Posted in Childhood, Family, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

Long Hill, Of Course (A Tribute)

“Where we love is home. Home that our feet may leave.  But never our hearts.”  (Anonymous)

Where can you pop into the local grocery store and run into your children’s gym teacher who ended up being their middle school soccer coach and one of the most influential people in their now budding adult lives?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you walk through a church’s red door anytime of the day to pray, drop off books, go to a giant yard sale, and even have your animals blessed (it’s also where your youngest experienced the best nursery school of all time)?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you find a community that bands together, cares for one another and truly lives the definition of good neighbors during the literal darkest of times? #nomorepoweroutages

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you visit a rehab for raptors, hike in a 12-square mile swamp, and purchase gorgeous mums and poinsettias the size of Texas?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can your kids make friendships that stand the test of high school, college, and stand up for them in their weddings, reminding them of all the goodness this little town has to offer?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you call your landscaper (#durso), your tree guy (#danstreecare), your chimney cleaner (#huffandpuff), your dry cleaner (#gillettecleaners), your contractor (#monettibuilders), your mechanic (#valleyauto), your HVAC company (#c&dcoolingandheating) and say “I need you.  It’s an emergency” and they help you pronto and give you their own personal cell phone numbers?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you meet someone named Fawn who takes care of your packages and your mail and your stamps and your address change, at the same time asking about your family?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you watch your kids play soccer, basketball (REC basketball being their favorite childhood activity of all time), field hockey, lacrosse, baseball, tennis, you name it, complete with a home-grown fireworks show?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can a friend and wife of your son’s lacrosse coach turn into your ever-hopeful realtor and make leaving just a little more palatable?   Thank you Christina Roche!

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you eat a healthy smoothie or a train-station omelet for breakfast, gluten-free muffin for your mid-morning snack, pizza for lunch at three different places, have a giant cookie with amazing coffee in the early afternoon, topping it off with “Dublin style fish and chips” while watching your favorite band, all on an otherwise boring Monday?  (not to mention rice pudding at midnight at the local diner)

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can your child take horse-back riding lessons, learn karate from experts, pick an apple from a tree farm, sit on a life-guard stand protecting little ones from the “lake” and join the “police explorers” to discover a passion they might not know they have?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you discover Leo the MGM lion buried, hop on a train to New York City in under an hour, get much-needed recovery at a famous shrine that longs to bring healing, and kayak down a river?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you move with four children and immediately find life-long friends who still love your kids and want to know all about their “out of Long Hill lives” when you bump into them at said grocery store above?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you buy cards at a discount, a buttered-roll, your prescription, the Echoes-Sentinel, lottery tickets, the best dang deli sandwich with more deliciousness than should be allowed, the place your middle schoolers went every single day after school for three straight years for their candy fix? (#dorsis)

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you order a champion Taylor ham, bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel (with salt, pepper, and no ketchup for me) that your grown kids still eat every.single.time they are in town?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you get your teeth fixed (#drgarafalo), your nails fixed, your spine fixed (#drrossi), your pets fixed (#drcoleman), your hair fixed at the same time you get a listening ear (#lisaatzizzorz) and your heart fixed (#everychurchintown)?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can a local mom of four boys turn into the very crucial “town” mom (#lisatherecdirector) who provides awesome Easter Egg hunts, yoga for stressed-out Long Hillians, a tree-lighting complete with the middle school band, summer camp, a concert series, and the best lake dance this side of the Delaware River?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you join the Elks, the Rescue Squad, the Knitter’s Club, the Girl/Boy Scouts,  the PTO, the Meyersville Grange (complete with a soup cook off), the Fire Department, the Knights of Columbus, the Senior Citizens club (there’s a whole building for that), the Historical Society and the Lion’s Club?  #enoughtokeepyoubusyforalifetime

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Where can you pay your taxes (#ugh), peruse books and take one home for yourself, play tennis, watch a sporting event, remember and pay respect to a great hometown hero, take a beautiful walk with a friend, and enjoy an outdoor birthday party, all in the same place?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

Lastly, where can you raise your family in the best-kept secret in all of New Jersey, and in the process, raise yourself?

LONG HILL, OF COURSE

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Author’s Note:  We have lived in sleepy little Long Hill for 17 amazing years.  We are moving this week and my heart is broken and thankful all at the same time.  I love you, Long Hill Township.  You have been one of my very best friends.

