental, emotional, spiritual), but my body gets neglected.  Not a good “look”(pun intended) on this Dolly Mama.

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The “conversation” (I mean fight) continues even after I decide to wave the white flag:

ME:  What am I supposed to do when you take so much time just to look presentable, much less not as old as you are?  And now you are really making a fuss!

BODY (Shouting back!):  Hey!  I’m genuinely important.  I house the “real you.”  When I’m not working right, the “real you” suffers (as you’ve now noticed).

ME:  But… But… my time could be spent better doing something of more value like making my dreams a reality, writing this blog (for all of my amazing and wonderful and lovely readers), spending time with my family and working towards my goals!

BODY (more gently):  You have friends who are really struggling right now with their own version of me.  You’ve even had a taste of this these past seven weeks.  It’s really really hard!  So, my sweet caregiver, would you mind sending me a little love?

(Somehow, in the middle of this, GOD pipes into the “conversation.”)

GOD:  Esther, my Esther, give a little listen to Me just for a moment.  I love bodies.  I love yours.  They are so very important to me!  I came in one after all.

ME:  Okay.  Okay.  You’ve got my attention (at least for a minute).

GOD:  I used My body to communicate My love for you in the most tangible way.  I wanted to know what it was like to be you, right down to your gall bladder and your toenails.  I couldn’t have done this FULLY any other way.   I’ve given you your body to enjoy all the wonder and beauty I have for you right here and right now!

ME (defensiveness diminishing):  So true!  So true!  I hear you.

BODY:  Just remember, supposedly “wise” Dolly Mama, the ways I am working to make God’s dream for you to know pleasure and His love for you in all their fullness come true!

  • My eyes provide the way for you to see your precious grandson’s smile and the gorgeous sunset over the water in LBI.

  • My ears are for you to hear the “I love you Mom” on the phone from one of your kids and the spring peepers as they call out to each other in your yard.

  • My nose brings the joy of a Mother’s Day lilac and an early-June peony and the delicious smell of chocolate chip cookies baking.

  • My tongue tastes a hot cup of tea IMG_1578(with all your favorite sugar and light cream) and gives a way for you to experience the pleasure of a stuffed cabbage and perogie from S&D Polish Deli in the Strip District!
  • My skin helps you to receive the loving touch of Allen and the feel of the fuzzy blanket on a cold winter day.

I allow your soul to wonder, your mind to grow and your heart to love!  Don’t forget your Word of the Year when it comes to me!  Shalom, my dear Dolly Mama!

ME:  Okay.  I give in.  You win, my precious body!  Thanks for all you are and do!  It feels so good to have called a truce for the moment!  Keep fighting back when this “conversation” keeps happening (as we all know it will again and again and again)!  Please be patient with me in the process!  I’m a little pig-headed and a have a long way to go!

BODY:  I’ll keep an “eye” on you!  I’ll be cheering for you when you reach for your toothbrush, your eye patch, your mouth rinse, your vitamins, your pillow and all the small, but very kind ways you are taking care of me and reminding me how valuable I am!  When you floss tonight, don’t forget to clean out all those crevices with a vengeance!  WOO HOO!  You’ve got this!

“Now may the Lord of shalom Himself give you shalom always in all ways.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

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Are you a self-care amateur or guru?  Would love to know!  Comment out on social media or here if you’d like!!  Also, if you sign up to receive my email, I have a special gift for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Charity, Faith, Family, Thanks

THANK YOU Millennials! You are Good for Me!

I am amazed at how often “Millennials” are made fun of.  Put down.  Told they are lazy, entitled, spoiled, narcissistic.  Even skimming articles online, I came across titles from prominent magazines and newspapers like:

“Millennials and Their Destruction of Civilization”

“This is Why Millennials Get Such a Bad Rap”

“Millennials are Uniformly Bad Tippers”

I have been constantly bombarded with negative viewpoints on this whole generation of people.  I was raising three of them (with a fourth not too far behind) and every time they did something I didn’t like or agree with, I would dismiss it with “after all, their generation….yada yada yada.”  I fell many times into the trap of blaming them for the ills in my home and in our world, jumping on the “Millennials Suck” bandwagon, complete with “eye-rolling” and outright contempt.  NOT GOOD.

Allen and I (other than raising almost four of them) spend lots and lots of time with this generation.  Between our nieces and nephews, our kids’ friends, the significant others in our children’s lives, and the young engaged and married couples we mentor, our lives are surrounded by men and women aged 22-37.   Truth be told:  WE LOVE IT AND WE LOVE THEM!  News flash:  they certainly don’t suck.  They are an incredible group of human beings who have taught me how to live and love better.  They are SO SO SO good for my soul!  They have revealed God in a way that brings hope and healing to the core of who I am.

If there was anything that was hammered into my psyche from a very young age (by who knows what), it was the message that I should not reveal my true self.  I should hide.  I should only show the good parts of me, or what I think others will approve of.  This was the way to keep the world, my marriage, my church persona and my friendships in tact.  I even remember a deodorant advertisement that said, “Never let them see you sweat!” as if I couldn’t even have normal bodily fluids when I worked out.  Millennials have shouted, “NO MORE!”  “Sweat!”  “Be yourself in all your good and bad.” “Be vulnerable and authentic!”  Even writing this blog and having my podcast comes as a result of the permission I’ve been given to boldly be who I am, flaws and all.  THANK YOU MILLENNIALS!

