Posted in Celebration, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Mustangs and Paper Chains

Once upon a time, a mom of an 18-year-old made a paper chain.
Just like the ones her kids made in preschool, but this one tucked neatly in her head.
She almost made a real one, but thought it would cause a ruckus in her home.
Why? Why? Why the paper chain?
Because she was counting down the days until her son left for college.
It all started in the middle of the winter.
This mental paper chain. 180 days.
It wasn’t because he was horrible, disrespectful teen
OR
that she was a terrible mom, even though she felt like it often (she had a paper chain after all).
It wasn’t because he was breaking curfew every day and doing all kinds of god-knows-what
OR
maybe she was just clueless…which is more likely.
It wasn’t because she didn’t love him, because moms just can’t help themselves and she loved this kid especially
OR
that he didn’t have friends or wasn’t enjoying high school.
It wasn’t because he bought a Mustang convertible and got in an accident with his younger brother in the back seat during the aftermath of a hurricane
OR
that she had told him not to go out more than a couple of times.
Why then? Why? Why? Why the paper chain?
It was because he was fighting to be himself, a grown-up
AND
she was confused about that and didn’t quite know what to do. And she was tired of the fighting.
It was because he wanted to be with his friends more than he wanted to be home for dinner
AND
that made her pretty sad and sometimes, even angry.
It was because he wanted to explore new scary out-of-the-box adventures
AND
she was freaking out inside and maybe it would be easier for her if he was out of her sight, not so much in her face.
It was (REALLY) in the end, because he was spreading his wings to fly on his own
AND
that she knew he would soar (or maybe fall to the ground, get back up again and then stumble along until he took flight).
It wasn’t very long until those 180 “circles” of paper were ripped completely off, with none remaining.
They were scattered all over the floor of her memories.
He left. She cried. She cried some more.
She went home and made another paper chain.
This one counting the days until he came back home.
Posted in Celebration, Family, Marriage

we forgot. we remembered. we were nervous.

We forgot about those letters we penned to each other on a marriage retreat.

A whole year ago.

But here they were, two envelopes in our mailbox, our own scrawl written on the front.

Our brains did not compute. What were these? (we are getting a little older, mind you)

“Oh my goodness.” I chuckled to my husband, remembering vaguely what they might be. “These are the love letters we drafted at the end of that great weekend together.”

Both of us just stared at the white rectangles, postmarks scrawled at the top and bottom.

Normally, I would have ripped mine open.  But this time, not so much.

Instead, my heart skipped a beat and my nerves came out to play.

Same with my usually very calm-cool-and-collected husband.

What had we written to each other when the new life stage in front of us was brimming with possibility and hope, a year later, our lives on a seemingly never-ending hold?

What promises had we made to each other that we did not keep?
What goals had we set that we hadn’t even taken a step toward?
What vows to change did we share that might have been broken?

What words were inside, threatening to mock us?

Making some kind of off-hand excuses to each other, I took those two holders of secret messages and tucked them into my “inbox,” out of the way of our curious minds.  We were not ready.

We set aside a special time when we would open them together with quick promises not to judge the other.

A few days later, having donned our emotional armor, we apprehensively pulled out the small sheets with words scribbled all over them.

Silence.  A long one.
Knowing smiles.
A kiss.
Tears (mine).
“I love you(s).”
A long, long embrace.

Relief washed over us.

We hadn’t made empty promises.
We hadn’t barked a bunch of goals.
We hadn’t asked for the other to change in “no uncertain terms.”

What we HAD done was gently remind each other all the reasons we loved each other.  STILL.

We HAD called out the beauty we saw in the other.  STILL.

We HAD thanked each other for our so-far marriage adventure.  STILL.

We HAD stated the simple words, “I love you.”  STILL.

We HAD written that we were so excited to venture ahead into the unknown future together.  STILL.

The words were pure grace.  Just what we needed.

Given openly.
Given freely.
Given lovingly.

Today, I am officiating a wedding over Zoom, standing by our fireplace, with this man I love right by my side.
We are all gussied up for the first time in forever.

Another couple is just starting their very own marriage adventure.

Promises will be made.
Kisses will be given.
Words of love will be exchanged.

They don’t know what lies before them.  JUST LIKE US.
They see beauty in each other.  JUST LIKE US.
They are heading into an unknown future.  JUST LIKE US.
They are grateful for the other.  JUST LIKE US.
They are excited too.  JUST LIKE US.

They are doing it together.  JUST LIKE US.

I’ve asked this cute couple to write a letter to each other that I will send them a year from now.

Maybe we will write another one today that we will “send” to our future selves.

Maybe won’t be nervous wrecks when they appear in the big green box at the end of our driveway.

