Posted in Family, Marriage, Thanks

Nitpicking

“Why did you pack the dishwasher like that?”
“You left the light on.”
“Go to the doctor. You’ve got to stop the snoring.”

Nitpick.
Nitpick.
Nitpick.

I am definitely the queen of nitpicking. At my husband.

It’s so easy for me to find all the ways he just doesn’t do “it” right.
Or the way I think is right. Whatever “it” is.

It’s so stinkin’ easy.

It’s also so stinkin’ harmful.

It perpetuates shame.
It silently mocks, “I’m better than you.”
It is a destroyer of connection.

I don’t want to be the queen of this.

I just DO NOT.

I want to bring grace.
I want to build up.
I want to foster deep intimate connection.

I want to be an agent of healing.

So today, I will call out my husband.
I will yell for the world, and mostly myself, to hear.

“He folded all the laundry.”
“He walked me through a very hard conversation, bringing me much wisdom and guidance.”

And guess what else?!?

Guess what else?!?

“He cut these flowers from our garden and placed them right next to my bed!!”

It is so stinkin’ easy to find all the things that are wrong.

But it’s so much better to see all the things that are right.

#grateful

 

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Thanks

Painted KINDNESS

It happened again.

Children brought hope to my discouraged heart.

Hope in the form of painted rocks.

Painted rocks outside our local elementary school.

Messages of goodness, encouragement and kindness splattered all over simple gray stones.

In “pre-crazy times,” I would have thought, “how cute” and moved on quickly.

Not now. I stopped, savoring each one, breathing a prayer of thanks.

Thanks for each child. Thanks for the purest and simplest of words, designed to breathe life into my disheartened soul.

I needed these rocks. I needed these deliberate acts of kindness from children who decided to take a moment to paint rocks.

I want to be like them when I grow up.

Posted in Faith, Friendship, Health, Thanks

If You Only Knew…

If you only knew what I really believe about faith…

Would you still worship with me?

If you only knew how I voted in the last election…

Would you still respect me?

If you only knew what’s happening in my home right now…

Would you still confide in me?

If you only knew what’s happened in my past…

Would you still value me?

If you only knew the number on my scale…

Would you still have grace for me?

If you only knew my opinions about the issues facing our world…

Would you still like me?

If you only knew how I spent my money…

Would you still be my friend?

If you only knew what goes on in my mind…

Would you still trust me?


I hide.
I keep secrets.
I stay in my cage.
I show you a false version of me.
I protect my self at all costs.

ALL BECAUSE I WANT TO

belong to you.
be accepted by you.
be LOVED by you.

Jesus tenderly brings me out of hiding.
I have no secrets with Him.
He sets me free.
He allows the truest version of me.
He protects my REAL self at all costs.

I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT I

belong to Him
am accepted by Him
am LOVED by Him


I want to be Jesus with skin on FOR you.
I want the same FROM you.

Together, maybe we can show this Jesus to everyone else.

Oh may it be so.

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

It’s 1 am (Hope for Motherhood)

It’s 1 am.
My five-month old cries out from her crib.
Not another night of this!
It’s been three weeks since I’ve had more than 3 hours of sleep in a row.
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
I am barely functioning anymore, bags under my eyes the size of grapes!
I don’t think I can take it anymore!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My kindergartener screams from his room.
Why does this keep happening?
The nightmares are getting worse!
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
Am I doing something wrong?
I don’t have any idea what to do!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My 10-year old shouts “MOMMY!” at the top of his lungs.
His jammy bottoms are soaked.
He’s wet the bed again.
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
I’ve already called the doctor five times.
Nothing is working!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
I haven’t heard from my new driver’s license holder since 7 pm.
Her curfew is 11 pm.  She knows better than this!
Is she hurt?  Is she drunk?  Is she alive?
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
I never knew this mom gig would be SO hard!
Will I ever get sleep?  Will I ever stop worrying?
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My cell phone vibrates on the nightstand.  I ignore it.
It’s vibrates again and again.  I finally pick it up.  Hello?
The campus security guard is on the other end.  My daughter was found passed out on the sidewalk, having had WAY too much to drink.
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
This is un(freaking)believable!  She will be the death of me!
What in the world am I supposed to do now?
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
My eyes refuse to close in sleep.
My son has been furloughed from his job.
This pandemic is wrecking everything.  He was doing so well and now this!!!
God, HELP me!  HELP them!
What is going to happen?
Even if he gets his sales back, will any business have the money to buy advertising? UGH!
I am SO done!

