Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Motherhood

The (Surprise) Gift

As a mom, you get up every single day and plug along, doing all the mom things and wondering often if any of it makes any difference at all.
You get tired. You get cranky. You get angry. You get resentful. You get doubtful. You get guilt-ridden. You get “a little crazy.” You get weepy.
I opened my email on my birthday and found this SURPRISE GIFT written from my adult daughter, Sarah Meassick, a mom herself now (CLICK BELOW TO READ).
It made all the days (10,201 of them so far) morph into some beautiful mosaic of love and light, strength and courage, joy and hope.
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK (mom or not)! All of you! ALL. OF. YOU.
In all the places you are bringing love.
In all the places you are bringing light.
In all the places you are bringing strength.
In all the places you are bringing courage.
In all the places you are bringing joy.
In all the places you are bringing hope.
YOU ARE THE GIFT!
*************************************
Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family

Happy Birthday to Me!

When one of your best friends writes you a poem and your love language is words of affirmation, you post it for the world to see.

**************************************

Today we celebrate
My sweet friend E

The dearest of friends
Who could ever be

You are willing to go
Where many steer clear

To the heart of those
Far and near

Loving to you
Is connection and grace
It’s relationship
At another’s pace

Desiring to connect
With another’s soul
Then sitting there quietly
Soft and yet bold

Wanting to know
What causes others tears,
What brings them joy,
Or heightens their fears

It’s in that place
Esther feels most alive
It’s in that place
We all watch her thrive

She enables others to travel
Where they may have not tried
Because she has gone there herself
Refusing to hide

Leading while being
Right in the tough spots as well
She Touches our heart
Because she’s been there herself

So today I want to lift you up
And acknowledge who you are
The good, the bad, the ugly
Has brought you this far

A beautiful reminder
Where we’ve been,
Is sometimes hard

But if you will embrace life
If you nurture all those parts
You can live life quite bravely
Like my friend Esther’s
Brave heart!

I love you!

**************************************

Penned with love
By Maria Pascale for
Esther Goetz

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.

********************************************

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.

***************************************

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 Celebration, Faith, Friendship

Soak THIS Deep Into Your Soul Today

Each of our souls need blessing, someone willing something very good for you and asking God to grant it. Here is mine for you today!

May you awaken refreshed with peace and hope for the new day.

May your heart receive the gifts that have been prepared by God’s hand, especially designed for you.

May your time be expanded so that you are never rushed and you maintain a steady, hopeful spirit.

May God’s words of encouragement be loud and life-giving.

May God give you wisdom as you work and may you reap an abundance of good fruit from your labor.

May your day be filled with laughter and joy, cooperation and kindness from others, especially those you live with.

May your relationships blossom and bring much-needed hope and love to you.

May your body flourish in the secret places so that you can live your day to the full.

May you only hear words of comfort, understanding and encouragement from others.

May any and all critical and unkind mouths be shut and your heart be carefully guarded if they are not.

May you know when to work and when to rest, when to speak and when to be quiet, when to give and when to take.

May the enemies of fear, shame and guilt be banished from every fiber of your being so that healing and wholeness can overflow for you and from you.

May your mind turn to peace, joy, contentment and thanksgiving as the day ends for the gifts that were so freely given to you by God Himself.

May your thoughts turn to what went right during the day and may your heart be cheered.

May all discouragement be banished and may you turn to Christ, who has sustained and provided for you.

May your dreams bring you joy, recreation, laughter, hope, love, peace, kindness, encouragement, restfulness and even creativity.

May your sleep grant you the full and daily restoration that your body, mind, heart and soul so desperately need.

May you be able to see, feel and receive the love and grace that God has for you in abundance.

From my heart to yours,
Esther

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

14 Straight Days

After 14 straight days, the Holiday Hoopla has come to an end. The annual “Goetz Games” have had their closing ceremony.
It’s been…
14 straight days of guests in the form of adult kids, significant others, a super busy toddler, cousins, uncles, and friends.
14 straight days of mayhem in the form of playing games, opening presents, chopping wood, dirty dishes, scattered toys, endless grocery store runs, sleepless nights (with said toddler), and trying to keep the puppy from escaping with all the doors opening and closing.
14 straight days of meals in the form of take-out, home-cooked, half-baked, childhood favorites, too many carbs, cookies for breakfast, and New Jersey Taylor ham, egg and cheese on everything bagels no matter what time of day.
14 straight days of skirmishes in the form of toddlers kicking puppies and puppies nipping at toddlers, couples struggling to find time to connect and getting a little annoyed with each other, family feuds about past Christmas traditions (“did we always go to the movies on Christmas Eve?”), and fun-loving, game-playing conflict about rules and all the lovely that comes along with playing Code Names.
ALL THIS TO SAY, I’M EXHAUSTED.
BUT, it’s ALSO been…
14 straight days of hugs.
14 straight days of “I love you’s.”
14 straight days of laughter.
14 straight days of “thank you’s.”
14 straight days of connection.
14 straight days of memories.
ALL THIS TO SAY, I’M BEYOND GRATEFUL.
#bothand #exhaustedandgrateful #holidayhoopla #ineedanap
Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family