Maybe we will rip them open right away, devouring the grace we will need once again.

And again and again and again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

3:39 pm

Nine years ago, I was a mom of a 19 year old, an 18 year old, a 15 year old and a 12 year old.

My husband commuted to a job 90 minutes away.

I was in the middle of some of the hardest and busiest times of my life.

Trapped in a mile-long to do list.

Trying to SEE God, but constantly pulled in a thousand directions, especially at 3:39 pm.

Sports.
Exhaustion.
Homework.
Mom Guilt.
Groceries.
Tuition Bills.
Church.

Anxiety.

I must have read this quote somewhere.

It struck me enough that I stopped and posted it on Facebook. At 3:39 pm.

It was probably exactly what I needed at that specific time and wanted the world (or my little Facebook Friends world) to hear it.

To soak it in.
To bask in its freeing and life-giving truth.

God SEES me.
God loves me.

Right in the middle of the mayhem.
Right where I am, not where I “should” be.
Right at 3:39 pm.

He SEES me.
He loves me.

Maybe that day, I got a little glimpse that held me up when I needed it the most.

Maybe I blasted some music on my iPod, headphones tangled around my neck.
Maybe I stopped and danced around the kitchen with dirty dishes piled high in the sink.

And maybe today at 3:39 pm, I’ll need another peek at the never-ending love of God.

Maybe I will throw on some worship music.
Maybe I will dance freely around my office.

And maybe nine years from now, this will all happen again.
At 3:39 pm.

I hope it does. I sure hope it does.

Posted in Family, Motherhood, Thanks

S-T-R-E-T-C-H Marks

One day, a girlish woman looked down at her big burgeoning belly and she had little red lines.

She freaked out a bit.

“Those are STRETCH marks,” her very own mama broke the news. “They will always remind you that you are a mom.”

What seemed like both three days and 75 years later, her big kid, yet still-her-baby, was taking one more step to new-found freedom. Away from her. Out into the world.

She glanced in the mirror that night, tears staining her cheeks, and those little red lines, albeit mildly faded, spoke gently to her about all the ways she had been and was still being

S

T

R

E

T

C

H

E

D.

Before she was quite ready. Often taken-aback by what was in front of her.

To her limits. In…………….all……………the……………..ways.

In her thinking. More open-minded. Less judgmental.

Above and beyond. The call of mom duty.

From the inside out. Just like the burgeoning belly. Bringing new life.

Beyond her imagination. Who knew? There would be all this s–t–r–e–t–c–h–i–n–g?

By her child. Of course.

B

Y

 

H

E

R

 

C

H

I

L

D.

 

She took another hard look at her now mid-life, bumpy belly and she gave thanks for those little red lines.

For all the s–t–r–e–t–c–h–i–n–g. That had happened and was still happening.

Not just on the outside. But on the inside. On her heart. On her soul.

“Those are STRETCH marks,” she whispered to herself. “They will always remind you that you are a mom.”

Posted in Family, Grandparenthood, Thanks

Get Down on the Floor

Dad, this is you and your granddaughter, my then toddler, a long time ago.
 
I could always find you right here.
 
On the floor.
 
Surrounded by my kids and their cousins (and toys and crafts and books).
 
On the floor.
 
At their level. Listening closely. Playing. Getting to know them.
Doing what they love.
 
On the floor.
 
Not too long ago, I watched another one of your granddaughters, my then teenager, crouch down to speak with a child who was asking her questions.
 
I was pleasantly puzzled.
 
“Why did you do that, crouch down like that?” I asked her in the car on the way home.
 
“I learned that from you, Mom. That’s what you do. It feels like it shows basic respect for them even if they are little.”
 
“Oh my goodness,” I responded, “I learned that from my dad. It just comes automatically.”
 
We chatted away about how getting down, becoming the same size and having our eyes at the same level might just make little kids feel like we are equals and that we are both of the same importance.
 
BASIC RESPECT.
 
So Dad, thanks.
 
Thanks for getting down on the floor.
 
With me first. And then with my kids.
And in your heart, with everyone you meet.
 
Thanks for being a respecter of persons.
 
No matter if they are…
 
3, 23 or 83.
Disagree with you or think exactly like you.
Brown-skinned or blue-eyed.
The mailman or the doctor.
Asking for or giving you help.
Your grandchildren or your coworkers.
 
The world (including me) has a lot to learn from you right about now.
 
It would do us ALL good to crouch all the way down, listen closely, play a little with each other and perhaps understand one another just a little bit more. We might even figure out that we love some of the very same things.
 
BASIC RESPECT.
 
The floor is looking like the right place to start.
Posted in Celebration, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

A Recycled Candle Jar

A recycled candle jar.

But not just any recycled candle jar.
 
