Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Friendship, Motherhood, Thanks

Dear Daughters,

Spending this past week with you two beautiful women was the highlight of my 2020 so far.  (I know that’s not saying much, but bear with me…winky face!)

I couldn’t ask for better daughters than you.  I actually couldn’t ask for better people in my life than you.

You are all that I hoped you would be and so much more than I could have ever imagined.   You breathe beauty and hope and strength and faith and life into me.

You have done for this ONE mama what I long to do for everyone.  You have shown me that all it takes is ONE breath of GOODNESS at a time to infuse LIFE into another.

You breathe BEAUTY (not just the outward kind even though sometimes just glancing at you catches me off guard and I am dumbstruck).  You each see the world through eyes that find the small things glorious, like the sand between your toes or rainbow-sprinkled ice cream on your tongue.  You spend your days creating what’s lovely for my hungry eyes and ears.  THANK YOU!

You breathe HOPE.  Your zeal for making the world a place where there is “liberty and justice for ALL” (and that really means ALL) makes this mama heart do a happy dance.  You adamantly believe that it starts with you and you are more than willing to figure out how to make it happen so that it ripples out into this broken and hurting world.  WOW!

You breathe STRENGTH.  Watching the two of you discuss really hard things from political reform to gender roles to spirituality to personal responsibility made me wish I could grow up in the beautiful world you envision.  You do NOT shy away or disengage, but listen intently and respond with bold conviction.  You are strong, my daughters and I am so PROUD.

You breathe FAITH.  In a world where many of us (your mama included at times) seems to have lost its way, you continue to believe and trust.  You believe and trust your ever-evolving selves (woohoo).  You continue to see the best in others and take joy in loving them right where they are, walking alongside of them in humility and grace.   The two of you have an unwavering anchor for your souls in the good God that is at the root of all that’s right and true and wonderful.  My socks are officially KNOCKED off!

You breathe LIFE.  Life in the form of a good morning hug and quick “I love you.”  Life in the form of washing the dishes and saying “Take a break, Mom.”  Life in the form of abundant grace given when I falter and even fail.  Life in the form of laughter over game-playing competitiveness.  Life in the form of your sweaty yoga duet on the deck.  Life in the form of heart-to-heart discussions about our individual and collective fears, hopes and dreams.  Soul-filling LIFE.

So dearest ones, my beautiful girls, two of my closest friends, I salute you.  I believe in you.  I trust you.  I am thankful for you from the tippy-top of my noggin’ to the very ends of my toes to the deepest space in my heart.  I stand in awe of you.

But mostly and always, I LOVE YOU.

Your ONE Dolly Mama

P.S.  I am now over here in the most beautiful and sacred puddle of good tears.   I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

P.P.S.  You are rocking my ONE world, your world, THE world.  You go my girls!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

It’s 1 am (Hope for Motherhood)

It’s 1 am.
My five-month old cries out from her crib.
Not another night of this!
It’s been three weeks since I’ve had more than 3 hours of sleep in a row.
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
I am barely functioning anymore, bags under my eyes the size of grapes!
I don’t think I can take it anymore!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My kindergartener screams from his room.
Why does this keep happening?
The nightmares are getting worse!
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
Am I doing something wrong?
I don’t have any idea what to do!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My 10-year old shouts “MOMMY!” at the top of his lungs.
His jammy bottoms are soaked.
He’s wet the bed again.
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
I’ve already called the doctor five times.
Nothing is working!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
I haven’t heard from my new driver’s license holder since 7 pm.
Her curfew is 11 pm.  She knows better than this!
Is she hurt?  Is she drunk?  Is she alive?
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
I never knew this mom gig would be SO hard!
Will I ever get sleep?  Will I ever stop worrying?
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My cell phone vibrates on the nightstand.  I ignore it.
It’s vibrates again and again.  I finally pick it up.  Hello?
The campus security guard is on the other end.  My daughter was found passed out on the sidewalk, having had WAY too much to drink.
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
This is un(freaking)believable!  She will be the death of me!
What in the world am I supposed to do now?
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My eyes refuse to close in sleep.
My son has been furloughed from his job.
This pandemic is wrecking everything.  He was doing so well and now this!!!
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
What is going to happen?
Even if he gets his sales back, will any business have the money to buy advertising? UGH!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
I lay awake on my bed.
I can’t believe the text I got from my son this afternoon.
I burst into tears as I read it, gratitude bubbling up and leaking out!
GOD, you’ve HELPED me!  You’ve HELPED them!
It keeps happening!  Every single time!
You love him even more than I do!  You are our great and only HOPE!
I am SO UNDONE!

