Posted in Charity, Faith, Family, Friendship, Thanks

LOVE is Still Winning

It can feel like HATE is winning.  Fear creeps into our skin and buries deep within us, tearing our souls in shreds.  Despair tangles her knots around our spirits, attempting to blow out the tiny flickers of hope we carry inside.

Hate is NOT winning.  It will never win.

LOVE is winning.  LOVE will always win.

LOVE WINS WHEN A…

…mommy and daddy hold their newborn and shout, “We are so in love!” on social media and then take 1,345,428 pictures for the next year.

…married couple look deep into each other’s hurting eyes and say, “We will fight for each other.  Let’s go to a counselor.”

…toddler giggles at the sight of their aunt coming in the door, arms filled with gifts that only she can get away with giving.

…friend texts in the middle of the day and says, “I’m here.  Call me day or night.”

…teacher pulls her “spicy” student aside, and says, “I believe in you.”

…top executive makes his way to an inner city soup kitchen on a Friday night in the pouring rain.

…garbage collector rings your doorbell to remind you it’s Tuesday because your trash cans are still in your garage and then waits until you go running downing the driveway in your jammies with said cans flailing behind (#personalstory)

…gangly middle-schooler takes a risk to befriend the new kid who moved into the neighborhood.

…hospice worker cares tirelessly, going many extra miles, for the victim of a dreaded disease.

…person on the “other side” shares these words, “I hear you.  I see your point of view.”

…boss reminds a new and confused worker that failure is part of eventual success.

…grandpa plays “peek-a-boo” for the 48th time in the last 10 minutes.

…customer in the grocery store line steps aside and says, “Go ahead of me.”

…Savior sends a gorgeous rainbow to remind us of his promise never to leave us or forsake us.

…mechanic takes the time to help a stranger in need in the middle of Kansas on a cross-country trek (#anotherpersonalstory CLICK HERE)

…victim chooses forgiveness over revenge

…knowing smile that says, “me too,” sneaks to the lips of a stranger across the room.

…doctor takes the extra minute in the room and says, “I’m here to help.  You will not fight this alone.”

…roommate utters the precious words, “I’ll do the dishes tonight.”

Overwhelming peace quiets our desperate souls.  Hope is lit brightly again far down in our fledgling spirits.

It’s everywhere.  It’s all the time.

LOVE is winning.  LOVE will always win.

 

Posted in Childhood, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

FOR MOMS: When You Want to Bite Back! Some HOPE!

Your toddler just threw a temper tantrum and bit you.

Your seven-year-old yelled at dinner last night that he wishes he lived at Jimmy’s house.

Your middle-schooler, in no uncertain terms, rolled her eyes at you with disgust.

Your teen slammed his bedroom door and you could hear the angry muffled words, “I hate you!”

Moms, in the middle of the quagmire, I feel you. I hear you. It takes everything in you not to bite back, wish for a different life yourself, roll your own eyes and scream, “I hate you too!”

You wonder why you ever did this mom gig. It’s gut-wrenching as your own heart is torn in shreds when most of what you’ve done is LOVE this child with every fiber of your being.

Older moms told me over and over and over again a million times that one day, these children of mine would actually realize what I’d done for them. One day, all those times of seeming distaste for me would be swallowed up in gratitude.

It was hard for me to even fathom such a thing. No one could have convinced me that it would ever be true. But it gave me just a flicker of HOPE when I needed it most.

HOPE to not bite back.

HOPE to not give up.

HOPE to pray for help.

HOPE to say “I love you.”

Today, I extend that same HOPE to you. One day, you will get a message like this and your heart will leap right out of your chest and it will settle back down with deep satisfaction and joy!

You’ve got this, Sweet Mama!

 

***Feel free to share with any mama out there that needs some hope herself today***

Posted in Faith, Friendship, Grief

Sometimes It’s Enough…

I’ve done this very thing a few times recently.  A poem (which I rarely write) came out.

 

When confusion settles deep.
When fear wraps searing talons.
When doubt forcefully writhes.
When disappointment ripples wide.
When shame harshly torments.

When there are no words.

Sometimes, it’s enough to hold hands in the dark.

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When guilt screams accusation,
When discouragement slowly creeps,
When affliction overtakes,
When anger ransacks hard-fought joy.
When grief bubbles, engulfs.

When there are no words.

Sometimes, it’s enough to hold hands in the dark.

(Esther Goetz)


**FEEL FREE TO SHARE AND LIKE ON SOCIAL MEDIA (or anywhere)**

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Thanks

I HAVE THE FREEDOM TO…

I do not take this day lightly.

My heart swells with thanksgiving that I live in a place where my innate need and hunger for freedom is met.

