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

Dear Daughters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But mostly and always, I LOVE YOU.

Your ONE Dolly Mama

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 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, 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, 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, Faith, Friendship, Thanks

A Beautiful Mess

I’m headed to a place this morning where pain is shared, joy is celebrated, grace is abundant, hope is plentiful and love looms large.

This is a place I can’t live without.  Everyone should have one of these.

It’s my refuge, my anchor, my lifeline.

You see, where I’m going, there’s…

…one who is wisdom that makes my “self” smart.

…one who is joy that brings a laugh to my heart.

…one who is gentleness that reaches deep in my soul.

…one who is peace that guides me to be whole.

…one who is light that counsels my spirit to shine.

…one who is faithfulness that connects me to the “Vine.”

…one who is grace that keeps me looking “Up.”

…one who is generosity that fills up my cup.

…one who is goodness to help me feel truly blessed.

…one who is kindness that allows my spirit to rest.

This place is going to look a little different this morning, but it’s going to feel exactly the same.  Warm.  Safe.  Love.  A Beautiful Mess (#ourfancygroupname).

This morning, we will share our pain, celebrate our joy, grant grace in abundance, muster our hope, and lavish our love.

I can’t wait.


P.S.  There are some who have scattered and I miss you terribly.  You will always belong to us.   Never forget that.  You are light and love and hope and joy and peace right where you are today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Sheer, Terrible Beauty

One very ordinary Thursday, a precious friend poured out her heart to me about her son’s death by suicide.

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“She’s gone,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the line. “We sang and prayed with her.” His wife had succumbed to cancer on that fall Saturday morning.

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I received a terrible phone call that my best friend from high school’s two daughters were killed in a wrong-way crash by a drunk driver. It was Good Friday.

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“Do you want me to come over?” I asked my close friend as soon as she spilled the ugly news that her brother had taken his own life.

******

I could go on and on and on. Loss. Death. Unstoppable grief.

So much sadness. So little understanding.

Each person loved so fiercely.
Each tender one lost too early.
Each story shared bravely with me.

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Nothing is more sacred than to share another’s pain. It brings both great sorrow and surprising healing. Each time I enter into this very “holy ground” space, I count it as one of the greatest gifts I will ever know in this lifetime, the gift of another in their most vulnerable and real and raw place. Sheer, terrible beauty.

For those of you who have wildly loved and lost a precious someone, I pray today that you would find a safe space to share your true heart, the one that might be hurting. I pray that those who listen would dive deep and sit still and share some measure of your grief and suffering, so that you would feel unexplainably loved and cared for. I pray that in God’s vast wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy and love, He brings unfathomable healing to you in the places only He can reach.

We share every part of this life together, including the great sorrows we face, arms and hearts wrapped around each other, each one of us helping the other hobble along toward redemption.

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Please feel free to share the first name of someone you have loved and lost in the comments. I would just like to hold the space for them today.

#grief #healing #hope

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Fear Keeps Me…

Fear keeps me from loving deeply.

Fear of rejection.
Fear of losing myself.
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of pain.
Fear of not being enough.
Fear of abandonment.
Fear of grief.
Fear of failure.
Fear of being swallowed up.
Fear of loss.

If I love deeply, every last one of those fears might come true. Many of them already have.

But, it’s a risk I am trying very hard to take every single day, no matter how afraid I am, because…

If I love deeply, I will also find ALL of these along the way:

Grace.
Life.
Kindness.
Intimacy.
Acceptance.
Tenderness.
Joy.
Goodness.
Empathy.
Peace.
Belonging.
Mercy.
Trust.
Healing.
And ultimately, LOVE.

Fear may win a few skirmishes here and there on the battlefield of my heart, but deep LOVE will win the war. That’s a guarantee from LOVE HIMSELF.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Friendship

Keep ‘Em Coming

People thought we were having an affair as we sat at the community pool and laughed and hugged and engaged in some seemingly very serious conversations, while snacks and towels and “look what I can do’s” piled up from the six children we had between us.

I guess they were kind of right.  We did love each other very much.  I was closer to you than almost any other man on this beautiful planet.

But they were also very very wrong.

You see, you were not my “lover,” as the gossipy types might have whispered about in the parking lot with soggy kids in towels yelling, “can we please go home now?”

You were my brother and one of my very best friends.

