Posted in Faith, Motherhood, Thanks

Kindness Answered the Phone

You know that moment when your “check engine” light goes on during a 3,000 mile trek across the country and you are in the middle of Kansas?

Now I do.

On Day 4 of a thirteen-day whirlwind trip, 1,700 miles in, this warning light flashed LOUD and CLEAR! Slight panic coursed through my veins as we were supposed to be picking up my daughter’s friend at the Denver Airport at 6 pm and there were 7 more hours to go and the time read 10 am.

With tears leaking out the corner of my eyes and fear beginning to creep slowly, I made a phone call to a random mechanic that Google Maps said was “along the route.”

You know what happened? KINDNESS answered the phone!

KINDNESS in the form of a young man (maybe 20 years old) who works at J & R Automotive in Junction City, Kansas.

KINDNESS in his voice that he would take care of us and run a diagnostic test for FREE.

KINDNESS as he called back and asked the make, model and year of the car so he would be able to take care of us immediately as we arrived only 20 minutes later.

KINDNESS as greeted us and asked if we needed something to drink.

KINDNESS as he spoke about what was wrong and how they could fix it in the next three to four hours.

KINDNESS as he called for the part and assured us it would be here within minutes from the local parts store and he would NOT charge a mark up.

KINDNESS as he offered to drive us to the local library where there is free WiFi and air conditioning.

KINDNESS as he did EVERYTHING he could to get us on our way again.

You know what happened? THAT PANIC, THAT FEAR, that feeling of “who is going to help two women traveling alone in the middle of nowhere?” is gone! My heart is resting in peace. My Word of the Year, Shalom, is reigning in the middle of the mess.

All because of this young man. And his KINDNESS.

One more aside! Praise music blasted in the background as the mechanics worked on the car.

God knew exactly what I would need. I didn’t need to go to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Kansas. I needed KINDNESS.

“Clothe yourselves with kindness.” Colossians 3:12

Posted in Celebration, Clean Water, Faith, Family, Homeless, Marriage, Thanks

Happy Birthday Allen!

“The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.”  (Thomas Carlyle)

Allen.  A word that comes off my lips probably twenty times a day.  A word that sometimes is surrounded by love and other times by frustration.  A word like no other in my life.  A word that encompasses kindness unlike I’ve known before, integrity that quietly makes a profound statement, humility that lifts others up and spirituality that is deep and genuine.

I’ve struck gold in the landscape of life.  This man, who I’ve known for almost 30 years just keeps getting better and better.  He’s the best gift I’ve ever been given.  And he gave me four more gifts in our incredible children, as qualities I see growing in them reflect who their dad is.

Allen embodies the spirit of “being kind over being right” (and thank God for that, because I like being right just a little too much).  I watch it play out in quiet moments with close friends and strangers alike.  He is considerate to both immediate family and the homeless that wander the streets of New York City.  Co-workers who spend every day with him and the poor who don’t have access to clean water benefit from his heart of benevolence.   His gracious spirit permeates his times with his partners in ministry and the engaged couples we minister to together.  As you can see, his kindness is genuine, often and without boundaries.

Integrity is the suit of armor Allen puts on every single day.  He does “the right thing even when no one is watching.”  I would know.  I live with the guy.  He doesn’t cheat on his taxes, on his expense sheet at work, or me.  He is the same person in the morning at work, in a board meeting at our church, on a weekend with the guys, and our family at home.  I trust him completely and utterly.  What a gift!

I struggle with thinking I’m better than everyone else (#notabigsurprise).  I know.  I’m working on it.  And one of the reasons I’m working on it is because of this man named Allen who shows genuine humility.  I want to be seen and heard.  He wants others to be seen and heard, including me.  He’s the biggest reason why I started this blog.  He wants my voice out there.  He actually, deep-down-inside, believes that others are valuable and takes the role of a servant much of the time even though he is a highly successful business man with mad skills.  You can find him washing the dishes, folding the laundry, performing menial, unseen tasks no one else wants to do and never expecting the notice and applause of others.  I am so blessed!

My favorite thing about Allen, and probably why he’s all those other things, is that he is deeply spiritual.  His inner life matters more to him than his outward persona.  He seeks God with ferocity.  He spends time in prayerful solitude in all kinds of places (the woods, his favorite chair in our family room, the airport as he’s waiting for a flight).  He seeks wise counsel with me as we work to have a better marriage and partnership for this journey.  He has a group of male friends called the Muckmeisters who meet every other week to encourage and be encouraged along their inner journeys.  We share our lives with a group of couples where Allen is vulnerable and open with his struggles and successes.   He voraciously reads anything he can get his hands on (at our local library because he is an accountant and keeps our money under control) that will help him on his path to becoming spiritually and emotionally whole.  He is the real deal!!

Allen is not perfect by any means.  No one is.  That’s what makes this post even more precious to me!  I spend a lot of time thinking about and dwelling on all the things he is not, the ways I wish he was different.  But today, on his 57th birthday, I am shouting for all to hear the things that HE IS, the parts of him that are his truest self.

To my boys:  you have a great father.  I don’t want you to be him.  I want you to be yourselves.  I want you to see, by Dad’s example, that you can be your truest, best selves in all that God made you to be.  You are already great men and a lot of the reason you are is because of the amazing dad that you have.

To my girls:  you have a great father.  He has been more than enough for you and shown you what a good man is. Sarah, you have chosen wisely and have two good men (one big and one little) yourself.  How blessed they both are to have you as their wife and mom.  Rachel, you are still to choose.  I know you will choose well.  Dad will be a blubbering mess when he walks you down the aisle!

To Allen today: you are amazing!  You are to be celebrated!   I am so grateful to share my life with you!  Keep doing what you are doing! Don’t change who you are (even though at times I’m shouting otherwise)! You make the world, and especially mine, a better place just because you are in it! I see you!  I salute you! Happy Birthday! I hope we have 57 more of them together!!! And even that won’t be long enough!!

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

To the Mom Who is Saying Goodbye…

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Thanks

TT (Season #01, Episode #01)

“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 Giftsby 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.)

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  • 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!