My parents were outliers in many ways in their own generation.  Living in a world where their peers were living the “American Dream,” amassing wealth and pursuing happiness, my parents chose to give their lives for the “least of these.”  This did not make my childhood filled with all rainbows and ponies (in many ways it was fraught with a host of difficulties), but ONE vital thing I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world is their hearts of generosity that penetrated my own.   THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for listening to those outliers who went before you and solidifying this good place in me.  You volunteer more than any generation before you.  You believe it’s essential to GIVE BACK!  You are changing the world, one cause at a time, one person at a time, with your love and commitment to the lost and the least.  You remind me each day to live in and from this place of generosity, the very heart that God has towards me!  YAY for you!

For years, I lived with the idea that if I could get my outer world under control, my inner world would follow suit.  I believed that “to do” lists checked off at the end of the day would bring me what I truly longed for:  a life filled with peace and joy.  But the harder I tried to fix, fix, fix, perfecting my outer world, the more I realized it was impossible, sending me into much anxiety, wondering what was wrong with me.  THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for challenging that lie, revealing the truth to me that tending to my inner world, my soul, where true peace and joy dwells, where God lives and moves and speaks and heals, is the best starting and ending place.  You have helped me have an “anchor for my soul, firm and secure,”  (Hebrews 6:19) one nestled in the very heart of God.

Today, on this very ordinary Monday, my heart swells in thankfulness for you, my friends, those of you who were placed into this world and especially my world “for such a time as this.”  I am humbled and grateful for the deep truths that you have so willingly spoken into my heart, shattering the lies that held sway over me!  Thank you for your vulnerability, your generosity and your wisdom!

To my own Millennials (Sarah, Cody, Jared, Josh, Daniella, Courtney, Brandon, Marina, Nick…with Rachel and Cara closely behind), THANK YOU for showing me who I am and how much I am accepted and loved, not only by you, but by the God who formed me from His very vulnerable, generous and wise heart!  The best is yet to come!!

Posted in Faith, Motherhood

When You Blow It As A Mom

Dear Sweet Mama,

Blew it. Screamed at toddler.

Blew it again. Used guilt to get 10 year old to comply.

Blew it again. Alienated teen by comparing to “good” sibling.

Blew it again and again and again.

Today, you may feel far from your child. Not necessarily in miles, but in your heart. This child who threw their arms around you without a care in the world joyfully shouting, “I love you,” when he was three seems unreachable today in some ways.   You may wish you could go back and do it all differently. You might not have the relationship that you envisioned with this child. Along the way, you have hurt them and they have hurt you. You may not feel good inside today.

We are constantly bombarded with voices that say, “You only have one chance at being a parent.” “Your child’s moral compass is fully-developed by age five.” “You have to teach your senior these ten things before they leave for college.” Magazine articles, blog posts, podcasts, parenting books and even well-intentioned friends basically send this message: “Don’t mess this mom thing up!” “It will be too late before you know it!”

Today, Sweet Mama, in the middle of the mess of your heart, toss those very soul-killing, discouraging lies aside and hold on to this: your story is not done being written.   Your story as a mom. Your child’s story as a budding adult. The story of your relationship with your child. It is never too late!  It’s never too late to say I’m sorry. It’s never too late to get counsel. It’s never too late to do things differently. It’s never too late for redemption.  For you. Or your child.

God is the God of second chances and third, and fourth… In fact, He delights in them. He makes them His mission. He takes the seemingly hopeless and broken parts of us and infuses them with His healing and restoration. There is nothing too difficult for Him! Look UP and see Him beckoning you out of despair and discouragement into His life-giving courage and hope. He’s got you! He’s got your child! It’s really okay to rest your weary heart today!

“There aren’t do overs. But there are make overs.” (Bill Hybels)

From My Heart to Yours

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health

I Don’t Agree with Dr. Seuss on This One

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.  (Dr. Seuss)

“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  (King Solomon)

In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates.  I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college.  They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).

The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year.  For a long time, I loved it.  It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness.  It helped people look “on the bright side” of life.  It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking.  Or so it seemed.

I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss.  Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.

“Today you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

“And will you succeed?  Yes!  You will indeed!  98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”

Wisdom.  Hope.  Life.

So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?

I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes).  I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.”  But that pride gets me into lots of trouble.  I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in.  I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside.  I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it.  I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness.  JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).  

BUT…

(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)

I’m discovering ever so slowly that:

  • CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress.  Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
  • SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it!  What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
  • GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.

It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.

It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.

It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.

It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes.  One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm.  A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene.   What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated,  beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.

BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…

I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences.  But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day?  What then?”

I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.

I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.

I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.

I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.

All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound.  What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane.  I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.

I do love Dr. Seuss.  It’s his birthday when I am writing this (March 2nd)!  So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel.  You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children.  For that, I am truly grateful!

BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…

I wish your quote said this instead:

“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”

King Solomon was right.

 

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P.S.  When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point.  I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.”  I think he’s saying remember to smile.”  So there you have it.  If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company!  Point taken.

 

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P.P.S.  If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question:  can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time?  What was it?