Posted in Anxiety, Faith

LOST

Untethered.

Shaky.

Confused.

LOST.

How I have felt often in the last 86 days.

86 days since I’ve touched a human other than the two I live with.

86 days since I’ve entered a building without some level of trepidation.

86 days since I’ve not woken up wondering when all this will be over.

Untethered.

Shaky.

Confused.

LOST.

How I have felt often in the last 86 days.

Last week, I especially felt LOST.

I didn’t have words to speak.

I didn’t have the strength to muster.

I didn’t have the answers I long for.

I finally shared, tears streaming down my face, with some friends that my usually hope-filled, positive, “look-on-the-bright-side” self felt LOST.  Really LOST.

It was vulnerable.

It was scary.

It was hard.

BUT I’m so incredibly glad I did.

One of them spoke the most healing words of truth I’ve heard in the past 86 days.

86 days.  86 LONG days.  86 days of feeling LOST.

Here they are.

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Posted in Charity, Faith

My Promise to You

Dear Readers,

You mean more to me than you will ever know.  I count it a privilege that you ever take time out of your schedule to read the words that I pen, words that I agonize over, words that I edit and re-edit, words that I pray bring hope and healing to your heart and your home.

In that vain, I want you to know that my vision and mission has not changed and will not.  I make these promises to you afresh, so that you have confidence when you “click” on something I’ve written, knowing my heart is for you and its desire is to bring you hope and healing in a hurting world.

I promise to do my best to take the posture of Jesus before I hit “send,” or “post” or “share.”

The posture of GRACE, the one that speaks tenderness to all, including myself, the one that conquers shame.

The posture of PEACE, the one that refuses to add fear and hate, the one that promotes reconciliation in every form.

The posture of KINDNESS, the one that sees beyond the outward actions to the inward suffering.

The posture of HUMILITY, the one that listens and learns, the one that serves and changes, bringing redemption to me and to you.

The posture of LOVE, the one that is the pure foundation, the one that moves each of us from brokenness to wholeness.

Lastly, the posture of HOPE, the one that shines light in the darkness, the one my heart needs every single day.

My heart is with you, my friend.  I want this to be the safest place on the internet.  We will continue to move on this journey of hope and healing together.

Thank you for reading.  It means the absolute world to me.

From my heart to yours.

 

 

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, Family, Motherhood

The Best Advice I Ever Received as a Mom

An older mom, whose kids were the age of mine now, shared a GOLDEN NUGGET with me when my second son was starting middle school.  It changed the course of my parenting and is something I have had to put in practice, albeit not-so-perfectly, especially now as my kids are mostly grown.

(The content below is based on real-life experiences.  The stories may have been altered slightly and names have been removed to protect the innocent.) 

  • Toddler only wants to talk about, read about, watch videos about, wear jammies with and sit on tractors, especially blue ones.
  • Five-year old wants to wear his Batman costume seven days a week, 24 hours a day.  This obsession continues for four more years.
  • Preteen asks for bassoon lessons.  What even is a bassoon?
  • Teenager flits from photography to guitar to lacrosse to modelling to penny-collecting to painting body for football games to Ford Mustang convertibles all within a couple of years.
  • College daughter announces plans to move 2,764 miles away to pursue career in Studio City, California right after she graduates.

LOVE WHAT THEY LOVE.

  • Eight-year-old’s best friend is known as the “behavior problem” in third grade.  You have heard from “reputable sources” that the parents have been in trouble with the law.
  • Sixth-grade son announces he has a girlfriend, the most popular girl in 7th grade (and who you heard is one of the “mean” ones).
  • Junior in high school casually mentions at the dinner table that she’s dating a boy from work who dropped out of college.
  • College son springs the surprise at Christmas that he is “in love” with a 33-year-old.  You stalk her Instagram and she’s covered in tattoos and sports a lip ring.
  • Twenty-something daughter texts you that she is moving in with her Atheist boyfriend in a few weeks and they plan to get married in Mexico next summer.

LOVE WHO THEY LOVE.

END OF STORY.

I’ve shared this nugget with my kids over and over and over and made this promise to them on countless occasions.  I asked my son tonight what he thinks about it as we were having a pretty-heated discussion about my parenting (flaws and all).  “Mom,” he said, “I feel like I never have to pretend, hide or worry about being someone that I’m not.  I have permission to be exactly who I am.  I know you love me no matter what.”

