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.
I’m awake. It’s 4:00 am. Just 45 minutes ago, I heard the garage door open and close for the last time at this ungodly hour. I ran downstairs to give and get a hug from our youngest.
You see, tonight was the night of nights. After a final dinner celebrating our two graduates, Rachel and her best friend did what they always do. They drove around enjoying our sleepy little town and the surrounding areas, talking about all those things BFFs talk about. This was their last time to do that as neighbors who’ve known each other (and been mostly inseparable) since they were just six years old. That’s why it’s an ungodly hour. I don’t blame them. It’s really hard to say goodbye.
After crying and hugging when she came in, and clinging to her (and secretly wishing I never had to let go), she went to sleep in her childhood bed for one more dreamy night and after trying to venture back into my own fitful sleep, I gave up and decided to process just a tiny bit of the swirling emotions coursing through my very bones.
You see, today is the day of days. I begin the long goodbye of driving my precious Rachel across the country to her new life on the other coast in Burbank, California. 2,764 miles from our house to her new apartment. That’s really far. We leave in just 11 hours.
When she burst on the scene 19 years, 10 months ago, I never fathomed the ache I would hold in my heart this morning. The proud and painful and thankful and joyful and awful ache. It’s the universal mom ache that comes every time we say goodbye.
It starts when our babies take their first toddling and tentative steps away from us. That initial ache comes unbidden as we grasp a glimpse of all the future steps they will take away from us, all the goodbyes to come.
The goodbye of walking onto a school bus or into a classroom for the very first time. Tiny hands turn and wave. The ache rears and settles.
The goodbye of a first sleepover or summer camp. They are not “right in the next room,” safe under the cover of our home. The ache rears quietly and settles quickly.
The goodbye of their very independent, “I’ve got this,” preteen self. This one smacks loud and jolts abruptly. The ache rears ferociously and settles slowly.
The goodbye of a challenging teen mishap. Their childhood innocence door slams shut. The ache rears dragging fear along with it and settles in fits and starts.
The goodbye of backing out of the driveway moments after receiving freedom in the shape of a gift from the DMV. The ache rears with memories of a toddler in her car seat and settles with some much-needed freedom from late-night, seemingly endless pickups.
The goodbye of a graduation cap and a college dorm room. Stopping here for a moment. This one was really rough for me. This ache rears and settles, rears and settles, rears and settles, every time they come home and leave, come home and leave, come home and leave.
The goodbye I find myself in this morning. The goodbye of moving out and moving on. The goodbye that speaks to adulthood, active parenting job done, “will they make it on their own? This ache rears fresh and raw this morning. I am hopeful it will settle.
There are more goodbyes to come. The goodbye of weddings and births of grandchildren (I’ve experienced those with my oldest and she is experiencing her own goodbyes now). Every time, the steps are further and further away. Every time, the ache rears and rears and rears. Every time, the ache settles and settles and settles.
I know that with each goodbye comes a settling hello. A settling hello that brings newness, possibility and life. Believe me, I know.
But in the wee hours of this morning, I sit in the real, raw ache of the goodbye, not rushing the pride I feel, the pain I feel, the thankfulness I feel, the joy I feel and the awfulness I feel. It’s beautiful here. It’s sacred here. It’s momentous here.
The sun is not up yet. I sit quiet in the dark. The ache will settle soon enough. I like the ache for now. It’s my very good friend.
(To those of you who have said the worst goodbye in the loss of your child, I am just so sorry. I wonder if there is ever a settling after the ugly rearing of the ache. It’s okay if there’s not. Maybe there shouldn’t be. Either way, I wholeheartedly salute you. I stand with you. I sit with you. I am just so very sorry. You never should have had to say this kind of goodbye.)
What do “getting down,” “giving up birthdays” and “making MINI-MEs” have to do with this beautiful and messy parenting journey? Join with me as I interview Rachel, the baby of the Dolly Mama family. In just 20 minutes, she breaks out her wise voice, even though she can’t even break open the bubbly yet! But don’t worry! She’s produces enough bubbly herself!
CLICK ON LINK BELOW TO LISTEN TO 20 MINUTES OF CAN’T MISS THOUGHTS!!
Thank you for taking the time to listen! Please share this with anyone you know who is beginning the parenting journey, in the middle of the mess, or still navigating it all with adult children!! It’s powerful stuff!
