Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Mommy has canser (#leapday2016)

“Mommy has canser.”

“I went to the Turtle Back Zoo.”

“I like ice cream.”

Leap Day 2016.

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

My eight-year-old nephew wrote one too.

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

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

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

It’s now Leap Day 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT that is not the end of the story.

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

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

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

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

Leap Day 2024.

Four years from now. What will life bring?

To my brother and his family?

To me and mine?

Frozen 3? Ten more Star Wars movies?

Laughter? Tears?

Work? Play?

Fights? Forgiveness?

Heartache?

Yes.

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

HOPE will reach in louder.

God will take extra, tender care of us all.

#thereisgreathope #leapday2020 #herviewfromhome #hopewriters #dollymamanj

Posted in Celebration, Faith

The Stripping Away

The stripping away.

LENT.

A time for giving up.

Chips, chocolate and cheese?

Yes. Those three.

But so much more.

A much bigger three.

FEAR, GUILT AND SHAME.

Three that destroy me from the inside out.

Three that have a stranglehold on my heart.

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

LENT.

A time for giving up.

BUT, also…

A time for making room.

For the biggest three.

FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE.

Three that heal me from the inside out.

Three that bring freedom to my precious heart.

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

LENT.

Posted in 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