Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Grief, Health

Jittery

It’s a jittery kind of morning around here.

I strike up one of those “conversations” with God.

“Principal’s office” god begins his normal barrage.

[WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Can’t you get your act together? Enough with the anxiety already!]

That familiar UGH swoops in.

[This again? What is wrong with me!?!]

Newly-found voices of “up-in-arms” battle their way to the surface.

[That is NOT the voice of the real and true God. It’s those dang and destructive voices of discouragement and shame, enemies of my soul.]

I clear a just-enough space for a tender, gentle Voice.

[What’s wrong with you, my Sweet? What do you NEED?]

The ping-pongy chitchat heads into full swing.

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[I NEED my son to keep his new job so he can pay his rent.]

[Actually, you probably NEED My wisdom to know how much to help or not help. You know, that whole boundaries thing you’ve been working on for (basically) ever.]

[I NEED this pandemic to be O-V-E-R! Like right now! It’s basically ruining ALL.THE.THINGS along with me always feeling like I’m playing Russian roulette.]

[Actually, you might just NEED a settledness of soul in the waiting, an abiding trust in Me. I really care about you and this and I know how it all feels.]

[I NEED my youngest to come home for the holidays.]

[Actually, you likely NEED to feel your sadness over missing her and confront your own loneliness without her. You NEED to grieve.]

[I NEED our financial situation to be secure.]

[Actually, you undoubtedly NEED to live in today and from a place of provision from my generous heart, instead of that never-ending, life-sucking place of scarcity.]

[GOD, HELP ME! I NEED TO BE OKAY ON THE OUTSIDE!]

[Actually, you NEED to be okay on the inside.]

This time around, I keep quiet and He keeps going.

[My daughter, it’s not going to be having all the OUTSIDE problems solved. More of them will creep up every day. What you “needed” a year ago is completely different than what you will “need” a year from now. It’s always changing.

What you REALLY NEED, however, is the SAME every moment, every day.

You need to trust, to settle, to BE in that “all shall be well” place INSIDE, the place where I dwell.

It’s safe.

Your jitters can rest.

You DO have EVERYTHING you really NEED.]

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And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

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P.S. One thing I do desperately NEED this morning (and any of you who might grace my presence would heartily agree): I NEED A SHOWER! Warm soapy, water, here I come!

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

613

613. Number of ancient Jewish laws.

613. Almost the number of rules in our home when the kids were little.

61. Probably the number of different “Family Laws” based on said rules along with kids’ ages and stages.

All of this an effort to keep track of what really mattered and didn’t, what should be disciplined and what should be praised.

But mostly just a desperate attempt to manage the chaos that seemed to be a natural part of raising a family.

One not-so-glorious day, having reached the end of my mom rope, I screamed these words in exasperation:

“JUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR STUFF!!!”

“PUH-LEEZE!”

If the not-so-glorious scene had been made into a comic strip for the Sunday paper, a glowing “light bulb” would have hovered just over my red face and red head.

“AHA! MAGIC!!!”

Boxes in my brain were immediately checked for compliance:

  • Brush teeth (SELF)
  • Put gas in the car (STUFF)
  • Do NOT eat 17 cookies (SELF)
  • Do homework (STUFF)
  • No wet towels on the floor (STUFF)
  • Go to bed (SELF)
  • Get a job (BOTH). – YES. Get a job!

A new “Family Law” was imposed, one that didn’t take hours of preparation, spreadsheets and doctorates. The old charts were wadded up and saved as fire starters!

“AHH. RELIEF!”

“TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR STUFF!”

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Everything in our OUTER lives is managed by this sweet, simple phrase, no matter how old we are, whether we are a male or female, who we live with, what dreams we have, or what our personalities are like.

(You could play a little game and see if you can find any that don’t if you really want to. Comment if you come up with one.)

It’s the same for me and for you, our child or our parents, our spouse or our friend, our pastor or our barista at the local coffee shop.