One turned into a gift for a mom.
 
100 little notes (“+ a few bonuses”) nestled inside the glass.
 
With butterfly stickers to boot.
 
From her littlest big kid.
 
A mom who fought fiercely to love this kid.
 
All of her kids, in fact.
 
Not perfectly by any means.
 
Kind of messy.
 
Kind of mixed-up.
 
Kind of all-over-the-place.
 
But with her whole heart for sure.
 
A mom who made up family traditions as she went along.
 
Valentine’s Day indoor picnics on the floor.
 
Ice cream every night on summer vacation.
 
Money egg hunts on Easter from middle school on.
 
Traditions that were just what the mom needed maybe even more than the kids.
 
A mom who created memories from moments big and small.
 
Ones that never seem to fade a teensy iota.
 
Others that echo all the mom’s unending and tireless (and tiring) effort.
 
Even more that call timeless past treasures right into the present.
 
Memories that speak to the truth that the love of a mom does not change.
 
EVER.
 
A recycled candle jar.
 
But not just any recycled candle jar.
 
One turned into a gift for a mom.
 
All those memories…
 
All those traditions…
 
All those gifts of love…
 
Have now just returned to her ten, twenty, even hundred-fold.
 
She can assure you of this: it was all worth it and then some.
 
And then some more. And more. And more.
Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family, Grief, Thanks

I Can’t Stop Staring

 

I can’t stop staring at my tree.

For the first time ever in the history of my “very-organized-and-get-it-all-put-away” self, I decided NOT to take our tree down just yet.

Yes, the ornaments are all put away, labeled in their correct boxes.  But the lights are still shimmering quietly.

I wonder if it’s because it’s the last thing left from 2020, the year of all years.

That feels strange, but it’s mostly likely true.

Part of me doesn’t want to “let go” quite yet and plunge into the “back-to-normal” (if there even is such a thing) 2021 to come.

I’ve loved and hated 2020 just like the rest of you.

Hated all the division, sickness, suffering, anxiety, loss, isolation, yada yada yada.

But I’ve come to LOVE some things that I don’t want to let go of.

Like less expectations and shoulds.

More enjoying what’s right in front of me.

Less running around like a nutcase.

Embracing the simplicity and monotony of each day.

Figuring out who my people are…my real people who have stuck with me and by me through it all.

Clinging to the Source of Hope like never before.

It’s probably why I’ve kept my tree up with it’s sparkly lights.

Why I can’t stop staring at it.

It’s giving me permission to go slowly again into this year.

Not follow my usual rules.

Allow it to be different (because, let’s face it, it is different).

Let go of all that never really served me in the “before times.”

Grieve all the loss and hang on to all that I’ve found.

Continue to feed the hope that burns in my soul.

The light that cannot be snuffed out.

I can’t stop staring at my tree.

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

Long. Slow. Deep.

Breathe.

Just breathe.

Long.  Slow.  Deep.

Breathe.

Words said to me over and over again with every single contraction I had as I labored with each of my four kids.

Breathe.

Just breathe.

Long.  Slow.  Deep.

Breathe.

Words I say to myself whenever my heart starts to race, my palms get sweaty and my brain is off to the races, filled with anxiety and dread.

Breathe.

Just breathe.

Long.  Slow.  Deep.

Breathe.

Words the Tender Lover of my soul speaks to me when the heartache both within and around me feels unbearable.

Breathe.

Just breathe.

Long.  Slow.  Deep.

Breathe.

Words that I imagine were spoken to Mary by the women in her caravan coaxing her through the laboring pushes and birth of Jesus and the comfort and joy that prevailed in the afterbirth.

It’s past midnight.

Someone I love was in much pain earlier.

Most days, I would push it aside and go to sleep.

Not tonight.

I’m sitting at my table just breathing.

In and out.

Breathing in her pain.  Long.  Slow.  Deep.

INHALE.

Holding my breath for just a few seconds as I hold her before the God who is with us in the middle of our pain, our heartache.

Breathing out the love of God to her.   Long.  Slow.  Deep.

EXHALE.

I’m not in the physical room with this one I love.  I can’t be right now.

I can’t take away her pain.

I can’t make it magically all better.

But I can breathe for her.

I can breathe with her.

Long.  Slow.  Deep.

In the story of creation, God took the dust, the dirt, the ground and breathed life into it.  His powerful, beautiful, love-filled life.

What sprang forth in all its beauty was us.  You and me.

We were glorious.
We were sacred.

But we were also fragile.

But God didn’t and doesn’t stop there.  He didn’t and doesn’t create us and then leave us alone.

We are still glorious.
We are still sacred.

And we are still fragile.

We need Him, His breath of life, every single day.

