Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, Motherhood, Thanks

It’s Strange Here

I sit by my fire alone.

It’s strange here.

A year ago, my third-born was bursting through the door, overstuffed college laundry bag in hand, ready for a week of “rest” in the “best bedroom ever,” along with eating the ultimate “Taylor ham and egg on an everything bagel” sandwich every morning of his time with us.

This afternoon, I was driving him to the airport.  He is off to see his younger sister 2,726 miles away on the left coast.

A year ago, I was picking up my exhausted college baby girl up at the same airport, joy filling my heart as we chit-chatted on the way back to a house filled with family.

Today, my phone buzzes. “Can you send me Josh’s flight info?  Also, can I have the famous jello salad recipe?  I’m going to make it for Thursday.”  She is headed to buy the ingredients to make her favorite Thanksgiving dish at a grocery store I don’t even know the name of.

A year ago, my oldest fed her baby our family-secret sweet potato casserole in the same booster seat we used for her, surrounded by oohs and aahs from cousins and great-grandparents.

On her commute home from teaching second-graders earlier, she chatters away on the phone.  “When do you leave, Mom?  I’m hoping to get my grad school papers done on Friday.  We are just going to eat out with my mother-in-law on Thursday.  I might make the family-secret sweet potato casserole just to have leftovers.  ”  Her two-year-old babbles in the background, “I want to go that way.  I have a raccoon sticker.  I see a tractor.”

A year ago, the second child of my heart was on his way home from a land far away, new puppy in tow, ready to cuddle up on his favorite sofa, eat his favorite NJ pizza, and see his favorite friends.

“Just landed in Florida.  I hope you have a wonderful week” lights up across my laptop screen on Sunday morning.  He’s with his girlfriend spending the holiday with her family.   I can’t even tell you what town he is in.  Maybe somewhere near Palm Beach.  Not sure.

I sit by my fire alone.

It’s strange here.

Feelings bubble to the surface, unlike any I’ve had before.  I’m not sure what to make of them.

Thanksgiving has been together for 27 years.  The three of us.  Then the four of us.  Then the five of us.  Then the six of us.  PLUS, a whole bunch (and I mean a WHOLE BUNCH) of other family and friends and anyone who wanted to join the mayhem.

Pies.  Parade.  Mashed potatoes.  Dog show.  Family-secret sweet potato casserole.  Puzzles.  Turkey.  Football.  Ham for those who hate turkey.  Cousins.  Gravy.  Games.  The famous jello salad.  Beer-tasting.  Pictures (the one at the top of this website being last year’s).

I sit by my fire alone. 

It’s strange here.

No overflowing shopping bags filled with cranberry sauce and giant foil roasting pans.  No beds being prepped for guests.  No Costco runs for last-minute hors d’oeuvres.  Not even one decoration in sight except a pumpkin candle burning slowly behind me.

My husband, away on business, calls in the middle of all the feelings.  “You’re alone.  How are you?”

“I’m okay.”  I say.  “I like it in many ways.  I am glad for tonight.  But I’m glad I will see you soon.”

Tomorrow, I hop on a plane myself to spend a few days with my parents.  My man hops on his own plane the next day to join me.  I won’t be alone for long.

But right now, this alone thing gives me space.  Space to sit with my Savior and sort out this new normal I find myself in.

This new normal filled with sorrow that I am not seeing ANY of my four children.  To shed the tears that need to flow.

This new normal filled with thanks that I am seeing my parents, my groom and a grieving childhood friend.  To allow a warm smile to curl to my lips.

This new normal filled with bewilderment that this is actually where I find myself on the journey (I think Costco might send a search party).  To sit quietly, a questioning “hmmm” filling my thoughts.

This new normal mostly filled with hope that I might have just done this mom thing okay.  To embrace the idea that my kids are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing:  building lives of their own, going on new-found adventures, loving those they are with and best of all, making family-secret sweet potato casseroles and famous jello salads.

I sit by my fire alone. 

It’s strange here.

But it’s really good. 

