Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Marriage

2:30 AM

Why am I awake again?

Maybe it was that cookie.

Why did I eat that cookie at 9:30?

Sugar is not good for me that late.

It’s not the cookie.

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

Who can sleep?

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

Sometimes grace for yourself looks like…

Sometimes grace for yourself looks like…

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

GRACE is free.

GRACE is beautiful.

GRACE is life.

GRACE is enough.

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

The Best Advice I Ever Received as a Mom

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

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

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

LOVE WHAT THEY LOVE.

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

LOVE WHO THEY LOVE.

END OF STORY.

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

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

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

 

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

Insomnia and SELAH

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

I LOVE PEOPLE

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

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER. (Pandemic Edition)

The vicious mantra of our world is three simple words: DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

First, I am supposed to DO. Perform. Accomplish. Behave. “Make it happen.” Push.  “Get ‘er done.”  Move.  Cross-off.

NOW I’M SUPPOSED TO DO ALL THAT IN A PANDEMIC.

Second, I am supposed to do EVERYTHING. Exercise. Eat healthy. Brush teeth. Make friends. Manage social media. Keep learning. Stay neat. Be spiritual. Dress appropriately. Make money. Recycle. Manage time. Connect with family. Serve others. Dream big. Sleep.

NOW I’M SUPPOSED TO DO ALL THAT IN A PANDEMIC.

Third, I am supposed to do everything BETTERIN A PANDEMIC.

Stick to a quarantine exercise plan.  Go hiking and biking and walking and get outside for at least one hour a day.  PRESSURE.

Make completely nutritious and delicious meals from scratch with the limited supplies I am getting from the grocery store for all the people that are now in my house 24/7.  Take my Vitamin C, D, E, fish oil, folic acid, B, K, and some kind of probiotic so that I build my immune system against this crazy thing. PRESSURE.

Brush twice AND floss once every day, plus do a serious mouth rinse.  Avoid the dentist right now AND make sure I don’t get any cavities or weird tooth infections or gum disease or need anything for my mouth in the middle of all of this so that I don’t poison my dentist with my spit.  PRESSURE.

Create meaningful relationships with diverse people groups.  Do that now online.  Reach out to people I haven’t seen in a while because now I have boatloads of time and I should not waste it on Netflix or Facebook.  Oh, and write snail-mail letters.  PRESSURE.

Keep my social media to a minimum while remaining completely engaged with those in my networks.  Feel super guilty for the amount of time I am spending on Facebook and Instagram trolling for glimmers of hope.  PRESSURE.

Take an online class (after all, now is my perfect opportunity) AND possibly teach one myself. Listen to life-changing podcasts. Read a book a week (or at this point, two).  Stayed informed about the virus from reliable sources without freaking out.  Actually, stay off the news.  Which is it???  PRESSURE.

Have carefully marked and organized spaces for everything I own, even though the Container Store is closed and Amazon is running low on command strips.  Make do with what I have in the house currently.  Clean out my car with a Q-tip, but don’t use the Lysol wipes.  Use Windex and paper towels, but rip those in half.  PRESSURE.

Go to church regularly (now online, plus the mid-week prayer meeting they’ve added).  Read a daily devotional first thing every morning and find one that will keep you hopeful, and not more stressed. Pray for everyone everywhere…nurses, doctors, the army, your friends, people in the hospital, your government leaders, the homeless, senior citizens, the immune-compromised.  Give to all the charities that desperately need it right now because funds will run low, plus my poor church that won’t be getting all the cash in the basket.  Be in a small group or two or three (online, of course). Be like Jesus, for goodness sake.  PRESSURE.

Get dressed even though I’m not going anywhere.  Look like nothing has changed in my world.  Find hair-dye and apply it myself via video chat with my hair dresser.  Make sure I don’t let any gray hair peak through in the next few weeks.  Cut my own hair.  Stop wearing my yoga pants.  That only adds to the mental health issues I’m already facing.  Do not sleep in my clothes that I wore during the day.  PRESSURE.