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Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Guest

The Top 10 Things I Learned As a Dad (from three of the best)

(I asked three of my favorite dads…including my awesome husband…what they learned from being a dad.  Here are their responses.  They are brilliant.)

  1. Not to judge other parents.  I haven’t walked in their shoes.  We all need grace.  It’s the hardest job there is.
  2. To admit my mistakes and to be the first to apologize to my kids when we conflict.
  3. To make the relationship and not the rules the priority.  To focus on their heart and not their behavior.
  4. To listen more and lecture less.
  5. That how I live counts much more than what I say.
  6. That boundaries are key and that knowing how to manage boundaries (set, maintain, relax, alter, scrap, reinforce) is ridiculously complicated and confusing.
  7. That I lack patience and am not long-suffering.
  8. That it’s really hard to keep loving your kids when they are obnoxious.
  9. The mistakes I made as a dad can be redeemed as I grow and change.
  10. What it’s like to love unconditionally.  Period.  End of story.  No matter what they did, I would love them.  It helped me understand God’s unfailing love for me.

(Credit to Glenn Murphy, Allen Goetz and Frank Ellerbusch…Happy Father’s Day to you!)

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Grief, Health, Marriage, Motherhood

Which Voice Am I Listening To?

WHICH VOICE AM I LISTENING TO?

Inner Critic:  “You cannot stay on a workout regimen save your life.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “Start with 15 minutes again tomorrow.  You’ve done it before .  You can do it again. ”

Inner Critic:  “Your friends are probably so angry with you because you are not checking in with them as much as you used to.  It’s your fault if they don’t stick around.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You have had to narrow down how much you are pouring out into people for your own well-being.  You’ve done that so that you can be a better friend.”

Inner Critic:  “You should NOT spend so much at the grocery store.  You need to stick to a list.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “It costs just a bit more to eat healthy, which has been a goal for you and your family.  Keep up the good work!”

Inner Critic:  “I can’t believe you are so racist?”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You are learning to listen to those who are not like you.  You will grow and change.  You always have.”

Inner Critic:  “Why do you tell people you have a good marriage?  You just had another fight with your husband.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “Look how far you have come from the early days.  You’ve seen how sometimes conflict brings closeness.  You have helped so many other couples because you can admit you struggle too.”

Inner Critic:  “You will never get to those boxes in the basement that need to be organized.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You have been sorting through many things in your life, not all of them visible to the outside world.   You will get to it when you are ready.”

Inner Critic:  “You know that cookie you ate?  You blew it again.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You know that cookie you ate?  Good for you for showing yourself it’s not about perfection, but about grace.”

Inner Critic:  “You didn’t set good boundaries again with your kids.  When will you get this right?”

Inner Cheerleader:  “Being a mom is a hard job, no matter how old your kids are.  Boundaries are tricky and complicated and you are really doing what you think is right in each different situation.  Also, you are really good at saying you are sorry when you blow it.”

Inner Critic:  “Why do you even bother to give advice?  To share your heart?  To try to make a difference?”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You don’t do it because you have it all together.  You do it because you are broken too and it’s in this broken place that we all heal each other.”

WHICH VOICE HEAPS SHAME AND DESTROYS?
WHICH VOICE WHISPERS GRACE AND BRINGS HEALING?

WHICH VOICE AM I LISTENING TO?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grandparenthood, Motherhood, Thanks

