There’s usually a stack of books on my beside table. Murder mysteries. Books about the sacred. Memoirs. One or two chapters at the most at the end of a long day send me to dreamland.
Books, for me, are spending a bit of time with another person, the writer. I might enjoy a completely entertaining story, hear another’s heart on a particular issue, or just walk beside someone through their life’s journey. I find connection in my jammies without any makeup on.
Fast forward to Sundays, my “take-a-break” day. I carve out at least SOME time alone, in the quiet. Self-help books shut. TV off. Phone on emergency-calls-only mode. Stop and stare out the window. Hash it all out with God. Often, something inexplicable happens way down deep, in the places I rarely venture.
It feels similar to what happens when I see a rainbow or a sunset or hear a beautiful piece of music. There is an unexplainable knowing that “all is well” despite all the swirling things in my life that are NOT. In fact, the silence actually magnifies the things that are not okay, perhaps because there is some space to explore them.
Mysteriously, as I sip my once-a-week cup of tea, watch birds flit by or the snow fall (which is happening as I write this), sorrow and joy, disruption and peace, the messy and the beautiful are able to walk side-by-side, neither one cancelling out the other.
The rest of the busy, hurried week, I fall into the trap of working hard and praying for ONLY the positive, happy, safe side of life. I keep my house organized, pay my bills on time, plant flowers and read self-help books.
Somehow, though, the negative, sad, and scary sides that are usually defined as bad by almost every voice around me, creep in no matter how hard I try to avoid them, stuff them down, or get all in a fit about them.
I’m like the Greek mythology character, Sisyphus, painstakingly rolling a huge rock up a mountain and just before I reach the top, it tumbles right back down to the bottom and I have to start all over again.
Anger. Confusion. Anxiety. Despair.
Thanks to those books on my nightstand and the authors who have “been there and done that,” I’m gently reminded that life is filled with both and believe it or not, both are necessary AND both are good.
Happiness celebrates the gifts given to us AND sadness brings honor to the loss of those gifts. Both are necessary AND both are good.
Back to that little bit of time when I stop the distractions once a week. It’s no wonder that I often find my true “all is well” place in those moments. Space to lean into the bad. A place to celebrate the good. God smack-dab in the middle of it, making breathing room for it ALL.
DO check in on me and all my feelings, even if they seem crazy.
DON’T try to convince me who to vote for. I will be spending lots of time (doing research and on my knees) figuring that out for myself.
DO respect my boundaries about no-right-answer decisions. DO cheer for me when I decide what I think is safe or risky. Some things might still FREAK me out and I can’t get “there” yet.
DON’T have a secret agenda to change me or my mind. Just be with me in the middle of the mess.
DO tell me why you are making your choices. I love knowing you, even and especially if you are completely different from me.
DON’T tell me I’m nuts, even if I am that minute. Just give me a virtual hug over ZOOM.
DO keep our relationship paramount. I will be here when we’ve moved beyond all of this.
DON’T yell in the comment section on social media. Also, DON’T post political things. At least not in my news feed. I want to hear about your kids, your pets, your latest adventures and even cute memes that make me laugh or help me cope. I am happy to have a one-on-one conversation with you about all that’s clogging the news.
DO understand that I am trying really hard to navigate the complexity of this with as much bravery and wisdom as I can muster, keeping grace for you and me at the forefront. I might screw this up some days.
DON’T be afraid to tell me how much it all SUCKS right now.
DO help me stay grounded (when I’m pouring over “the numbers”), but also help me gain freedom (at my turtley pace except for when I’m a hare). Holding onto and speaking HOPE works great here.
DON’T be afraid to tell me how much FUN you are having right now.
DO take me into consideration when you act. You know, that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.
DON’T keep silent about how much you miss me. You can even cry. I might cry right back.
DO be true to yourself. Let me be true to myself too.
DON’T try to make me happy and put yourself in an uncomfortable position (see #13). It’s really okay to maintain your own boundaries, even if it’s super hard.
DO feel free to change your mind, any time you want. The world is changing at break-neck speed. You just might have to as well. We both might.