Keep my job at the same time I am staying home.  Don’t get furloughed and collect unemployment and become a drain on the system.  Make sure to watch the stock market and figure out what to do about its falling numbers every single day.  Don’t spend needless money right now, but keep the economy going at the same time.  Take out life insurance.  Berate myself about not moving money to a “safer” place before all this happened.  Did I mention calm down and don’t add to the panic buying of all the paper towels?  PRESSURE.

Rinse out every bottle and remove all the wrapping before I place it in the bin. Do not hide mostly-empty jars of peanut butter that are impossible to get clean under the trash in the garbage can from my newly-home college Environmental Science major.  Don’t kill the planet for goodness sake.  PRESSURE.

NEVER waste time. Especially now that I have a boatload of it.  Make a schedule of all my activities for the day (see all the notes above) and stick to it.  Everyone is saying it’s good for my mental health (which I am completely responsible to keep in check right now as well).  Check all the boxes off my list every day because I am doing all the right things at the right time and in the right amount of time with no interruptions.  PRESSURE.

Be with my family 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Find meaningful ways of connecting with each person.  Homeschool all my kids under 18 and make sure my college students are not seeing their friends and infecting the population at large.  Don’t have any fights even though everyone is completely irritable.  Make puzzles, limit screen times, go outside, do a craft, make dinner together.  Remember, the time is short and I will regret not making the most of it.  Manage everyone’s mental health issues that are bumping up against each other, especially my own.  PRESSURE.

Serve the homeless at a soup kitchen (is that still even allowed?).  Clean that closet out and donate all my unused clothes (make sure I wash them first).  Drive them to one of those bins during non-curfew hours so that I don’t get in trouble with the police.  Give toilet paper to my elderly neighbor without touching him.  PRESSURE.

Create space every day for the pursuit of my passions.  Find a vocation that fits my personal purpose.  Guiltily remind myself that it takes 10,000 hours of complete dedication to master a skill, and also guiltily remind myself I actually might have 10,000 hours right this very moment, one like no other.  Think about all the amazing possibilities this has opened up for me.  PRESSURE.

Lastly, get plenty of sleep (even more than the recommended 8 hours) even though my heart is racing three times with a mini-panic attack in the middle of the night.  It’s the best thing for my immune system, so I’ve heard.  There are no excuses.  PRESSURE.

STRESS CLOSES IN LIKE A MONSTER, CHOKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!

NO WONDER MY HEAD HURTS!
NO WONTER MY SHOULDERS ARE TENSE!
NO WONDER MY STOMACH IS IN KNOTS!
NO WONDER I’M A LITTLE CRANKY!

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.


The very simple, gentle lilt of Jesus is this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with ME and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29 The Message Version)

BIG SIGH FOR MY EXHAUSTED, ANXIOUS HEART.

I need this today and now like no other.

Jesus, help me listen to the whispers of your grace instead of the shout of the world.

 

**If you’ve taken a minute to click on this from social media and it meant something to you, would you mind heading back out to social media and hitting the “like” button or commenting on it.**

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Comfort, Comfort My People

US: We’re all a little afraid, God? Ok, some of us a lot afraid. Most of us are somewhere between freaking out and totally Zen, depending on the day, the hour, the moment. What are we supposed to do?

GOD: COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

US: You mean we’re not supposed to tell them not to be afraid?

GOD: COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

Don’t tell them not to be afraid. HELP them not to be afraid!

US: How should we do that?

GOD: You already are in so many ways, and I’m so grateful for that.

When you answer the phone and cry with a friend who has lost her job, YOU ARE.

When you drop a roll of paper towels off in mailbox for someone who is running short, YOU ARE.

When you hold your kids close who are now having nightmares, YOU ARE.

When you order a pizza from a restaurant who wonders if they are going to make it (and add a few dinners to go), YOU ARE.

When you pray for your coworker whose mom is in the hospital (and tell them that over and over and over), YOU ARE.