Merriment AND Melancholy

Voices of carols play everywhere I go.

Joy to the world…Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile…Tis the season to be jolly…It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

MERRIMENT.

Texts, posts and phone calls crowd my screens.

Second-born not able to come…Over-the-top difficult family dynamics for many…Terrible government news…Health scares…Anxiety creeps in and a settled spirit is hard to be found.

MELANCHOLY.

The two sit side-by-side.  One NOT more important or legitimate than the other.  One NOT pushed aside to make room for the other.   The shout of one NOT drowning out the cry of the other.  No choice has to be made.  The two lay beautifully intertwined.

Merriment AND melancholy.

BOTH AND.  Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

CHRISTMAS.


Suffering AND Savior.

Peacemaker AND Warrior.

Servant AND Leader.

Poor AND Rich.

Grace AND Truth.

Man AND God.

Both AND.

Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

Jesus.



Thank you so much for being part of the Dolly Mama Family! It means the world to me! I pray that your week will be filled with a beautiful explosion of God’s goodness! A true Merry Christmas from My Heart to Yours!

Much Love, Esther

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

“You Better Watch Out” God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia. I am just nine years old. My bunkmate stirs below me. I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep. Sleep does not come.

I rehash the day. Thoughts swirl: “I did a bunch of wrong things. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep. I should confess my sins. Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today. I hope you can forgive me.”

Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.  I go into a bit of a panic. “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart. If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”

I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart. I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.” Still nothing. I lay there wide-awake.

My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, my dorm mother reading us another chapter in the story of Narnia. The image of Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them, floods my mind. “I love Aslan. I wish God was like Aslan. Why can’t He be?”

As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope: “Maybe He is.”

*************************************

For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season. A jolly man with a jolly heart. A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.” My friend “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did to God as a young girl.

It makes a lot of sense. “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Sounds eerily similar to a song from those little girl boarding school days: “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.” YOU BETTER WATCH OUT.

Recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has stepped in to “help Santa.” This Elf is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent. He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas. His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

Santa. God. Elf on the Shelf. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

*************************************

Fast forward 30+ years. I’m a mom of four littles who loves celebrating Santa (in fact, my seven-year old just opened her letter from the North Pole). We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf (only because he/she is not invented yet). But me, this “desperate-to-please-God” young mom, believes wholeheartedly in a this YOU BETTER WATCH OUT God.

I’m stuck in my grown-up mom body as the little nine-year old girl on her bunk bed. God is no different than Santa or Elf on a Shelf. He’s up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave, to be good for goodness sake.

You yelled at your kids today. BAD!

You taught Sunday School. GOOD!

You told that white lie to your best friend! BAD!

You helped your twelve-year-old with their homework. GOOD!

You forgot to pray! BAD!

My relationship with this Santa/Elf on a Shelf/God is a little topsy-turvy. I’m filled with and act from the stranglehold of fear and guilt. Am I good enough today? Is God happy with me?

I hide or at least try to. Why wouldn’t I? I avoid Him. Who wouldn’t? I struggle to feel close, spending all my energy keeping my external, visible behavior under control, hoping it’s enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s utter disapproval of me. UGH!

My internal craving for love and belonging is completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

*************************************

In the middle of all of this, the stories of Narnia reenter my life and I have a reunion with Aslan.  I find three-hour-long radio theater dramatic renditions (absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these tales that I loved as a child. I kill two birds with one stone: share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).

As I reconnect with Aslan, I find again that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once. He is the one I long for and need so desperately, my grownup heart still fragile from the many years of trying to keep myself in line.

That hopeful thought I had as a child flickers again in the darkness of my soul.

God is not like Santa.

God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.

God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”

God is like Aslan.

God is wise. God is playful. God is generous. God is kind. God is mysterious. God is terrifying. God is magnificent. God is beautiful. God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period. End of story.