This framework of outer freedom bestows a space where my many-times trembling, but just-enough-times brave heart fights for my inner freedom, a sacredness no one, no thing can touch.

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I have the freedom to be kind.

I have the freedom to enjoy beauty.

I have the freedom to learn, grow and change.

I have the freedom to be generous.

I have the freedom to be trustworthy.

I have the freedom to love my neighbor, period.

I have the freedom to take risks.

I have the freedom to be gentle.

I have the freedom to walk with integrity.

I have the freedom to be filled with respect for all.

I have the freedom to show compassion.

I have the freedom to journey with humility.

I have the freedom to forgive.

I have the freedom to shine my light.

I have the freedom to be patient.

I have the freedom to be authentic and vulnerable.

I have the freedom to don the mantle of courage.

I have the freedom to open my heart to an abiding faith.

I have the freedom to work with all my might.

I have the freedom to always hope.

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These freedoms, similar to the outer ones, must be fought for on the battlefields of my heart, my soul, my body and my mind with great strength and courage, every moment of every day.

HERE’S TO BRAVING THE FIGHT OF ALL FIGHTS TOGETHER!

 

 

Posted in Childhood, Family, Grief, Guest, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

The Terrible Gift of Parenting While Grieving

What happens when you lose your dad eight hours after your first baby is born and then lose your husband one month before your second baby is born?  
How do you survive, much less thrive as a parent in the middle of a hugely difficult season, and even a lifetime of loss?  
On my Dolly Mama podcast, my friend and young mom, Becky McCoy, tackles the topic of parenting and grieving at the same time.  Becky is a mom to two young children ages six and four and a very brave hope-bringer right in the middle of her heartbreak.   
She answers tough questions about her own beautiful and messy grief process.  She reminds us that there are ALL kinds of loss in our lives and we ALL have to navigate some kind of grief in the middle of our parenting season, even though many times we might not even recognize it as such.  
As you listen, you will want her to “keep on talking” as I did, gleaning so much goodness not only from what she says, but who she is.  We cry (well I do) and laugh lots which, in and of itself, hints to some of the profound wisdom you will hear from her.  My biggest surprises are the VERY universal parenting truths that grief forced her to learn so very early on.  
If you need encouragement today (she has one particular thought I can’t wait for you to hear) and you want to have HOPE for your parenting journey, you have come to the right place!  Don’t miss out!  

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who has someone in their lives called children 🙂

Posted in Family, Marriage

Three SIMPLE Words That Breathe HOPE into Our Marriage

“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers.  K.  Thanks.”  (Pinterest)

On our wedding day 28 years ago, my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these:  Pirates.  Penguins.  Steelers.

I can’t say he was entirely wrong.  Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh.  Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)!  Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!

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Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl).  They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!

Fast forward.  Four houses.  Four kids.  Four jobs.

Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another.  As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.

Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me).  “Are we going to make it?”  “What is wrong with me/you/us?”  “Is there any hope?”

THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband).   “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.

“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.”  Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.

Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth.  “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

These simple THREE words:

  • allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
  • bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
  • remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
  • spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
  • usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
  • grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
  • energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
  • breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown

Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park.   Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!

We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared.  Two things we noticed:  most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).

Marriage is like hiking.  It’s windy.  It’s periodically smooth-sailing.  It’s unmarked in places.  It’s gloriously scenic.   It’s difficult to navigate in spots.  It can be scary.  It definitely takes our breath away at times.  We need hope every single day.  We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to.  Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.

Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!

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Allen and I have been mentoring couples for about 15 years.  It’s our fierce passion and privilege.  I’ve written many more blog posts about marriage.  You can CLICK HERE to read more!

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

You Cannot Bestow What You Do Not Possess

What happens when your child can’t fall asleep because they are beating themself up for their mistakes made that day? You as a mom grapple with your own perfectionism?  See the same struggles in your child that you have?  Join me as I interview Jackie Thompson, a very gentle, wise, honest hope-bringer of two young children ages 5 and 8.   Jackie is a fourth-grade teacher and pastor’s wife who juggles working full-time and caring for her two precious children, along with being a wife, daughter, friend and mentor.   Explore a key parenting concept we’ve both learned the hard way, and how we imperfectly navigate it along our own mom journeys.  Laugh and cry and say, “Hmm.  Me too.” with us for 30 minutes as you get a sneak-peak behind the scenes of the beautiful, but messy motherhood path we are on.  The good news is that you will find hope for your own!

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

You Cannot Bestow What You Do Not Possess (An Interview with Jackie Thompson)

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who has someone in their lives called children 🙂

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Guest, Marriage

NEW CHAPTER (maybe a whole new book) #thisis54

Just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way you thought it would or think it should.

EXCEPT.

WHEN.

IT.

DOESN’T.

What happens then?

Is all hope lost?