**17 is a weird number, so I will make it 18 (#noprimenumbers)**
One final and big DO. DO pray for me. A lot. There’s this Presence with a big giant capital P “up there” who has us and knows us and holds us. Plus, it’s hard to pray for me and be against me at the same time. I like when we’re in this human race thing together, on the same side, helping each other out and all that good stuff.
Debauchery. Excess. Lewdness. Abandon. Sensuality. Revelry. Beads. Licentiousness. Drunkenness. The pursuit of pleasure at all costs.
I’m not sure about you, but I have a super complicated relationship with pleasure.
At times, I overestimate its value and seek it with abandon at any cost to my own demise, still unsatisfied and longing for more, kind of like what will be happening today in New Orleans.
In other moments, I squelch it, deeming it unnecessary, and certainly not “Christian” and even harmful to my wellbeing. I swing from feasting to fasting, just trying to figure it out this complex partnership, never quite landing anywhere.
I need pleasure. You need it. It’s really good for me, especially when it’s in its designed space, as my kind and faithful servant and not my harsh and self-seeking master. It’s a straight-up gift from God to remind me of His goodness.
When I think about it, I’ve been given five senses to experience joy and delight for just this very reason, the immense freedom to enjoy the goodness of God. It’s no wonder the Psalmist says,
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
I taste delectable flavors (potato chips and milk for me…I know…super strange), savoring each sip or bite.
I hear sounds that excite and both calm my soul and levels unreached in other ways (my favorite is the garage door closing when my budding adult is home after a night being out).
Through the sense of touch, I know comfort and bliss (warm sunshine on my face after a long winter), and also experience love and intimacy with the people I love (a long hug with my hubby).
My sight allows me to capture the untarnished beauty of the world (butterflies fluttering in my garden brings me personal joy).
My sense of smell gives me a completely unique experience of the life around me (lilacs in May and peonies in June for this New Jersey girl), especially and uniquely mine, a true gift in a world of billions of people.
I am reminded I am one-of-a-kind and God does some things just for me! How amazing is that?!?
Today, take a minute to think about what brings you pleasure. You may have just forgotten because of all the overwhelming “duties” on your plate. What is your favorite thing to taste, see, touch, hear and smell?
Hopefully carve out just a few moments on this Mardi Gras to experience even one, savoring it as you do, bringing your senses to life and reminding you that “Yes. God’s creation is good” and He’s gifted it to you to declare to your heart His unending goodness and unfailing love!
Remember our fridge? Not what was on the inside (as yummy as that was), but what was on the outside. I loved displaying all your works of art, your photos, a good grade, all the things you were proud of. It was like our own little shrine to your awesomeness.
When we took things down, you would have a little freak out. Sometimes, I would sneak things into recycling or the garbage when you weren’t looking. Yes, I was THAT mom.
Other things stayed up there for a super long time just because it made both our hearts do a little dance when we passed by. You felt important and loved and knew how proud I was of you.
You know what? I’m a little sentimental and gushy because we aren’t putting things on fridges anymore. But I don’t need that dang fridge to tell you I am proud of what you accomplish, the things you create AND especially the person you are. That hasn’t changed and it never will. That little shrine moved from the big fridge door to the inside of my heart (no garbage or recycling needed)!
You know what else? Which just blows my mind!?!? God’s “fridge” is even bigger than mine. He loves you (AND ME) more than I ever can or will. You (AND ME) infinitely matter to Him. You (AND ME) are intensely valuable to Him. He is extremely proud of all the hard work you (AND I) have done and more importantly, the person that you (AND I) are. He’s filled with joy over you (AND ME).
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. He can live anywhere in the universe and He chose your heart. Face it. He’s crazy about you. (Max Lucado)
Soak these words in! Let them settle deep down inside, where you can reach for them over and over any moment you need them! You are SO loved!
From my heart to yours,
P.S. You out there reading this…guess what???…all this applies to YOU too! I hope it puts a skip in your step for your day!!
“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.
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!
“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.
A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of us during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads). It’s a friend that accompanies us during our journey. (The Dolly Mama)
When I was a young girl, I had the New Year’s resolution every year of reading through the Bible. On January 1, I would read 40 chapters of the book of Genesis and then by January 8, I would be on Genesis chapter 43. I’ve made that same resolution about 20 more times at points in my life and guess what, I have never read through the whole Bible no matter what I’ve tried. It’s been the same for me with exercise plans, diets, organizational goals, etc. You know what I mean. You feel the same pain. The bottom line: resolutions rarely, if ever, work.
