Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

3:39 pm

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

My husband commuted to a job 90 minutes away.

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

Trapped in a mile-long to do list.

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

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

Anxiety.

I must have read this quote somewhere.

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

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

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

God SEES me.
God loves me.

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

He SEES me.
He loves me.

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

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

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

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

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

I hope it does. I sure hope it does.

Posted in Anxiety, Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health, Sabbath

Sisyphus…Sigh

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.

Peace. Hope.

Sigh.

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Friendship, Grief

The Three Dots

Text one: “Please pray. It was a horrific day!”

Text two (about two minutes later): “GOOD NEWS! My husband found a job!”

I sat there staring at my screen. The three dots kept coming in two different places.

I waited anxiously, my feelings all over the place. Tears welled.

Strange tears. Filled with gratitude and grief all in the same moment.

Was that even allowed?

Could I cry for the pain and cry for the joy?

It didn’t matter the answer, because I was. Plain and simple.

I felt myself tossed around for the next several minutes as I went back-and-forth with these two people who I love.

Grief. Joy. Sadness. Relief. Anger. Gratitude.

A bouncing ball inside from one emotion to the next.

Then it all hit me. Right between the eyes (of my heart).

This is sacred ground I am walking on.

This is humanity at its fullest.

This is what I’ve wanted my whole life.

To not stuff it down. To not brush it aside. ANY.OF.IT.

To grieve with those who are grieving.
Like cry real tears for them.
To hold them in their pain and trust that somehow their sorrow is halved because I am sharing in it.

BUT also to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
Like cry real tears for them.
To hold them in their joy and trust that somehow their delight is doubled because I am sharing in it.

I want it from others and I want to give it to others.

This is how I heal.
How I embrace my humanness.
How I come closer to Tender Lover of My Soul.
How I help to mend the world, right in front of me and all around me.

Welcome ALL.OF.IT.

Come close to EVERY.LITTLE.BIT.

Cheer.
Cry.
Laugh.
Text.
Hug.
Pray.

ALL.OF.IT.

Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Thanks

2020, Thanksgiving, AND

BUT I SHOULD be thankful because…

I have technology to communicate with my family.

none of the people I love is sick right now.

my husband just got a job.

BUT I SHOULD be thankful.

BUT.

BUT.

BUT.

 

I’ve lived for a long time in the land of the BUT.

Hoping that happiness would spill out as I pondered all the “awesome” in my life.

Hoping that even though XYZ was hard, pointing out the good would quiet down the raw grief that kept welling up inside.

Hoping beyond hope that gratitude would spring up and overflow to all those around me.

 

Dirty little secret.   It didn’t work.

I just felt guilty, like an entitled little brat who didn’t get her way when her mom told her “no more cookies.”

I stuffed down my sadness in favor of all manner of positivity, only to find it leak out in ways like resentment and unkindness.

I brought this yuck into my marriage, my parenting and my friendships, only to perpetuate this vicious cycle.

 

One little word changed all of this.

The word I’ve come to desperately NEED and LOVE, especially in 2020, the year of all years.

The word that helps me to embrace all of my humanness and yours too, giving us opportunity for true and real connection.

The word that’s holding me this week as we head into Thanksgiving, giving space for gratitude in a whole new way.

 

This word:  AND.

AND.

AND.

AND.

 

It’s goes something like this.

 

I am very sad that I can’t eat turkey and watch football with some of my kids this week

AND I am thankful because…

they are able to see each other and I have technology to communicate with them.

 

I am anxious about this dang virus and all the numbers going up

AND I am thankful because…

none of the people I love is sick right now.

 

I am angry that local businesses are shutting their doors and the holidays are kind of being ruined

AND I am thankful because…

my husband just got a new job.

 

I am having a very hard time with all that’s been ravaged, lost, ripped away from the collective “us” this year

AND I am thankful because…

God is good and near and kind and with me in the middle of all of it.