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My friend, Maria, newly divorced, unpacks this better than I can today with a poem she’s written to herself on her 54th birthday, one where she is vulnerable, raw, truthful and filled with hope (and I am all about all of that)!

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This is 54

In all my imperfections
In all my power
In all my insecurities
In every way
I cower

Owning every blessing
And every good gift
Owning every wrinkle
My 54 year old self
Could use a lift 

Better late than never
Better off now alone
Better to be alone and lonely
Than lonely in my home

I’m not sure what happened
Not sure why
I waited so long
But know my children mattered more to me
Their peace
more than my own

I move on in power
I know its not too late
To have the love I long for
With the one I can relate

But first I love myself
I walk in all my truth
Owning my need for more
Unrealized in my youth

Time has passed by quickly
Many ways a blessed life
I thought all the answers
Were in being someone’s wife

But fairytales and stories
The things our people make us believe
While they tried their best
Did not
see the need

The need to guide in honesty
That love is more than what is seen
Its deeper, it is constant
There is passion
you can believe

The knowledge of your whole heart
Being touched and nurtured
Sweet and raw
The wisdom of its purity
That’s what will last for long

So I give this to myself now
I love myself in all my truth
I love that I am fragile
I love the wisdom without youth

I own my insecurities
How I need to feel valued and be seen
I own my need for time, connection,
Affection
Want the dream!

I call it the trifecta
Emotional, Mental, Physical
For now I give it to myself
My love tank
It is full

As “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Plays on the radio
My childhood song still resonates
My soul and heart
They know

Know what I desire
Is more than a fairy tale
Know what fuels my fire
I will have it
Without fail

So today
I wish myself a Happy Birthday
Treasuring every good gift
that’s in my life
My family and friends
Who value me
That’s the love
I can’t deny

My journey’s just beginning
My heart remains so full
So thankful it’s not broken
But open and vulnerable still

I share this in transparency
To encourage others in their way
I want to live authentically
Boldly, wholly, deep.
In every way

Those who know me best
Love me as I am
The good, the bad, the ugly
As only good friends can

I walk into my second half of life
With so much more to give
What matters
is my goal now
There’s only one life
here to live

My faith it keeps me grounded
My God
Shows me the way

His Love and mercy
Sweetly
Filling me each day

My thoughts they keep on coming
As my heart
It overflows
Thankful for love and grace
Thankful that it shows

Staying open
Is my gift
I give myself today
Remaining
Authentic
Until my dying day.

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I love this!  I love the picture of Maria’s and her daughter’s tattoos on their wrists they got a few years ago!  How beautiful the reminder that there is always sunshine on a cloudy day!  How beautiful that those words of hope ring true for her and for my own heart today!  The sun always shines above the clouds, even when I can’t see it or feel its warmth!   When my own life is not going the way I thought it would or think it should, this poem will gently remind my heart that there is ALWAYS GREAT HOPE!!  Thank you again Maria!  You are a gift!

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Marriage, Motherhood

Happy Birthday 33-Year-Old Younger Self!

Dear Esther Joy,

It’s February 18, 1999 and it’s your 33rd birthday today.  You stand on the edge of a year that marks the beginning of the best part of your life!

You have been married just shy of eight years to Allen and you already have three children:  Sarah (6), Jared (5) and Joshua (almost “free”).  You just found out in the last week that you are expecting your fourth in the fall.  WOW!  Just WOW!  I’m not sure how you are doing it.  I am exhausted just at the thought of it all!

Allen works in New York City for Pfizer.  He commutes three hours a day on a train from your home in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.  You stay at home, trying to corral all the kiddos and make some money on the side, typing for anyone who needs it.  You both fall into bed exhausted at the end of long and blurry days.

You are both highly involved at church.  Allen is an elder (yes, he’s only 36 years old…I see the irony here).   You are in charge of the church nursery (your main and silly goal to keep it germ-free).   Both of you oversee the busy Sunday School as its superintendents.  Allen goes to Bible study each Tuesday night and prayer meeting every Saturday morning.  You attend Bible study for young moms on Wednesdays.  Sundays are spent going to church, give or take a few hours in the afternoon (when many times you have the speaker over for lunch),.  The rest of your week is filled with all the other social events that are part of this community of kind souls.

You have lots of friends from your church and a neighborhood filled with young families who you enjoy tremendously.  Your life is extremely busy and full and looks picture-perfect from the outside.  You are the quintessential Christian woman, wife, and mom, or so it seems.

Little do you know what I, your 53-year-old self, know about you.  I love you, younger version of me, but I never want to be you again.  I say that tenderly, knowing that you are just stuck and don’t know better and are trying your hardest with what you know and believe right now.