 

 

Posted in Childhood, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

FOR MOMS: When You Want to Bite Back! Some HOPE!

Your toddler just threw a temper tantrum and bit you.

Your seven-year-old yelled at dinner last night that he wishes he lived at Jimmy’s house.

Your middle-schooler, in no uncertain terms, rolled her eyes at you with disgust.

Your teen slammed his bedroom door and you could hear the angry muffled words, “I hate you!”

Moms, in the middle of the quagmire, I feel you. I hear you. It takes everything in you not to bite back, wish for a different life yourself, roll your own eyes and scream, “I hate you too!”

You wonder why you ever did this mom gig. It’s gut-wrenching as your own heart is torn in shreds when most of what you’ve done is LOVE this child with every fiber of your being.

Older moms told me over and over and over again a million times that one day, these children of mine would actually realize what I’d done for them. One day, all those times of seeming distaste for me would be swallowed up in gratitude.

It was hard for me to even fathom such a thing. No one could have convinced me that it would ever be true. But it gave me just a flicker of HOPE when I needed it most.

HOPE to not bite back.

HOPE to not give up.

HOPE to pray for help.

HOPE to say “I love you.”

Today, I extend that same HOPE to you. One day, you will get a message like this and your heart will leap right out of your chest and it will settle back down with deep satisfaction and joy!

You’ve got this, Sweet Mama!

 

***Feel free to share with any mama out there that needs some hope herself today***

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

To the Mom Who is Saying Goodbye…

I’m awake.  It’s 4:00 am.  Just 45 minutes ago, I heard the garage door open and close for the last time at this ungodly hour.  I ran downstairs to give and get a hug from our youngest.

You see, tonight was the night of nights.  After a final dinner celebrating our two graduates, Rachel and her best friend did what they always do.  They drove around enjoying our sleepy little town and the surrounding areas, talking about all those things BFFs talk about.  This was their last time to do that as neighbors who’ve known each other (and been mostly inseparable) since they were just six years old.  That’s why it’s an ungodly hour.  I don’t blame them.  It’s really hard to say goodbye.

After crying and hugging when she came in, and clinging to her (and secretly wishing I never had to let go), she went to sleep in her childhood bed for one more dreamy night and after trying to venture back into my own fitful sleep, I gave up and decided to process just a tiny bit of the swirling emotions coursing through my very bones.

You see, today is the day of days.  I begin the long goodbye of driving my precious Rachel across the country to her new life on the other coast in Burbank, California.  2,764 miles from our house to her new apartment.  That’s really far.  We leave in just 11 hours.

When she burst on the scene 19 years, 10 months ago, I never fathomed the ache I would hold in my heart this morning.  The proud and painful and thankful and joyful and awful ache.  It’s the universal mom ache that comes every time we say goodbye.

It starts when our babies take their first toddling and tentative steps away from us.  That initial ache comes unbidden as we grasp a glimpse of all the future steps they will take away from us, all the goodbyes to come.

The goodbye of walking onto a school bus or into a classroom for the very first time.  Tiny hands turn and wave.  The ache rears and settles.

The goodbye of a first sleepover or summer camp.  They are not “right in the next room,” safe under the cover of our home.  The ache rears quietly and settles quickly.

The goodbye of their very independent, “I’ve got this,” preteen self.  This one smacks loud and jolts abruptly.  The ache rears ferociously and settles slowly.

The goodbye of a challenging teen mishap.  Their childhood innocence door slams shut.  The ache rears dragging fear along with it and settles in fits and starts.

The goodbye of backing out of the driveway moments after receiving freedom in the shape of a gift from the DMV.   The ache rears with memories of a toddler in her car seat and settles with some much-needed freedom from late-night, seemingly endless pickups.

The goodbye of a graduation cap and a college dorm room.  Stopping here for a moment.  This one was really rough for me.  This ache rears and settles, rears and settles, rears and settles, every time they come home and leave, come home and leave, come home and leave.

The goodbye I find myself in this morning.  The goodbye of moving out and moving on.  The goodbye that speaks to adulthood, active parenting job done, “will they make it on their own?  This ache rears fresh and raw this morning.  I am hopeful it will settle.