On the flip side, I’m all about HOPE. I love a fresh start. A new day. A new week. A new month. And especially a NEW YEAR. Hope is what “rocks my socks.” And God knows this about us. That’s why we have fresh starts every morning, even every moment. I don’t know what I would do without the place where I can begin again, take a first step toward change, growth and healing, and then come to that same redemptive position again and again. HOPE.
Hope, my first Word of the Year (hereafter known as WOTY) in 2015, is the main reason why I opted to throw away all New Year’s resolutions and choose a WOTY. I need hope. Hope is an inner, gracious guide that allows room for us to change and grow. Resolutions are harsh external masters that heap shame on us when we “fail” to keep them. Here’s why:
A resolution concentrates on “DOING.” A WOTY values “BEING.”
A resolution instructs. A WOTY inspires.
A resolution is mandatory (“work out three days a week”). A WOTY allows for room to go at your own pace (taking the next baby step).
A resolution is limited in possibility (“lose 10 pounds”). A WOTY is expansive and limitless.
A resolution can be “broken.” A WOTY cannot (it is a gentle friend).
I am so thankful that my husband stumbled upon the idea. It has been life-changing as we approach the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one.
If you’ve never done this, it’s a lot of fun. While you hopefully have some “time off” from your regular duties (unless you are a mom, of course), today or tomorrow might be a good day to spend the time. Or any time in the next couple of weeks. I know people who spend an hour (me) and some who spend a weekend (Allen). (Click HERE to understand why that’s the case.) It’s not a race. It doesn’t matter when. But it might matter if. It might seem overwhelming. It’s not. It’s just fun. Give yourself the treat.
Concentrate on who you want to BE(come) this year, not what you want to get done.
Cup your ear to your hopes and dreams. Be mindful not to listen to your doubts and fears.
Be true to yourself. You want your word to represent your unique needs and desires.
Remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. This isn’t traditional goal-setting. This is grace-filled friendship-making. There is plenty of room to change your mind.
It’s intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads…I call that “shoulding” all over yourself). It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.
Ask yourself a simple question: What do you need? Many times, we concentrate on improving ourselves instead of being kind to ourselves. This is a huge starting place. Don’t skip this step. Write down all the random things that come to your mind.
The next question can be (after you haven’t skipped the first one) who do you want to be(come)? Write down a few of the most important things that jump into your head.
Make a list of words that come to mind. Write as many as you want. It can be a noun, verb or adjective. If you need help, click on this printable alphabetical list I put together for you for some ideas. (Word of the Year Ideas)
Cross out the words that don’t work for you. Narrow your list down to at the most 10 words.
Check out the definition of each of the words, its origin, synonyms and antonyms. You might just be surprised at what you find out!
Give yourself some time to process the list. Allow yourself to “try each one on for size.”
Take a deep breath and choose your word. Take a few minutes to write your thoughts about how you hope it might play out in different areas of your life and relationships.
Write your word down on something and post it on your mirror, your car, your computer, wherever you will see it every day. You can even buy a customizable bracelet by clicking HERE(I don’t get anything from this. Just thought it was a cool idea.) I found a picture and put it as the background of my computer (it will feel weird to change it out). Look at it each morning and remind yourself about this friend who is with you today.
Give yourself permission to change your mind. If you want to, take the time to reflect and re-evaluate your word at any point in the year.
An Update From Yours Truly:
My WOTY for 2019 was “Shalom.” I don’t want to give up this friend. I love her. She’s been a kind, yet forceful voice in my life, the best of the best. I have a long way to go in my friendship with “Shalom.” She means “the presence of true human flourishing in all areas” and I want that for a lifetime, not just one year.
The good news is that just because I make a new friend does not mean I have to give up my old one. “Shalom” can come along with me into 2020 and who knows, maybe my new word will stand hand-in-hand with her. When I think about all my WOTYs since I’ve started, it makes for one wonderful Dolly Mama posse (HOPE, BECOME, DEPTH, TEND and SHALOM). That makes me super happy.