I Can’t Believe This is My Life

Baby showers.  Hospital rooms.  24-hour deliveries.  No sleep.  Leaky nursing bra.  Baby giggles.  Blurry mind.  Toothless smiles.  Crawling under the crib in the middle of the night for the pacifier.  Yellow poop up the back.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Tantrums in grocery stores.  Toddler tunes enough to drive a normal person crazy.  First full sentences.  Bonked heads.  Refusals to nap.  Go Dog Go.  Happy bubble baths.  Weird obsessions.  Endless hugs.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Play dates.  Obnoxious Nick Jr.  Skinned knees.  Brown play-dough.  Playgrounds.  Accidents in pants.  Too many doctor visits.  Smooshy kisses (right on the lips)!  Melt-downs.  “Parent’s, please stay with your child” birthday parties.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Homework.  The car.  The car.  The car.  Class parties.  Sidelines and fields.  Strange sounds coming from musical instruments.   Mom school projects.  Fibs.  Surprise “I love you” notes.  Whining.  Lost jackets, mittens, and hats.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Cliques.  Hormones.  School performance pressure.  Spontaneous hugs.  Rolling eyes.  Good talks in the car, facing forward.  Did I say hormones?  Budding independence.  Dinners on the run.  Concerts.  Teams.  Plays.  Try-outs.  Rejections.  First paid gigs.

I can’t believe this is my life.

First kisses (and second and third).  Team dinners.  Slammed doors.  Missed curfews.  Drivers’ licenses.  YIKES.  Long unprompted talks.  Proms.  Less and less control.  Senior nights.  Heartbreaks.  Texts not returned for what seems like hours and hours and hours.  Real Christmas presents.  Car accidents.  College apps.  Caps flying in the air.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Dorm shopping.  Saying goodbye.  Endless mom tears.  Weeks between texts.  WORRY.  Weird campus visits.  Saying hello.  Curfews???  No.  Home-cooked food.  Yes.  Summer job???  Possibly.  Up till all weird hours.  Yes.  Dirty dishes.  Yes.  Family.  Saying goodbye again.  Less mom tears.  More mom relief.  REPEAT for four years.

I can’t believe this is my life.

First jobs.  W2s.  Uhauls.  “Adulting.”  Used car lots.  Uhauls.  Sincere and heart-felt “thank you moms.”  Heated conversations about world events.  Tearful hugs goodbye.  Zoom family game nights.  Did I mention Uhauls?  Mother’s Day flowers from afar.  Wedding planning.  Real friendship.  Grandpuppies.  Precious and fleeting moments “ALL TOGETHER.”  Yup.  Uhauls.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Baby showers.  Hospital rooms.  24-hour deliveries.  Baby giggles.  Toothless smiles.  After-bath smells.  Snuggles and kisses.  Toddler tantrums.  Excitement over Mommy’s old Fisher Price school bus.  Go Dog Go.  Sad “see you soons.”  Facetime laughter.  “I love you the most, Mema.”  Happiest hugs hello.

YUP.  I can’t believe this is my life.

BUT I COULDN’T BE MORE GRATEFUL THAT IT IS.

AND THERE IS STILL MORE TO COME.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Marriage

2:30 AM

Why am I awake again?

Maybe it was that cookie.

Why did I eat that cookie at 9:30?

Sugar is not good for me that late.

It’s not the cookie.

There’s a lot to think about, and even more to worry about.

Who can sleep?

God’s got me.
I’m going to be okay.
Will I ever feel normal again?
The world is just not okay.
I can’t solve it.
I wish I could.
God can solve it.
Can He?
I can do my part.
What is my part?
I need to go back to sleep.
I’m going to be a mess in the morning.
I guess I should pray for someone else who is awake.
God, please bring peace to my friend who is super anxious and not able to sleep.
Wait a minute.
I am also super anxious.
My leg itches.
Why does my leg itch?
I hope I didn’t get poison ivy on our 400th hike.
Should I get up and check?
No. That will just make me more awake.
Try to go back to sleep.
It’s probably nothing.
I wonder why my husband doesn’t have any issue sleeping.
He’s very sweet, but it’s still really annoying.
I’ve been kind of a cranky in the house the last few months.
Well, duh. I’m not getting good sleep.
But I should try harder tomorrow.
Maybe if I turn over and face the other direction, I will be able to go back to sleep.
That light from outside is still on.
Should I get up and turn it off?
It’s just wasting electricity and we’re trying to save money every which way we can.
That reminds me. I have to call the electrician to fix our light fixture.
But maybe that should wait.
We are in the middle of a pandemic.
Stop being so ridiculous.
What are the chances of the electrician infecting me?
I can just leave the house and then Lysol spray everything he touches.
I hope Lysol wipes will finally get back in stock somewhere.
This pillow is just not comfortable.
God, can you please help me to get back to sleep.
There are a lot of people who don’t even have a bed.
I should be so thankful.
What is wrong with me?
I have everything I need.
What is wrong with me?
There I go again, heaping shame on myself. UGH.
I need to listen to that podcast on healing from shame tomorrow.
Am I ever going to be really okay?
Yes. I’m going to be okay.
I’m safe in God’s hands.
Nothing can happen to me that He won’t be with me.
That’s the truth.
I’m hanging on to that.
Maybe now I can actually go back to sleep.
Uh-oh. I have to pee.
Posted in Faith, Family, Health