Licked a dark smear off my finger and then thought, “Phew. It’s chocolate.” (Moms Everywhere)
You’re up in the middle of the night for the second or third time rocking your colicky newborn to sleep (and this is the 28th night in a row). You are walking zombie during the day at this point and can’t remember how to tie your shoes or even where your shoes are.
You’re carrying out a screaming preschooler from the grocery store because you won’t let them have a second lollipop. They are a sticky mess from the first and now they are hitting you and pulling your hair. You are beyond embarrassed as you feel the burning eyes of others on your frame.
You’re breaking up the 27th fight today between your two youngest children (and they only got home from school two hours ago). You lose it and yell at them, angry with yourself for not having enough patience. Your brain runs to that verse in Isaiah and you plead with God: “WOE IS ME! I AM RUINED. I AM A (WO)MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS AND LIVE AMONG A PEOPLE OF UNCLEAN LIPS.”
You’re watching your daughter roll her eyes at you and go “huffing and puffing” out of the room all because you said no to that middle school sleepover. It doesn’t seem to matter to her that tomorrow is your mom’s birthday and the whole family is coming over and she told you she would help you get ready.
You’re waiting for sound of the garage door opening for the 10th Saturday in a row. It’s now 11:30 pm and your new driver’s curfew is later than you’ve been awake in 20 years. Your mind races ahead to worst-case scenarios as to why they are not answering your texts. Sleep is futile.
You’re waiting for your child to bounce in the door for spring break, picturing puzzle-making and long talks about her future, only to be met with a quick hug and “Can I have the car keys? I’m headed out with my friends.” Your heart takes a dive as you realize it’s never going to be the same.
You’re talking on the phone with your daughter, a new mother. She informs you that they are NOT coming home for Mother’s Day this year. Images of years gone by and the tradition of the “whole family” being together are wiped out in a moment. You choke out the words as best you can, “It’s okay. I understand.” Tears flow uncontrollably as soon as you hang up the phone.
IS IT ALL WORTH IT? The question circles around in your head, haunting you as you wonder if taking the giant leap into parenting was the worst choice you ever made. What were you thinking?
You’re gathering your baby from the church nursery and the moment they notice you, their eyes light up, their two-toothed smile fills the room, and their little arms reach for you as if to shout, “You are mine! I am yours! All is right again!”
You’re coming back from being at the grocery store, having only been gone for 30 minutes while your spouse watches your preschooler. You are met with “look what I made for you” and handed a Froot Loop necklace that you proudly display for the next week or two around your neck.
You’re at back-to-school night, sitting at your fourth grader’s desk, listening to the teacher drone on and on about the expectations of the classroom and what is hoped to be learned. You peak inside your child’s folder and they’ve scrawled a note to you, “Surprise ahead. Check under the chair.” You reach down and pull out a green paper heart (at least that’s what you think it is)! A smile creeps to your lips.
You’re sleeping and it’s Christmas morning! Your 13 year-old (who has to be bribed out of bed every morning for school with promises of her favorite bagel) comes bounding into the room at 6:00 am, leaping on you and wrapping her arms around your neck, squeezing tightly. “Can we get our stockings and come onto your bed like we always do? Can I wake everyone else up?” Her child-like, unfiltered excitement tugs your heart strings and you feel full inside.
You’re making dinner and you have forgotten to buy one of the most important ingredients. Your teenager plays video games in the family room. Without realizing it, you berate yourself aloud, “How could you not remember to get this?” A voice shouts from the other room, “I can go get whatever you need from the store. I can drive now.” You send your budding adult on his way, money in hand. You beam inside, thankfulness rising.
You’re reading the book for your woman’s group. Your college daughter left two days ago. You open to the page where you left off and there is a note doodled at the top. “I love you mom.” Happy tears spring to your eyes and you send a text to your two daughters, asking which one of them wrote it (which makes it even happier).
You’re texting your 25 year old what they want for their birthday. They say all they want is a puppy. You work your butt off the next couple of months and find just the right one. You arrive with her and your man-child greets you with hugs and laughter and a stream of “thank yous.” You watch as this giant, tough, bearded landscaper cuddles in the grass with his new baby, letting her crawl all over him, giving gentle words of kindness and love. Your heart swells with pride and joy!