No more YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

My soul settles slowly (I’m talking years of retraining my brain) into a place of love and belonging. Yes, God sees me. He really sees me. He sees that little girl in the bunkbed, fearful, yet hopeful. He sees the young mom who longs to be known fully, and loved completely. He still sees me, the real real me. But instead of “setting me straight,” His beautiful, tender, kind heart sets me free!

My flicker so long ago, “Maybe He is,” burns brightly as a fire of hope that shouts, “YES. YES HE IS.”

****************************************

P.S. I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus. I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus.

In his response, Lewis offered this relief: “Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”

 

***ONE MORE NOTE:  If you liked reading this, please go back out and “like” it on social media.  Means the world to me!***

Posted in ADD, Celebration, Childhood, Family, Motherhood

He Peed on the Nurse

This was a boy who peed on the nurse when he made his world debut.

This was a boy who wiggled until this mama heart grew weary.

This was a boy who heard the words “no” at least 48 times before breakfast.

This was a boy who had a bit of a rough time following the rules.

This was a boy who gave his teachers a literal run for their money.

This was a boy who found loopholes and leaks around my very-tight parental ship.

This was a boy who sent my very scared mom self straight to my knees in desperate prayer.

THIS IS A MAN who is gaining confidence to be exactly who he is.

THIS IS A MAN who has boundless energy to love those around him.

THIS IS A MAN who can bravely say “no” in all the best ways.

THIS IS A MAN who extends grace to all who need it.

THIS IS A MAN who teaches himself and humbly learns from others.

THIS IS A MAN who keeps his heart open to every new possibility that finds him.

THIS IS A MAN who calms my “did-I-really-do-okay-as-a-mom” inner voice by his tender messages every where I turn.

#thereisgreathope
#keepupthegoodworkmama
#youwillmakeitandsowillthey
#thismotherhoodgigisworthit

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief

Advent, The Howl of the Not Yet

O ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow…

The past few weeks have been marked by much suffering for those I love.  The pain seems overwhelming: a cheating spouse, soul-crushing anxiety, an ex-husband who seems bent on destruction, an out-of-nowhere heart attack, a teen in the struggle of his life with substance abuse, babies who are stuck in the NICU, my own grief over huge life-changes and financial struggles that seem insurmountable.   You get it.  You might be in the middle of it.  Like me, your thoughts are shouting, “How long?  How much?  Why?  Why especially right now?”

I love the holiday season.  From November 1 to January 1, like many of yours, our house is filled with decorations, food (and way too much of it, as my waistline is currently showing), family, friends, celebration, and traditions.  Along with these external manifestations of the season, there are also the underlying inner emotional expectations of gratitude, wonder, joy, peace, love, hope and generosity, to name just a few.  (A quick confession:  I like this paragraph more than the first one.  I want to live here.  I want all good things, happy thoughts.)

The four-week period leading up to Christmas morning is commonly known as Advent.  It’s Advent right now.  Shauna Niequist says,

“Advent is about waiting, anticipating, yearning.  Advent is the question, the pleading and Christmas is the answer to that question, the response to the howl.  There are moments in this season when I don’t feel a lot like Christmas, but I do feel a lot like Advent.”

Advent speaks about and grieves broken places that are yet to be healed, questions that have no answer today, and yearning that is unfulfilled.  However, Advent ALSO gives a glimpse of hope at the end of a long season of waiting.   Advent says there is suffering and it is real, palpable.  But Advent ALSO reminds us there is promise of healing, just as real and palpable.  Advent says “do NOT skip over the suffering.  Do NOT minimize the heartache.  Sit in it, acknowledge it, and feel it.”  This is not an easy place.  I struggle with Advent.  I have difficulty sitting with the grief, the waiting, acknowledging and feeling it.  I skip right to Christmas morning, the happy place, where the answer is here and salvation has come.  As Emily Freeman says, “I rush to joy.”

Skipping right to Christmas does NOT work in the end.  Rushing to joy does NOT take away the pain.  It does NOT prevent bad things from happening (I was in the ER this past weekend to prove that point…I am fine now).  It does NOT bring true healing.  Advent might be the better place that brings lost-lasting healing.  Advent speaks the deeper truth of heartache and hope, suffering and a savior.  Both are needed in this beautiful, messy life of ours.

God seems to do some of His best work during the seasons of “Advent” in our lives, the waiting periods, the not-yet times.  Especially if we look for those who will “sit with us in the dark,” when we can’t see the light, those who will venture into the not-so-pretty places with us and remind us that we are not alone, Immanuel is coming and has come and will stay with us for as long as it takes until we can see “Christmas” on the horizon.