There are more goodbyes to come.  The goodbye of weddings and births of grandchildren (I’ve experienced those with my oldest and she is experiencing her own goodbyes now).  Every time, the steps are further and further away.  Every time, the ache rears and rears and rears.  Every time, the ache settles and settles and settles.

I know that with each goodbye comes a settling hello.  A settling hello that brings newness, possibility and life.  Believe me, I know.

But in the wee hours of this morning, I sit in the real, raw ache of the goodbye, not rushing the pride I feel, the pain I feel, the thankfulness I feel, the joy I feel and the awfulness I feel.  It’s beautiful here.  It’s sacred here.  It’s momentous here.

The sun is not up yet.  I sit quiet in the dark.  The ache will settle soon enough.  I like the ache for now.  It’s my very good friend.

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(To those of you who have said the worst goodbye in the loss of your child, I am just so sorry.  I wonder if there is ever a settling after the ugly rearing of the ache.  It’s okay if there’s not.  Maybe there shouldn’t be.  Either way, I wholeheartedly salute you.  I stand with you.  I sit with you.  I am just so very sorry.  You never should have had to say this kind of goodbye.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Be Fearless…

Child of My Heart,

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” (Unknown)

Lots of things are going to creep into your life that will thwart you from staying on the path that’s only yours to take. Others (including me at times) may discourage you or steer you off.   Lack of immediate success and even straight up failures along the way may cause confusion and “is this really what I’m supposed to be doing” questions.   Fear may come in with its claws and try to convince you that you are “not good enough” to stay the course.

As those disheartening voices shout loudly to you, another Voice whispers cheer, comfort and confidence to you. This Voice reassures you to continue to discover what sets your soul on fire, what makes your heart come alive, what you are good at, what gift ONLY you can bring to the world. He will be with you all the way, marking your next steps and encouraging you to be exactly WHO He made you to be and what He made you to do. He is the one who set your soul on fire to begin with and He can keep that fire burning no matter what or who comes in to try to quench it!!

You don’t need to doubt. You can explore what sets your soul on fire.

You don’t need to retreat. You can pursue with your whole heart.

You don’t need to be afraid. You can be fearless.

From My Heart to Yours

 

PS.  I am deathly afraid of heights.  This picture is of me standing at the edge of a 50 foot drop.  It was a huge moment!

Posted in Childhood, Family, Grief, Guest, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

The Terrible Gift of Parenting While Grieving

What happens when you lose your dad eight hours after your first baby is born and then lose your husband one month before your second baby is born?  
How do you survive, much less thrive as a parent in the middle of a hugely difficult season, and even a lifetime of loss?  
On my Dolly Mama podcast, my friend and young mom, Becky McCoy, tackles the topic of parenting and grieving at the same time.  Becky is a mom to two young children ages six and four and a very brave hope-bringer right in the middle of her heartbreak.   
She answers tough questions about her own beautiful and messy grief process.  She reminds us that there are ALL kinds of loss in our lives and we ALL have to navigate some kind of grief in the middle of our parenting season, even though many times we might not even recognize it as such.  
As you listen, you will want her to “keep on talking” as I did, gleaning so much goodness not only from what she says, but who she is.  We cry (well I do) and laugh lots which, in and of itself, hints to some of the profound wisdom you will hear from her.  My biggest surprises are the VERY universal parenting truths that grief forced her to learn so very early on.  
If you need encouragement today (she has one particular thought I can’t wait for you to hear) and you want to have HOPE for your parenting journey, you have come to the right place!  Don’t miss out!  

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 Childhood, Family, Motherhood

Mom Things I Wish I Knew (When It All Started)

I’m going to be okay no matter what happens. (Amy)

No parent has it all together. Not even the person that just came to my mind.  (Karen Gavreau)

Escaping to the grocery store at 9:00 pm BY MYSELF after every kid of mine had gone to bed was better than sex! (Anonymous, mom of five).

