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!

IMG_3004

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.”

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family

Merriment AND Melancholy

Voices of carols play everywhere I go.

Joy to the world…Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile…Tis the season to be jolly…It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

MERRIMENT.

Texts, posts and phone calls crowd my screens.

Second-born not able to come…Over-the-top difficult family dynamics for many…Terrible government news…Health scares…Anxiety creeps in and a settled spirit is hard to be found.

MELANCHOLY.

The two sit side-by-side.  One NOT more important or legitimate than the other.  One NOT pushed aside to make room for the other.   The shout of one NOT drowning out the cry of the other.  No choice has to be made.  The two lay beautifully intertwined.

Merriment AND melancholy.

BOTH AND.  Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

CHRISTMAS.


Suffering AND Savior.

Peacemaker AND Warrior.

Servant AND Leader.

Poor AND Rich.

Grace AND Truth.

Man AND God.

Both AND.

Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

Jesus.



Thank you so much for being part of the Dolly Mama Family! It means the world to me! I pray that your week will be filled with a beautiful explosion of God’s goodness! A true Merry Christmas from My Heart to Yours!

Much Love, Esther

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

“You Better Watch Out” God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia. I am just nine years old. My bunkmate stirs below me. I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep. Sleep does not come.

I rehash the day. Thoughts swirl: “I did a bunch of wrong things. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep. I should confess my sins. Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today. I hope you can forgive me.”

Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.  I go into a bit of a panic. “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart. If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”

I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart. I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.” Still nothing. I lay there wide-awake.

My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, my dorm mother reading us another chapter in the story of Narnia. The image of Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them, floods my mind. “I love Aslan. I wish God was like Aslan. Why can’t He be?”

As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope: “Maybe He is.”

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For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season. A jolly man with a jolly heart. A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.” My friend “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did to God as a young girl.

It makes a lot of sense. “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Sounds eerily similar to a song from those little girl boarding school days: “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.” YOU BETTER WATCH OUT.

Recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has stepped in to “help Santa.” This Elf is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent. He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas. His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

Santa. God. Elf on the Shelf. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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Fast forward 30+ years. I’m a mom of four littles who loves celebrating Santa (in fact, my seven-year old just opened her letter from the North Pole). We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf (only because he/she is not invented yet). But me, this “desperate-to-please-God” young mom, believes wholeheartedly in a this YOU BETTER WATCH OUT God.

I’m stuck in my grown-up mom body as the little nine-year old girl on her bunk bed. God is no different than Santa or Elf on a Shelf. He’s up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave, to be good for goodness sake.

You yelled at your kids today. BAD!

You taught Sunday School. GOOD!

You told that white lie to your best friend! BAD!

You helped your twelve-year-old with their homework. GOOD!

You forgot to pray! BAD!

My relationship with this Santa/Elf on a Shelf/God is a little topsy-turvy. I’m filled with and act from the stranglehold of fear and guilt. Am I good enough today? Is God happy with me?

I hide or at least try to. Why wouldn’t I? I avoid Him. Who wouldn’t? I struggle to feel close, spending all my energy keeping my external, visible behavior under control, hoping it’s enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s utter disapproval of me. UGH!

My internal craving for love and belonging is completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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

In the middle of all of this, the stories of Narnia reenter my life and I have a reunion with Aslan.  I find three-hour-long radio theater dramatic renditions (absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these tales that I loved as a child. I kill two birds with one stone: share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).

As I reconnect with Aslan, I find again that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once. He is the one I long for and need so desperately, my grownup heart still fragile from the many years of trying to keep myself in line.

That hopeful thought I had as a child flickers again in the darkness of my soul.

God is not like Santa.

God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.

God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”

God is like Aslan.

God is wise. God is playful. God is generous. God is kind. God is mysterious. God is terrifying. God is magnificent. God is beautiful. God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period. End of story.

No more YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

My soul settles slowly (I’m talking years of retraining my brain) into a place of love and belonging. Yes, God sees me. He really sees me. He sees that little girl in the bunkbed, fearful, yet hopeful. He sees the young mom who longs to be known fully, and loved completely. He still sees me, the real real me. But instead of “setting me straight,” His beautiful, tender, kind heart sets me free!

My flicker so long ago, “Maybe He is,” burns brightly as a fire of hope that shouts, “YES. YES HE IS.”

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P.S. I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus. I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus.

In his response, Lewis offered this relief: “Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”

 

***ONE MORE NOTE:  If you liked reading this, please go back out and “like” it on social media.  Means the world to me!***

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 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.