When you put stuffed bears in your windows for kids to see as they walk by, YOU ARE.

When you drop a note for your elderly neighbor, asking if they need anything, YOU ARE.

When you keep your distance if you’re out and about, yet greet people kindly, YOU ARE.

When you have a video conference call with your family to celebrate your son’s birthday, YOU ARE.

When you listen to your spouse’s rant about all the scary things that are going on inside her, YOU ARE.

When you collectively gather on the internet with your faith community and remind each other of God’s tender care, YOU ARE.

When you hold another’s heart carefully and tenderly, allowing for all the feels, YOU ARE.

US: Really? That will HELP them? That will HELP me? Not to be so afraid?

GOD: Yes. Yes. COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

Posted in Faith, Family, Thanks

A Smile Crept

A smile crept to my lips as I woke this morning.

It wasn’t because the sun was shining (finally) through my window, although that didn’t hurt.

It wasn’t because I had finally gotten a grocery store pick-up time around 12:30 am, although I am beyond grateful for that.

It wasn’t because Lysol wipes magically appeared in the back of a closet, although I almost kissed the package right there in my bathroom.

It wasn’t because my daffodil bulbs are just about to burst open, although spring and the beauty it brings are my all-time favorite.

A smile crept to my lips as I woke this morning.

A sound I hadn’t heard in months pierced my ever-longing ears.

THE SOUND OF A LEAF-BLOWER IN OUR NEIGHBOR’S YARD.

This would have annoyed me on April 1 of 2019.

After all, it was only 7:30 in the morning.

I might have even made some snarky comment about them being a “little inconsiderate.”

I might have spent the next half hour stewing in my cereal.

But today, a smile crept to my lips.

It was the sound of normal, ordinary.

A gift straight from God’s heart to mine.

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure that you are.” (Mary Jean Irion)

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship

It Doesn’t Matter

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU ARE
Chinese, Italian or Jamaican
homeless, gawd-awful rich or straight-up middle class
a rule-follower, rule-breaker or completely confused about what the rules are
cleaning lady, a Wall Street executive or a farmer
a pastor, a rabbi or a tribal chief
homeschooling your five children, completely isolated and alone, or headed to work
five, twenty-five or ninety-five
a bookworm, a Netflix binger, or a gardener
liberal, conservative or dip some of your toes in each space
scared, carefree, angry or heart-broken
YOU BELONG TO ME.
WE BELONG TO EACH OTHER.
NOW MORE THAN EVER!
Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grandparenthood, Motherhood, Thanks

Today Changed Your Life Forever

Dear Brand-Spanking-New Mama,

Today has changed your life forever. You will never be the same. Your beautiful baby girl has been born.

Feelings have bubbled to the surface that you didn’t even know existed, the very first being

LOVE unimaginable, unexplainable.

But I can promise you that won’t be the only one. You’ll be pummeled by ALL. THE. FEELINGS. every day for the rest of your life.

FEAR that your house will catch on fire or that no one will invite your new 5th grader to sit with them on the bus.

LONELINESS in the middle of a room full of other moms or in the middle of a sleepless night.

CONFUSION about how to feed your baby the right food or feed yourself the best information.

JOY over the first wobbly steps taken across the family room or the last confident steps taken across the graduation stage.

ANGER at the unfair teacher, your sassy toddler, her phone, your out-of-control self, the mean girl at lunch, every form of consuming media, the unhelpful doctor, on and on and on.

GUILT about not being enough or being too much.

SADNESS when the bus pulls away with your kindergartener or when your teen pushes you away, leaving you a heap on his bedroom floor.

THANKFUL for the smile laced across your middle-schooler’s face at the Holiday Chorus concert or the smile on your bride-daughter’s face as she dances with her groom.

28 years later, you will be in the middle of a three-way kiss between your baby and her baby, and that very first feeling,

LOVE, unimaginable, unexplainable,

will swallow up all the others, multiplying itself once again, which you never thought possible.

From my heart to yours,

Filled-to-the-brim-with-love, Old Mama