Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Grief

How Did You Feel?

How did you feel, LITTLE ANT, the day your world was turned upside-down, the day I moved the huge rock that your whole little life revolved around and was protected by just so I could build a rock wall to line the fence in my yard?

How did you feel?

Maybe you felt…

CONFUSED.  You were scampering along, working hard to take care of your family, happily doing what you were supposed to do.  Suddenly, you found yourself exposed to a world you’d never known.  Maybe you asked yourself, “What the heck just happened?  Why oh why?”  I don’t blame you.  I would feel the same way.

Maybe you felt…

ANGRY.  I know you did because you bit me, at least three times.  I felt it sharply under my pants just moments later.  You know what?  I would bite me too.  Maybe it was all your little self could do to yell, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!  SEND ME BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS!”

Maybe you felt…

OUT-OF-CONTROL.  After all, life as you knew it had just changed forever.  All those systems that you had put in place to make your little life easier and more predictable blew to bits.  Your formula for how the world works and works well was upended, to say the least.  When I ventured back to check on you, I saw a whole bunch of you just scurrying around, looking like you didn’t know what to do next.

Maybe you felt…

AFRAID.  Who wouldn’t?  I sure would.  Would some giant ant-eater come out of the woods and gobble you up?  Would your life ever look remotely the same as it had before the rock was taken away?  Would your ant family be okay with this new normal?  Would you be able to find another rock?

Maybe you felt…

SAD.  Some of your family and friends were just taken away from you, some never to be seen again and some that you don’t know when you will see again, eat with, play with and work with.  It’s just horrible, my little ant friend.  Just horrible.  It’s not really supposed to be this way and I’m so sorry what happened is putting you through this.  I would just stop right now and cry the tears that are rightfully yours.

Maybe one day, LITTLE ANT, you will have a whole new world, one where you will be working, taking care of your family, busily at peace and full of new adventures.  Yes.  I bet it will happen soon enough.

But for now, my new found friend, I get it.  I get you.

I’m with you and I AM you, more than you will ever know.

God-speed, my LITTLE ANT friend.

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Health

Sometimes grace for yourself looks like…

Sometimes grace for yourself looks like…

  • eating a guilt-free chocolate chip cookie
  • taking a nap right in the middle of a to-do list
  • skipping church and talking to God on your walk in the woods
  • sitting down with a cup of tea or coffee, staring into space
  • letting your kids have an extra hour of screen time
  • breathing in and breathing out very slowly for ten minutes
  • not checking your email for a whole entire day
  • making a “why I like myself and God does too” list
  • getting take-out
  • letting the tears flow in the shower until there are no more
  • forgiving and embracing the earlier version of you
  • skipping your workout
  • making your very own choice, even if it’s different than everyone else’s
  • asking for help with the dishes
  • taking a break from your own very responsible brain
  • reading a “not-trying-to-fix-you” book
  • making much-needed space for alone time
  • NOT making the bed
  • laughing OUT LOUD at a silly video or a bad joke
  • sleeping in late and staying up late (basically re-becoming a teenager)
  • allowing yourself to have completely opposing feelings at the same time
  • playing anything, just playing (did I mention playing?)

GRACE is free.

GRACE is beautiful.

GRACE is life.

GRACE is enough.

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Grief, Health

What Do You Want From Me?

I got real with Jesus just now.

I angrily pleaded, shouting in my mind, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME ANYWAY?

His gentle answer surprised me.

You have it all wrong, backwards in fact. It’s the question I’ve been waiting to ask you. What do YOU want from ME? What do YOU need? As a mom? As a wife? As a friend? As a woman? As a human? What do YOU need today?

Really, Jesus? Really? Cause I have a whole list. You ready?

I’m tired. Tired of holding it together. Tired of the extra work. Tired of the mental load. I NEED STRENGTH.

I’m confused. Not sure what to do in this new normal I find myself in. I NEED WISDOM.

I’m irritable. Emotions flying off the wall and out of my mouth. Cranky. I NEED PATIENCE.

I’m sad. Sad that so much good has been taken away. I’m really sad. I NEED JOY.

I’m afraid. It’s scary out there and even here in my own head. I NEED PEACE.