 

So on this very 2020 Thanksgiving, my friend, let’s give ourselves permission to kick the land of the BUT to the curb and pitch our tent in the terra firma of the AND.

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Grief, Health

Jittery

It’s a jittery kind of morning around here.

I strike up one of those “conversations” with God.

“Principal’s office” god begins his normal barrage.

[WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Can’t you get your act together? Enough with the anxiety already!]

That familiar UGH swoops in.

[This again? What is wrong with me!?!]

Newly-found voices of “up-in-arms” battle their way to the surface.

[That is NOT the voice of the real and true God. It’s those dang and destructive voices of discouragement and shame, enemies of my soul.]

I clear a just-enough space for a tender, gentle Voice.

[What’s wrong with you, my Sweet? What do you NEED?]

The ping-pongy chitchat heads into full swing.

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

[I NEED my son to keep his new job so he can pay his rent.]

[Actually, you probably NEED My wisdom to know how much to help or not help. You know, that whole boundaries thing you’ve been working on for (basically) ever.]

[I NEED this pandemic to be O-V-E-R! Like right now! It’s basically ruining ALL.THE.THINGS along with me always feeling like I’m playing Russian roulette.]

[Actually, you might just NEED a settledness of soul in the waiting, an abiding trust in Me. I really care about you and this and I know how it all feels.]

[I NEED my youngest to come home for the holidays.]

[Actually, you likely NEED to feel your sadness over missing her and confront your own loneliness without her. You NEED to grieve.]

[I NEED our financial situation to be secure.]

[Actually, you undoubtedly NEED to live in today and from a place of provision from my generous heart, instead of that never-ending, life-sucking place of scarcity.]

[GOD, HELP ME! I NEED TO BE OKAY ON THE OUTSIDE!]

[Actually, you NEED to be okay on the inside.]

This time around, I keep quiet and He keeps going.

[My daughter, it’s not going to be having all the OUTSIDE problems solved. More of them will creep up every day. What you “needed” a year ago is completely different than what you will “need” a year from now. It’s always changing.

What you REALLY NEED, however, is the SAME every moment, every day.

You need to trust, to settle, to BE in that “all shall be well” place INSIDE, the place where I dwell.

It’s safe.

Your jitters can rest.

You DO have EVERYTHING you really NEED.]

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

And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

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

P.S. One thing I do desperately NEED this morning (and any of you who might grace my presence would heartily agree): I NEED A SHOWER! Warm soapy, water, here I come!

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Saved?!?!

Wait!!! What?!?!

Me? Not my kids’ savior?

But I’m a mom and I want to be. So very much.

I like saving them.

From pain.
From loss.
From danger.
From rejection.
From struggle.
From failure.
From judgment.
From conflict.
From bad choices.
From all that’s wrong with the world.

It feels really good.

For the moment.

But I know it’s not good.

For their hearts.

Because when I am their savior,

I am also “saving” them…

From growing.
From confidence.
From adventure.
From learning.
From independence.
From success.
From connection.
From responsibility.
From good choices.
From all that’s right with the world.

Doesn’t sound like much saving in the end.

Then what’s the point of this motherhood gig?
If it’s not for saving?

Hang on a minute.

Wait for it.
Wait for it.

What’s that still small voice whispering inside?
What’s that “aha moment” I can’t deny?

Has motherhood saved me?
Has it?

By…

bringing me JOY that I’ve never known before
revealing PATIENCE as I stumble along in the unknown
breathing HOPE when I need it the most
reminding me of BEAUTY in the ordinary moments
granting KINDNESS when I can’t find any in myself
allowing me to experience unconditional LOVE
opening my heart to see the tenderness of good good GOD

The question persists, but the answer comes.

PERHAPS IT HAS.
PERHAPS IT REALLY HAS.

Note to self_ Motherhood is not a religion and I am not the savior of at the center.

Posted in Anxiety, Faith

Trust the Ripple

Social media altercations.
The confusion over COVID.
Systemic racism.
Riots and looting.
Unkind political rants.