I am the guardrail, not the driver.  (Andi Fulton Singh)

I don’t have to discipline my child so that they don’t embarrass me (in public) – especially the child that has a real knack for that!  (Jennifer Holmes)

My popcorn-eating, ice-chewing, overall-wearing, quirky teen actually grew up to be a popcorn-eating, ice-chewing quirky adult (she stopped wearing overalls thank goodness)! (moms of one-of-a-kinders)

Being stuck in a certain stage for the rest of my life is a total lie! (Martha Grimm Brady)  No stage lasts forever. (Kelly) Being up at 4 am with my newborn sixteen nights in a row doesn’t mean it will be seventeen nights in a row.  (Melony)

Always err on the side of grace. (Kim)

A plus B does not equal C.  (Ella King Herlihy) There is no formula to parenting.  Every child has their own journey.  (Lea Turner)

Sleep is one of my very best friends.  Make it my personal mission like my whole life depends on it.  (Esther)

Parenting is a roller coaster, best to not ride it alone.  (Kerry Campbell)

“Different” does not equal “less than.”   I am not doing anything wrong just because I have unique kiddos.  (Sue)

Being a mom exposes my vulnerability like nothing else.  Brave into it every time. When I feel overwhelmed, lost, and emotionally spent, I might be surprised to find the deep peace of God.  (Brenda Seefeldt Amodea)

I do not have to take everything SO seriously!!  Have FUN and relax.  (Karen)

I’m glad that I was, in the words of my daughter, committed to leisure 😊❤️ (Marilyn Gardner)

The everyday moments are the glue and foundation of my future relationship with my adult children. What seems ordinary at the time becomes precious.  (Debbie)

Let them see me sweat, cry, try and fail and say I’m sorry! (Brooke McGillivray) . Just because they are little people doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a big apology.  (Carrie)

A mother’s gut instinct about her child is just about always right. I don’t have to second guess myself.  (Val)

How important it is to surround myself with other moms, especially those who are a season ahead of me.  It takes a village to care for the village.  I am not alone in how I feel.  (Shelby Spear)

99% of the time what I worried about NEVER happened!  (Susan)

Parent my kids according to their unique needs.  Study them to figure that out.  (Debbie Jones Warren)

Beautiful, firm boobs are highly overrated.  (Every mom everywhere)

What my kids did wasn’t personal even if it felt like it.  It was all part of them trying out things appropriate to their stages of growth: like my busy little guy doing toothpaste art on the bathroom mirror or my teen keeping secrets.  (Julie Miller Elder)

Make them get a job and pay for their own cell phones.  (Pam)

It’s healthy for my kids to ask questions about their faith.  I didn’t need to have all the answers and it would take bravery in working it out alongside of them.  (Therese)

The impact of sugar and carbs on the body and mind.  I might have cooked a little less pasta.  That’s tough to say coming from a big Italian family.  (Shirley)

Having a half-naked two-year old running around my house peeing on the carpet (and once every so often making it to the toilet) is completely normal.  (Desperate potty-training moms)

Get into my kids’ world and discover what makes them “them” AND also invite them into my world and what makes me “me.” (Aimee Welch)

It’s NOT all up to me.  I can’t take all the credit, but more importantly, I can’t take all the blame.  (JoAnn)

This mom thing is not for sissies.  It is  a wonderful gift AND the most challenging thing I will ever do. There is nothing that could have prepared me for my heart to be walking around outside of myself with no way to control what happens. But the joy, oh the joy that comes from driving out to the boondocks at 3:00 in the morning to pick up a bunch of tipsy high school seniors. That joy comes from years of building trust, it is worth every minute of dusty floors and unfolded laundry, every book and every lego you step on in the middle of the night. (Katie Spiller Kibbe)

It’s so important to ask for help.  Don’t wait to throw up the white flag.  (Sue)

My five-year old wearing a full-Batman suit or Disney Princess costume with high heels makes every other mom in the grocery store give me the “I get you” mom side-eye.  (subculture of moms of costume wearers)

In the very painful moments of parenting when God seems to say nothing, when my children are suffering,  He is not resting, but active.  (Roey)

Provide time for myself.   Purposeful self-care might have helped me enjoy the kids more.  (Sandy Sheridan)  Put your own oxygen mask on before you assist others. (flight attendant moms)

It’s not about being the perfect mom.  It’s about having the perfect God.  (Bethany)

They WILL sleep through the night.  (Recovering sleep-deprived moms)

It’s just as important to accept, value, nurture, love, honor and delight in myself as well as my kids!  (Annie)

I am going to be okay no matter what!  (Esther)

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WE ARE IN THIS GIANT MOM LIFE BOAT TOGETHER!  LET’S KEEP PUTTING PRESERVERS ON EACH OTHER AS WE NAVIGATE THIS SOMETIMES PEACEFUL AND OTHER TIMES STORMY SEA!