We still have more than two weeks until Christmas.   Let’s not skip to it.  Let’s stay in the not-yet, the place of anticipation.  Let’s dive into the questions, the grief, the “howl,” the yearning of both ourselves and those we love.  Let’s be okay in the waiting.  Christmas will come soon enough.  A baby will be here.  A Savior will come.  What is empty will be filled.  Heartache will be healed.  Yearning will be fulfilled.  What is broken will be repaired.  What we’ve lost will be found.  But in the meantime, we wait together, not forgetting the howl of our hearts.

Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!

(It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Fourth Verse)

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

It’s Strange Here

I sit by my fire alone.

It’s strange here.

A year ago, my third-born was bursting through the door, overstuffed college laundry bag in hand, ready for a week of “rest” in the “best bedroom ever,” along with eating the ultimate “Taylor ham and egg on an everything bagel” sandwich every morning of his time with us.

This afternoon, I was driving him to the airport.  He is off to see his younger sister 2,726 miles away on the left coast.

A year ago, I was picking up my exhausted college baby girl up at the same airport, joy filling my heart as we chit-chatted on the way back to a house filled with family.

Today, my phone buzzes. “Can you send me Josh’s flight info?  Also, can I have the famous jello salad recipe?  I’m going to make it for Thursday.”  She is headed to buy the ingredients to make her favorite Thanksgiving dish at a grocery store I don’t even know the name of.

A year ago, my oldest fed her baby our family-secret sweet potato casserole in the same booster seat we used for her, surrounded by oohs and aahs from cousins and great-grandparents.

On her commute home from teaching second-graders earlier, she chatters away on the phone.  “When do you leave, Mom?  I’m hoping to get my grad school papers done on Friday.  We are just going to eat out with my mother-in-law on Thursday.  I might make the family-secret sweet potato casserole just to have leftovers.  ”  Her two-year-old babbles in the background, “I want to go that way.  I have a raccoon sticker.  I see a tractor.”

A year ago, the second child of my heart was on his way home from a land far away, new puppy in tow, ready to cuddle up on his favorite sofa, eat his favorite NJ pizza, and see his favorite friends.

“Just landed in Florida.  I hope you have a wonderful week” lights up across my laptop screen on Sunday morning.  He’s with his girlfriend spending the holiday with her family.   I can’t even tell you what town he is in.  Maybe somewhere near Palm Beach.  Not sure.

I sit by my fire alone.

It’s strange here.

Feelings bubble to the surface, unlike any I’ve had before.  I’m not sure what to make of them.

Thanksgiving has been together for 27 years.  The three of us.  Then the four of us.  Then the five of us.  Then the six of us.  PLUS, a whole bunch (and I mean a WHOLE BUNCH) of other family and friends and anyone who wanted to join the mayhem.

Pies.  Parade.  Mashed potatoes.  Dog show.  Family-secret sweet potato casserole.  Puzzles.  Turkey.  Football.  Ham for those who hate turkey.  Cousins.  Gravy.  Games.  The famous jello salad.  Beer-tasting.  Pictures (the one at the top of this website being last year’s).

I sit by my fire alone. 

It’s strange here.

No overflowing shopping bags filled with cranberry sauce and giant foil roasting pans.  No beds being prepped for guests.  No Costco runs for last-minute hors d’oeuvres.  Not even one decoration in sight except a pumpkin candle burning slowly behind me.

My husband, away on business, calls in the middle of all the feelings.  “You’re alone.  How are you?”

“I’m okay.”  I say.  “I like it in many ways.  I am glad for tonight.  But I’m glad I will see you soon.”

Tomorrow, I hop on a plane myself to spend a few days with my parents.  My man hops on his own plane the next day to join me.  I won’t be alone for long.

But right now, this alone thing gives me space.  Space to sit with my Savior and sort out this new normal I find myself in.

This new normal filled with sorrow that I am not seeing ANY of my four children.  To shed the tears that need to flow.

This new normal filled with thanks that I am seeing my parents, my groom and a grieving childhood friend.  To allow a warm smile to curl to my lips.

This new normal filled with bewilderment that this is actually where I find myself on the journey (I think Costco might send a search party).  To sit quietly, a questioning “hmmm” filling my thoughts.

This new normal mostly filled with hope that I might have just done this mom thing okay.  To embrace the idea that my kids are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing:  building lives of their own, going on new-found adventures, loving those they are with and best of all, making family-secret sweet potato casseroles and famous jello salads.

I sit by my fire alone. 

It’s strange here.

But it’s really good. 

I am grateful.