Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Thanks

2020, Thanksgiving, AND

BUT I SHOULD be thankful because…

I have technology to communicate with my family.

none of the people I love is sick right now.

my husband just got a job.

BUT I SHOULD be thankful.

BUT.

BUT.

BUT.

 

I’ve lived for a long time in the land of the BUT.

Hoping that happiness would spill out as I pondered all the “awesome” in my life.

Hoping that even though XYZ was hard, pointing out the good would quiet down the raw grief that kept welling up inside.

Hoping beyond hope that gratitude would spring up and overflow to all those around me.

 

Dirty little secret.   It didn’t work.

I just felt guilty, like an entitled little brat who didn’t get her way when her mom told her “no more cookies.”

I stuffed down my sadness in favor of all manner of positivity, only to find it leak out in ways like resentment and unkindness.

I brought this yuck into my marriage, my parenting and my friendships, only to perpetuate this vicious cycle.

 

One little word changed all of this.

The word I’ve come to desperately NEED and LOVE, especially in 2020, the year of all years.

The word that helps me to embrace all of my humanness and yours too, giving us opportunity for true and real connection.

The word that’s holding me this week as we head into Thanksgiving, giving space for gratitude in a whole new way.

 

This word:  AND.

AND.

AND.

AND.

 

It’s goes something like this.

 

I am very sad that I can’t eat turkey and watch football with some of my kids this week

AND I am thankful because…

they are able to see each other and I have technology to communicate with them.

 

I am anxious about this dang virus and all the numbers going up

AND I am thankful because…

none of the people I love is sick right now.

 

I am angry that local businesses are shutting their doors and the holidays are kind of being ruined

AND I am thankful because…

my husband just got a new job.

 

I am having a very hard time with all that’s been ravaged, lost, ripped away from the collective “us” this year

AND I am thankful because…

God is good and near and kind and with me in the middle of all of it.

 

So on this very 2020 Thanksgiving, my friend, let’s give ourselves permission to kick the land of the BUT to the curb and pitch our tent in the terra firma of the AND.

Posted in Faith, Family, Thanks

A Smile Crept

A smile crept to my lips as I woke this morning.

It wasn’t because the sun was shining (finally) through my window, although that didn’t hurt.

It wasn’t because I had finally gotten a grocery store pick-up time around 12:30 am, although I am beyond grateful for that.

It wasn’t because Lysol wipes magically appeared in the back of a closet, although I almost kissed the package right there in my bathroom.

It wasn’t because my daffodil bulbs are just about to burst open, although spring and the beauty it brings are my all-time favorite.

A smile crept to my lips as I woke this morning.

A sound I hadn’t heard in months pierced my ever-longing ears.

THE SOUND OF A LEAF-BLOWER IN OUR NEIGHBOR’S YARD.

This would have annoyed me on April 1 of 2019.

After all, it was only 7:30 in the morning.

I might have even made some snarky comment about them being a “little inconsiderate.”

I might have spent the next half hour stewing in my cereal.

But today, a smile crept to my lips.

It was the sound of normal, ordinary.

A gift straight from God’s heart to mine.

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure that you are.” (Mary Jean Irion)

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Charity, Faith, Family, Thanks

THANK YOU Millennials! You are Good for Me!

I am amazed at how often “Millennials” are made fun of.  Put down.  Told they are lazy, entitled, spoiled, narcissistic.  Even skimming articles online, I came across titles from prominent magazines and newspapers like:

“Millennials and Their Destruction of Civilization”

“This is Why Millennials Get Such a Bad Rap”

“Millennials are Uniformly Bad Tippers”

I have been constantly bombarded with negative viewpoints on this whole generation of people.  I was raising three of them (with a fourth not too far behind) and every time they did something I didn’t like or agree with, I would dismiss it with “after all, their generation….yada yada yada.”  I fell many times into the trap of blaming them for the ills in my home and in our world, jumping on the “Millennials Suck” bandwagon, complete with “eye-rolling” and outright contempt.  NOT GOOD.

Allen and I (other than raising almost four of them) spend lots and lots of time with this generation.  Between our nieces and nephews, our kids’ friends, the significant others in our children’s lives, and the young engaged and married couples we mentor, our lives are surrounded by men and women aged 22-37.   Truth be told:  WE LOVE IT AND WE LOVE THEM!  News flash:  they certainly don’t suck.  They are an incredible group of human beings who have taught me how to live and love better.  They are SO SO SO good for my soul!  They have revealed God in a way that brings hope and healing to the core of who I am.

If there was anything that was hammered into my psyche from a very young age (by who knows what), it was the message that I should not reveal my true self.  I should hide.  I should only show the good parts of me, or what I think others will approve of.  This was the way to keep the world, my marriage, my church persona and my friendships in tact.  I even remember a deodorant advertisement that said, “Never let them see you sweat!” as if I couldn’t even have normal bodily fluids when I worked out.  Millennials have shouted, “NO MORE!”  “Sweat!”  “Be yourself in all your good and bad.” “Be vulnerable and authentic!”  Even writing this blog and having my podcast comes as a result of the permission I’ve been given to boldly be who I am, flaws and all.  THANK YOU MILLENNIALS!