It’s 1 am.
I lay awake on my bed.
I can’t believe the text I got from my son this afternoon.
I burst into tears as I read it, gratitude bubbling up and leaking out!
GOD, you’ve HELPED me!  You’ve HELPED them!
It keeps happening!  Every single time!
You love him even more than I do!  You are our great and only HOPE!
I am SO UNDONE!

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

I Can’t Believe This is My Life

Baby showers.  Hospital rooms.  24-hour deliveries.  No sleep.  Leaky nursing bra.  Baby giggles.  Blurry mind.  Toothless smiles.  Crawling under the crib in the middle of the night for the pacifier.  Yellow poop up the back.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Tantrums in grocery stores.  Toddler tunes enough to drive a normal person crazy.  First full sentences.  Bonked heads.  Refusals to nap.  Go Dog Go.  Happy bubble baths.  Weird obsessions.  Endless hugs.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Play dates.  Obnoxious Nick Jr.  Skinned knees.  Brown play-dough.  Playgrounds.  Accidents in pants.  Too many doctor visits.  Smooshy kisses (right on the lips)!  Melt-downs.  “Parent’s, please stay with your child” birthday parties.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Homework.  The car.  The car.  The car.  Class parties.  Sidelines and fields.  Strange sounds coming from musical instruments.   Mom school projects.  Fibs.  Surprise “I love you” notes.  Whining.  Lost jackets, mittens, and hats.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Cliques.  Hormones.  School performance pressure.  Spontaneous hugs.  Rolling eyes.  Good talks in the car, facing forward.  Did I say hormones?  Budding independence.  Dinners on the run.  Concerts.  Teams.  Plays.  Try-outs.  Rejections.  First paid gigs.

I can’t believe this is my life.

First kisses (and second and third).  Team dinners.  Slammed doors.  Missed curfews.  Drivers’ licenses.  YIKES.  Long unprompted talks.  Proms.  Less and less control.  Senior nights.  Heartbreaks.  Texts not returned for what seems like hours and hours and hours.  Real Christmas presents.  Car accidents.  College apps.  Caps flying in the air.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Dorm shopping.  Saying goodbye.  Endless mom tears.  Weeks between texts.  WORRY.  Weird campus visits.  Saying hello.  Curfews???  No.  Home-cooked food.  Yes.  Summer job???  Possibly.  Up till all weird hours.  Yes.  Dirty dishes.  Yes.  Family.  Saying goodbye again.  Less mom tears.  More mom relief.  REPEAT for four years.

I can’t believe this is my life.

First jobs.  W2s.  Uhauls.  “Adulting.”  Used car lots.  Uhauls.  Sincere and heart-felt “thank you moms.”  Heated conversations about world events.  Tearful hugs goodbye.  Zoom family game nights.  Did I mention Uhauls?  Mother’s Day flowers from afar.  Wedding planning.  Real friendship.  Grandpuppies.  Precious and fleeting moments “ALL TOGETHER.”  Yup.  Uhauls.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Baby showers.  Hospital rooms.  24-hour deliveries.  Baby giggles.  Toothless smiles.  After-bath smells.  Snuggles and kisses.  Toddler tantrums.  Excitement over Mommy’s old Fisher Price school bus.  Go Dog Go.  Sad “see you soons.”  Facetime laughter.  “I love you the most, Mema.”  Happiest hugs hello.

YUP.  I can’t believe this is my life.

BUT I COULDN’T BE MORE GRATEFUL THAT IT IS.