 

 

 

 

 

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 Charity, Childhood, Faith, Health, Third Culture Kid

My Childhood Jesuses (What are Yours?)

“If Jesus was Jewish, did He believe in Himself?”  (Josh Goetz – 6)

It all started with “Get-Out-of-Hell Free” Jesus, the earliest one I can remember.  This Jesus gets “asked into your heart” and then when you die, you get saved from the fiery torment of an eternal damnation in a very literal place called hell.

Before you click away because you are worried that I am going to be marching down the path to preach a hell, fire and brimstone blog post, calm your hearts.  We’re just taking a little ride together.  🙂

I am reading a very light-hearted, yet serious-at-the-same-time book called Stolen Jesus.  One day, the author, Jami Amerine, notices that the portrait of Jesus at her local YMCA lobby is gone.  Finding out that He is now relegated to “behind the filing cabinet,” she sneaks Him out and hangs Him over her mantel at home, thus the title of the book.  She goes on to unpack all of her Jesuses (including Mormon Jesus, High School Jesus and Michigan Jesus), filling my mind with all of my own Jesuses.

Two weeks ago, I would have told you that I know Jesus pretty well.  I’ve got a pretty good handle on who and what He is and who and what He is not.  I’ve spent a lifetime figuring Him out.  After spending some much-needed time with Jami Amerine delving into all my different Jesuses, I’m thinking, “Maybe not.”  After all, the Jesus I believed in when I was three, eight, 12, 19, 28, 41 and 50ish are all completely different and some even contradictory.  Is He none of them?  Perhaps.

Childhood Jesuses formed hard and deep for me.  They continue to be a part of who I am today, some I long to embrace further and others I wish I could banish.  I would imagine you have your own.  Here is a glimpse into some of mine:

Get-Out-of-Hell Free Jesus
I asked Jesus into my heart every night for my whole childhood.  If you didn’t have Him in there, you were going to burn in a “lake of fire” forever and ever.   That was super scary.  Who wants that?  I certainly didn’t.  At the end of most days, I was never sure if I had done it right or meant it based on my troubling behavior earlier in the day, so the cycle continued endlessly.  Poor Jesus.  He was not a lot more than the best fire insurance a very frightened child could muster up.  (Little known fact:  this ended when 12-year old Esther wrote down the “date” I finally meant it in my Bible:  January 25, 1979.  It was for sure this time.  God help me.)

Boarding School Jesus (also known as Verse Group Jesus and Behavior-Management Jesus)
Every morning during my boarding school years, we were wakened and marched downstairs to some room (even before breakfast…but my memory might be a little fuzzy here) to memorize verses.  We got a prize at the end of the semester (lunch out at the local airport…big deal for this “never-eat-out” tot) for memorizing them all.   After all, “hiding these verses in our heart” would ensure that we would “not sin against” God (see Psalm 119:11 to get the picture) or more happily for our dorm parents and teachers, not sin against them.  It was an amazing “behavior management” technique.  (Quiet thought circling in my head:  Little Esther was good at this.  Especially on the outside.  Maybe not so much the inside.)

Aslan Jesus
It’s crazy how you can have simultaneous Jesuses that are nothing alike.  At the same time as Verse Group Jesus, I had another Jesus.  Many nights, after being fed and washed up, I listened to the Chronicles of Narnia being read by our dorm mother.  Enter Aslan Jesus.  He was a kind and gracious lion who loved and took great care of children, playing with them and even dying for them, even one of them who betrayed Him.  He seemed like the kind of Jesus and friend that I wanted and so desperately needed, very different from the first two that I had learned about or conjured up in my head.  I wished he was real.  I loved him.  Who wouldn’t?  (Secret:  I still love Aslan Jesus.  He’s a keeper.)

Bible Quiz Team Jesus
When I was a very nerdy high schooler, I belonged to a Bible quiz team.  We would memorize entire books of the Bible and compete with other teams for a chance to go to the National Tournament.  It happened all four years for me.  In fact, I was ranked the “#1 Bible Quizzer in the USA” my senior summer!  It’s probably the only time in my life I was the actual “master of the trade,” not just the “jack.”   I performed superbly.  I was highly rewarded for it.  This Jesus loved me.   I was acceptable in His eyes.  I had finally proved my worth to Him.  (Another secret:  This Jesus has pestered me to this day.  I daily battle with this Jesus.)

