“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!
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!
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)
“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)
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!
“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?
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)
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?
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?
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!
“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.)
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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“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!!
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.
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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!
“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.
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.)
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.)
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.)
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!)
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!
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?
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“Some days I amaze myself. Other days, I put laundry in the oven.” (Moms Everywhere)
I am not sure if you will be horrified or happy when you read these. I mostly hope you feel like you aren’t the only one. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Here goes nothing (make sure you read with snarky voice in your head):
Letting nine-month-old “cry it out” during nap for 45 minutes only to find both legs stuck between crib rails after “giving in” and checking on baby (this was the olden days when this could actually happen).
Allowing (almost encouraging) 21-month-old to give “propped up” three-month-old sibling a ride in walker, smashing infant into kitchen cabinets, laughing hysterically and doing it again and again. (I hope I am remembering this wrong, but I doubt it.)
Forgetting about “RED DAY” in child’s kindergarten class. Only kid not wearing any red (except for a tiny spot on sneaker that child very sadly pointed to in desperation when the teacher asked what red they were wearing).
Leaving eight-year-old eating chips and watching movie in van with engine running, while watching freshman field hockey (van was kind of visible from side-line location. Checked on child at half-time).
Finding that our fourth child made own “memory verse chart” complete with stickers. (Believe this: there were numerous charts for the older three. One of the “OhMyGoodnessThisIsCrazy” moments of parenting!)
Forgetting to inform “pet sitter” about two tree frogs for week-long, very hot, summer vacation. End result: crispy critters.
Making 12-year-old babysit for 14 (yes, you heard that right) younger kids in basement while five couples have “Bible Study” upstairs for 2 hours every other week. (Reminded this week that 10- and 11-year-olds were hot-gluing sequins to their heads in said basement and forcing the 4- and 5-year-olds to be their servants.)
Leaving two middle school boys home alone with all the necessary equipment to make a blow torch in garage (think water gun, gasoline, and a BIC multi-purpose lighter).
Picking up tipsy teenager from a party and driving at midnight to Walmart to get a breathalyzer to no avail. Driving around until 1 am searching and finding a police officer, asking him to give test (NOTE: police officer did not comply). Driving home making threats of grounding for life.
Standing in driveway holding on to the hood of college student’s car, supposedly preventing college student (in mild – okay not so mild – argument with) from leaving. Doesn’t work (shocker). College student gets out and leisurely walks down street to awaiting friend’s car, while yours truly is screaming “don’t come back.” Topping it off, our neighbor most likely sees the insanity unfold in all its glory.
I hope this has brought you much laughter and grace for yourself and all the other moms you know (especially me). I need grace and kindness and love and to be told it will all be okay and we are all just a little desperate and nuts sometimes! Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who love your little, or not-so-little-anymore, kids and grownups. You are doing a great job (and if you aren’t today or weren’t yesterday or might not tomorrow, take a moment to laugh at yourself just a little).
(SINCE I’VE PUT MYSELF OUT THERE AND FEEL BASICALLY LIKE I SHED SOME OF MY CLOTHES IN PUBLIC, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ONE OF FUNNY EPIC FAILS! PLEASE COMMENT HERE OR GO BACK OUT TO SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMMENT THERE. I NEED SOME GOOD LAUGHS TODAY!)
“You know you’re a missionary kid when you see a picture of your family on random peoples’ refrigerators.” (Anonymous)
Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Jared scanned all of my parents’ slides from Africa. It’s one of those projects that keeps getting put off, but we actually tackled it and got it done. They were coming here for the holiday and all of my siblings and my parents were going to be together. So, on Thanksgiving Eve, we spent most of the afternoon viewing them on the large TV screen in our family room and heard stories about each one. Needless to say, we made a pretty good dent.
That same weekend, in conjunction with the slides, I asked my parents about the “Five Best and Worst Things” about being a missionary in the latter half of the 20th Century. I seized the opportunity to listen and learn what it was like from their perspective. I have had my personal kid’s-eye-view and have spent years processing my own experience (good and bad), but I was in the dark about theirs. Truth be told, I heard stories that corroborated my memories and beliefs and learned many things that were new and unexpected.
Here are their Top Five(ish):
Deputation. Dragging the kids around to all kinds of churches in the USA trying to raise money. (This seems nuts to me and I remember how we all didn’t like it either.)
No converts. Questioning what they were doing there.
Leaving her kids at boarding school. It was a heartbreak.
Not getting along with other missionaries.