I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

My World Changed Forever

My world changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on my child. More importantly, my heart changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on them. From the moment I saw them, I knew something that I would never be able to “un-know,” the anchoring feeling and experience of unconditional love.

It’s a love that’s hard to explain with words. It’s a love that doesn’t lessen even if I am hurt, angry, sad, weary, panicked, exhausted, confused, frustrated, afraid or despairing. Nothing is able to fully quench it.

It’s a love that doesn’t increase just because I’m grateful, happy, rested, proud, peaceful, hopeful, confident, content, or optimistic. It’s a love that dwells in the secret, sacred space of my heart that’s reserved just for this one person, my child.

The experience of this inescapable kind of love for my now mostly grownups gives me a powerful, albeit limited glimpse into God’s unconditional love for me.

Nothing is able to make God’s love expand or diminish in any way. It’s steady and enduring, permanent and unfailing. This continuing peek into God’s heart for me (and thankfully for them) has the power to radically change me in only all the best ways. It’s a mighty force that brings life and healing the way nothing else can. For me and for them.

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  May you have the power to grasp how WIDE, how LONG, how HIGH and how DEEP His love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge.  It will fill you with the richest experience of God’s presence in your life, completely filled and flooded with God Himself.”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

From My Heart to Yours

P.S.  The pic above is one of my favorite ever!!

 

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 Family, Motherhood

Hopefully No Mini-Mes on My Watch

“Today you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”  (Dr. Seuss)

Being a parent means supporting our kids to be fully who they are, not who we are or think they should be. It’s not about creating “Mini-MEs” but about birthing “YOUs”!!

For me, it means processing math lessons and listening to crazy student behavior with my teacher daughter, along with reminding her of how great of a mom she is on those tough days with a toddler (#allofthem)

It means hearing stories about ride-on mowers almost flipping over and buying chocolate muffins from Costco for my landscaper son.

It means asking (and then actually listening to the response) about the latest headphones on the market and being okay with my senior not wanting to walk at his college graduation.

Today, it means sitting in the back of a dark Sony sound studio after a very long flight and short night of sleep with my recording arts major watching her heart come alive and her dream come true! She does know what all those buttons do!

It’s not easy. It means we are stretched farther than we ever thought possible as we put aside our longing to hold them close and safe with the better choice of releasing them into the adventure of their own journeys!

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What ways (big and small) are you doing this today for those you love??

 

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

SORRY NOT SORRY!

CONFLICT!  Some of us engage in it, enjoy it and view it as a form of communication that brings connection.  Others of us avoid it, despise it, and deem it the destroyer of relationships.  What about all that fighting we are in the middle of as parents?  Among our kids and also with them?  Who should say they’re sorry?  When should they say they’re sorry? How should they say they’re sorry?  What about forgiveness and reconciliation?  How do they happen?  When do they happen?  Who should forgive?  THIS BIG QUESTION is worked through:  should I make my child say “I’m sorry” when they’ve done something wrong and “I forgive you” when another apologizes?  Join me with Josh, my super wise 22-year old, as we let you in on my “fits-and-starts” journey with this never-ending parenting battle.

 

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

Sorry Not Sorry!

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with everyone who has conflict in their lives  (HINT:  it’s not just for parents)!

 

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

Manuevering the Mammoth of Social Media (as Parents and Humans)

Social Media is a behemoth.  Instagram.  Snapchat.  Facebook.  Twitter.  OUR PHONE.  On and on and on.  Join Rachel and me as we work our way through the positives and negatives (for BOTH OF US) of the various platforms and how they play out currently in our mom/daughter relationship.  LISTEN closely to Rachel about the dangers she encounters on Instagram (her social media of choice) as a young #stillteenage woman and how she steers through the ins and outs and keeps her sanity and protects her self.  FIND OUT about some not-so-good parts of this Dolly Mama and my personal struggle with parenting through this very tumultuous medium.  You will find great hope for yourself and your own journey of maneuvering the mammoth as a human being and maybe even a parent.

 

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

Maneuvering the Mammoth of Social Media (as Parents and Humans)

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with everyone navigating the social media beast (HINT:  that’s everyone)!