In our pain.
In our fear.
In our sadness.
Even in our joy.

We need His powerful, beautiful, love-filled life.

That’s why I breathe.

Long.  Slow.  Deep.

For those I love.

For myself.

Often for those I don’t even really know, but can love because they are glorious, sacred and fragile just like me.

Each of us takes about 20,000 breaths per day.

20,000 chances to inhale our individual and collective suffering.

20,000 chances to hold each other and bring each other to the One who holds us in the palm of His hand and in the recesses of His heart.

20,000 chances to exhale His unending and unfailing love to one another.

But most of our breaths are rushed, fast, and shallow.

We move at a pace that requires this.  Rushed.  Fast.  Shallow.

It’s no wonder we miss out on the powerful, beautiful, love-filled life that God has to offer us and we have to offer each other.

So tonight, at this dark and quiet hour, I don’t want to miss out.  I want to be present.  I want to soak in the power, the beauty and the love that is ready at the waiting.

I do nothing else but breathe.

Long.  Slow.  Deep.

For the one I love.

For me.

And for you.

Posted in Celebration, Family, Motherhood

What Matters

I had to set my alarm for the first time in nine months.

I left my home in the cold cover of darkness to pick you up after five whole months of being apart.

I spent my whole entire day “getting your room ready” (since it had become where we “store” everything).

Our grocery bill is going to be quite a bit higher for the next three weeks.

We both had to quarantine to the best of our ability for the last bunch of days.

I had to fill my pantry with all your favorites and drove back out to the store because I forgot something.

There will be more dirty dishes and meals I haven’t made in months.

ALL of that just doesn’t matter. Seriously.

WHAT DOES MATTER IS ALL OF THIS:

I watched you embrace the dad you have had wrapped around your finger since you burst forth on the scene in that sterile hospital room.

I heard your particular footsteps scampering to the bathroom this morning.

I soaked in the smell of your perfume you’ve been wearing since you were 13.

You sat with me eating your favorite cereal and we just had time to talk face-to-face.

The puzzle board is back out with pieces scattered in very neatly arranged areas.

We are going to decorate the Christmas tree together.

I am hearing your laughter right now as you chat with your brother.

We went on a walk today in the freshly fallen snow.

You are here if I want to see your face, be in the same room with you, and hold your hand on the couch while we binge watch our favorite mom/daughter show.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS THAT YOU ARE HOME.

With me.

For Christmas.

Best mom present ever.

E.V.E.R.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Paper Chain Ripping

I’m zipping along, buying presents online, wrangling the tree that’s a little on the skinnier side this year, and opening the Christmas cookie can filled with goodies, sneaking a bite or two.

ALL OF A SUDDEN it hits me out of nowhere.

That odd feeling that has pangs of grief intertwined with downright disbelief.

I won’t be seeing my son this year for Christmas.  

My son. My actual flesh-and-blood son whose tiny body I held on my bare skin just moments after he was forcepped out of my birth canal.

The boy that wrapped himself around my legs, refusing to step into his nursery school class.

The “too-cool-for-school,” chain-around-the-neck (with the green marks to prove it) preteen.

My very own guitar-playing, camera-toting, lacrosse-eyed 16-going-on-21-year-old who would scream “Hey Mom!” into the bleachers, not caring who was around.

The young man who lived in my basement after college, couches littered with his friends who called our house their “second home.”

I won’t be seeing him this year.

He has chosen (and rightfully so) to go with his beloved to see her family.

I get it.

Completely.

I did the exact same thing when I was navigating all that weird “who do we visit this year?” choices of the young adult.

But it doesn’t make it easy.

He’s still my baby boy in all.the.ways.

You get it.

I know you get it.

But who said this mom gig was easy?

No one ever.

It’s so dang hard.

We have no idea what we are getting ourselves into when we see those TWO LINES on the little screen.

No idea how much we are going to love this human.
No idea how good it’s going to feel often.
No idea how awful the constant goodbyes are (to seasons and to them).
No idea how wonderful and complicated and messy and beautiful it ALL IS.

The pangs and disbelief will show up out of nowhere in the next couple of weeks.

I’m ready for them.  Kind of.  I’ll cry for sure.

But you know what?

I’m really glad for them.

It means what we have is good.
He’s one of my people.
It’s how I always wanted it to be.

Lest you think we’ve got it all “going on,” I can promise you that it wasn’t always this way.

During his rough senior year, I was counting down the days until he left for college.  I almost made a paper chain (it was that rough).

But now, thanks to the very kind God above, and a lot of keeping my mouth shut and my heart open, I might just make a whole different paper chain, one that counts down the days until I see him again.

Right now, it’s most likely 99.

It will be 98 tomorrow.

I can hear the sound of paper ripping.