I’m discouraged. Everywhere I turn, it seems like bad news is being shouted loudly. I NEED HOPE.

This time around, His gentle answer did NOT surprise me, because it’s been buried deep in my heart for SO long, just waiting to emerge.

I’ve got all of this IN SPADES for you.
Truth be told, I AM ALL OF THIS.

I am STRENGTH.
I am WISDOM.
I am PATIENCE.
I am JOY.
I am PEACE.
I am HOPE.

There is plenty of ME to go around. I will give YOU all that YOU need today, because what YOU really need is ME.

Posted in Faith, Grief

What am I Doing About My Grief? And Yours?

In these unprecedented times, I have been asked over and over again, “What are you doing about ______________?”

I’ve been asked about food prep, my mental health, my routine, church, etc.

Because of this, I want to offer short videos answering those questions over the next several days, weeks, etc.

I plan to give you practical HELP and glimmers of HOPE as we navigate our new normal together.  I promise to sprinkle lots of HUMOR throughout as well.

Today, I am answering the question, “What am I doing about my grief?  And yours?”

JOIN ME AND FIND OUT.  (I know you have the time hahaha)

CLICK HERE!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Sheer, Terrible Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

So much sadness. So little understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

#grief #healing #hope

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Mommy has canser (#leapday2016)

“Mommy has canser.”

“I went to the Turtle Back Zoo.”

“I like ice cream.”

Leap Day 2016.

Three short thoughts written as part of a letter I had my nine-year-old niece write in a letter to her future Leap Day 2020 self.

My eight-year-old nephew wrote one too.

Four years ago, these two every-day kids came to stay with me for several weeks while their mom was undergoing intensive treatment for “canser.”

Four years ago, they didn’t know if their mom would be here for Leap Day 2020.

Four years ago, they were kids whose favorite movies were Frozen and Star Wars (like every other tween girl and boy).

It’s now Leap Day 2020.

I sent my now twelve- and thirteen-year old nephew and niece their letters 500 miles away.

Four years have passed since those words were penciled on loose-leaf paper.

Four years, where they have endured the worst: the loss of their mom.

Four years, where my brother picked up the pieces and entered in a new normal without his wife to help him navigate the journey without her.

Four years, where my then 17-year-old niece (the “older sister”) gathered her own heart together and plugged away at her future as a nurse one painful and healing day at a time.

Four years, where this little family laughed and cried, played and worked, fought and made-up, just like the rest of us.

Leap Day 2016 feels like yesterday, those two kids sitting at my kitchen counter, their future unknown, penning words to themselves.

I didn’t know if heartache or hope would come before those letters were read four years later.

Yes, heartache came in like an untamed beast, threatening to rip this family to shreds.

BUT that is not the end of the story.

Four years later, I can say HOPE reached in louder as God took extra, tender care of this little family without their wife and mom.

Four years later, there are two budding teens who are smart and kind and full of life, with friends and pets and who still secretly like Frozen and Star Wars. HOPE.

Four years later, there is a man who has fought hard to help his family take their next right steps and love each other no matter what comes their way. He rocks as a dad! HOPE.

Four years later, there is a Registered Nurse, who trusted God and got up every morning to go to school, putting one foot in front of the other. She started her first job this month. HOPE.

Leap Day 2024.

Four years from now. What will life bring?

To my brother and his family?

To me and mine?

Frozen 3? Ten more Star Wars movies?

Laughter? Tears?

Work? Play?

Fights? Forgiveness?

Heartache?

Yes.

But, that will not be the end of the story.

HOPE will reach in louder.

God will take extra, tender care of us all.

#thereisgreathope #leapday2020 #herviewfromhome #hopewriters #dollymamanj

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Fear Keeps Me…

Fear keeps me from loving deeply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Celebration, 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, Family, Grief, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

Kitchen Table, I Will Miss You Most of All

Kitchen Table,

Here I sit on one of your chairs, spending some much-needed time with you today.   What a mess you are, strewn with apples just bought at the farm stand, my purse, books I am reading, an open cereal container, a dirty plate filled with the remains of eggs and toast, my phone, some unpaid bills and a piping hot cup of tea.

You couldn’t be more perfect.

I am so sorry that I am not bringing you with me next week when we move.

