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!

Posted in Faith, Family, Grandparenthood, Health

INTERRUPTED: Lessons From A Toddler

“I AM A LEARNER AND I AM A TEACHER.”  (Sarah Meassick’s Second Grade Classroom Mantra)

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Eating Dinner Out:  INTERRUPTED by one-year-old standing in high chair, demanding loudly to get down and teeter around.

Checking My Phone:  INTERRUPTED by little hands reaching for me with books in tow.

Sleeping Somewhat Peacefully:  INTERRUPTED by cries at 2 am.  Thankfully, hear doors opening and steps of mommy above with calming voice.

Making Breakfast:  INTERRUPTED by loud noise with sudden horrible smell.  Time for a change of all current clothing.  Mommy sleeps soundly.

Costco Shopping:  INTERRUPTED by constant “more,” pointing to bag of snap pea crisps.

Writing Blog Post:  INTERRUPTED by sounds indicating nap time is already over WAY TOO SOON.

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All those feelings of early mothering years flood back to me as I spend two days with my grandson.  Interruptions abound.  I didn’t like them then and I still don’t like them today!  “I can’t get what I want to do done.”  “I have lots of important stuff to take care of.”  “People are counting on a blog post tomorrow. (I know, I have delusions of grandeur.)

My thoughts are suddenly INTERRUPTED!  A new voice stops me right in my tracks and sends me in another direction as I hold my grandson cozy and close upon waking from his nap, the only time he cuddles and snuggles, the extra busy toddler he is.  “I have a lot to learn from this little boy in my arms.”  “He is a very wise teacher.”  “This is probably what really matters.”  “Forget the blog post! (HAHA.  Obviously not.)”

THIS CHILD (Unlike Me At Times):

  1. Expresses what he needs (sometimes loudly).  He doesn’t feel guilty about it.  He is highly comfortable with both negative and positive emotions, never stuffing how he really feels.
  2. Eats healthy and only enough to satisfy.  Oh how I wish!
  3. Loves unabashedly.  He doesn’t hold back showing affection and delight.  He lights up when he sees those he loves and makes it clear he is thrilled to be with them.
  4. Sings and dances freely.  He dances like “everyone is watching.”  In fact, he relishes when others not only watch, but sing and dance along with him.
  5. Rests when he’s tired.  Enough said.  (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do that … tongue-in-cheek emoji inserted here)   Maybe I will go take a nap now.
  6. Explores new things with ferocity.  “Life is a daring adventure or nothing” (Helen Keller) is the mantra of this boy.
  7. Seeks out those who love him.  This is my favorite.  He isn’t afraid to be really loved and cared for!  If only!

I am finishing up now that it’s thankfully bedtime, having been INTERRUPTED all afternoon and evening since the wake-up-from-nap-time.  Guess what?  It wasn’t so bad after all.  I actually enjoyed it.  No wonder when Jesus was INTERRUPTED by children, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Where else can I get belly giggles and bear hugs, song-singing and arms reaching?  Sounds a lot like the kingdom of heaven to me!   I’m sure these aren’t the last lessons gleaned from the wisdom of this 24 pound, bundle of love, joy, and life!  Keep INTERRUPTING little one!  You’ve cracked my heart wide open!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Grandparenthood, Motherhood

To Pick Up or Put Down (Every Parent’s Never-Ending Battle)

“Have a heart soft enough to give love and mercy, but wise enough to know boundaries.”  (Kayil Crow)

It has started:  Our daughter’s battle whether or not to put her four-month old down (cry it out) or pick him up when he is fussy.  Believe me, both have been tried.  (Don’t let the pics of the happy baby fool you.)  The truth is holding him tends to calm him.  He sleeps better.  He stops crying.  He is basically happier.

It continues:  Our daily battle about how much to help our adult children (pick them up when they are “fussy”) or let them figure things out on their own (many times painful and uncomfortable).  Believe me, both have been tried.  For decades.  The truth is helping them tends to calm them.  They sleep better.  They stop “fussing.”  They are basically happier.

It never stops:  My aging parent’s battle about how much to help their youngest son with the care of his children while my mom goes through radiation treatment during the next several weeks.  This is a big one:  he lost his wife about a year ago and the situation is complicated.   They are 84.  He is 56.  It never ends.  The truth is helping him calms the situation.  Everyone sleeps better.  The “fussing” is abated.  He is basically happier.

If you are a parent, you can completely relate, no matter how old your child is.  It can be teaching a baby to sleep by themselves, driving a forgotten homework assignment to school for your elementary daughter, purchasing a car for your new driver, allowing an adult child to live at home rent-free for a season, watching grandchildren for your middle-aged son, the list goes on and on.  I’m sure you can add your own.  The questions are basic:  how much do I “pick up,” help, console, “save the day,” when my child has a need or even a want?  How much do I let them “ride out the storm,” figure it out on their own, “put them down” so to speak?  Where is that line drawn?  When is that line drawn?  How is that line drawn?  What choice should we make so that we are promoting emotional health and good boundaries, yet making sure the other feels safe and completely loved?

I am becoming keenly aware of how daily of a battle this is, no matter how old the parent or child is.   I am also highly in tune right now with how many opinions everyone has about this and how strong those opinions are.  I also realize how often I go to others to ask this very basic question:  what should I do in “X” situation with “such-and-such” child?  Do I pick them up or put them down?

For many years, I went back and forth, always unsure if what I was doing in any given situation was right.  I felt trapped.  If I “picked them up,” I heard the voices that shouted, “You are doing too much.  Your boundaries are too lax.  They need to learn for themselves.  This is unhealthy.  This is bad.”  If I didn’t help, I heard opposing voices, “You aren’t doing enough.  Your boundaries are too rigid.  They need to feel loved and not alone.  This is unhealthy.  This is bad.”  Ugh.  And if the truth is known, I still struggle with this and it is real and it is still almost every day.

Today, I share with you my “half-thoughts” on the subject.  A “half-thought” is something I am still in process about and haven’t completely “landed” anywhere quite yet, but still want to share.  I hope these bring you some freedom for the “back-and-forth,” trapped feeling you may find yourself in today:

  • Even though the questions are easy, the situations are complicated.  No two are the same and rarely is there a quick answer or fix.  Rest in that.
  • This dilemma is part of being a parent, period.  There’s no getting out of it.
  • Other parents are in the same boat.  We all need each other, not to judge and give solutions, but to listen and give grace.
  • Don’t ask yourself if the decision is right or wrong, black or white, good or bad.  Rarely are decisions that we make all one way or the other.  That’s an exhausting treadmill and only promotes fear, guilt and shame.  Either decision will have both difficult and wonderful attached to it.  Usually it’s some combination of beautiful and messy.
  • Ask yourself these questions instead:  What do I really need?  Why do I want to help?  What do they really need?  Take the long-view and dig a little deeper.
  • Change your mind if you need to.  Take the time to re-evaluate and get counsel from others.  There is great freedom here.
  • Show yourself boatloads of grace no matter what you decide.  Remind yourself that God loves both of you and He can come in and provide all that’s lacking no matter what decision is made in the moment.
  • I leave you with my biggest one for this past six months because many days I just don’t know what to do.  This verse comes up every single day on my reminders.  I pray it every morning:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives GENEROUSLY and FREELY to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  (James 1:5)

I don’t think it ever ends.  I am growing and being stretched and learning to love in a healthy, hope-filled, very complicated kind of way.  I kind of like it.