Sometimes grace for yourself looks like…

Sometimes grace for yourself looks like…

  • eating a guilt-free chocolate chip cookie
  • taking a nap right in the middle of a to-do list
  • skipping church and talking to God on your walk in the woods
  • sitting down with a cup of tea or coffee, staring into space
  • letting your kids have an extra hour of screen time
  • breathing in and breathing out very slowly for ten minutes
  • not checking your email for a whole entire day
  • making a “why I like myself and God does too” list
  • getting take-out
  • letting the tears flow in the shower until there are no more
  • forgiving and embracing the earlier version of you
  • skipping your workout
  • making your very own choice, even if it’s different than everyone else’s
  • asking for help with the dishes
  • taking a break from your own very responsible brain
  • reading a “not-trying-to-fix-you” book
  • making much-needed space for alone time
  • NOT making the bed
  • laughing OUT LOUD at a silly video or a bad joke
  • sleeping in late and staying up late (basically re-becoming a teenager)
  • allowing yourself to have completely opposing feelings at the same time
  • playing anything, just playing (did I mention playing?)

GRACE is free.

GRACE is beautiful.

GRACE is life.

GRACE is enough.

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

The Best Advice I Ever Received as a Mom

An older mom, whose kids were the age of mine now, shared a GOLDEN NUGGET with me when my second son was starting middle school.  It changed the course of my parenting and is something I have had to put in practice, albeit not-so-perfectly, especially now as my kids are mostly grown.

(The content below is based on real-life experiences.  The stories may have been altered slightly and names have been removed to protect the innocent.) 

  • Toddler only wants to talk about, read about, watch videos about, wear jammies with and sit on tractors, especially blue ones.
  • Five-year old wants to wear his Batman costume seven days a week, 24 hours a day.  This obsession continues for four more years.
  • Preteen asks for bassoon lessons.  What even is a bassoon?
  • Teenager flits from photography to guitar to lacrosse to modelling to penny-collecting to painting body for football games to Ford Mustang convertibles all within a couple of years.
  • College daughter announces plans to move 2,764 miles away to pursue career in Studio City, California right after she graduates.

LOVE WHAT THEY LOVE.

  • Eight-year-old’s best friend is known as the “behavior problem” in third grade.  You have heard from “reputable sources” that the parents have been in trouble with the law.
  • Sixth-grade son announces he has a girlfriend, the most popular girl in 7th grade (and who you heard is one of the “mean” ones).
  • Junior in high school casually mentions at the dinner table that she’s dating a boy from work who dropped out of college.
  • College son springs the surprise at Christmas that he is “in love” with a 33-year-old.  You stalk her Instagram and she’s covered in tattoos and sports a lip ring.
  • Twenty-something daughter texts you that she is moving in with her Atheist boyfriend in a few weeks and they plan to get married in Mexico next summer.

LOVE WHO THEY LOVE.

END OF STORY.

I’ve shared this nugget with my kids over and over and over and made this promise to them on countless occasions.  I asked my son tonight what he thinks about it as we were having a pretty-heated discussion about my parenting (flaws and all).  “Mom,” he said, “I feel like I never have to pretend, hide or worry about being someone that I’m not.  I have permission to be exactly who I am.  I know you love me no matter what.”

My heart skipped a beat as a tear trickled down my cheek.  Yes, my child, I want you to be exactly who God made you to be and I will love what you love, and I promise, whether it’s easy or hard, to love whoever you love.  I want to give you the gift that God has given to me.  END OF STORY.

“Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant.  He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us.  Love like that.”  (Ephesians 5:2)

 

Posted in Anxiety, Childhood, Faith, Friendship, Health, Thanks

Insomnia and SELAH

Good morning SELAH,
I loved seeing you yesterday, even though it was from a distance. I loved watching you play with our dog.  I loved hearing from your mom and dad about your hike in the meadow. I loved how we talked at the end about being “awake” together during the night.
Last night, I woke up a few times and just like I told you, I thought of you and prayed for you, that you wouldn’t be afraid like you’ve been the last few weeks.
But it was more than that and I want to tell you what happened.
When I woke up, I thought about the things that God is and then I thought about you.
The first thing I thought about is that GOD IS LOVE. He loves me. He loves you. But then I thought about you, your name. SELAH. I was told when I was about your age that when I saw that word in the Psalms, it meant, “pause and reflect.” So that’s what I did in the middle of the night.
I thought about God loving me and you and then I just laid there for a minute with your name: SELAH. I laid there and thought a little longer about how much God loves me and you. Paused and reflected.
The next thing I thought about is that GOD IS GOOD. He is good to me. He is good to you. Then I thought about your name again. SELAH. I laid there just another minute, pausing and reflecting.
The very last thing I thought about is that GOD IS WITH US. He is with me. He is with you. SELAH. I don’t think it was very long at all before I drifted back off to sleep.
I woke up a couple more times during the night and thought more about these three things. And YOU. Praying that God would help us to be able to rest and sleep and remember over and over and over again that He loves us. He is good to us. He is with us always.
SELAH, you are a beautiful young lady (I can’t believe you are only nine) and I am so grateful that I know you. I am so thankful that the name your mom and dad gave you helped me so much last night.
Tonight, if and when I wake up again, I’m going to be thinking about you and God and pausing and reflecting. SELAH.
If you wake up in the middle of the night this week (and I hope you don’t), remember that you are not alone and that I am “awake” with you, and God is taking care of us both.
Love,
Miss Esther
Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grandparenthood, Health, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

I LOVE PEOPLE

I LOVE PEOPLE.
This whole pandemic has made me love them more.
My head shakes in wonder at their CREATIVITY.  Father/daughter duets from their family room.  Healing poems. Whole choirs singing via Zoom. Art classes online. Entire educational systems and their staff STILL teaching the next generation. Faith communities having services in cars, online, complete with music, prayer and words of encouragement.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My heart bursts at their KINDNESS. Masks for strangers. Pizza ordered for weary hospital staff. Phone calls to the elderly. Smiles and “thank yous” dispensed across lawns and continents. Lysol wipes distributed to friends.  Round-the-clock prayers on behalf of the suffering.  KINDNESS.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My mind boggles at their sense of HUMOR. Silly memes on social media. Comedy shows streamed free. Toilet paper jokes at family dinners. Videos that almost make me pee my pants. Hope disguised as laughter, the best medicine to cheer our hearts. HUMOR.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My ‘fraidy-cat-self marvels at their BRAVERY. Medical personnel on the front lines. Small business owners fighting for their workers. Relief workers serving the marginalized. Delivery people handling packages from who knows where. Struggling patients clinging to the hope of going home. BRAVERY.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My soul is enraptured by their GENEROSITY. Neighbors dropping hand-sanitizer in each other’s mailboxes. Donations (small and great) to food pantries. Countries sending medical supplies to each other. Firemen creating birthday parades. Moms and dads forgoing much-needed sleep for confused littles. GENEROSITY.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My “hope-to-be-like-them” is fascinated by their WISDOM. Leaders navigating the nuances between freedom and safety. Podcasts generated by grief experts. Produce stands quickly figuring out “curb-side pickup.” Online counseling sessions to work through mental health issues. Texts between friends with comforting words.  WISDOM.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My entire being is captured by their LOVE. Creative date nights planned by spouses. Video “chats” between grandmas and toddlers. Grocery store runs for the fearful and the shut-in. Parents wrapping arms and hearts around sad school-lovers. Teenagers forgoing freedom to protect the vulnerable. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.
HAVE I SAID HOW MUCH I LOVE PEOPLE? I LOVE US.
We aren’t perfect and we are making lots of mistakes as we hobble down a path we’ve never encountered before, but I think we are doing just fine. We are learning and growing together in ways that will make us more CREATIVE, KINDER, FUNNIER, BRAVER, more GENEROUS, WISER, and better able to LOVE than ever before.
Hang in there, my friends! I’m hanging with you. We have GREAT HOPE!