Mom Best (she only had Four)
Freedom not to be encumbered with constant schedules.
Teaching in the school.
Experiences that you were exposed to that were “out of the norm.”
Getting to know people from all over the world. The friendships they developed.
Dad Worst (he only had Three)
So few converts. Asked himself, “what are we doing here?”
Deputation. (see above crazy-making)
Not getting along with other missionaries (I’m seeing a pattern).
Learning another language.
Traveling to new places.
Seeing kids learn in the school where they were teaching.
The experience with the death of a close friend who was gunned down in front of his wife by an extremist and how God protected him and my mom. (sounds like a best and worst to me)
Meeting people from other countries (missionaries and nationals) and all the friendships they made.
I learned a lot about my parents over Thanksgiving and continue to. This past week, we plowed ahead through more slides during a visit as my mom is recovering from surgery after being diagnosed with cancer. It makes our time even more precious and the learning and gleaning even more pressing. So far, here are my top five takeaways which are for all of us, missionary kid or not (sorry, the new correct phrase is third culture kid).
There were a lot of slides of animals I only now see in zoos. Growing up in another country meant having a different experience than your average American kid (like my husband). Attending boarding school, living as a minority and foreigner, knowing people from all over the world, being surrounded by war and poverty, vacationing in exotic places, and eating strange food is not your average American childhood. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sure you wouldn’t trade yours either, no matter how or where you grew up. It makes us into the people we are today, both broken and beautiful.
Those 18 years my parents spent serving God in a far-away country was exciting, hard, beautiful and complicated all at the same time. Like all of our lives, my parents’ lives were filled with struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows. I draw comfort in knowing this. My “normal” adult life has looked very different from theirs on the outside. But my own life has been filled with the exciting, hard, beautiful and complicated as well. It’s not what’s happening on the outside that matters most. It’s what’s happening on the inside.
They matter and all their experiences matter. It was really good for me to take a peek from their point-of-view, to understand all of this effected them, as well as us four kids, for both good and bad. I have been so wrapped up in my own “how this effected me” for a long time. It was helpful to step out of that for a moment to see the view through another lens. I want to do this more often with all those I know. My life will be richer when I do.
Our family mattered to my parents. My mom wants to delete every slide that doesn’t have one of us in it. She keeps saying, “What does that matter to our family?” I love this. For a long time, I had a warped perspective on this. My view was that “God’s work” was more important than our family. It’s just not true for the Marets at the very core. It’s so good for me to know that. It brings great healing to me. Yes. They made mistakes. Yes. It was very hard and unusual. BUT. Yes. They did their best. Yes. They loved us. (Doesn’t sound very different from my own family and my own children.) This is where grace comes in and wins!
Life comes down to people. People are the hardest parts of our lives. People are the best parts of our lives. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world, what cultural differences we have, or what we are trying to accomplish together, it all boils down to people and the relationships we build with them. People bring the most frustration and hurt, but they also bring the most joy and healing. We can try to avoid people and all the “bad” stuff they bring, but in doing so, we miss out on all the hope and healing and love that they bring to us. People are worth it!
My heart is for greater healing for each of us. This project is bringing me much. It brings me back to what matters most: being fully-known and loved, but with a twist. This time was not about me being known, but getting to know another. That’s my unexpected surprise. I hope this will prompt you to take on a project (person) of your own. Who knows what will happen?
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Sometimes, someone comes into your life so unexpectedly, takes your heart by surprise and changes your life forever. (viacuriano.com)
The past two Tuesday evenings, I “cheated” on my husband and went on two dates. The first was with a little beacon of light, my five-year old friend named Olivia. We went and got ice cream FIRST, poked into a pet store and checked out the fish and the hamsters, went to Staples and spun around on chairs and bought Silly Putty, ate pizza while we bowled, and ended our night playing arcade games. The second one was with my friend Robby, a man who thinks he should have something called “Up Syndrome.” He is right. We ate hamburgers and french fries (only pickle, ketchup and a bun for him), enjoyed ice cream (see a running theme here), played a matching game that he handily beat me 12-8 and sat and watched a couple of episodes of Full House while we waited for his dad to pick him up.
Of course, I made these “dates” to bring help to my friends who are the caregivers of these precious souls. I mean, what parent wouldn’t want someone to come along and love on their child while they get a much-needed break? But as usual, God seems to have had something else up His sleeve.
God is wise and knows what He is doing. He knows exactly how to reach deep into our hearts and souls and bless us, heal us. Many times, when we think we are helping others, we are being helped.