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What we believe about Jesus is paramount to how we live and love.   If we believe He’s out to get us, we may be afraid of Him.  If we believe His goal is to keep us in line, we will probably avoid Him (I was the queen avoider for years).  If we believe He accepts us only when we are “good,” we may perform well, but we also may feel like it’s never enough.  On the contrary, if we truly believe He loves and cares for us, and understand that in the core of our souls, we will have safety and freedom to love and respond in kind.

I have a lot more Jesuses that formed during my adult years, some I will speak of in another post.  Again, just like my childhood Jesuses, there are some I long to cling to and dive deeper with and some that don’t describe the Real Jesus at all and that I should run far away from.

I am still on my adventure to get to know the Real Jesus, the One who isn’t bound by all my experiences and thoughts and frailties, the One Who is completely Himself.  I hope you are too.  I do know one thing for sure:  I won’t be disappointed when I know Him fully!  It might take the rest of my life and even into forever for this to happen, but He will be worth it!  I love this journey with Him!

We all have different Jesuses.  Who are your childhood Jesuses?  I really hope you respond here by commenting or let me know on Facebook, Instagram, Linked In or Twitter.  I would love that so much!  Please like my posts out on social media (but only if you like them…LOL).  It helps it to move into people’s newsfeeds and I can get the word out to more folks!

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Posted in Charity, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

I’m an MK. What are You?

“I don’t like that man.  I must get to know him better.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

TTYL – Talk To You Later
SSDD – Same Stuff Different Day
LMK – Let Me Know
PAW – Parents are Watching (my personal favorite…not really!)

We live in a world where we communicate with all kinds of capital letters.  It just makes it easier when using our thumbs to type words designed for five fingers.  And sometimes, things can get lost in translation.  Here’s my favorite:

“I heard your aunt passed away.  LOL.”
(If you’re struggling with this one, the person sending thought LOL meant “Lots of Love” and it really means “Laugh Out Loud”)

In the olden days, instead of #textspeak, we called these capital letters acronyms.

I grew up with one that identified me:  MK (Missionary Kid).  For as long as I can remember, I have used those two letters to tell people who I am.   In fact, I just did it again this week when meeting someone for the first time.  And I haven’t lived overseas for 4/5 of my life.  I guess it’s supposed to give insight into some depth of my being for the curious or just be used as a conversation starter.  Sometimes, people are fascinated and other times, I get the feeling they feel a little sorry for me.  It’s a funny dichotomy.

Life as an MK is BOTH fascinating AND difficult.  BOTH wonderful AND confusing.  Kind of like your life.  It does pose BOTH a unique set of challenges AND a particular group of rewards (CHECK OUT MINE HERE).  Just like your life.

For a long time, I felt strange and unusual, almost like an animal in a zoo for everyone to gawk at.  We were on display, especially when we came home on deputation…a fancy word for visiting churches to raise money (and believe me, my parents did their best to protect us from the insanity of standing up in front of churches and singing songs in Ethiopia’s native tongue).  **CHECK OUT MY PARENT’S BIRD’S EYE VIEW HERE**  I felt excluded, like everyone else was in some kind of inner circle and I was on the outside.  It was partly true.  I did have a different story than those I eventually went to school with here in the US.  I did have a life that didn’t resemble theirs.  But it wasn’t the whole truth.

The WHOLE TRUTH is that each one of us has a unique life story that encompasses sorrow AND joy, hardship AND celebration, beauty AND darkness.  The WHOLE TRUTH is that I can accept BOTH myself and my particular journey AND love others as I get to know theirs.  The WHOLE TRUTH is that instead of a wall of division between US (MKs) and THEM (RJs – Regular Joes – who might have lived in the same house in the same town for their whole childhood), there is solidarity that we ALL are in the same big giant circle as humans. After all, I now have a husband and children who are RJs and I certainly never want any division between us.  Blogger Janet Newberry calls this divided place a “two-circle world,” one that’s based on exclusion and isolation, not inclusion and community.  The WHOLE TRUTH (the one that sets us free) is that our distinct stories don’t divide us.  They unite us.  This makes room for a “one-circle” world.