Your marriage to Allen is filled with hiding, from each other and even from yourselves.  Both of you long to be exemplary Christians and have the ideal “Christ-like” marriage, but you are missing the forest for the trees.  You don’t have a lot of conflict (after all, fighting is wrong and ungodly), but you DO NOT have a lot of closeness.  Your desire to hang on to this external image prevents the two of you from sharing your mutual brokenness and meeting each other in that place, extending compassion and grace, and ultimately healing.  You will eventually find that what scared you greatly, being fully-known, flaws and all, is actually the safest place of all, fully-loved by each other.  Twenty years from now, you will spend a weekend away with Allen, reminding each other of how grateful you are to know and love each other more deeply than you could have ever imagined.  Your continuously growing, although still bumpy marriage, once filled with pretense is now a source of restoration for others.

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You want your kids to behave above all else.  You believe that getting them to keep all the rules at school, church and home, is the answer to the giant question of whether or not you are a good mom.  You use guilt and fear more often than not, those being two readily available resources in your tool chest.  You genuinely do love your kids, the good news being that this love wins out over the long haul.  Fear and guilt slowly begin to step aside when your fourth, Rachel, is born later this year.   In 20 years time, you will have growing relationships with each of your four, and they all will speak words of kindness and understanding as you discuss all your strengths and struggles in raising them on your new-found podcast, something that doesn’t even exist today.  What a gift this will be to you, as you turn 53.  One of them will even send you a note on Facebook (something else that doesn’t exist yet) that “you are the greatest of all time” as you head to bed that night.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  LOVE WINS!

Your desire to be good and look good makes my heart sad.   You believe that God’s ultimate goal is to get you to behave (hence your goal for your kids).  You set rules for yourself that keep you in check and when they don’t, you fall into the shame and blame cycle with yourself and others.  You are trapped in the crazy formulaic thinking that following all the rules makes for a good and happy life, but when it all falls apart a few years from now, thankfully bigger life-changing things like grace and mercy come flooding in from a BIG GOD like a tsunami.  He gently picks up the pieces of your broken and confused heart and puts you back together in a way that’s better than if you had never fallen apart.  He is a GOOD GOD and worthy to be trusted each and every day, in all the beautiful and messy moments that make up your incredible life’s journey.

I repeat, I love you, younger version of me.  It’s all going to be okay.  What you see now is but a dim shadow of the beauty that’s to come.  I promise you a few things:  you don’t do it all right.  In fact, you make some mistakes that cost you greatly.  You are afraid sometimes, very afraid.  Your faith is tested to the shattering point.  Your heart is broken into a million pieces.  BUT, you do not give up HOPE, even in the middle of your fear.  The One who is the source of all HOPE does not give up on you.  You do not give up FAITH, even though the waves swirl around you, and it’s hard for you to see the Object of your FAITH.  He keeps his eye unwaveringly on you.  Though your heart splinters into fragments, you do not give up LOVE.  LOVE HIMSELF slowly shows you that you are LOVED beyond measure and this LOVE is freeing and healing.  It’s from this LOVE that you will begin to love others.  You have a long way to go, and so do I.  I wonder what our 73-year-old wiser self will say to us.  It’s just good to be on this journey together!

Your mom (and mine) chose this verse when you (and I) were born.  It’s true today and it will be for the rest of your life.  Take heart, younger Esther Joy.   All will be well.

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From my heart to yours,

Esther Joy

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SHAMELESS BEG…PLEASE LIKE THIS (AND COMMENT) ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR HERE SO THAT OTHERS HAVE THE BEST CHANCE TO READ  (the social media algorithms have us all a little baffled) …IT WILL BE THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT YOU CAN GIVE THIS GIRL!

 

 

Posted in ADD, Family, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

Navigating the Journey of ADD (Link to Podcast)

Jared, our first-born son and someone who has AD(H)D, spends 15 precious minutes of his time talking through this unique path he was chosen for.  What did it mean for him when he was growing up in school?  What were some of the harmful messages that were given to him?  How has that shaped who he is today and what he does as a result?  What is my greatest parenting regret and why did I do it in the first place?  DON’T MISS the incredible visual he shares that opened my eyes and heart to understand just a little bit more what it’s like for him and why we ALL may need this mental image in our toolbox when those we love are navigating this journey.  Find out what we can do differently!  This is perfect for parents, teachers, friends of those with ADD and especially for those of you who have this struggle yourself!  You may just say, “Ah, someone who gets me!”

CLICK ON LINK BELOW!

Episode 3: Navigating the Journey of ADD (Wise Thoughts from Jared)

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Please share with anyone who LOVES someone, TEACHES someone, or IS someone who is navigating this unique journey!  (I think that’s all of us at this point!)   This is a “CAN’T MISS IT” podcast!  And ONLY 15 minutes!