Now, that I’ve welcomed them all, I would like to invite another new friend into my life for 2020: my Word of the Year is HYGGE!
Hygge is one of those words (it’s a Danish word) that encompasses an idea that’s hard to translate, because it means so much more than any one thing. In essence, it’s the “feeling of coziness and well-being.” I even bought a little book about it that I’ve been reading the last month or so.
Here is what it encompasses:
Connection to Nature
You can find out more by checking out this article HERE.
We even bought a house this past year that is the definition of a Hygge Home. It’s a house with huge windows with a big wood-burning stove and surrounded by the most beautiful gardens and woods that I’ve ever seen.
We want it to be a place where both we and others find comfort, companionship, simplicity, connection to both Creator and His creation, where we are able to just “be” instead of “do.” Ultimately, a place of healing for our truest selves. A house filled with hygge. We hope many of you can join us for real and in person here! It would be our greatest joy to share a little space of hygge with you!
Back to You:
Consider joining me on this journey to find out what word can come along side you and be your gentle and kind friend throughout this new year that we are embarking on. When you do, please please send me a note letting me know what your word is. I love to remind you every so often throughout the year about your new-found friend.
Happy New Year from my heart to yours!
**ALSO PLEASE DO ME A FAVOR AND GO BACK AND LIKE THIS ON SOCIAL MEDIA**
“There’s a boy who stole my heart. He calls me mom.” (I have no idea where this came from)
YOU ARE THE ONE, Joshua Brian Goetz, who burst on the scene on April 4, 1996, weighing in at 9 pounds and 13 ounces (yikes!).
YOU ARE THE ONE who started out with baby acne and a fairly largish head and I felt mild pity for (just being honest) and a lot of extra love.
YOU ARE THE ONE who became the most adorable baby with your year-long toothless smile (so much for my pity party).
YOU ARE THE ONE who took three naps until you were one, giving this tired mommy a much-needed respite from handling three little ones under five!
YOU ARE THE ONE who sat with books in your crib for hours, happily “reading.” (Little did we know then that you are a high introvert and this was your plot to have some peace and quiet away from your hovering and excitable siblings.)
YOU ARE THE ONE who would only color with the orange crayon.
YOU ARE THE ONE who had all 150 Pokemon characters memorized and their “moves” when you were only three!
YOU ARE THE ONE we called Spot because you have had EVERY. SINGLE. POSSIBLE. RASH known to the medical community (you just had another one two months ago)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who hid behind the couch every time I left the room and jumped out and yelled “SURPRISE!” when I returned (one of my all-time best memories)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who wore some kind of cape everywhere we went, which morphed from a bandana to a full-fledged home-made BAT cape! You were my little superhero for sure!
YOU ARE THE ONE who drew on the hood of our friend’s brand new SAAB with a rock you found (cha-ching, cha-ching).
YOU ARE THE ONE that ONLY wanted a State Quarter Map for Christmas when you were four (we still have it in your room and it is full of quarters)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who organized all your outfits in your drawers and were mildly (okay, not so mildly) obsessed with shoes for years and years and years (who gets Famous Footwear gift certificates when they are just a young boy)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who fell sledding and ended up in a country hospital emergency room with stitches (which I had to take out because we moved three days later)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who asked this question when you were just 5 1/2: “Mom, if Jesus was Jewish, did He believe in Himself?”
YOU ARE THE ONE who did a cannonball into our indoor tub (it was kind of a big tub; I will grant you that).
YOU ARE THE ONE who filled our house with singing. I knew you were sick when it stopped and you were better when it started up again (you still sing today)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who always had a bucket and a net in your hand, catching all the creatures in lakes, gardens, ponds, rivers, and our backyard!
YOU ARE THE ONE who was rushed to the emergency room with a tonsil abscess and needles were poked into your throat and you threw up all over the doctor! You obviously lived to tell the tale!
YOU ARE THE ONE who had every kind of lizard and reptile as a pet (from anoles to geckos to bearded dragons).
YOU ARE THE ONE who was Hot Rod Hanson in the summer musical, girls swooning around you as you belted out your notes.
YOU ARE THE ONE who almost caught our house on fire with your water gun filled with lighter fluid in one hand and the BIC grill lighter in the other.