We all tend to find people who relate to our stories, our beliefs, our way of living.  We tend to group ourselves according to these commonalities.  It doesn’t just happen to MKs and RJs.  It happens everywhere:  politics, religion, race, hobbies, life status, you name it. Just looking at groups on Facebook reminds me that this happens in spades.  If I look around me, I’m not sure it’s working great.  Yes.  It matters that we find others who are going through/have gone through what we have, share a similar story.  In fact, it’s important.  It creates a place of understanding, of being known, of safety, of belonging.   But again, it’s only partly true.  It isn’t the whole truth.  The WHOLE TRUTH is that excluding others because we feel excluded doesn’t ensure us true belonging.  The WHOLE TRUTH is that Jesus’ prayer that “we are one just as He and His Father are one” provides the love and belonging we all were designed to have and long for.  The WHOLE TRUTH is love and exclusion cannot coexist and that God invites us all into this great, inclusive love story.   We already belong!!

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I want to live out of that WHOLE TRUTH.  I want to live FROM a place of belonging, not FOR it.  I want to invite myself and others into this “one-circle world,” to unwrap the gift of each person God has for me to enjoy, no matter what their story, background, political affiliation, race, etc.  If I am honest, I’m not there yet.  My world is “two-circlish” right now.  I want that to change.  It might mean more work on my part.  But more work usually means more reward.  One way is that I would love to unwrap the gift that is you.  I would love to know your story.  Here’s one little step for me and you to take (this blog post is my part in it):

If you had to describe your life in #textspeak, what would it be?  Mine has now changed to PMKNRJ (Previous Missionary Kid, Now Regular Joe).  Let me know here in the comment section or out on social media.  Can’t wait to hear!

If you want to share your deeper story with me, please go to the contact page and send me an email.  Or “friend” me on Facebook.  I will count it as a very sacred privilege to get to know you.  Thank you.

**FOLLOW ME VIA EMAIL IF YOU NEVER WANT TO MISS ANOTHER POST**

Last thing:  if you are wondering where the pics are from up top, it’s from the Dr. Seuss book, “The Sneetches and Other Stories.”  Great read!

 

 

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

“I Want Five Tattoos!” (My 13 Year Old)

“Being the best is great.  You’re the number one.  Being unique is greater.  You are the ONLY one.”  (Wilson Kanadi)

I couldn’t tell you when it happened but when Rachel, our youngest (read more about her HERE), was about 13 or 14 years old, she told me she wanted to get a tattoo, actually FIVE tattoos.  After my initial internal “yikes” response and my “not-so-hidden” external gasp, I drummed up the courage to ask her what these FIVE tattoos were and why she was in desperate need to mark up her sacred body (as I so lovingly reminded her which was responded to by some eye-rolling).

Mustering my highly uncomfortable “listen-whether-you-like-it-or-not” skills and “don’t-make-any-faces” expertise (Okay.  You got me.  It’s true.  I have absolutely zero expertise in this area), I listened as she surprised me.  All on her own, she had discovered FIVE things that she loved in this life, FIVE parts of our common humanity that made her heart come alive and that she would hold tightly onto no matter how old she became.  She had a symbol for each one that she wanted tattooed on the inside of each of her FIVE fingers.  I listened with bigger ears and a broader heart (good parent award) and breathed a sigh of relief that the tattoos would be so small that no one would probably ever notice them (shallow, worried-about-what-others-might-think parent booby prize).  She had discovered how she was specifically designed and made it her mission to invest in what made her heart flutter as she traveled her unique life’s journey.

Rachel’s FIVE:

HEART – This symbolizes “love.”  Her desire to invest in people and relationships: from family to friends, from those on the fringes to those on the inside, from the easy-to-like to the hard-to-tolerate.  (Mom note:  Rachel is a ball of unconditional love.  Those who meet her feel instantly like they are the only person in the room.  Her smile is contagious and her grace is infectious.)

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PUZZLE PIECE – Since Rachel was a tot, she has loved puzzles.  From 3rd grade on, we have had a puzzle table set up in our family room that is constantly filled with pieces waiting to be gathered into a picture.  She has a special puzzle table at college and is part of the “puzzle-of-the-month” club.  This is no small matter in this girl’s life and it gives her a place to unwind, yet allows her brain a much-loved boost.  Some people run for endorphins.  Rachel does puzzles.  (Mom note:  she gets this from my genes.  She and I are going to have a puzzle contest this summer to see who can get the same puzzle done quicker.  Please pray for me.  I think I might have met my match and most likely, my superior.)