But what about our INNER lives? What about cooperation, kindness, generosity, respect, compassion, thankfulness, forgiveness, patience, etc., the deeper issues of the heart?

Do they land in those two columns of “self” and “stuff”?

The wisest human (not me) who ever lived emphatically says, “yes.”

In fact, he reminds us that “taking care of our self and our stuff” begins with our INNER life.

Cultivating the matters of our hearts is the best care we can take of our “selves.”

Tending to our souls is the best care we can take of our “stuff.”

His words, not mine:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

P.S. I need a new toothbrush!

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Bigger and Better

I had one girl and two boys. I was about to have my fourth baby. I had chosen NOT to find out the sex of the baby, but desperately wanted a sister for my oldest.
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You see, I had been the only girl and had always wanted a sister myself. No matter how much begging I did with my mom, no more babies were to be had.
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When the doctor said, “It’s a girl,” my heart leapt for joy and I thought my “big” dream had come true and my most earnest prayer answered.
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Little did I know that something much “bigger” was on the horizon. The birth of this baby girl became the starting point of a now 21-year journey of healing for me.
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Her sparkly eyes drew me close, as if she could see right into my soul.
I had never before been able to open my heart without pause.
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She was unconditional love wrapped in a tiny bundle of flesh and bones.
I had never before been able to receive love without restriction.
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As she grew, her child-like wisdom shocked me in the best ways.
I had never before been able to move out of formulaic thinking.
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KNOWN.
LOVED.
WISDOM.
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Three crucial pieces to a puzzle that had long been missing in my life.
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As I write, this young lady stands on the precipice of her first “legal” glass of wine, a symbol of celebration for “big” things!!
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Yes. My “big” dream did come true that September morning, the birth of a sister for my oldest, and I will lift a glass as I remember.
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But God had a BIGGER and BETTER dream for me, an “immeasurably more” kind, one that I would have never even dared to hope for, much less even know to ask: the mending of my own precious soul.
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Posted in Friendship

Picking a Human

Today IS A BIG DAY. It marks the Dolly Mama “tell your friends how great they are” post. I can’t believe I haven’t done it sooner. I am a little embarrassed (and if you know me, that’s a load of hooey…I wouldn’t know embarrassment if it smacked me right in the behind).

I’m feeling a little snarky right now. Bear with me. I’m planning to be serious and sappy and smooshy and sentimental. I promise.

It is true. You really are GREAT! Like wearing a superhero cape GREAT! Like standing behind a mic and getting an award GREAT!

Some of you are GREAT because you don’t let me stay my “less than the true Esther Goetz” self. You believe in me. You encourage me. You kick me in that not-embarrassed behind when I need it. You believe in the best version of me and you build me up one brick at a time. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you are my cheerleader. You sing your praises to my words-of-affirmation-is-my-happy-place heart. You root for me and would have poms poms shouting “Esther Goetz is ‘da bomb'” if I would let you (and I might). You make me feel like a champion. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you love what I love. We can talk heady stuff like Christian doctrine or watch the NFL on a Sunday afternoon. We can eat ice cream or watch the Bachelor together (no judgment please) and laugh at the screen and ourselves (“Do we seriously watch this show?”). I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you are just “WITH ME.” You sit with me in the dark times. You laugh with me in the comedy that is my life. You stick with me when I’m screwing up. You talk me down off the ledge when I want to jump. You have no judgment for me (take note, you who judged my Bachelor watching). I tell you all my secrets. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you make me feel connected to you in every way. You wave at me across a crowded room, save a seat for me, send me a birthday card, grab my hand when we are together, and remind me that we are “two peas in a pod.” I belong to you and you belong to me. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are great because you are FUN. You make me belly laugh. You always have an adventure for us to go on! You are super okay with my snarky nature and “give it back” to me when I’m dishing it out! You’re not afraid to remind me about all that’s good! You give energy when this “Esthergizer Bunny” is about done. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you open my mind and heart to new things. You don’t let me get stuck. You ask me great questions, challenging me to rethink the way I always have and help me to change “just a little bit” at a time (even though I might fight you in the moment). You make my view of life (and many times GOD HIMSELF) bigger! I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you are wise. You’re like the GPS of my life. You help me navigate all. the. things. with understanding, grace and kindness. You straight-up give me advice (even when I’m being stubborn and a know-it-all). My dreams matter to you and you help me to keeping working toward them. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