YOU ARE THE ONE who was fascinated by your lacrosse stick, walking constantly around the house with it, and eventually figuring out how to string it yourself!
YOU ARE THE ONE who made weird faces when playing on your game system, your mouth moving in all the directions of the controller.
YOU ARE THE ONE who broke your clavicle because you were chosen to play in a lacrosse tournament with the big kids. Emergency room #3!
YOU ARE THE ONE who was Gaston in the middle school play, Beauty and the Beast, again girls swooning around you as you belted out your notes (this time right before your voice changed – Gaston never sounded so feminine – and I don’t think “every last inch of you was covered with hair”)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who played on four basketball teams in Eighth Grade (no wonder your grades slipped into an uncomfortable place for this mama)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who watched the Office non-stop for about four years (I think you are still watching it).
YOU ARE THE ONE who grew about eight inches in one year, going from one of the shorter guards on your basketball team to one of the “big men.”
YOU ARE THE ONE who was obsessed with purple and penguins and hats (with the flat brim) and game systems and legos.
YOU ARE THE ONE who had a kids’ Batman backpack all of high school (yes, even into your senior year)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who had a 1 in 100,000 people knee injury your junior year playing basketball. After surgery, nine months of recovery and two more surgeries, we are crossing our fingers it’s finally healed!
YOU ARE THE ONE who got your ears pierced at sixteen much to my chagrin (you did take care of them much to my happy surprise – and you don’t wear them any more much to my “I-don’t-care-anymore-what-you-do” attitude).
YOU ARE THE ONE who bought kitten and lamb folders for your senior school year (you never ever ever ever ever cared about what anyone thought about you).
YOU ARE THE ONE who wrapped your arms around me one day when I was afraid and said, “It’s all going to be okay, Mom” (I recall you doing that again just last week).
YOU ARE THE ONE who beat everyone at Poker all the time. Enough said.
YOU ARE THE ONE who told your basketball coach not to put you in the starting line up your Senior Year, that you wanted to be the Sixth Man coming off the bench (WHO DOES THAT?!?).
YOU ARE THE ONE who proudly donned your “Raritan Valley Community College” t-shirt on “Decision Day,” while all your friends sported their VIP universities.
YOU ARE THE ONE who broke your hand playing in a Charity game and pretended your cast was a fashion accessory. (Most of our mom/son memories have come in that “room” at the doctor waiting endlessly for the knock on the door. We have had more than enough time to solve all the world’s problems).
YOU ARE THE ONE who wore a Batman shirt under your prom tux and painted (well Sarah painted) the Batman symbol on your graduation cap, a constant reminder of the superhero that you are!
YOU ARE THE ONE who took a Gap Year before you went to college, again being your own person and not falling in line with everyone else. (It was one of the best decisions you’ve ever made and we loved having the bonus time with you.)
YOU ARE THE ONE who jumped off a fifty-foot cliff into the waters of the Pacific Ocean on a whim (so so so glad I found out about this after you lived through it).
YOU ARE THE ONE who built your own computer with Lego Batman holding up the graphics card.
YOU ARE THE ONE who decided to major in psychology even though you don’t like people all that much. Of course. Of course.
YOU ARE THE ONE who wants to know a million random facts about anything and everything from why non-poisonous snakes flatten their heads when they are threatened to whether or not “pronunciate” is a real word (those are just the two from this past week).
YOU ARE THE ONE who became fixated on headphones and you actually write reviews on the internet for the subculture of headphone lovers. (Your college graduation gift is to get custom headphones made for your unique ears.)
YOU ARE THE ONE who did not walk at your college graduation because ceremonies just don’t cut it for you.
YOU ARE THE ONE who I can talk to about everything spiritual, cerebral and you always have an opinion about the subject matter at hand (kind of like your mama). Our banter is my favorite.
YOU ARE THE ONE who is still pulling Batman shirts over your head some mornings (I personally think you are way cooler than Batman)!
YOU ARE THE ONE who I am so thankful to have shared the last 25 years with. There is no one else quite like you. Really. Seriously. No one.
YOU ARE THE ONE who will always march to the beat of your own drum (or play a completely different instrument).