IS IT ALL WORTH IT? The question again circles around in your head, this time sparking renewed hope that taking the giant leap into parenting was the ABSOLUTE BEST choice you ever made. What were you thinking is right!
(PS: ALL OF THESE ARE TRUE STORIES FROM YOURS TRULY. YOU HAVE A WHOLE BUNCH OF YOUR OWN! I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR JUST ONE!)
ALSO CAN I SHAMELESSLY ASK YOU TO LIKE THIS POST OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA IF YOU READ IT AND LIKED IT! IT HELPS IT TO MOVE UP IN THE RANKS INSTEAD OF GET LOST IN THE GIANT SOCIAL MEDIA POT. MEANS THE WORLD TO ME!!!
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. (Hamilton Wright Mabie)
As I sit here listening to needles fall from my Spruce, I am not sure if our tree will survive until tomorrow. It’s one of those minor stressors that come about because we bring something that’s alive from the outdoors into an environment where it is not designed to thrive. The tradition seems silly at times, but it’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas.
Tonight and tomorrow, many of us head into environments where, like my tree, we are in survival mode. There are so many reasons why it might be the case. Thriving is not even on the agenda. We are just going to “make it through.”
From the thousands of Christmas movies, books, and shows, we know in our heads that “Christmas cannot be bought from a store. Christmas is just a little bit more.” (The Grinch) But our actions speak otherwise. We rush around buying gifts and would never be caught dead without one in hand for those on our list. Part of the survival of Christmas. Get a gift. Bring a gift.
I don’t really want to just survive until Tuesday. My thoughts swirl as I think about how to “make that happen, keep my needles from falling off.” And then my heart is quieted. It’s not the outer world: other people, the food, the dying Spruce, the gifts, and even the Steelers game that are going to do it for me. It’s a gentle reminder from my friend Annie that she has hammered into my head for the past ten years (obviously I am a slow learner): We don’t just HAVE gifts to offer. We ARE the gifts.
As you go into today, tonight and tomorrow, be encouraged. You ARE the gift for those who spend any moments of precious time with you. Open yourself up. Unwrap yourself. Let others in. Help them to know you. At the same time, view others as the gifts that they ARE. Seek to unwrap their hearts. Get to know them. It’s scary and vulnerable and you might just be hurt and rejected, but you will be giving the best gift of all: YOU.
I long for one thing in this life and just perhaps you do too (whether you know it or not): being fully-known and fully-loved. I am so thankful that Jesus paved the way for us and showed us how this works. He opened His heart fully for us, taking a huge chance on being vulnerable and rejected, giving Himself without pause. He knew beyond a doubt that He IS the best gift for us and that you and I ARE the greatest presents He could ever receive. All of the scary rejection paled in comparison to the JOY that this union of hearts would bring. We were worth the risk.
I don’t know what’s going to happen today, tonight, or tomorrow when you risk your hearts for the chance of knowing and being known, loving and being loved. I can’t promise you that it might not end up painful. I can’t promise you that you might not be rejected. But I can promise that your heart will be more open, and in turn, more healed. And you might just be a little closer to getting what you really want this Christmas!
“What did you do right today?” (You’ll find out – keep reading)
Based on the fact that there are about 17,000,000 apps and web sites out there to manage your to-do list, many believe that the crossing off of such a list is top priority. Get ‘er done. The feeling of accomplishment and thus a sense of peace is promised at the end of the day when it’s all finished.
However, if I’m like anybody else, and I know you people are out there, I was trained from a young age to spend time at the end of each day focusing, not on what I had accomplished, but on what I had done wrong, admitting it out loud and asking God for forgiveness. No matter how much good I had given to the world, my last thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had messed up and what I hadn’t done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes).
This line of thinking followed me into my adult years and into my marriage. I ended most days, as did my husband, with final thoughts of how much I had done wrong. For reasons I don’t remember, one night I changed it up and asked Allen this question, “What did you do right today?” Crickets. More crickets. Finally, after several minutes, he answered with something like, “I smiled at the store clerk.” If I know him at all, he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, and treated everyone he met with complete dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his list.
Appalled at how much of our day was taken up with negative thinking about ourselves, we decided to make this a best practice for the end of our days. We spent time each evening before we closed our eyes to sleep asking each other this question, “What did you do right today?” Instead of only beginning our days (which I do as you can see from the picture above…it’s my actual current list for the day I write this) with a to-do list, we ended our days with a “ta-da list.”