You have been such a strong, yet inviting friend to me.  Out of everything I am leaving behind, I will miss you most of all.

I will miss choosing you at the furniture shop over 28 years ago, my thoughts of the future with you swirling in my head.

I will miss decorating you for every.single.reason.  From apples to pumpkins to snowflakes to birthdays to easter eggs to whatever tickled my fancy.

Josh 4th Bday_0004

I will miss babies being pulled up in their high chairs next to you, surrounded by faces of those who love them.

I will miss the spinning lazy Susan in your middle that holds napkins, salt and pepper, the standard balsamic vinaigrette, butter and some spicy seasoning I refuse to try.

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I will miss dogs licking up all the crumbs off the floor beneath you.

I will miss spaghetti-faced toddlers “coloring” you with red sauce.

I will miss sheets turning you into a fort for Dad and his little ones.

Making Fort_0001

I will miss the small missing piece on your leaf where one of us dropped something hard and you paid the price.

I will miss your chairs where each one of us sat in our “assigned” places.

I will miss dishes being set on you for large family gatherings where you became the “kid’s table.”

I will miss laughing and crying, listening and talking, whispering and yelling, all of it.

I will miss nails being painted, pumpkins being carved and homework assignments being mostly finished on top of you.

I will miss the dreams shared, the scoldings given, and the “you have to try it” mantra being repeated every single night.

I will miss friends throwing purses on you and coats on your chairs as hearts were shared in another room.

I will miss birthday parties with cupcakes crumbled in your crevices and balloons tied to your chairs.

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I will miss Thanksgiving soup being prepared as veggies and turkey were chopped into tiny pieces on your very sturdy, formica (but wood-look) top.

I will miss the way you endured beer-sampling, game-playing and appetizer-eating on all those crazy extended family holidays.

I will miss arguments, raised voices and quieter apologies with you right there in the middle of it all, holding us together.

I will miss how you held Easter baskets, babies, fondue sets, games, legos and gingerbread houses, displaying for everyone to see.

I will miss flowers, invitations and decorations scattered all over you as showers and weddings were being prepped.

I will miss normal family dinners when someone got trouble for poking the person next to them.  (NOTE:  It was never Dad.)

I will miss how you watched from afar as silly pictures were being taken on the computer only a few feet from you.

I will miss Friday pizza nights when you were sprinkled with paper plates and plastic cups filled with everyone’s favorite drink of choice.

BUT what I will really miss is the way you stayed with me through six kids, four houses, one marriage, lots of hellos, many goodbyes, and all the celebrations and sadness that made up our family.  You stayed with me.

How good and precious for me to be alone with you right now, just the two of us, saying our goodbye to each other.  Thank you for being with me as tears sneak down my cheek, a lump forms in my throat and I not-so-secretly hate leaving you behind.  I couldn’t be more grateful to you.  Thank you.  Thank you.   You have held my heart well.

You have been a mess in the past.  You are a mess right now.  But you have been perfect.  You couldn’t be more perfect.

I will miss you most of all.

Esther

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Two Babies

I wasn’t good at listening to pain in those early mom years.
I was good at getting things done.
I wasn’t good at facing loss in those early mom years.
I was good at never looking back.
I wasn’t good at sitting in grief in those early mom years.
I was good at looking at the “bright side.”
I lost two babies in the middle of all the other pregnancies that bore children and never skipped a beat. I got things done. I never looked back. I looked at the “bright side.”
This morning, as the reality of moving away from our family home in just a few short days, along with my grown-up children sleeping in homes far away,
I choose to skip a beat.
I choose to listen to my pain. I choose to not get things done. I choose to remember those babies whose names I will never know, who didn’t get to live in our family home and who are not now sleeping in homes far away.
I choose to face my loss. I choose to look back. I lost those babies. I am losing my home. I am losing my heavy-duty, active mom years.
I choose to sit right here for at least a few minutes with this gentle friend called grief. I choose to look at the shadow side. Those two precious souls who live with Jesus in heaven makes this mama heart sad. The truth that I will never sit around my beat-up kitchen table again with my kids makes me sad. The memories of little ones clutching my pant legs and teenagers sleepily coming down the stairs on Christmas morning makes me sad.
I choose to not rush to joy this morning. It’s really good in this place.