Posted in Family, Motherhood

My Love for You is ______ Less (my mom letter)

Dear Child of My Heart,

I need you to know that I love you. I want you to know exactly what those three words mean when they are coming from my heart to yours.

I have told you that I love you more times than either of us can remember. That’s a good thing. You’ve heard it from the first day I held you in my arms and you are hearing it again today. You will hear it from me tomorrow, and next week, as long as my tongue allows. My love for you is COUNTLESS.

My love for you is the reason that sometimes I stay awake and worry. Yet, the fear that I have that my heart might break someday is quieted by the fierce love I have for you and the knowledge that it’s all worth it. You are worth it. My love for you is FEARLESS.

I loved you when you were minutes old.  I loved you when you were a “NO” screaming toddler.    I loved you when you were fighting with your siblings in grade school.  I loved you when you were a taller-than-me teenager.  I loved you when you walked away from me into your college dorm room.  I love you today.  I will love you all the tomorrows.  Nothing will change that.  My love for you is AGELESS.

It’s been a lot of work to be your mom. The lack of sleep and the amount of energy I’ve poured in have left me exhausted at times. But the life and joy and beauty you have brought me is beyond what I could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.   My love for you is TIRELESS.

I don’t care who knows how much I love you. I would shout it from the highest mountain to any who would listen. Everyone should know how wonderful and amazing you are and why you are so worth loving. My love for you is SHAMELESS.

I never knew love like this before I met you. It reaches places in me that I didn’t know existed. It’s higher than the uphill battles we’ve climbed. It’s wider than any mistake either of us make. It’s stronger than death. It’s longer than life. My love for you is DEPTHLESS.

No matter how many times I attempt to capture it in words, I am left dumb-founded. My love for you is more sacred than speech allows. My love for you is more precious than all the books that could ever be written. It’s easy to love you. My love for you is BOUNDLESS.

My love for began the first moment I found out about you and will continue until I take my last breath. You will carry it with you long after I am gone, until the moment you enter eternity yourself. We will then be reunited in perfect love on the other side. My love for you is ENDLESS.

The next time you hear me say them, even if it’s just a quick text, remember all of this. These three words come straight from the depths of my soul and I pray that they reach yours today.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone)

From my heart to yours,

Mom

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Sarah 5th Birthday_0004P.S.  One of you is having a birthday today!  Happy Birthday Sarah Elizabeth Meassick!  On this day 27 years ago, you made me a mom!  I. CAN’T. EVEN. BELIEVE. IT.  You are a mom yourself now, but no matter how many birthdays or children of your own you have, you are (and always will be) MY:

Princess
Peanut
Doodle
Sunshine
Beep
And DOLLY!

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

Ungrace (#NOT living from this place)

√ TELL ME SOMETHING YOU LIKE ABOUT ME
√ LIKE MY POSTS (AND COMMENT)…SERIOUSLY
√ SEND ME A THANK YOU TEXT OR NOTE
√ SAY “I GET WHY YOU FEEL THIS WAY” WHEN I’M SPEWING THE LATEST “UGH” LIFE MOMENT
√ CELEBRATE MY BIRTHDAY WITH SPEECHES, POEMS, CHEESY SONGS ABOUT WHY YOU LOVE ME
√ LET ME BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION

Thinking back on my early memories, I loved being cheered for, clapped for, told I was doing a good job.  It spoke to my soul that what I was good, approved of, and I should do more of the same.  It fed the very normal parts of me that longed to be liked and enjoyed by others.  It saturated this “words of affirmation” girl with a bucket full of love.

However, somehow this beautiful, God-given love language of mine twisted very quickly into something called “ungrace,” the view that I HAD to perform in order to be accepted, wanted and loved.  Praise for accomplishing morphed into earning the approval and love of those in my path.  Scarily, I also believed if I did not do these things, I deserved nothing and should actually be punished.  No wonder I strived so hard.   Many times, I wanted to just give up because it was too hard.  It seemed never enough.  The bar was too high, always just beyond my reach!