My parents were outliers in many ways in their own generation.  Living in a world where their peers were living the “American Dream,” amassing wealth and pursuing happiness, my parents chose to give their lives for the “least of these.”  This did not make my childhood filled with all rainbows and ponies (in many ways it was fraught with a host of difficulties), but ONE vital thing I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world is their hearts of generosity that penetrated my own.   THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for listening to those outliers who went before you and solidifying this good place in me.  You volunteer more than any generation before you.  You believe it’s essential to GIVE BACK!  You are changing the world, one cause at a time, one person at a time, with your love and commitment to the lost and the least.  You remind me each day to live in and from this place of generosity, the very heart that God has towards me!  YAY for you!

For years, I lived with the idea that if I could get my outer world under control, my inner world would follow suit.  I believed that “to do” lists checked off at the end of the day would bring me what I truly longed for:  a life filled with peace and joy.  But the harder I tried to fix, fix, fix, perfecting my outer world, the more I realized it was impossible, sending me into much anxiety, wondering what was wrong with me.  THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for challenging that lie, revealing the truth to me that tending to my inner world, my soul, where true peace and joy dwells, where God lives and moves and speaks and heals, is the best starting and ending place.  You have helped me have an “anchor for my soul, firm and secure,”  (Hebrews 6:19) one nestled in the very heart of God.

Today, on this very ordinary Monday, my heart swells in thankfulness for you, my friends, those of you who were placed into this world and especially my world “for such a time as this.”  I am humbled and grateful for the deep truths that you have so willingly spoken into my heart, shattering the lies that held sway over me!  Thank you for your vulnerability, your generosity and your wisdom!

To my own Millennials (Sarah, Cody, Jared, Josh, Daniella, Courtney, Brandon, Marina, Nick…with Rachel and Cara closely behind), THANK YOU for showing me who I am and how much I am accepted and loved, not only by you, but by the God who formed me from His very vulnerable, generous and wise heart!  The best is yet to come!!

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Pennies

“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny?”  (Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Allen hatched a plan at dinner one night many moons ago.  He had been reading the above book (worth the read) and was captivated by an anecdote about a game Dillard used to play in her childhood. She tells the story of how she used to hide her own “precious penn(ies)” in nooks or crannies in trees or sidewalks, drawing chalk arrows to them so a stranger would find the surprise penny and pick it up.  Many times, she would lie in wait to catch a glimpse of the excitement in the finder’s eyes.

Allen’s favorite thought, just like Annie Dillard, was that there are “unwrapped gifts and free surprises” straight from the heart of God, just waiting for us if we open our eyes to see them.  Thus came Allen’s mission for our family:  find these pennies every day and tell us about them at dinner.

What started as a game ended up changing our lives.  Each one of us searched and found many things each day that we believed were “strewn by the generous hand” of God Himself, “surprises” just for us He had hidden along the path, many times with “big arrows” signaling where we might discover them.  We had things like flowers, actual pennies (those were super fun to find), frogs, the best parking space at the mall on a rainy day, butterflies, a kind word from someone, scoring an unexpected goal on the soccer or field hockey field, etc.  Sometimes, we would joke that what we had been given was a “nickel,” a “dime” or even a “quarter,” depending on the magnitude of what it meant to us.

Maybe I’m the only one here, but I have a confession to make.  My life (and mostly my head) is filled with negativity from the news, struggles in my home, animosity on social media, work-place uncertainty, sickness and even the death of those I love, all things that  consume me by what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right.  And really, truth be told, it causes me to doubt whether or not there is a God who is alive and who actually loves us people down here on this beautiful, but hurting planet.

As the events of the past week unfolded, my mind traced back (and thankfully did so) to the game we played for a whole year at our dinner table, the one that changed my life and maybe can change it again.  Are there terrible things?  Yes.  Are there sad things?  Yes.  Are there things that are just downright wrong?  Yes.  But are they the only things? NO!

I don’t want to stick my head in the sand, but I also don’t want to be swallowed up either.  I want to wisely navigate that tension between the bitter and the sweet of life, compassion rising within me in the bitter and joy enveloping my heart in the sweet.

One does not negate the other.  They both matter.  They both have their place in my day. I would venture to say, however, that I don’t have to look very far to see the bitter.  I am bombarded from sun up until sun down.  And that’s why I want to open my eyes, like Annie Dillard implores me, to search for the sweet, find it, and name it.  Those “pennies” might be just what I need.  And they just might quiet those doubts and remind me of a God who is alive and loves little old me, a God who has put special pennies all throughout my day, pennies just for me.  This is a soothing and healing balm for my soul.

Will you play this game with me, even if it’s just for today?  Pennies from heaven.  Mine today was a beautiful view of the James River from outside our train window on the way to Florida taking Rachel to college.  What was yours?

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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!