These two people I spent time with couldn’t appear more different. One is a typical little girl who is navigating Kindergarten (learning her ABCs with the Super Kids reading program – anyone heard of Cass who loves to Cook Casseroles in the kitchen with her Cat, Coconut). The other is an adult male with Down Syndrome (and I totally agree with him, why isn’t it called Up Syndrome?) who goes to Pride College (as he calls it), a school for adults with special needs.
They are so dissimilar at first glance. Olivia is 5. Robby is 30. Olivia is a fireball. Robby is chatty. Olivia likes soccer. Robby likes swimming. Plain, straight-up different. But, as you know, God is filled with surprises and likes us to repent (all that means is THINK A NEW THOUGHT) for our own journey of healing and wholeness. These two beautiful souls are alike in so many ways that really matter, thus bringing me to tears filled with gratitude (hence the Thankful Thursday post).
They BOTH see the world through fresh eyes. Everything is exciting to them. The simple things I take for granted and go through the motions doing are seen with a new vision. Spinning around on chairs at Staples (don’t judge me) and imitating Joey imitating Popeye while watching Full House are enjoyed to the full (check out the video below).
They BOTH are very smart and want to learn and grow. Olivia is able to tell me all the rules in her classroom along with counting in both English and Spanish to 20. Robby is able to tell me all about his family (who is still alive and who has passed on and what towns they live in and how they are all related to him) and also actually spelled out words for me when I had a hard time figuring out what he was trying to tell me (he has a speech impediment).
They BOTH are free with their love. And I mean FREE! No holds barred. When I look at how closed off and closed up I am, it is such a beautiful thing to watch and then experience personally. Their complete, uninhibited love for me frees my own heart just a little bit more. I don’t have to hold back either and I am free to love them in return (this is not a lesson to be learned, but a heart to be changed and healed).
This all sounds so magical. But to be honest, this is how it really played out. The first date was super easy and I was looking forward to it. I have spent the better part of the past 30 years immersed in children: children’s ministry and having my own children. I love children. They are easy for me to figure out. I actually play a little game with them to see if I can get each one to open up and light up when I interact with them. My goal is connection and I like the hardest and most closed off ones the most. It’s an adventure that I embrace fully. And I am usually successful.
Leading up to the second date was hard for me. I knew I wanted to stretch myself and go outside my comfort zone, but I was very nervous. What would we talk about? Would there be awkward silences? How much do I have to keep him occupied? How long should it be? Will he be bored or afraid? What happens if something goes terribly wrong? It’s sad to say that I have never spent time with anyone with special needs other than in passing during child ministry. I feel downright confused and uncomfortable, and there is probably some “special needs phobia” I struggle with. But this is a man I kiss every Sunday (he’s the only other man in my life I kiss right on the lips other than Allen) when I grab my church bulletin from him. A date was certainly the next logical step (I hear you. Kissing usually comes after you’ve had a date or two).
Like I voiced earlier, God is a God of surprises. The first date was not a surprise, but filled with all the goodness I expected. Olivia was a bundle of light, joy and curiosity that touched the depths of my heart with exactly what I needed that evening. However, the second date was one of the happiest surprises of 2018 so far. Robby made it easy to connect. He answered all the questions I asked. He shared his likes and dislikes without fanfare. He embraced each activity I had planned for him. He even put his feet up on our coffee table and relaxed in his socks while we watched his all-time favorite show. He was happy and made it so easy to be with him. It was one of the best first dates I’ve ever had, filled with all the goodness I did not expect.
These will not be the only dates I have with these two. Next time, Olivia and I might paint together (I learned that about her on our first date) and Robby and I will go bowling, but still eat hamburgers and have Diet Coke (I learned that about him on our first date). I want to get to know both of them better so our time together is even more to their liking.
Isn’t this what so much of our journeys are all about? Meeting others, getting to know them and loving them right where they are. Connection. Relationship. Intimacy. Freedom.
I don’t do this often, but today I will ask this question: how about you? What surprise can you be on the lookout for, that God has up His sleeve just for you, possibly a person that might bring more healing to your heart? It might be a typical individual or someone with special needs. It might be someone in your family or a complete stranger. It might be someone similar to you or a person completely and utterly different. It might be someone you already know or a brand new person you’ve never met. Expect the unexpected! Right now, I just envision God crouching down behind His heavenly “couch” and jumping up when you come in the door and shouting “SURPRISE!”