ALL OF YOU ARE GREAT because you love me. For who I am. Plain and simple. What more could I ever ask for or want from a friend? Nothing! Whether we text each other every day, talk to each other once every six months on the phone, are only able to connect on social media (like right here in this little corner of the internet), I count you forever as my GREAT friend, one that I will treasure in my heart until I take my last breath.

Okay people, my snarky voice has quieted and all is right in my very sappy world as I think of you and all that you mean to me! I love you, my GREAT friends!

From my heart to yours.

Friendship is so Weird*source for quote unknown*

Posted in Childhood, Family, Guest, Motherhood

Cognitive Dissonance and the Upcoming School Year

I was off to the races yesterday morning.
My teacher/daughter and I were chatting about the upcoming school year and ALL. THE. THINGS. surrounding it.
I had a million ideas and shared them a little too eagerly.
Here’s what you should do!
Look at this idea I found on Pinterest!
Ya-da ya-da ya-da.
“Whoa, Mom,” she gracefully, yet boldly stopped me. “I can’t do this right now. I have to take one step at a time. I need to WAIT for my district before I dive in.”
You know what I did?!?
Not my normal, “but I think you should…”
I stopped. Just like she asked me to.
Yes, often I am the teacher, the wise one, the mom giving counsel.
But motherhood is a two-way street. I am ALSO often the learner, the ignorant one, the mom receiving guidance.
We got off the phone, me feeling beyond grateful that I have a daughter who is really coming into HER OWN VOICE and here is what she wrote only an hour later.
WISDOM beyond WISDOM.
Yup. It was good for me to zip my lip and open my ears.

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Education is under fire right now. It’s the next big thing under scrutiny during this pandemic. School districts, administration, and educators are under a microscope as the world cries out, “What do we do next?”
As a teacher wrestling with this very question, here’s the truth: No one knows! There is no right answer.
At the same time, there are lots of other true things:
Kids are falling academically behind
Parents need to go back to work
COVID cases are rising in many states
There are high risk teachers, students and family members
Children’s mental and emotional health is important
All of these truths exist in exactly the same space.
The questions we must ask ourselves are:
Can we sit there with them?
Can we sit there as one truth butts up against another, rubs it the wrong way or opposes it completely?
Can we sit there with truths swirling around without letting go of others?”
That is HARD.
And when things get hard we want answers.
We want certainty.
We want someone to blame when things go wrong.
Instead, can we acknowledge that when things are hard, mistakes are most likely going to get made not because we are bad but because we are HUMAN?
Brene Brown (my famous life coach and secret BFF) speaks to this phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. In her words, cognitive dissonance is “the psychologically painful process of trying to hold two competing truths in a mind that was engineered to constantly reduce conflict and minimize dissension.”
In a nutshell, holding opposing truths is real soul work. It is hard but worth it.
In the sacred space of my classroom, I teach my students that mistakes make them HUMAN, not bad. Together we engage in the truly and completely vulnerable act of learning. I want them to extend grace to themselves and to others as we find that perfection does not exist, but love does.
As teachers, as parents and just simply as people, may we have the wisdom and willingness to get uncomfortable sitting with multiple truths at the same time. May we model for our students and our children, not how to make perfect decisions but how to make them in love.
So what are you, your family, your school, your district going to do this fall? Let’s aim for love, not perfection.
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, Health

What’s the Plan?