Being a mom threw a major wrench in the works for me.  No one cheered when I was up in the middle of the night with my newborn.  No one clapped when I painstakingly folded the laundry every single day.  No one praised me for driving to (78,453) after-school activities.  I wasn’t sure if I was doing a good job, approved of, or even liked by those I served.  Believe it or not, sometimes I was even told (hold your breath) that I wasn’t doing a good job by the wonderful children I bore from my very loins (insert sarcastic emoji here).  I wondered if anyone knew what I was doing at all, or even cared.  I felt unnoticed and underappreciated.  Said love bucket barely had enough water in it to wash my face . 

Other times, I completely blew it as a mom.  I yelled in frustration when I knew it only made things worse.  I argued back to a very strong-willed teenager (imagine that!), escalating the problem instead of bringing calm.   I used lots and lots of words that produced guilt and fear in my children.   It was not a pretty picture.   During these moments, I didn’t even like or approve of myself, let alone what others might think if they knew.  Aforementioned love bucket drained to the place of “I still think I might see faded wet stains on the bottom.”

The scariest part is I believed that God, who I couldn’t hide any of the good or bad from, wasn’t quite happy with me when I was doing good and He was angry with me when I was failing.  What did I do?  I began a cycle of trying harder.  I carried the system of “ungrace” with me everywhere. 

Be the classroom mom.  Get a “thank you” from the teacher.  Have an “over-the-top” Victorian Tea birthday party for my 13 year-old.  Receive a “hug” from my teen.  Make cookies for every high school basketball game.  Get acknowledged at the end-of-the-year awards banquet by my 6’5″ son. 

DO.  GET LOVE.  DO MORE.  GET LOVE.  OUTDO MYSELF AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.  The loop viciously perpetuated and I was an absolute slave to it.

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Guess what?

Drum roll please.

Wait for it!

Wait for it!

IT. DID. NOT. WORK. IN. THE. LONG. RUN.

And thankfully it didn’t. If it had, I might have stayed in this never-ending, life-crushing cycle of “ungrace.”

Other, better voices came into my life slowly.  Words of affirmation from authors, friends, scripture, preachers, my husband, counselors, and #EVENMYKIDS slowly began to shatter the lie I was living under.  They revealed the truth of grace to me.  The shackles loosened little bit by little bit.

I found out that grace is fundamentally unfair.  Grace says love does not have to be earned.  Grace tells me I don’t have to gain approval to receive it.  Yes, I could settle for false love, the kind I had manufactured by doing and doing.  But I didn’t have to.  I could receive true love, the kind where I don’t have to do anything to get more or less of it.   Mind-blown and better yet, heart-blown wide open.

I also found out God is the ultimate source of grace.  He gives it willingly.  In fact, He longs to lavish it on me.  There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me more OR less.  HE IS FULL OF GRACE!  OVERFLOWINGLY FULL!  As I receive this grace drop by drop, my love bucket slowly fills.   This time, however, my bucket is not filling with all the temporary “ungrace,” hole-in-the-bottom-of-the-bucket, earning kind of love, but the free, unmerited favor, grace-filled, fill-it-all-the-way-to-the-TOP-of-the-bucket kind of love.

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love. (Phillip Yancey)

From My Heart to Yours

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Now that you know how my love language is words of affirmation, you understand why I love having those likes and comments here and on social media!  What’s your love language??  How does your grace-filled bucket get full?  WOULD LOVE FOR YOU TO LIKE OR COMMENT 🙂

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.

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.39.10 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.50.24 PM

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 Anxiety, Family, Health, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

How My Anxiety Effected My Parenting

Join me as I speak with Josh (our 22 year-old) about how my “nervous breakdown” and subsequent anxiety disorder informed my parenting.  Find out the answers to these questions:  how did crippling fear effect my decisions as a mom and what changed as I began to heal?  Enjoy funny stories as part of the crazy!  If you struggle with anxiety/fear as a parent (and I know I am not the only one), this podcast is for you!!!  (Bear with audio issues…I’m building the plane as I fly it!  It will get better!)

 

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

https://anchor.fm/esther18/episodes/Episode-6-How-My-Anxiety-Effected-My-Parenting-e2qjpl

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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!