My heart skipped a beat as a tear trickled down my cheek.  Yes, my child, I want you to be exactly who God made you to be and I will love what you love, and I promise, whether it’s easy or hard, to love whoever you love.  I want to give you the gift that God has given to me.  END OF STORY.

“Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant.  He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us.  Love like that.”  (Ephesians 5:2)

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family

Merriment AND Melancholy

Voices of carols play everywhere I go.

Joy to the world…Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile…Tis the season to be jolly…It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

MERRIMENT.

Texts, posts and phone calls crowd my screens.

Second-born not able to come…Over-the-top difficult family dynamics for many…Terrible government news…Health scares…Anxiety creeps in and a settled spirit is hard to be found.

MELANCHOLY.

The two sit side-by-side.  One NOT more important or legitimate than the other.  One NOT pushed aside to make room for the other.   The shout of one NOT drowning out the cry of the other.  No choice has to be made.  The two lay beautifully intertwined.

Merriment AND melancholy.

BOTH AND.  Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

CHRISTMAS.


Suffering AND Savior.

Peacemaker AND Warrior.

Servant AND Leader.

Poor AND Rich.

Grace AND Truth.

Man AND God.

Both AND.

Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

Jesus.



Thank you so much for being part of the Dolly Mama Family! It means the world to me! I pray that your week will be filled with a beautiful explosion of God’s goodness! A true Merry Christmas from My Heart to Yours!

Much Love, Esther

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

“You Better Watch Out” God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia. I am just nine years old. My bunkmate stirs below me. I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep. Sleep does not come.

I rehash the day. Thoughts swirl: “I did a bunch of wrong things. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep. I should confess my sins. Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today. I hope you can forgive me.”

Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.  I go into a bit of a panic. “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart. If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”

I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart. I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.” Still nothing. I lay there wide-awake.

My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, my dorm mother reading us another chapter in the story of Narnia. The image of Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them, floods my mind. “I love Aslan. I wish God was like Aslan. Why can’t He be?”

As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope: “Maybe He is.”

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For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season. A jolly man with a jolly heart. A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.” My friend “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did to God as a young girl.

It makes a lot of sense. “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Sounds eerily similar to a song from those little girl boarding school days: “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.” YOU BETTER WATCH OUT.

Recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has stepped in to “help Santa.” This Elf is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent. He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas. His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

Santa. God. Elf on the Shelf. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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

Fast forward 30+ years. I’m a mom of four littles who loves celebrating Santa (in fact, my seven-year old just opened her letter from the North Pole). We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf (only because he/she is not invented yet). But me, this “desperate-to-please-God” young mom, believes wholeheartedly in a this YOU BETTER WATCH OUT God.

I’m stuck in my grown-up mom body as the little nine-year old girl on her bunk bed. God is no different than Santa or Elf on a Shelf. He’s up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave, to be good for goodness sake.

You yelled at your kids today. BAD!

You taught Sunday School. GOOD!

You told that white lie to your best friend! BAD!

You helped your twelve-year-old with their homework. GOOD!

You forgot to pray! BAD!

My relationship with this Santa/Elf on a Shelf/God is a little topsy-turvy. I’m filled with and act from the stranglehold of fear and guilt. Am I good enough today? Is God happy with me?

I hide or at least try to. Why wouldn’t I? I avoid Him. Who wouldn’t? I struggle to feel close, spending all my energy keeping my external, visible behavior under control, hoping it’s enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s utter disapproval of me. UGH!

My internal craving for love and belonging is completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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

In the middle of all of this, the stories of Narnia reenter my life and I have a reunion with Aslan.  I find three-hour-long radio theater dramatic renditions (absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these tales that I loved as a child. I kill two birds with one stone: share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).

As I reconnect with Aslan, I find again that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once. He is the one I long for and need so desperately, my grownup heart still fragile from the many years of trying to keep myself in line.

That hopeful thought I had as a child flickers again in the darkness of my soul.

God is not like Santa.

God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.

God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”

God is like Aslan.

God is wise. God is playful. God is generous. God is kind. God is mysterious. God is terrifying. God is magnificent. God is beautiful. God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period. End of story.