Although this was a really nice way to end to my day, something I enjoyed even more was when I slipped into one of my children’s rooms and watched them as they slept (something that still happens from time-to-time, even though they are literally giants at this point). My heart would be filled with love, joy and peace (after all, this was mostly the only time there was peace) and no matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more. I was completely and utterly in love with them. I was just happy at the thought of them.
To tell you the truth, this sounds a little like the God I have come to know and love. While the to-do lists and the ta-da lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him. He has bigger things on His heart that He wants to share with us, His children. He longs for us to hear His voice in the depths of our soul as He says to us at BOTH the beginning and end of each day, regardless of either of those lists, “I will quiet you with my love. I will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) This is what brings my heart the true joy and peace that I long for.
What did you do right today? What can you say “ta-da” about? I would love for there not to be crickets this time around. Comment below and/or share the link with those who might need to hear this question as well. I am off now to check some more boxes on my to-do list.
(One last thing, please check out my WORTH THE READ page and then tell me your favorite reads. I would love to get to know you more! You can either send me a note on my WHO ARE YOU? COME SAY HI page or comment below.)
“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” (Unknown)
Several years ago, our women’s group (we call ourselves the Beautiful Mess, which couldn’t describe us any better) read and walked through one of my all-time favorite books, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. The author had gone on a mission to find three things a day for one year for which she could find grace and beauty, gifts as she came to call them, and give thanks for them. By the end of the year, she had accumulated over 1,000 of these gifts (for you non-math people, that’s 365 x 3 = 1,095), hence the name of the book.
This began my journey of thanks. Since I am thankful-challenged, I downloaded an app simply called “thankful”, a private gratitude journal. I began to keep track of one thing a day because my phone buzzed every night at 7 pm to remind me and I received one of those red notification circles that forced me to get rid of it. (How many are on your phone as you read this? I have to get rid of them at all costs. It’s my mission in life.) As of today, I am at 385 (and to confess, it’s been about 3 1/2 years, and now it’s your turn to do the math).
This prodded me to take another small step, this time posting one “someone” each day this past November on social media for which I was grateful. It brought me great joy and kept me grounded during the holiday rush and gently reminded me of the people in my life that are true gifts (I can see you right now checking my Timeline to see if you might have been one of them).
My thanksgiving ritual extended beyond November as I started to share a “something” or “someone” each #thankfulthursday on social media. Still not having overcome my thankful-challenged ways, I set a reminder each Thursday at 12 pm to receive another one of those very annoying red circles (yes, I deem them the bane of my existence).
And now here comes the “giant leap for mankind” in my gratitude journey. After all, I do believe the quote above and certainly could use a little more happiness in my life. I hope to send some your way as well.
Now, with no further ado, and what you actually came on the site to read, my week of thanks:
Headspace App (For those who have the same delightful disorder of anxiety that I do, this has been worth the cost. In fact, last night when I was awake at 3 am, this was a life-saver and a sleep-giver. Whoever you are, you British man with a soothing buttery voice, I could listen to you all day.)
Clematis in full bloom (This beauty welcomes me every time I open my garage door for three blissful weeks in late May, early June.)
Our Penguins winning the Stanley Cup(When we were getting married, my father-in-law was our best man. His toast was the following: “The three most important words in any marriage are the following: Pirates, Penguins, Steelers.” This has, I hate to admit, proven to be true. Congrats to Syd the Kid and all the rest. And to my adopted home city of Pittsburgh, PA.)
Some of the sweetest words ever spoken in our home on Wednesday by my son Josh: “Sure Mom, I can make dinner.” Enough said.
One of my “fifth children’s” bridal shower and having the privilege of mentoring her and her fiancee on their marriage journey. #marriedtothemax
Hanging out at Lincoln Center watching my niece make our family look smart by becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. You go Court!
Lastly, all of you, my readers, my life-giving and hope-sharing readers (you just might be on this list every week).
You know the question I am going to ask today (and every Thursday for the future as we know it). What are you thankful for this week? Can’t wait to read all your comments below. After all, I long for this to be journey we are sharing and the gifts you have received in the past few days matter to me! I would be thrilled to hear them!