AND THERE IS STILL MORE TO COME.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Faith, Health, Thanks

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Stirred this morning with that same odd feeling that I just don’t have a name for yet.
My thoughts swirled. We are still in this. Still in this. STILL IN THIS.
The band Queen’s words echoed again as I lay hugging my pillow.
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.”
I felt myself getting pulled into the dark, ugly space of “no hope.” Thinking of all the things that could go wrong today and in the future.
A little bit of anger rose up inside.
I’ve worked for a long, long time to recover my mental health after a nervous breakdown about 15 years ago.
Counseling. Nutrition. Prayer. Sabbath. Vulnerability. Gratitude.
Is it all for naught? I feel like I’m teetering on the edge. We all are.
I stayed longer, baffled as to whether or not to keep mulling in despair or get up and “face the day.”
I’m not sure when it happened (the time is blurry during that weird waking-up time), but a faint glimmer of “hope” flickered, just bright enough for me to feel its dim light in the darkness of my mind.
A small moment of clarity shoved its way in.
My whole journey to this healthier space was a marathon, not a sprint. And I ran it. I ran it. One moment at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. I ran it.
I can run this marathon too. One moment at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. There is hope. There is hope.
Grappling for the mental health tools I had right there in my bed, I talked to God about a few things I was grateful for today.
1. My bed.
2. My husband.
3. A fridge and pantry with food.
4. The sun shining on our philodendron.
5. My car insurance company kicking back 15% to us.
6. My computer.
7. My thyroid meds.
8. My parent’s generosity to our furloughed son yesterday.
9. You who take a minute to read and comment and encourage me in this space.
10. My kids.
It wasn’t magic. I don’t feel fine. But it was a step. A step of hope. That’s good enough for this morning.
Posted in Celebration, Faith, Thanks

Pennies From Heaven

“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny?”  (Annie Dillard)

My husband hatched a plan at dinner one night many moons ago.  He had been reading Annie Dillard’s book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and was captivated by an anecdote about a game she played during childhood. She tells how she hid her own “precious penn(ies)” in nooks or crannies in trees or sidewalks, drawing chalk arrows to them so a stranger would find the surprise penny and pick it up.  Many times, she would lie in wait to catch a glimpse of the excitement in the finder’s eyes.

Dillard reminds us that, just like her game, there are “unwrapped gifts and free surprises” straight from the heart of God, just waiting for us if we open our eyes to see them.  Our family mission was born:  find these pennies every day and tell us about them at dinner.

What started as a conversation starter for the table ended up literally changing our lives. Each one of us searched and found many things each day that we believed were “strewn by the generous hand” of God Himself, “surprises” just for us He had hidden along the path, many times with “big arrows” signaling where we might discover them.  We had things like flowers, actual pennies, frogs, the best parking space at the mall on a rainy day, butterflies, a kind word from someone, a goal scored on the soccer or field hockey field, etc.  Sometimes, we would joke that what we had been given was a “nickel,” a “dime” or even a “quarter,” depending on the magnitude of what it meant to us.

My life (and mostly my head) is filled with negativity from the news, struggles in my home, animosity on social media, work-place uncertainty, sickness and even the death of those I love, all things that consume me by what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right.  Truth be told, doubts creep in about this God and I question if His love and care for me and this beautiful, but hurting planet.

Sticking my head in the sand and pretending the “bad” does not exist is NOT a good idea, but being swallowed up by it is worse.  I am wise to navigate the tension between the bitter and the sweet of life, allowing them to sit side-by-side, both having their rightful place in my day, compassion rising within me in the bitter and joy enveloping my heart in the sweet.

I would still venture to say, however, that I don’t have to look very far to see the bitter.  I am bombarded from sun up until sun down.  I must open my eyes to search for the sweet, find it, and name it.  Those “pennies” are just what I need.  They quiet those doubts and remind me of a God who is fully alive and loves little old me, a God who has put special pennies all throughout my day, surprise “pennies hidden” just for me.

“As you go through this day, look for tiny treasures from God that have been strategically placed along the way.  God lovingly goes before you and plants little pleasures to brighten your day.  Look carefully for them and pluck them one by one.  When you reach the end of your day, you will have gathered a really nice bouquet.”  (Sarah Young)

From my heart to yours.

P.S. My penny already this morning was the sun streaking through my window, casting its rays across the floor. How about you? Any pennies?

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 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)