No more YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

My soul settles slowly (I’m talking years of retraining my brain) into a place of love and belonging. Yes, God sees me. He really sees me. He sees that little girl in the bunkbed, fearful, yet hopeful. He sees the young mom who longs to be known fully, and loved completely. He still sees me, the real real me. But instead of “setting me straight,” His beautiful, tender, kind heart sets me free!

My flicker so long ago, “Maybe He is,” burns brightly as a fire of hope that shouts, “YES. YES HE IS.”

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P.S. I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus. I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus.

In his response, Lewis offered this relief: “Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”

 

***ONE MORE NOTE:  If you liked reading this, please go back out and “like” it on social media.  Means the world to me!***

Posted in Faith, Health, Sabbath, Word of the Year

We All Need Permission for This

Life is noisy. Everywhere. There are televisions in elevators shouting the latest news-worthy crisis. There are horns blaring from impatient people in the cars behind us. There are children throwing tantrums in grocery stores (I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying that with my grandson just this week). And then there is the constant noise inside our own heads.

There’s something about getting away from the hustle and bustle, the noisy world we live in, to a place of respite and refreshment. Maybe it’s the silence that allows our minds to breathe. Maybe it’s slowing down to hear God’s gentle whisper of love and care for us, placing our burdens only meant for His shoulders. Maybe it’s the surrounding simple beauty that soothes our hurried souls and draws us to Beauty Himself. Maybe it’s the intangible peace we receive and feel in our very bodies when we give room and space for quiet.

Constant. Noise. Drains. The. Life. Out. Of. Us.   Jesus invites us to something very different.   He rarely tells us to hurry up.  He often spoke the opposite to his friends when He was living in this “speed-it-up” world.  He knew (for them and for us) that we humans desperately need self-care and replenishment, restoration and renewal, places that GIVE LIFE.

“Come away to a quiet place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

This place of withdrawal is a gift Jesus so longs to give us, not another “should” on our endless list. He wants LIFE for me and for you, for us in our collective humanity, the most full and abundant life that we are designed for. He knows what we need to be WHOLE and WELL. Rest is not selfish, lazy, or impractical. It is truly freeing and life-giving, a present straight from the tender heart of God for us to unwrap.

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Where is this place of restoration for you? Is it a simple walk around the block listening to your favorite music? Is it laying down for a much-needed nap on a Sunday afternoon? Is it sitting alone in your car watching the sunset from your favorite overlook? Is it putting your phone on “do not disturb” mode for a few hours, giving yourself a break from the constant buzzing and dinging?  Whatever it is, do it often and regularly. Make it a part of the rhythm of your day, your week, your month, even your year.  In the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, give yourself permission to retreat, withdraw and rest.

The noisy world will be calling to you soon enough.

From my heart to yours.

P.S.  I am heading horizontal this afternoon.

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

For other posts about my journey toward rest, check these out by clicking HERE.

 

 

Posted in Faith, Sabbath

Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus

I am overwhelmed by the deep deep love of Jesus this morning.

It’s the kind of overwhelmed where tears have reached my eyes and I cannot prevent them from leaking out.

It’s the kind of overwhelmed where these salty drops running down my cheeks are a very GOOD thing.

I share this two-minute song this morning.  Soak in the love of Jesus.  Rest right there.  There’s nothing better in the world to do.

From my heart to yours,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vUhwyjdk8A

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Friendship, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

Did you Know (it wasn’t just a house)?

“She was an adventurer at heart.  But oh how she loved drinking this tea in this mug in this chair.  Oh how she loved to be home.”  (Google Images)

When you hurriedly trekked up the sidewalk with your then 10-year-old in a whirlwind house-hunting trip in August of 2002 and opened the door at 23 Cedar Hollow Drive, DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know…

the neighbor boy that walked through the door the day you moved in would become one of your son’s life-long friends and your son would share the weight of pall-bearer at his dad’s funeral eight years later?

music would fill the living room and your baby would fall in love with the guitar and piano and her playing and singing would be a gift to your soul and you miss these moments terribly?