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Current Puzzle Table Look

 

CROSS – Jesus.  This is plainly and simply about her fierce attachment to Her Savior, Confidant, Best-Friend, Provider and Lover of her Soul.  Her pure heart for the spiritual and her complete understanding of the intentional, passionate love of God and His unconditional acceptance of her has given her an unspoken confidence.  (Mom note:  She is unwavering in her own truth, yet never judges another who isn’t quite there yet.  It’s one way that I want to be like her.)

 

WAVE – This one symbolizes all things water, especially her love of the ocean.  She grew up swimming like a fish, always in our pool (in fact, we built it especially for her), and as soon as she got a taste of the sand and the sea, there was no turning back.  Her heart swells for any and all days that she can spend at our beloved Long Beach Island and she braves our Garden State Parkway to get to the ocean any which way she can.  (Mom note:  Thank God we live in NJ and she goes to college in Central Florida.  It’s the perfect place for a one-hour ride to this dream that she consistently makes a reality.)

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MUSIC NOTE:  From the little musical play that she was in as a child TO her fierce commitment to learning the guitar in middle school TO quitting lacrosse to pursue her passion for recording arts, Rachel reminds me that music sets her soul on fire.  Music is one of the truest friends of her creative heart and mind.  It gives her a place to create and connect, to relax and rejuvenate, to express and find refuge.  (Last Mom note:  I couldn’t believe it when she told me she wanted to take voice and piano lessons her senior year.  After only a few short months but a lot of hard work, here was the result:  ENJOY IT HERE!)

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Every so often, I check in with Rachel about her FIVE things and which ones she’s finding easy and or more difficult depending on the season she’s in.  Last week, when she returned home for her summer break and we were riding bikes at the beach, we spoke about this.  She shared that this latest season of intense schooling for her future recording arts career has not allowed her to give attention to some of these FIVE.  She is determined to spend the next eight weeks rediscovering and investing in them.  However, just as in all things, it’s not that simple.  The more complicated part is that it might mean saying “no” to some really good so that she can say a deeper “yes” to the important.  And guess what?  The puzzle table is back up.  She’s reading Love Does by Bob Goff to get to know Jesus just a little bit better.  She’s spending every possible minute either out by our pool or at the beach soaking in the sun and sand.  She’s investing time and energy into her two best friends from home, her closest friend at school and her awesome family (If I say so myself, and I guess I just did, we are awesome!).  And never-to-be-neglected, she is playing piano and guitar until the wee hours (I fell happily asleep last night as I listened to these pierce the quiet of our home) along with becoming better at “ear something or other” that I don’t even understand.

As a welcome home surprise, I bought her FIVE rings that have her FIVE things.  The sparkle in her eyes as she opened the gifts told me everything I longed for.  One of the main hopes I have as a parent had come true in this beautiful young woman:  I desire that each of my children learn and then pursue who they uniquely are.  I don’t want my children to be like me.  (In fact, the term “Minnie-Me” gets me all up in my grill.)  I truly want them to be themselves, to be the “one-of-a-kind” God has designed to be.  It goes back to my favorite Dr. Seuss quote of all time, “Today, you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”  I will be me.  You be you!

The other day, Rachel reassured me that she no longer wants those tattoos on her fingers.  I felt great relief for a brief moment until she blurted out, “Meg and I are going to get beach bike tattoos this summer.”  My hope of a small, almost invisible tattoo is fading quickly.  Yet, my hope for this girl to blossom in all her Rachelness is exploding!

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Rough Sketch of Future Tattoo

 

Rachel has caused me to think about my own FIVE things.  What symbols would I choose for what makes me unique, “one-of-a-kind”?  What makes my heart come alive?  What do I want to invest in that speaks of who I am and allows me to leave my very own personal mark on this lovely world that no one else can because they are just not me?  What might I need to say “no” to for my deeper “yes”?  I wrote a few of them down this morning.  Stay tuned to a future blog post!  What are your FIVE, or FOUR, or however many?

(As always, SHARE, comment, AND especially LIKE and comment on my post out on Social Media or here if you are a WordPress friend…this means the world to me!  Plus, I do really want to know!  For real!)