I just want it all to STOP.  STOP.  STOP.

It’s too much for me.

WAY TOO MUCH.

One minute, I want to crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my head.  Wake up when this is all over.

The next, I have visions of marching in my very own one-person protest with a big bold sign that screams and shouts, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? (and ME for that matter)?”

Fifteen minutes later, I feel the forceful drive to “get the heck out of here!”  The colonization of Mars sounds pretty good about now!

After an hour, I’m sitting on the couch, binging my latest show, eating popcorn until my belly fights back.

It’s all WAY TOO MUCH.

I so desperately want peace and love and hope and harmony and unity.

I want LOVE and GOODNESS to beat back the forces that harm.

I cry out to God in the middle of it all.

What am I to do?  What am I to do?  I can’t fix this.

It’s all WAY TOO MUCH.

Covers?

March?

Mars?

Popcorn?

PLEASE!  It’s all I have.

Not true, God reminds me.  Not true at all.

You have ONE DROP of GOODNESS.  ONE DROP.

You can pop a comment on social media that encourages someone, reminding them they are not alone.

You can go to the local hardware store and buy that lightbulb.  You can wear a mask (even if you have no idea whether or not it really works).

You can call your black friend and have an uncomfortable conversation, listening to the pain that they’ve shoved down for much of their life.

You can pray for the looter and the looted, asking Me to do what I do best:  reconcile and redeem.

You can vote, mailing that ballot today.

But mostly, you can remind yourself that I am behind every single and seemingly insignificant DROP OF GOODNESS.

I can and will expand it beyond measure so that the world is changed for the better forever by that ONE DROP OF GOODNESS.

Trust ME and TRUST THE RIPPLE!

Trust the Ripples

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Marriage

2:30 AM

Why am I awake again?

Maybe it was that cookie.

Why did I eat that cookie at 9:30?

Sugar is not good for me that late.

It’s not the cookie.

There’s a lot to think about, and even more to worry about.

Who can sleep?

God’s got me.
I’m going to be okay.
Will I ever feel normal again?
The world is just not okay.
I can’t solve it.
I wish I could.
God can solve it.
Can He?
I can do my part.
What is my part?
I need to go back to sleep.
I’m going to be a mess in the morning.
I guess I should pray for someone else who is awake.
God, please bring peace to my friend who is super anxious and not able to sleep.
Wait a minute.
I am also super anxious.
My leg itches.
Why does my leg itch?
I hope I didn’t get poison ivy on our 400th hike.
Should I get up and check?
No. That will just make me more awake.
Try to go back to sleep.
It’s probably nothing.
I wonder why my husband doesn’t have any issue sleeping.
He’s very sweet, but it’s still really annoying.
I’ve been kind of a cranky in the house the last few months.
Well, duh. I’m not getting good sleep.
But I should try harder tomorrow.
Maybe if I turn over and face the other direction, I will be able to go back to sleep.
That light from outside is still on.
Should I get up and turn it off?
It’s just wasting electricity and we’re trying to save money every which way we can.
That reminds me. I have to call the electrician to fix our light fixture.
But maybe that should wait.
We are in the middle of a pandemic.
Stop being so ridiculous.
What are the chances of the electrician infecting me?
I can just leave the house and then Lysol spray everything he touches.
I hope Lysol wipes will finally get back in stock somewhere.
This pillow is just not comfortable.
God, can you please help me to get back to sleep.
There are a lot of people who don’t even have a bed.
I should be so thankful.
What is wrong with me?
I have everything I need.
What is wrong with me?
There I go again, heaping shame on myself. UGH.
I need to listen to that podcast on healing from shame tomorrow.
Am I ever going to be really okay?
Yes. I’m going to be okay.
I’m safe in God’s hands.
Nothing can happen to me that He won’t be with me.
That’s the truth.
I’m hanging on to that.
Maybe now I can actually go back to sleep.
Uh-oh. I have to pee.
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 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.