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23 Cedar Hollow Drive would be brimming with boatloads of love for and from almost every species of animal, from snakes, to dogs, to cats, to hamsters, to fish (that wouldn’t die), to every assortment of lizard and now there is only one left?

your marriage, faltering at best, would become a place of hope and healing for dozens and dozens of young couples on the verge of their own life-long journey of marriage?  (in fact, you are spending time with one of them again this morning)

your nervous decision to construct a pool granted a space for family, friends, teammates, youth groups, classmates, neighbors and even strangers to rejuvenate and be refreshed?  (water gun fights and subsequent peals of laughter did just the trick)

 first days of school and dance pictures and phone conversations filled with both laughter and tears would mark your front stoop (and who knows, maybe some goodnight kisses by young lovers)?

extended family would gather for holidays and normal days, where sports teams would be cheered for, good food would be eaten, games (and some arguments over those games) would be played, and most significantly, unbreakable bonds would be formed?

your young daughter, struggling with severe OCD and the inability to go away even for a week would receive help through counselors and would now be a flourishing wife, teacher and mom?

an actual wedding ceremony would be performed in your living room because the bride and groom thought the church was located in your town and got their marriage license in the wrong place?

annual Easter Egg hunts (or should I say money hunts) created a place for teens and budding adults to still be kids in all the best ways?

endless art supplies and crafts from your artist would be haphazardly strewn over all available surfaces and one of those works would be still hanging proudly in your family room for your prospective buyers to see and admire?

birthdays would be celebrated in all their simplicity and sometimes complexity, giving room for sharing reasons why the one whose day it was to be honored was loved (and even liked)?

every kind of sport uniform would be thrown in heaps on your kitchen floor and not-so-carefully cleaned in your laundry room, providing a place of community and friendship for your kids?  (even as you write this, two of your son’s high school teammates are asleep with your 23-year-old in the basement)

your finished basement would be filled with sleep-overs and left-overs and hang-overs and do-overs and make-overs and probably thousands of humans entered those doors?

your outdoorsy son, content to spread mulch, carefully prune bushes and chop wood with his dad, would be happiest at his job doing the same?  (and he would embrace your sports teams to the full)

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your family room couch would become the healing place for illnesses too numerous to count, unforeseen and planned surgeries, along with the comforting spot to take a mental health recovery day and that you let your kids skip school for only this reason (oh how far you’ve come)?

small groups filled with lasting and abiding friendships would meet, pouring over books and videos, praying through heartache, celebrating joys, living the ups and downs of life and kids and marriage and…and…and.. (one of them still met last night right in your family room)? 

the pony-tailed 10-year-old around the corner and school-bus seat mate would become one of your firstborn’s closest friends, bridesmaid fourteen years later and Auntie Taylor to your grandson?

a baby in your womb would be lost yet your heart would be born anew?

your game-boy playing first-grader would help you to create your new podcast and be a regular and wise guest?

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early Christmas mornings would be filled with children (and even now adults) sitting on your bed opening surprises (and not-surprises) through sleepy, yet curious and excited eyes?

a nervous breakdown would seek to destroy you but a life-long journey toward healing and wholeness would begin and continue today and that a writer’s quest would result?

homework would be finished (or not-so-much), college applications would be filled out, but most important, hearts would be taught to love and hope and apologize and respect and give and continue to learn?

your basement would be the place for a barely sprouting church youth group of eight teens and three leaders that is now hundreds strong?

warm fires would be built inside and out, where stories were shared, sleep was encouraged, s’mores were eaten, and life-giving memories were created?

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fights would break out, doors would be slammed, harsh words would be spoken, yet subsequent apologies would be made and forgiveness would be granted?  Love and trust would be painstakingly built brick by brick?

your two-year old would happen upon a friend in first grade and after endless sleepovers, birthday parties and bring-a-friend vacations, their college hearts would be knit together even though hundreds of miles separate them?

your glass kitchen door would be filled with chore charts and yearly memorabilia, bird-feeder and deck-flower views, and sun-soaked floors for pets to relax and sleep blissfully?

seventeen New Year’s Eves would be celebrated, some quiet with tired bodies barely making it until midnight and others loud with friends singing God Bless America on the stoop after a long-night of Bunco?

a new love would come bearing another new love?

religion would be shed over and over and Jesus would rise in its place to become the healer of your heart and the lover of your soul?

you and Allen would be more in love than you thought was even possible?

Did you know…

Thankful tears would flow because this house is a true haven of healing and that as you leave it, your prayer is the same for the next set of feet that trek up the sidewalk and open your front door and make this their home?

Yes.  This you now know.  You know ALL of it.

 

If you’ve made it this far and you like this, I am asking if you could go back out on social media where you came from and “Like” it!  Makes a huge difference in how much it gets read and/or shared.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!