There’s no five-year plan right now.
There’s hardly a five-day plan.

I’m the queen of plans.
To-do-lists.
Schedules.
Goals.

I’m used to being completely sure of all my next steps.

Now, I’m confused.
Unsure.
Doubtful.
Wondering.

Forced to live in the moment, the present, the next five minutes.

Needing God’s wisdom and grace as I navigate what it means to

…have freedom for myself, yet thoughtfulness for others

…have confidence in my decisions, yet unwavering grace for those who make different ones

…live in the unknown, yet trust I am held by the One who knows me

…ONLY be able to do the very “NEXT right thing in LOVE.”

Maybe that’s been the point all along.

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

I LOVE PEOPLE

I LOVE PEOPLE.
This whole pandemic has made me love them more.
My head shakes in wonder at their CREATIVITY.  Father/daughter duets from their family room.  Healing poems. Whole choirs singing via Zoom. Art classes online. Entire educational systems and their staff STILL teaching the next generation. Faith communities having services in cars, online, complete with music, prayer and words of encouragement.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My heart bursts at their KINDNESS. Masks for strangers. Pizza ordered for weary hospital staff. Phone calls to the elderly. Smiles and “thank yous” dispensed across lawns and continents. Lysol wipes distributed to friends.  Round-the-clock prayers on behalf of the suffering.  KINDNESS.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My mind boggles at their sense of HUMOR. Silly memes on social media. Comedy shows streamed free. Toilet paper jokes at family dinners. Videos that almost make me pee my pants. Hope disguised as laughter, the best medicine to cheer our hearts. HUMOR.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My ‘fraidy-cat-self marvels at their BRAVERY. Medical personnel on the front lines. Small business owners fighting for their workers. Relief workers serving the marginalized. Delivery people handling packages from who knows where. Struggling patients clinging to the hope of going home. BRAVERY.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My soul is enraptured by their GENEROSITY. Neighbors dropping hand-sanitizer in each other’s mailboxes. Donations (small and great) to food pantries. Countries sending medical supplies to each other. Firemen creating birthday parades. Moms and dads forgoing much-needed sleep for confused littles. GENEROSITY.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My “hope-to-be-like-them” is fascinated by their WISDOM. Leaders navigating the nuances between freedom and safety. Podcasts generated by grief experts. Produce stands quickly figuring out “curb-side pickup.” Online counseling sessions to work through mental health issues. Texts between friends with comforting words.  WISDOM.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My entire being is captured by their LOVE. Creative date nights planned by spouses. Video “chats” between grandmas and toddlers. Grocery store runs for the fearful and the shut-in. Parents wrapping arms and hearts around sad school-lovers. Teenagers forgoing freedom to protect the vulnerable. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.
HAVE I SAID HOW MUCH I LOVE PEOPLE? I LOVE US.
We aren’t perfect and we are making lots of mistakes as we hobble down a path we’ve never encountered before, but I think we are doing just fine. We are learning and growing together in ways that will make us more CREATIVE, KINDER, FUNNIER, BRAVER, more GENEROUS, WISER, and better able to LOVE than ever before.
Hang in there, my friends! I’m hanging with you. We have GREAT HOPE!
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 Faith, Family, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

The Trust Twist

What happens when our child spills their milk? Fails a fourth-grade test and hides it from us? Struggles with the more complicated teen issues?  Join me as I interview Melony Bishop, a very kind, wise, brave hope-bringer of three children ages 12, 15 and 17. She shines some much-needed light on this parenting path that is not well-marked.  Explore the idea of reciprocal trust with us, and how this forever changed our own mothering and why it is key in the raising of our children. Enjoy 30 minutes of laughter, tears and deep insight as you get a peak behind the scenes of our not-so-perfect parenting journeys. Find hope for your own!

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

https://anchor.fm/esther18/episodes/Episode-5-The-Trust-Twist-An-Interview-with-Melony-Bishop-e331le

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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!