You still are.

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Today is your 60th birthday.  I’ve known you for 53 years, 11 months and 10 days, since the day I was born.

You were forced to be my brother, just because of sheer genetic willpower, but you chose every single day to be my friend.  I can’t thank you enough.

You taught me how to ride a bike when I was just five and you were a big giant 10-year-old.

You were the one I went to crying when I wet my pants in class at boarding school.  You told me it was going to be okay.

You were happy when I was your “little annoying sister” in the school play.  You even helped me memorize my lines.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You told me I was super smart and could be anything I wanted and not-so-secretly told me I should go to medical school when I was older.

You wrote me a long letter from college when I was a young teenage girl encouraging me that I was valuable and to cling to Jesus during those tumultuous years after you had learned some hard lessons during yours.

You included me in your wedding as a junior bridesmaid, making me feel like a grown-up and highly important.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You had me and some boyfriend of mine over for dinner, inviting us to share your heart and your home once you were living on your own.

You became my actual pastor once I graduated from college and you had 200+ young career singles in your care.  You taught me how to love God (even though you spit when you talked and I was sitting in the front row receiving all that lovely spray).

You co-signed a loan for my “new used” car after getting the call that I had totaled my other one.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You performed my wedding and I’ll never forget the charge to us about the “fire covenant” we were making with each other.

You became my neighbor in a little sleepy town and we shared birthday parties and trick-or-treating, community pool jaunts (as you already read) and Christmas afternoons.

You wound up being the “watcher of my high schoolers” so that my hubs and I could have short getaways that probably saved our marriage.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

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The bottom line is this.  You were always there for me, in ways big and small, seeing me through the good and the bad and lots of the ugly.

I thought that was my favorite thing about you, but I was wrong.

When some really tough stuff came into your world, you did the most incredible thing of all.  You allowed us to reverse roles just a little bit and made it okay for me to care for you the way you had taken care of me for so many many years.

Because of your humility and your bravery, I finally saw you, the amazing, kind, strong, faith-filled, vulnerable, tenacious, loving man that you are.  It only made me love you more.

You, my friend and confidant, my cheerleader and my brother, are one of the best people I have ever known or will know.

The only thing that could be better than knowing you ALL of my life is if I had known you ALL of yours.

Happy Birthday!

KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, Marriage, Motherhood

The Place Where Love’s Root Can Dig Deep

“Like what I like.”
“Think how I think.”
“Do what I do (and how I do it).”
“Be who I am.”

For years, this was my life’s mantra.

Husband. Kids. Friends. Coworkers. Strangers.

“Make decisions quickly.”
“Enjoy watching football.”
“Be an extrovert.”
“Believe every doctrine I espouse about God.”

On and on the list went, my goal to transform everyone into the spitting image of myself. It wasn’t ill-intentioned, but it was just plain old yuck (for lack of a better word).

I was missing out on the beauty of diversity and the celebration of our mutual differentness.

What a gift when the “scales” fell off my eyes and I could see the truth of this crucial life lesson: these people are NOT me NOR should they be.

WHAT A GIFT of the OTHER!!

It’s where life can be truly enjoyed in all its fullness.

It’s where love’s root can dig deep and blossom into a bouquet of grace.

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It means discovering the life-giving rhythms of silence and solitude from my introvert husband. (This Esthergizer Bunny needs these desperately.)

It means processing math lessons with my teacher daughter, along with unearthing the compassion she has for the struggling student, allowing for my own heart to come alive in ways I would never have known on my own.

It means hearing stories about the latest sales strategies from my second-born and possibly implementing them into my own little life’s goals of writing.

It means asking (and then actually listening to the response) about the latest headphones on the market from my tech-savvy recent college graduate. (The current sound system in our family room is to die for.)

It means getting a late-night text from my California-dreaming daughter about how her dreams are coming true, which means mine are too.

It means allowing each of my friends to be perfectly themselves, right where they are, without an agenda in my back pocket. They bring gifts every single time I am with them, gifts I would never receive if they were just like me.

It means leaning in and learning from all of you beautiful souls who are so incredibly different from me. I thank God for YOU!

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“Like what YOU like.
“Think how YOU think.”
“Do what YOU do (and how YOU do it).”
“Be who YOU are.”

I will be much richer and fuller and happier because of YOU.